% IssueDate = "2/10/03" IssueCategory = "People" %>
Rex Wockner: You no longer consider yourself gay, for religious reasons. This sets off alarm bells with readers. There's a lot of people who try not to have gay sex because of their religious beliefs. It's usually something they try earlier in their life than you're doing. Rarely, if ever, do people do this after they've become a gay public figure.
David Bianco: I'm no longer having sex with men for religious reasons. I no longer identify as gay because it doesn't feel like the label that best describes me. I'll take "bisexual" if I have to have a label. I'd just as soon do without one.
Rex Wockner: What would you mean in calling yourself bisexual?
David Bianco: I think it's another word for sexual. I acknowledge that I respond erotically and romantically to a variety of people, including some men and some women. I also affiliate with the GLBT community.
Rex Wockner: Doesn't "bisexual" imply a more or less equal attraction to men and women?
David Bianco: I don't think you've been talking to enough bisexuals.
Rex Wockner: So, even if I'm 80 percent attracted to men and 20 percent attracted to women, I'm bisexual?
David Bianco: You could say so.
Rex Wockner: So, I'm bisexual, too, then, if 80/20 counts.
David Bianco: You could start identifying that way. ... Identity is extremely personal.
Rex Wockner: Well, why have you changed yours?
David Bianco: Some of it is to acknowledge attractions to women that I believe have always been there that I minimized to justify or defend my gay identity when I started to date men.
Rex Wockner: You sold me your bread once.
David Bianco: I sold you my bread on Passover. I was doing a lot of things and I asked, where am I missing the mark? Where am I not living up to the demands that I believe God has made of Jews through his Torah and through Jewish law? There are three major ways in which I was falling short: I was having sex with men, I wasn't keeping Shabbat (the Sabbath), and I wasn't living in Israel.
Rex Wockner: Are all Jews supposed to live in Israel?
David Bianco: No, but it's better to. ... It's a major way in which I'm not doing something I could be doing to be a better Jew.
Rex Wockner: Are you going to move to Israel?
David Bianco: I hope so, someday. So ... I started keeping Shabbat.
Rex Wockner: Which means what? Not working on Saturday?
David Bianco: Not working on Saturday, not spending money on Saturday, not traveling on Saturday. ...
Rex Wockner: Are you unusual with your degree of devotion to these Jewish notions?
David Bianco: Yeah. It's part of a common phenomenon in American Judaism called baal teshuvah ... which means someone who led a less-observant lifestyle who has decided to become significantly more observant. ... It's a slow, ongoing process. I'm now wearing a yarmulke. I'm studying more Jewish texts and observing more Jewish laws.
Rex Wockner: What makes you think you can be happy never having sex with a man again?
David Bianco: Well, it's working so far. I'm certainly happier now than I was a few years ago. Of course, there are lots of other things that are different about my life, so I can't make a one-to-one correspondence.
Rex Wockner: You've been in this no-sex-with-men stage for about 13 months?
David Bianco: About. If I come to the conclusion that it's oppressive and doesn't work for me and leads to misery, I'm a smart, free individual, and I can make a different decision. ... I'm retaining the right to change my mind later.
Rex Wockner: Your gay friends have been talking amongst themselves on e-mail. Several of your gay friends, including people like me who don't follow gay group-think -- I get in trouble for that all the time -- we're telling you that this isn't going to work.
David Bianco: Was what I was doing before, did that work?
Rex Wockner: I don't know how much of your sexual history you want to go into on-the-record. That's entirely up to you.
David Bianco: OK, before I was having sex with men, a lot of men, and before that, I was looking for romance with men and, at one point, I had one. I don't know that any of that worked.
Rex Wockner: You were in a relationship once?
David Bianco: Six months.
Rex Wockner: You lived together?
Rex Wockner: You get an iota of my respect for being consistent. The form of Judaism you have embraced is completely incompatible with homosexual sex. The problem I have with you, David Bianco -- and I've told you this 14 times off-the-record -- is that I've seen other men who didn't feel right about having gay sex for whatever reason -- often because of religion, maybe because they were married to a woman -- try to stop doing it permanently. I've never seen one of these guys, in the long run, end up in a better place. ... What makes you think that's possible? It's such a fundamental, core piece of who you are -- whether it's nature or nurture.
David Bianco: So is nonmonogamy. You seem to not object when gay friends declare that they're going to stop having sex with anybody but one person. ...
Rex Wockner: I'm suspicious of male monogamy.
David Bianco: Good.
Rex Wockner: Men are not naturally monogamous.
David Bianco: You don't write stories that somebody is an ex-slut.
Rex Wockner: If somebody was making as much of a stink about being monogamous for the rest of their life as you're making about this, and they were a public figure, I might interview them too.
David Bianco: When did I say for the rest of my life?
Rex Wockner: David, it's not like God's gonna say it's OK this month but not next month.
David Bianco: That's true. ... I haven't made a stink. I've never emphasized this idea of forever.
Rex Wockner: You could have just quietly drifted off.
David Bianco: Which I did for the first eight months of it. ...
Rex Wockner: I've seen I-don't-know-how-many guys try what you're about to try. God doesn't want me to have gay sex, so I'm not going to.
David Bianco: Do I seem wracked with guilt? Do you think I have this angst, this religious frustration? I don't think I do.
Rex Wockner: Well, in a way, you're kind of in a born-again phase.
David Bianco: Yeah.
Rex Wockner: So of course you're not going to have any angst right now.
David Bianco: And if I have it someday, I'll deal with it. I am certain that this is what's right for me now, and my writing about it is less to justify it to myself than it is to help ... to let those who may be facing a similar conundrum understand that it is a reasonable way to go. And I get letters all the time from people like that. And to let the rest of you all understand that the gay community's narrow definitions are constricting and as oppressive as the norms that the gay community was rebelling against in the first place.
Rex Wockner: You know that you and I agree on that. That's one of the reasons you like me.
David Bianco: I like you anyway.
Rex Wockner: But what makes you think that this fundamental, core piece of who you are, regardless of how it got there, can be put away and sort of just ignored or not acted on? It's not like you're deciding not to eat Big Macs because you know that they're bad for you. This is something much more core to who we are. ... This is sex.
David Bianco: And I believe that American culture and the gay community have overly glorified sex to the point that it's expected to be the most important piece of our lives. And historically that never happened before the last couple hundred years. And I don't accept that it's natural for us or that it's what God wants for us. I think it is Western culture that is out of whack, not me.
Rex Wockner: You said a few moments ago that you've had sex with a lot of men, and you emphasized the words "a lot."
David Bianco: A lot of men.
Rex Wockner: Is this a rebound?
David Bianco: Right. One of my friends told me that I must be celibate [now] because I was tired and needed a break.
Rex Wockner: Yeah. Maybe you were the worst example of American culture overemphasizing sex.
David Bianco: I'm not rejecting that that could be a piece of it. But the main motivation is intellectual and religious. I rejected all the unsuccessful attempts to reconcile traditional Judaism with gay sex and gay relationships. And I decided to take more seriously the demands that I believe God has made on the Jewish people in terms of how we live out our sexual feelings.
Rex Wockner: Are Jews who are reading this supposed to assume that you think they shouldn't be having gay sex, too?
David Bianco: That's my quiet opinion. I don't give speeches urging all Jews to follow my lead, but I won't deny that I believe that the Torah is for all Jews -- Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, secular, etc.
Rex Wockner: Gay sex or Jew. How come Jew won? Why was one more important than the other? I agree they're in conflict. A whole bunch of gay people have faced your dilemma. I faced it myself when I was 22.
David Bianco: And a lot of them have done what I've done, but quieter.
Rex Wockner: Uh.
David Bianco: Oh, certainly. There are tons, tons of traditional gay Jews who married women and have never had gay sex and don't regret having made those choices. You think they're all doing it in the public restrooms?
Rex Wockner: The steam room. The sauna. AOL.
David Bianco: Maybe some of them are. And I don't think there's anything pathetic about that. I'm not advocating it.
Rex Wockner: You don't think there's anything pathetic about it?
David Bianco: Right.
Rex Wockner: As long as they're open with their wives about what's going on?
David Bianco: I don't know. Actually, I would advocate that someone in that situation should talk to his rabbi and figure out how to handle it. It's tricky, but not pathetic. ...
Rex Wockner: Two of the major driving forces in your life are completely in conflict with each other. You have chosen one and rejected the other. How did you come -- I came to the opposite conclusion. I decided that Catholicism was wrong about homosexuality because I knew in my heart that being gay was OK, and being gay implies having gay sex.
David Bianco: I could have made the other choice and I don't think it would have been evil or bad. I think it would have been unheroic. That doesn't mean I consider myself a hero. But I acknowledge that it's very difficult but also very important. I'm trying, and I think it's working. And I'm trying to be better than my base impulses, to rise above them. I say it, and I think it sounds like I'm condemning everybody else. Calling other people unheroic is not calling them evil.
Rex Wockner: Base impulses?
David Bianco: What gives you your erection is a base impulse.
Rex Wockner: Why would you want to rise above that?
David Bianco: Look, if what gave me an erection was completely licit and completely acceptable ethically, morally and religiously, it wouldn't be base, or something to rise above. But if what gave me an erection was 14-year-old boys or retarded people, I would need to rise above that because it would be wrong to go with my raw sexuality. I happen to believe that God has been clear to the Jewish people that we should be pursuing opposite-sex relationships, and particularly not having intercourse between two males.
Rex Wockner: Do we have to fear that you're going to become an ex-gay activist and go on Larry King Live and embarrass us?
David Bianco: I hope I can help bridge the gap a little because I can confront Christian homophobia and Jewish homophobia with a credibility that you can't. ... I don't think the gay community should be embarrassed by me at all, especially since I still affiliate with it. I know it and I understand it and I've been writing about it and involved in it passionately for a decade.
Rex Wockner: Are you going to become an ex-gay activist?
David Bianco: I don't like the term "ex-gay." I think it implies affiliation with a movement that believes one can and should change one's sexual orientation through therapy and Christianity. I don't accept that. So, no. Am I likely to continue to speak out within the Jewish community and the wider community about my beliefs that we are not our genitals, that we are not our libidos, and that other things can influence our sex lives and our identities? Yeah. I know it's threatening to a lot of queers, and I don't relish that. I regret [that there are] people that are hurt by what I've done. But I think if they keep listening, they'll come to a general respect for what I'm doing. I might even win you someday.
Rex Wockner: It remains to be seen.