How This Jewish Singer from a Punk Band Validated My Queer Identity

On August 13, the frontman of pop-punk band Say Anything, Max Bemis, penned a lengthy letter to his fans.

In the letter, the Jewish songwriter announced the band’s upcoming album, Oliver Appropriate, and discussed his choice to not be a touring musician anymore. But one thing I didn’t expect the letter to include was his coming out as “bi-ish.”

“I have always been bi-ish or queer or a straight guy who can also like boys. I always talked or joked about it with my friends and found it to be blatantly clear I was. I was bullied for it and called a ‘fag’ (without irony),” Bemis wrote.

“This is, sadly, common,” he went on. “I’m not special. I even went so far as to tell people I was also attracted to guys repeatedly. They chalked it up to my bipolar shit, which was hurtful. They also minimized it because I found true love early in life, and saw that as a negation of my sexuality, or at least a minimization of my right to even identify as bisexual or queer. Because I don’t want to hook up with guys. But I also didn’t hook up with a lot of girls. I wanted to fall in love with a woman, so I did.”

Throughout his career in Say Anything, Bemis has been relatively open about his mental health, such as having bipolar disorder. As someone who lives with OCD and anxiety, I’ve always appreciated this honesty. It helped me cope with my own mental health issues. And his coming out as bi helps me cope with my own bisexuality.

I came out as bi earlier this year. Though I’ve always felt attracted to both women and men (especially effeminate men and boyish women), I never felt comfortable claiming the term bisexual. So I started off by calling myself heteroflexible.

There’s a lot of gatekeeping in the LGBTQ community about who really “counts” as queer. I was afraid that my bisexuality would be called into question since, aside from one ex-lover who recently came out as trans, I’ve only been with cis men.

With Bemis in a similar situation — feeling attraction to men but not necessarily acting on it and ultimately marrying a woman — I feel more validated in my own queer identity.

“I’ve always been somewhat of a monogamist and my queer experiences were limited and remain mostly emotional ones,” Bemis continued.

This line resonated with me as well. With most of the women I’ve crushed on, the experience was purely emotional. Aside from making out with a good female friend of mine who is also bi, none of my feelings of attraction to women have ever manifested physically.

“I believe in anything good,” Bemis wrote after discussing his wife, Sherri, who is Christian. “Sometimes I even consider myself a pseudo-atheist. There is a false god and then God. My God doesn’t have to be believed in to exist in the way I identify with it. It’s all good if it has justice and love and inclusiveness at its heart. So yeah, I’m a queer, Jewish, Christian skeptic pseudo-anarchist with a belief in metaphysics and the application of ‘magical’ stuff.”

It is clear that Bemis holds many conflicting identities — a Jew with some Christian and some atheist beliefs, a queer man who is in a monogamous and heterosexual relationship, a punk anarchist who also falls under the umbrella of hipster. Still, at the end of the day, he is who he is. He is a really talented musician and comic book writer. He has fans that run the gamut from millennial hipsters to nostalgic Gen X-ers, former emo kids to comic book nerds.

I have my own issues with some of Bemis’ work, like the misogyny (and not just from the first album, which as Bemis’ letter explains was written as a character). Still, I consider myself a fan. And just how his songs have helped me through difficult periods in my life, especially with mental health, this honest letter has really helped validate my own bisexuality.

So thank you, Maxim Adam Bemis, for your honesty, openness, and integrity. I can’t wait to listen to Oliver Appropriate and see how the story of that character from the first album concludes.

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