I have very recently come to terms with the fact that I am bisexual. I had actually concluded that I was gay about a year and a half ago, but I couldn’t understand why I was still attracted to some of my male friends. I’ve been hesitant to call myself bisexual mainly because of all of the bi-phobia that I encountered when I was starting to delve into the LGBT area of the internet. Since then, I have, somewhat reluctantly, accepted that I am bisexual. Now all that’s left is for me to come out.
The thing is, I really don’t think that people, my parents in particular, know enough about bisexuals, and I am considering just telling them that I am gay. I have quite a few gay friends, and have heard them, along with my straight friends, say that they don’t believe bisexuals exists, or they think bisexuals, especially bisexual girls, are just looking for attention or are just confused. That word, confused, is something I really take issue with, because I WAS confused, for a really long time. But I’m not confused anymore, and I want people to know that. Basically I would be much more comfortable coming out as gay rather than coming out as bisexual, not because that’s what I am, but because that’s what would be easier for others to accept. Is this a huge step backward for me? Am I just being a coward?—Bi Bi Closet
Anna says: The political person in me wants you to call yourself bisexual, not only because it’s true, but because the more people who identify as such, the harder it is for people to stereotype ALL bisexuals as “confused,” “going through a phase,” “doing it for attention,” and so on.
But lesbihonest: Another part of me recognizes that bi-phobia is a real thing, and you probably don’t want to get into defensive arguments with people you come out to, which won’t happen every time, of course, but often times people who come out as bi have to field a bunch of questions and judgments by those who themselves are “confused,” far more than you are. Even if you do come out as bi, once you start dating, you’ll probably still be lumped into a straight or gay category, since many people assess sexuality based on who we are regularly seeing naked, as opposed to, you know, anything more substantial. It sucks, and depending on how much you care about being truthful to your identity, you’ll have to correct those who seek to put you in whatever box they deem is appropriate. Fun, right?
While I don’t want to make any statements about which is “harder”—coming out at all is hard and there’s no need to hierarchize—I think it really depends on the situation and how comfortable you feel about the circumstances. Also, I don’t think lying ever makes anyone’s life easier, especially over something big like sexual identity. But, that said, there are definitely times that I call myself all kinds of labels and don’t give it a second thought that I might be contradicting myself. I’ve said things like, “I’m bisexual, but I only fall for girls.” I’ve said, “I’m 90 percent gay, 10 percent straight.” I’ve referred to myself as a lesbian, homoflexible, and nowadays I mostly go with “queer,” because it encompasses a much wider spectrum of sexuality, and people generally know what the word means without any additional lectures or prodding. If any of those seem suitable, you’re welcome to use them. If you’d rather stick with bisexual, that’s cool too. Hell, I’d applaud you for it. I kinda had to stop using it because I was getting in too many fights trying to defend the word and it suddenly felt ridiculous. I even called for a new label entirely in this Salon essay.
So, it really is up to you. I won’t take your bi-card away if you decide to come out as gay, but I would say that in those circumstances where you feel like you can trust the person, it’s better to be honest. If it’s like your mail carrier or someone you don’t care that much about, I wouldn’t sweat it too much. Plus, if you come out as gay and then start dating a dude, some people might then call you a “hasbian” or some other derogatory moniker. It’s almost a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. This also sucks and I wish we would stop doing things like this to each other. Until that queer utopia happens, however, treat each coming out on a case-by-case basis, and be as true to thineself as much as you can, as Shakespeare reminds us.
Hi. I’m 18 and just came out to my best friend. After a lot of insisting, on her part, that it’s just a phase I will grow out of, I managed to convince her it wasn’t. The problem is the coming out was a sleepover and we were sharing a very small bed and ended up cuddling or something like it. If this wasn’t awkward enough she drove my hand (under her shirt) closer and closer to her breast until it rested on it. Now I’m pretty sure she is straight but I just came out to her and this happens, I don’t know what she’s trying to say and believe me I did ask but got no answer. What is happening?—Confused and Freaking Out
Anna says: You came out to her, she didn’t believe you, and then she kinda made you go to second base with her? That IS confusing. Now, I’d probably give her some cuddle leeway, as spooning positions are perfectly tailored for accidental boob-grabbage, but under the shirt? That shit was intentional. Not that it matters really, but did you let go or did you just hang out there all night? Was her hand on top of your hand?
I don’t know why she did it—maybe she has some gay leanings and that was an invitation, maybe she finds it comforting to sleep with a hand on her breast, or maybe she was engaging in some kind of weird sleep walking (sleep groping?). You could try asking her again, since she somehow didn’t respond to your question the first time—do it in person, so she can’t be like, “Oh, I didn’t get your text,” etc. You could also use that time to tell her it’s not cool for her to tell you what your sexuality is and isn’t. That you told her because you’re friends and honesty and mutual trust are important to you.
But you might just have to brush the whole thing off as a strange, mostly benign incident and go about your day as usual. If anything like that happens again though, I would definitely speak up—in the moment it happens, preferably.
Here’s hoping her night grabbing is, unlike your sexuality, just a phase.
I am a bi woman who has been married to a straight man for three years. I know there are aspects of my sexuality that he won’t understand and in the past couple of years I have matured in my sexuality and know myself more fully. He hasn’t grown with me and thinks that:
Tonight for the first time he expressed fear that I would like a female partner more than him, so maybe that’s behind it all. Of course I’ve talked to him about it but a lot of the time I end up sounding more like an activist than an advocate for myself. Any suggestions on what I could say that might help him understand?—Questions
Anna says: It sounds like he’s got some seriously rigid ideas about bisexuality if he doesn’t even believe his own wife. I think it’s great that you’ve stood up for yourself, even if you feel it comes off as more “activisty” and less personal. It’s difficult to express a part of yourself to someone important to you and have them be like, “No, that’s not true.”
But many people, your husband included, have a lot of misconceptions (or outright denial) about bisexuality. The best thing we can do is to calmly and slowly (it’s hard not to get emotional) introduce people to new concepts that allow them to rethink their assumptions.
Some rebuttals, in order of your bullets:
As to the last bullet point, EVERYONE has a right to align with LGBT causes, even and especially straight people. Without straight allies, gay rights wouldn’t have come nearly as far as they have. But just because you’ve chosen to partner with a man, it doesn’t make you less queer, and it sure doesn’t mean you should care less about LGBT rights, especially since bisexuals make up the largest single population within the LGBT community in the United States (See the bisexual invisibility link below).
You could also tell him that bisexual stigma and invisibility (especially in bisexual women) leads to higher rates of depression, substance abuse problems, mental distress, and overall poorer general health. And he should be nicer to his wife if he wants to not contribute to any of these issues, thankyouverymuch.
Other resources: The Bisexual Resource Center has a pamphlet on how to be an ally to a bisexual. A paper on bisexual invisibility from the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. There’s also the Bi Radical blog, BI.org, Bimedia.org, and tons of other news and community sites. If you can get your husband to do a little learnin’ on the subject, it might do wonders. Otherwise, keep fighting the good fight.
AfterEllen readers, any other tips for how Questions might persuade her S.O.?
Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your The Hook Up questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.