By Toni Brannagan
Welcome to the next installment in our Pride series! You can read the first one here. Each month we’re exploring stories and insights about people who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Why? Because we want to acknowledge the different experiences within our diverse community — and because ~Pride~ shouldn’t be limited to just one month!
In a perfect world, the act of “coming out” wouldn’t even be necessary, but the fact remains that we’re still operating in a “heterosexual until proven guilty” society today.
“Coming out” for everyone who is LGBTQ+ is a deeply unique, personal experience, but it’s rarely considered how repetitive this process is for bisexuals specifically. In a personal essay for GQ, actress and badass Stephanie Beatriz laments this predicament:
“To be bi is a continual series of coming-out moments—first to yourself… Maybe next it’s to your sister, who warns you in no uncertain terms not to tell your parents until you're serious about a girl because they will flip the fuck out... Then maybe you come out to your college friends, who will ask jokingly if you are gay or straight, this and every weekend... Maybe you then muster up the intense courage it takes to come out to your parents, who calmly ignore it. And then you’ll brace yourself and come out again and again and again to every person you’ll ever date. When does it end?”
In the spirit of smashing taboos, I asked ten people to share one of their own coming-out moments as bisexuals, knowing that to answer Stephanie’s rhetorical question, it doesn’t seem like “it” ever ends. But as allies to the bisexual community, all we can do is create spaces where sharing their identities is comfortable.
I came out in an Instagram post of me posing with a rainbow flag, captioned “In case ya missed it ✌🏽🌈👩❤️👩💑💚.” I foolishly thought that was it—until an old peer approached me in public to ask if I really was a lesbian.
- April, 21, Hershey, PA
I love coming out. I do it every chance I get. Coming out as a bisexual woman while I am in a relationship with a man is all about visibility. I think about the world that I grew up in, where bisexuality was erased by my peers, who referred to anyone with same sex partners as “gay now,” and out bisexuals as “slutty,” “selfish,” or “unable to pick a side.” I continue to come out—loud and proud—to make space for others who might still be dealing with those stigmas.
- Audra, 27, Brooklyn, NY
One car ride home with my mom, I blurted out, “Have you always known you're straight?” I had no idea what was going on, I told her tearfully, I just knew I was attracted to both boys and girls. I am privileged because I always knew with certainty that my parents would accept me. Nowadays, I'm open about my sexuality if it comes up, but I never felt the need to do a big public coming out thing.
- Ella, 19, Helsinki, Finland
“Coming out” as a concept in and of itself hasn’t been a problem. Coming out as bisexual has been. Most people understand when a man likes men, or a woman likes women. Not as many people understand when a female who identifies as a woman—and presents as a more traditionally feminine woman—likes both men and women. Too many people think there’s only one choice. Too many people still think that to some degree, sexuality is a choice. After coming out as bi, my continued attraction to men doesn’t invalidate my attraction to women, a concept too many people still don’t understand. But I’m not attracted only to one height, or only to one hair color, or only to one profession… and I’m not attracted to only one gender.
- Meredith, 26, New York, NY
My father and I don’t engage in small talk—I have never doubted he loves me, he’s just more the person I would call at 4 a.m. after I’ve been robbed. A few months after I started dating my girlfriend, I was sitting at the kitchen table. My dad, apropos of nothing, scooped himself a bowl of vanilla ice cream and sat down next to me. He asked me “On a scale of 1 to 10” where I thought I fell, with regards to my attraction to men and women. I said I thought I fell somewhere in the middle, but wasn’t entirely sure. He said okay, and went back to eating.
- Molly, 26, Chicago, IL
I've always been open when it comes to sex and relationships, so I decided just to nonchalantly talk about dating a girl, despite having dated only men in the past. While nobody (except my parents) was particularly weirded out, I was immediately hyper-sexualized and brushed off.
Being a bisexual women is still a spectacle for other people's fantasies. First, the attention was cute, until I realized this was a core part of who I am, and I didn't want it objectified. It's tough and frustrating, but what it comes down to is that my sexuality isn't really for anyone else to understand or validate.
- Kelley, 25, New York, NY
The first person that knew I was bisexual was my best friend freshman year of high school. She lived down the street from me. One night, as we walked from her house to mine, she stopped and told me she loved me. We almost kissed, but didn’t. That night, we texted for hours about what could possibly happen between us. Nothing did, but we stayed friends. It took two more years for me to really come to terms with the fact that I liked girls, but in hindsight, those were some of the most intense feelings I’ve had for a girl yet.
- Lauren, 19, Phoenix, AZ
I’ve never been any good at keeping things from my mother, but when I started coming out to my friends as bi I wasn’t sure about letting my parents know. In the middle of a concert on campus, I finally felt a sudden anxious urge to get it over with. I stepped out of the venue, and called my mother. She answered, sounding tired; it was 10:30 pm.
“I have something I want to tell you,” I said. “I think I’m bi.”
She paused, then asked, “How do you know? Everyone’s attracted to people of the opposite sex sometimes!”
I laughed. “I’m sexually and emotionally attracted to women, Mom. Let’s talk about it more when I see you in a couple days?” She sleepily agreed. It was a short conversation, only about seven minutes. I returned to the concert, and stood next to my boyfriend on the edge of the room.
“I just called my mom…and told her…” He gently touched my arm. “How’d it go?”
“Good. It was good.” I nodded slowly, feeling anxious but another step closer to myself.
- Abi, 21, St. Louis, MO
One day, a teacher said this about bisexuality in class: “It’s an excuse to be loose, and it’s something people choose when they can’t commit. It’s not real.” A classmate stood up, said, “How dare you!” and ran out of the room. I didn’t say a word, too fearful of what would happen after everyone knew. After that, I had to fight my fear. Coming out wasn’t a super-public thing, rather it was a change of self. This is the my most public coming out and I’m so proud of how far I’ve come. I’ve realized I exist on a spectrum and I have a beautiful duality in me. My bisexuality was step one on my journey to finding my voice and fully accepting my queerness. I am a non-binary person who is fully in love with the fact that I can paint my life with any color! My sexuality is something that gives me permission to live fearlessly and free.
- Yanece, 23, New York, NY
I told my friends after I hooked up with a girl for the first time, and they just wanted details—they didn’t care about the part where I was coming out as bisexual. Nowadays, there is this running joke that I have the entire sea of fishes in my playing field, but here I am, still single. Anyone need a date? I'm here. Hit me up.
- Carolyn, 25, Staten Island, NY
Part of the reason why people who identify as bisexual feel compelled to restate their sexuality over and over is because of bisexual erasure: the tendency to ignore, remove, falsify, or re-explain evidence of bisexuality. There are many pre-conceived notions about bisexuality, have you ever considered your own? What are some ways people can be better allies to the bi community? Continue the conversation in the comments below.