Coming out is very personal. You can face a lot of pressure to come out, to be visible, to be “free” or whatever other narrative is pushed in mainstream media. Don’t come out if it will put you in an unsafe situation- make sure coming out won’t put you in a position to lose your support system, your housing, your job. Always make a plan if coming out goes south. It sucks to have to do this, but we have to take care of ourselves.
Think it through. I didn’t think things through before coming out- I was naive and a little bit fearless- and it sent me spiraling. I faced intense biphobia, much of it unintentional, but still harmful to me. I faced a period of deep depression because I felt like people didn’t believe me. I didn’t have anybody in the queer or bi+ community to lean on, and since I came out right at the beginning of college, I hadn’t yet developed a support network on campus. I was privileged to have housing, a campus job and eventually find support, but I wish I had waited longer to come out.
You should never come out for anyone but yourself. Consider how it will impact your health and well-being when you decide whether or not to come out. You will know when it’s the right time.
So here’s my coming out story. I wish I had waited and thought it through a bit more, and things were tough for a while, but looking back, it was the best thing I ever did for myself.
Being bi was always there.
I was bi when I stared at the same girl every day in my eighth grade social studies class, hoping the teacher would assign me to work with her. I was bi in high school when I made it a point to participate in every Day of Silence, when I wrote a paper arguing for marriage equality, and when I watched the theatre kids, the only queer kids at my high school, from a distance. I called myself an ally, and I even believed that, until I didn’t. I was bi when marriage equality was legalized and I felt so much joy and relief. In time I realized that my joy wasn’t just for others, it was also for me. It affirmed me. I was bi when I began to withdraw from friendships under the excuse “I’m so busy” while really fearing intimate connections with anyone. I didn’t want to be judged for getting too close, so I backed away.
I was bi when I had no examples of openly queer women, when I had no word for my identity, when I thought the only possibilities were gay or straight, but didn’t feel like either. I was bi when family members would casually make homophobic comments around the dinner table. I was bi when members of my church openly gossiped about someone who had just come out as bi, saying they didn’t think that was a real thing. The words stung, but I couldn’t express why or stand up for myself yet.
I was bi when one day during my first semester of college, I landed on some YouTube video or article about bisexuality online and it just clicked: that’s me. It just made sense. It was instinct. It was comforting. There was a word for me, I had been bi all along.
I’m not sure if I was naive or fearless when I came out. Maybe a little of both. I was excited and comforted by my discovery, and I wanted to share it with the people I loved. So I came out. I didn’t slow down to examine the impact it would have on my life or the loss I would face. I didn’t give myself time to become secure in my identity before it got attacked from all sides.
Coming out complicated my relationships and mental health. I was physically safe, but mentally and emotionally I became totally exhausted. I was constantly questioned and challenged. I turned to religious spaces for comfort, but got a lot of bad advice and began to fear I was unacceptable to God. I was unprepared to deal with the internalized biphobia and shame that had been socialized into me throughout my life. Spaces and faces I used to trust became harmful, untrustworthy. I was unprepared for a life of constantly being on the defensive, screening spaces to make sure they are affirming before entering, paying attention to where I talk about my identity and where I definitely don’t. I didn’t realize I would have to come out over and over again, and I didn’t realize how exhausting that would be.
On one hand, I sometimes wish I had waited to come out, but it was also the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Now, I see my bisexuality as a gift and a strength. For me, bisexuality isn’t just about being attracted to people romantically or sexually, but it’s about carrying all of this love and admiration for other human beings, it’s about community & solidarity & care for others. I learned to care for and rely on myself, to care for others as much as I am able, and to accept care when I need it (although I’m still working on that). I am able to empathize more deeply with people, listen & understand better, because I know what it feels like to exist and feel unseen & unheard. I also know how much joy I feel when people and spaces allow me to express my full identity, and I try to create those spaces and be that person for others.
Being bi has also expanded my point of view beyond binaries. I don’t see issues as black and white because I don’t experience life that way. I’m “messy,” I don’t fit into a box, not even within the bi+ community. Being bi has radicalized me to think outside of the systems I have been socialized into. It makes the impossible seem possible. I’m not supposed to be bi and Christian. I’m not supposed to love my bisexuality. I’m not even supposed to exist, but I do, so what else is possible?