This past September 23rd was “Bi Visibility Day,” a day dedicated to showing the world that bisexuals are real and do exist.
I thought it would be helpful to give an overview of how I got to the point of “coming out” by working through my past experiences.
Growing up, I knew being gay was “gross,” it was “bad,” it was “evil,” it was “wrong.” I (ironically) used to dislike gay people! I remember my friend and I talking about NOT moving to Canada in 9th grade because they allowed gay marriage. The culture of the time and the teachings from my church, made me fear the littlest things that would even come close to making me look gay, something I felt especially prone to growing up as a “tomboy.”
So, how did I get here? Well, first an adult I was close to came out and I had to reconcile my feelings about homosexuality. If I love this person, and they just want to be loved for who they are, why is that wrong? This was my first step towards clarity.
Fast forward, I kissed [some] girl[s] (and I liked it), the summer before my senior year in high school. I remember being very confused and talking to a friend about it later. He told me he thought I might be bisexual, and I told him that wasn’t a real orientation. I still believed that sexuality was black and white. This archaic view on sexuality, coupled with my sexual assault my freshman year of college, would continue to cause me pain and confusion in my journey towards self-acceptance and understanding.
I was sexually assaulted in a frat house my freshman year of college. I went into a deep depression following the assault. I felt confused, hurt, loathsome, unlovable. I went on to have my first sexual experience with a woman shortly after that. This created a new level of confusion within me. My thoughts were racing, “Am I gay because I was raped? Have I always been gay and just didn’t know? But why am I so attracted to men?” I couldn’t figure out who I was because I still clung to outdated notions about sexuality and did not accept the concept of bisexuality. I remember bawling on the phone to my friend’s mom one night in the rain (the one that came out and changed my life forever) asking her if I was gay. I was so distraught trying to make this distinction between being straight or gay.
I also knew, I didn’t want to be queer. Being queer means being disgusting to my mom and grandparents. Being queer is a slap in the face of the way I was brought up. Being queer is an additional embarrassment my mom has to bear, how much more pain was this heathen, agnostic, liberal really going to inflict on her family?
So I shut up about it. I quietly accepted my identity and moved on. What a privilege that was when I began dating Nick. I got to be straight passing, I didn’t have to worry about disappointing anyone and I didn’t have to worry about rejection from the queer community or the straight community. I could keep quiet when people would say things like “I thought they were gay, why are they dating a woman/man now?” Or, “bisexuals just can’t make up their mind what they want.” Or, “bisexuals are just gay and won’t admit it.” Or, “bisexuals just want attention.” These comments, coupled with my silence, always brought me back to that phone call in the rain. I was so distraught because I didn’t know anyone like me and I didn’t have anyone tell me that who I am is valid. Who I am is real. Who I am is OK.
Fast-forward to September 23. I get this churning in my gut, I feel like I can help open the door a little wider for someone else like me. Let someone else know that they are okay the way that they are. But I am really scared. It is 2020 and I am scared. My heart is racing as I post. I consider taking it down. Why?
It is worth mentioning that I shared the details of my rape in 2017. I was scared then too. Going to post for Bi Visibility Day, the same feelings from posting in 2017 come rushing back. I think to myself, “why am I more afraid to be bisexual than a rape victim in 2020?” I realize that it’s because these two particular identities, rape victim and bisexual, require acceptance on the audience’s part. I can tell someone I was raped in 2011 and they can choose to believe that isn’t true. The audience has the power to reject a piece of my identity and invalidate it if I don’t convince them what I am saying is true. The same can be said for being bisexual. It took me so long to get to the point of accepting that “yes, this is who I really am,” but many people don’t believe that identity to be valid. When I really thought about it, that post was like sharing a piece of myself that was so vulnerable that I protected it for 9 years. I am choosing to share about it now, not out of pride but out of fear that someone else is hurting just like me.
Where the #metoo movement created dialogue surrounding the public’s perception on rape and rape victims (in fact, that’s what made me brave enough to share my story), Bi Visibility Day aims to take the stigma and taboo away from the bisexual identity. There are so many bisexuals still in the closet because they believe themselves to be “wrong” or “invalid.”
So here I am at this moment, 9 years in the making, where I have finally (and publicly) made peace with who I am and what that means. I still haven’t talked to my family about it because I am scared of facing their pain, disappointment and shame.
But the weight is finally gone.