#27BiStories: When Did You Come Out? What Was the Response Like?
BY Eliel Cruz
August 27 2014 8:00 AM ET
When did you (or your partner) come out as bisexual? What was the response from your family and friends? How about the straight versus the gay community?
April, 45, Iowa: I first came out to a few people when I was 16. The response was not so accepting, so I went back into the closet until I was in my early 20s. I was given much more acceptance from some of my straight female friends. I dated two lesbians who were all freaked out because I was bi and they thought I would leave them for a guy. But the reality was they both left me for another woman. Many lesbians told me that they thought I was gross because I also dated men. That they "would never date me because I did dick."
Jan, 51, and Hew, 45, California: I came out when I was almost 18. I told my mother that my boyfriend and I were both bisexual. She asked, "But how are you going to raise your children?" I said "Well, he'll sleep with them Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and I'll sleep with them on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and on Sundays they'll choose what they like best." I don't mean to make light of incest; I just meant to point out to her that she obviously didn't raise me bi, so that wasn't a decision I was going to be making for my kids. She got it immediately and said, "I'll never ask again."
One funny thing was that before I came out as bi, my mother especially was really sexually overprotective and strict. After I brought my first butch lesbian home on a date, my parents sent me to their rented getaway cabin in the woods with a boy, gave me the keys to the car, and gave me a pretty pink negligee for the trip as a gift. I don't think that was all about turning 18. I think they were scared they'd overdone the overprotectiveness and thought that if they wanted me to marry a man and give them grandkids, they'd better lighten up. So coming out actually got me some privileges!
My mother was mostly worried that I wouldn't be able to have a family if I chose a woman as a partner. She got over that eventually. My dad was more uncomfortable at first with the bi thing, but on the whole, they were much cooler about it than most parents I've heard about.
I had one friend who was pissed off that I told her I was bi. Why would I tell her that? What did it have to do with her? What did she care? It wasn't anybody's business but mine. Even then, it was pretty clear that she was insecure about her own identity as straight. Most of my friends were fine about it, though. I wasn't the first bi-identified person in my weird and wonderful high school crowd, which was mostly LGBT-friendly (though I don't think we said "LGBT" then!)
While I worked a lot for gay rights in college and medical school and have hung out with lesbians a lot, I don't actually think the gay and lesbian community has been any more accepting of my bisexuality than the straight community has. For that reason, about 15 years ago I decided not to be part of any "gay and lesbian" groups that refused to put "bisexual" in the title, and to devote my activist energy to the bi community instead.
Nicole, 31, Washington: I came out to my mom and friends at 14. The only thing was that I didn't really know there was a noun to identify with at the time. I thought there was just gay and straight. Maybe I wasn't thinking about it too hard in the moment. I just knew I was primarily interested in other girls. Words like "lesbian" and "bisexual" didn't really enter the picture until I was 15 or 16. My friends had kind of already guessed, because they knew who I was crushing on at school. We were kind of a small group of misfits to begin with, so my interest in other girls didn't raise any eyebrows. I was just the gay friend in the group, and it was OK.
My mom's reaction was a little more difficult to read. I was already dating a girl at school when I told her there was someone I wanted her to meet. She knew I'd been meeting up with someone after school and on weekends, but she had always assumed it was a boy. I'll never forget the way she paused when I told her it was a girl. She was fixing the vacuum cleaner at the time. Everything just stopped for about 30 seconds and then she said, "That's nice. It's normal for girls your age to have little crushes on their girlfriends." I very awkwardly tried to explain that I had meant "girlfriend" in the "we make out" sense of the word, but she didn't seem to hear me. At that point, I made a mental note not to talk about my girlfriends with my mom. She met one or two throughout high school, but she never really acknowledged it. To be fair, she really didn't acknowledge anyone I dated until I met my husband. So maybe she was just being efficient.
My community was very southern and conservative. I learned very quickly that disapproving glances, snarky comments, religious lectures, and a fair amount of harassment were part of the package if I was going to date other girls. I actually had a teacher hit me once for kissing my girlfriend in the hallway. She saw us kissing, immediately rushed over, hit both of us with her radio, and yelled, "No! You don't do that! Girls don't do that!" If I hadn't been so stunned and mortified, I might have reported it. Instead I stopped kissing girls in hallways.
I was actually pretty accepted among my gay friends until I got engaged. Sure, they all rolled their eyes when I dated guys on occasion, but the engagement was completely unexpected. I'm not sure how that could have happened, because I was obviously head-over-heels by that point. In any case, most of my queer friends assumed I was taking the easy way out. Several accused me of going back in the closet or "switching teams," even though I identified as bisexual. It was the first time I really felt that I wasn't queer enough to be part of the group. It definitely wasn't the last.
Ted, 45, Colorado: I came out to myself in my late 20s and then came out to my chosen family as I went forward. One of the most disappointing things I experienced was that all of my gay friends were cool with me saying I was bisexual until I began dating my future wife. After I introduced her to several of them, I heard from them less and less. I lost a fair amount of friends after that in the city [where] we used to live. There was no reaction from my straight friends, because we appeared to be a straight couple, although we were both bisexual.
Elisa, 55 , California: I realized I wasn't straight when I was 18 or so, but to the extent I came out, it was as sort-of lesbian. I had begun running with a tribe of self-described lesbian feminists, and it seemed that the only two available identities were gay and straight. I didn't think of bisexual as an option until much later.
I didn't have much success dating women; I was most often partnered with men, and most people probably assumed I was straight until about 15 years ago, when I started more vocally saying, "No, I'm not straight."
Still it took a few more years for me to recognize that "bisexual" was a valid identity.
Robyn, 55, Massachusetts: I came out to myself around the time of my 18th birthday. It took me five long years to tell anyone else. When I did come out, I encountered a variety of reactions. From my mom: "I already knew this, and my main concern is that other people will not treat you well." From my dad: "I don't understand, if you have the capacity to be attracted to men why don't you just go on a cruise and meet a man?" (Perhaps he was thinking about the show Love Boat?) Most of my friends responded better than I feared they would. Only a few responded badly. One female friend made a pass at me and then went around and told our mutual friends that I had come on to her. One male friend said, "Oh, that's great. I'd like to watch," to which I replied, "Too bad for you. That's not why I'm telling you." Overall, most of the negative reaction came from some of my lesbian friends, who perceived my declaration of my identity as a threat, as a sign that I was not committed to [what was then] the lesbian and gay community.