#27BiStories: When Did You Come Out? What Was the Response Like?
BY Eliel Cruz
August 27 2014 7:00 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?
Lucy, 46, Georgia: I had identified as a lesbian who occasionally dated other genders until my mid-30s, so when I entered a long-term partnership with a male, most people assumed I had turned straight. That was a tough period because I lost the majority of my gay friends and support network, but I didn't feel comfortable around most straight or normative people. It was very hard to find people in similar situations or counseling and support options.
I still am not sure I identify as specifically bisexual in the way that most people think of the term, because they assume that the word enforces the gender binary. So until bisexual is commonly thought of as simply being non-monosexual (i.e., not lesbian/gay or straight), I use the terms bi/queer or bi/fluid so that it's clear I mean "attracted to more than one gender." As far as reaction from the straight versus gay community goes, it varies, but in general I feel like an outsider in both. In straight communities, I usually get a hypersexualized reaction with the assumption that I have sex with anyone. In gay communities, I commonly get a negative response, as though I'm dirty or somehow not worthy of identifying as queer or being in queer spaces.
A.J., 29, Arizona: Despite having crushes on people all over the gender spectrum from the time I was around five years old onward, I didn't completely come out as bisexual until my junior year of college. Most of my friends in my college's Gay-Straight Alliance (so inaptly named...) were very supportive — except for a few lesbians who refused to date anyone in the vicinity of bisexual. Coming out to my parents took a little longer, but both my mom and dad are very accepting, open-minded people who ultimately love me unconditionally. My super-hetero younger brother just told me he already knew and proceeded to regale me with the news that I'd inspired him to write a play about a gay football player for a high school English assignment.
Overall, due to my own need to raise my voice as an activist, I haven't suffered too much since coming out; except for a few slurs thrown my way here and there, and the occasional overstepping of a clueless employer (one asked if being bisexual meant "I thought about sex twice as much as everyone else"). Oh, and that one time Dan Savage called me out in his book.
Bill, 45, New York: It was a process. Looking back, I always had an attraction to men and women, but I never really saw bi as a place, and felt that I was primarily attracted to women, but just a little more adventurous or horny than most. I went through a period of self-discovery in my 30s that ended with my coming out as bi at 40.
Coming out [to friends and family] has been an interesting issue for me because I remain married to the same woman, so the world perceives us as a straight couple. Many of my close friends know (and they don't really care that much). Of my family, I have told my father but not my mother. My father's only question was whether I was happily married. When I said I was (and am), he seemed satisfied. I have many close friends that I have never told, just because it hasn't really come up, and there doesn't seem to be a pressing need to tell them.
I have to say that the group that was least supportive was gay men. Many disbelieved me when I identified as bi. One close gay male friend of my wife's even tried to persuade her that she needed to get out of the marriage. I have had to reprimand some of my gay friends for making a joke of bisexuality or for saying things like "I could never be with one of those."
Straight friends, while not ready to throw a party for me, seem to accept the concept better. Kind of a "Well, if you guys are happy, that's all that matters," approach. I have one very close gay male friend who is in a relationship with a bisexual man. That friend has been very supportive all along.
Laura, 48, Netherlands: My family is a bit weird and extremely open-minded. I have never not known that I was bisexual, so there was not really a coming-out either. I’ve had crushes on boys and girls when I was young; my first make-out session was with a girl from school. My first sex was with a boy.
I am not really sure about the straight community. I don’t have a lot of friends myself, and never have had a lot of friends. Those that I had were open-minded — simply for the reason that I can’t deal with not open-minded people. I’ve been with my husband for 20 years, so people I worked with just assumed I was straight. And in work situations, there’s seldom a discussion with a chance to throw in "Oh yeah, I am bi."
The gay community was not fun. I have been very active on dating sites, and there were so many lesbian women stating, "If you’re bi, then don’t even bother dropping be a note, I won’t write back." That’s really awful to read. And since I am on Facebook, I’ve been on bi sites and read bi articles, and the prejudice is horrible. But they don’t want to discuss it; I’ve tried, but they hide behind [claiming] "It’s just a preference [to not date bi people]," and how dare I question that. It’s really the only subject that really hurts me personally very deeply.
Sarah, 57, Oregon: I came out as bisexual last year. I was celibate for 10 years so I could learn to have a functional relationship and to heal. After emerging from chemotherapy for two years for a disease not cancer-related, I was in a physically and mentally healthy place. I decided to join the world again and finally dealt with a truth I had fought all my life: that I was in fact bisexual. You have to understand what bisexuality was perceived as when I was growing up to see why I hid from it.
My family and friends were very supportive and understanding. From the straight community, [I got responses that were] confused and sexually objectifying. The assumption [was] that I was now up for anything and it was OK to approach me with requests for threesomes and such ... from total strangers. From the gay community [the reaction] was disheartening. It was a cold reception, and at times mean and rude.
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