#27BiStories: When Did You Come Out? What Was the Response Like?

In their own words, bisexuals tell us what it was like to come out.

BY Eliel Cruz

August 27 2014 7:00 AM ET

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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 hay community?

Levi, 23, Washington, D.C. (dating a bisexual man): He's out to some friends and family, but isn't quite ready to come out to his parents. He gets a lot of shit from both gay and straight people, I've observed. From both angles, the root is simple ignorance. He has a lot of anecdotes that he doesn't share with me, because they're needlessly painful experiences. As for myself, I was hanging out with a couple straight friends the other day who were having a conversation about a bi guy and bisexuality in general. After recounting the guy's complicated love life, both of my friends declared him confused, and my other friend declared bisexuality nonexistent. I couldn't help but pipe up and say that I've been seeing a guy who likes girls,but who also really likes me. That was the end of the conversation. 

Brian, 45, Nebraska: I came out when I was 44 years old, after having been married to a woman for almost 19 years. I have known that I wasn’t straight since I was around 15 years old, but due to a fairly conservative and religious upbringing I repressed the part of myself that was attracted to men as much as possible. I came out much later in life than many people and feared to do so because I was unsure how my wife would take the news. I knew that she would be supportive of me as a bisexual male; I just wasn’t sure she would accept it in our marriage. Boy, was I wrong. My wife has been so amazing in accepting me for who and what I am, allowing me to discover my sexuality in healthy and positive way.  

Surprisingly, the response from my friends and family was much better than I could've ever hoped for. All of my immediate family was incredibly accepting of my coming-out. Since the vast majority of my friends would be classified as “liberals,” I had no fear about coming out to them once I was out to my family. My friends have been nothing but supportive, but I would've expected no less from them — there is a reason I am friends with them, after all. What actually amazed me, though, was the response from some of my more conservative family members. Generally, I have received little to no negative reaction from them, although, to be honest, they don’t seem willing or able to even talk to me about coming out as bisexual. 

Since coming out, I have been openly welcomed into the gay community that we have in this area. Most everyone has been quite accepting of my bisexuality, even though I am married to a woman. The straight community doesn't seem to care if I am bisexual ± since I am in an opposite-sex relationship, they don’t really seem to know or care if I am bisexual.

James, 32, New Jersey: I knew I was attracted to boys and girls from the age of 6. It wasn't until I was 13 that I learned of and started using the word "bisexual," and have been coming out ever since. I told my dad when I was 18, and he was awesome. He said he kind of always knew and that was it, and he continues to be my biggest fan. My sister, to this day, claims to be confused about how I could be bi if I like girls, so we don't really talk about it. My mom has "forgotten" many times, and while she currently understands that I am bi, she is clearly upset that her only son faces so much hatred just for being himself.

All in all, I have gotten more shit from the gay community about being bi than I have from the straight community. I have lost count of the number of pride events where some gay boy or lesbian girl has said, "Ew what are the bis doing here?"  

Calvin, 30, North Carolina: [I came out] in my mid-20s, though I and my partner had known for a few years. I knew myself long before I had a word for it and understood it as even being an option.

I had some friends who actually assumed I was queer, and when I came out to them, that was an odd response, to be sure. If any family notices the constant queer Facebook posts, no one ever says anything. My family is the kind to just ignore what they don’t want to see. My best friend became very distant, and only began talking to me again recently.

I have read and seen stories of biphobia among the gay community, but have mostly been happy to have good responses from monosexual queers. I don’t test the reaction with my workmates, because an ex-employee who came out casually to them received only cold responses and stares, setting me off the idea of coming out at work.

Mostly, I would say I don’t feel the kind of connection with the traditional LGBTQ community that I would like or that would allow a solid idea of their response. Gay groups and events aren’t entirely welcoming, so it doesn’t get far. We have attended queer parenting groups and events promoting our new local LGBTQ center, and at both are directly asked “So, what are you doing here?” which is pretty discouraging.

Heather, 29, North Carolina: I came out as bisexual in my early 20’s when I discovered it. Unfortunately, I grew up in a town and in a school with a total of one homosexual (a boy) and no other out queers. I had never even heard the word "bisexual" until I was older. My partner came out as bisexual in his mid-20s, though only to me at first. It took several years for him to come out to anyone else, and there are still many people whom he hasn’t told straight-out.

My friends mostly didn’t care; my family’s reaction was mostly “Why?” Because I was already married and [to them] that seemed to nullify my sexuality. As if my current relationship made me straight and, alternatively, if I’d have ended up with a same-sex partner, I would have just been gay. I’ve also been told that simply by informing my son that there is more than straightness, that I’m “pushing” queerness on him.

The straight community was mostly curious, but harmless. They for the most part didn’t care. I’m sure this is completely dependent upon what part of the straight community you encounter. I’m pretty sure I’d be roasted just like any other queer in certain settings. The gay community was much less accepting. Cries of “Pick a side!” and “Poser, faker, whore” came from lesbians and gay men alike. I was told by a good gay male friend that "bisexual is something you do in college to piss your parents off,” despite the fact that I was well past my college years and grown enough that rebelling against my parents wasn’t even on my radar. Later, when I began to identify as polyamorous, I was often told by lesbians that they would not date me because, to put it delicately, I was somehow tainted by male partners’ presences.

Denise, 43, New Jersey: If you listen to my partner, he came out at birth, but I was at first straight, then a closeted lesbian for four years [starting] when I recognized my feelings towards women as sexual attraction ... around 18 years old. By 24 years old, I was sure I was bisexual and never looked back. I don't do closets well, so I pretty much came out it an organic way. As bisexuals, we have to come out over and over again, so I work it into conversation, much the same way straights declare their sexual orientations. I talk about exes using the appropriate pronouns, and I don't hide my appreciation of a varieties of bodies. I never really had "the coming out," which I think is a very American concept. I just live my life openly. No one in my family has asked outright, and I've never felt to need to do the coming-out ritual. I find people that I know are more accepting if I treat it as ordinary. It is when I treat it as extraordinary [that they get uncomfortable]. Now, to be clear, I do come out to my students. I'm a sociologist, who usually lets my students draw conclusions about who I am, and then I destroy it by introducing concepts they never even entertained. It is my teachable moment about the errors of binaries.

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