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

By Eliel Cruz

Originally published on Advocate.com August 27 2014 7:00 AM ET

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Coming out is one of the most powerful tools we have to combat ignorance and prejudice, or so said pioneers for equality such as Harvey Milk. We know that hiding in the closet not only keeps us from sharing our whole, authentic selves with our friends, family, and communities, but it can also have very real effects on our well-being

And while life in the closet can be repressive for anyone who doesn't feel safe or welcome to come out, bisexual people often face a closet with multiple doors, it seems — having to reaffirm their identity in straight spaces as well as those purported to be for LGBT people.

Facing down the kind of stigma that claims bisexual people are all "greedy," "confused," or just not "full-blown gay" contributes to overall decreased health outcomes and a greater incidence of HIV and other STIs for bisexual people, regardless of other socioeconomic factors, a recent study discovered

Hoping to shine a light on the myths about the bisexual community — both in and out of lesbian, gay, transgender, and queer spaces — The Advocate has launched a four-part series written from interviews with 27 self-identified bisexuals, all of whom happen to be in relationships. Earlier this week, we asked our sources to confont the biggest misconceptions they face as bisexual people, and today, we're turning our attention to the coming-out stories that so often unite LGBT people. 

Do those stories provide the same kind of "we've all been there" unity that many lesbian, gay, and transgender people experience when sharing their own comings-out? Or do bisexual people face ridicule and disbelief from the very people who claim to want to liberate others from the closet? Read on to find out. 

This is #27BiStories. 

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.

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Ted, 45, ColoradoI 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.

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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 gay community?

Christina, 41, CaliforniaI have come out several times. When I told my parents, they weren't even fazed and just said that I am definitely an individual. I have some family members that do not speak to me anymore, but for the most part my family is supportive. I have lost many friends over the years, but I have made many more that love me as I am. Most of the poor responses come from the straight religious people that I know. I haven't had a bad response from the gay community at all.

Melody, 32, Texas: I came out as a bisexual to friends when I was about 18. It was well-received by gay friends at first. They welcomed me with open arms. In hindsight, I can see all the times they were sitting me down to counsel me about coming out "all the way" as a lesbian. I was called a fence-sitter in jest. Straight friends did not want to talk about it much. They liked me and wanted to keep it that way, so they wanted to drop the subject of sexuality. I came out to some family members a couple years later, who just weren't really very surprised. They don't exactly "get it" as heterosexuals, but they love me. My partner has really only come out to me and one friend. He says he was only able to come out to me because I gave him the space to feel secure that I wouldn't leave him over it. It became important to my partner to come out to someone else, so he chose a gay male friend. As it turns out, his friend was a closeted bisexual as well, and he just came out to [my partner] in return. 

Gabriel, 34, Illinois: I came out to my wife before we got married, but we were already living together and had been partners for many years. It wasn’t as much "coming out" to her as it was needing to talk about feelings I’d had my whole life but never understood. She said "bisexual" for me — I didn’t even consider the word, as crazy as that sounds. I wouldn’t be in the wonderful place I am now without her and all of her love and support.

I came out to friends shortly after, but it took years to come out to family. I didn’t get much response one way or the other, just a lot of congratulations for being me and getting to that place. I had their support. For the most part, this is the straight community I’m talking about. I don’t have much involvement in the gay community, I’m “straight-acting” (to put it terribly simply, emphasis on terrible), I lean more towards the heterosexual end of the spectrum, and I haven’t experienced any doubt from that community from personal experience.

Online comments is another story, but even the essay I wrote for Good Men Project and Salon didn’t attract “he’s really gay” comments like other recent articles about bi people have. I guess the short answer is the straight community is curious about me, the gay community is indifferent. I had some family tell me that the essay I wrote helped them understand why I would come out at this point in my life. And I don’t know how much to read into this — I had friends and family share my essay on facebook and saw good positive discussions around the heterosexual (and a few fellow bi) “sharers.” My sister shared it —  she’s gay and part of a large LGBTQ synagogue. Not a single comment or “like” when she shared it.

Colleen, 58, Canada: My "wife" is open about her bisexuality with her husband, children, and birth family (she is a great-grandmother); however, I am less open, being out only to my ex-wife and children, and not to my birth family. I do, however, have a picture of me with my two partners on my desk at work, and am fairly open about this there. I am willing to respond to questions when people ask. The biggest negative reaction I've had has been from the queer community itself — especially lesbians. My "wife" has a number of lesbian friends, and she is less open about her bisexuality with them.

Zefi, 23, Greece: My friends and acquaintances have been generally very accepting of the fact, some of them sort of "knew" beforehand, like for example my ex-boyfriend. My mother was also pretty supportive, although it is still early to tell. She does not comment on it, which to me feels like she is treating as a nonissue. When it comes to the straight versus gay world, I am sad to say that I have gotten most of the biphobic comments and micro-aggressions from LGBTQ people, as I described above.

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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 gay community? 

Leah, 22, Colorado: I told my boyfriend before we started dating that I was bisexual. I wasn't fearful of anything, because I knew he would accept me for who I am, regardless of my sexual orientation. The response was exactly what I wanted it to be. [Everyone] responded as if I had told them my hair is brown or that the sky is blue. It wasn't a big deal for either my family members or friends. I don't usually go around telling people my sexuality, unless they assume I am something I am not. Most of the people I know are straight, and they are accepting of my sexuality. I have only had one encounter where a religious neighbor verbally attacked me for the LGBTQA bumper sticker I have on my car. As far as the gay community goes, I have seen many people supporting bisexuals but have also seen Twitter posts that slam bisexuals, saying they would not want to date a bisexual because it's twice as much competition. I think within both groups there are a great number of supporters, but the stereotypes and stigmas are still apparent in jokes and throughout society. 

Dave, 27, Scotland: I came out, first of all, to a few close friends when I was a teenager, probably around 15 or 16, but didn't really accept it in myself for a long time. My head went from going between Bi, straight — no, curious ...  mMaybe gay? Nah, I like girls too much, bi, and back and forth for years. I've never been in a same-sex relationship, though I have been with men in a sexual way, and I think a combination of me not talking about it for a long time and having no "evidence" to suggest I was anything other than straight has resulted in a few people assuming that it was just a phase.

I had a pretty horrible experience when I was about 18 when my parents found out I'd been viewing gay "adult content" and they flipped out. My dad asked me straight up if I was gay and I said no, but I told him that I thought I might be bisexual. His response was something along the lines of, "What do you mean you might be bisexual!?" He was furious — and I closed off. He approached the subject in a pretty challenging, aggressive way soon after that, and I just denied it and said it was curiosity. My parents never spoke about it with me since.

Nowadays, I feel like I maybe missed an opportunity to just admit it, but I know I wasn't ready to, and the circumstances weren't ideal. I've been with my wife for over 10 years now, albeit with a one-year break when we moved cities. We've been married for over two years. She has known about my being bi since the beginning, and we spoke about it every now and again in the beginning, but it was always something I avoided talking about.

A couple of years ago, I lost my mum very suddenly and it made me reassess a few things in life — a couple of those being that happiness is the most important thing in life, and being true to yourself is part of that. I made the decision that I wanted to be able to speak about my sexuality openly, and while I didn't want to go screaming it from the rooftops, I don't want to hide it anymore. I've come out to a handful of my closest friends and they have been phenomenally supportive. We went to Pride a couple of weekends ago and they were there for me, as it was something I wanted to feel part of. 

Evan, 40, California: I came out when I was 21, at the beginning of my relationship with my [now] ex-wife. This lead to her expressing her own bi curiosity, though she ended up maintaining a straight identity. Many of my male friends responded in biphobic ways, like "It's OK as long as you don't hit on me." As if my being out would suddenly make me treat them differently from when I wasn't out. I've received nothing but support from my family.

Any family members who don't support me keep their views to themselves and I'm unaware of them. The gay community has always treated me like a pariah. My experience has been that my community frequently negates me or my contribution because I'm "not gay enough." 

Beth, 42, Minnesota: I came out when I was 21. I generally got supportive comments from my friends. I didn’t tell a lot of my family to start with, but aside from some bumps in the road, my mom was OK with it. I came out at a fairly progressive college in which there was a queer student group led by an out bi woman, and I also had bi housemates that same year. So I got support right away. I’ve encountered biphobia from gay and lesbian folks and straight folks, but not typically from people I was already friends with. Overall I’d say I’ve been lucky.

Jake, 26, Washington, D.C.: I first came out as bisexual to my then-girlfriend my senior year of university in the fall of 2009. Afterwards I slowly came out to various people the rest of my senior year, including friends, a couple of professors, my mentor from high school, and my mother. Overall I was met with positive reactions, and my then-girlfriend was very supportive, although my mother was a bit hesitant at first, since she had never known anyone who was bisexual, although she had met multiple homosexuals.

A year after I first came out to anyone, I moved to Washington, D.C. As I slowly made friends in a city where I knew almost no one, I had to learn once again who to trust, which isn’t necessarily easier than where I grew up in Ohio. But I felt more comfortable telling people I’m bisexual in a city that seemed very progressive, especially concerning LGBTQ issues. All of my new friends and my current church family have been very supportive since I moved to D.C.

I have had a mostly positive reaction from a majority of my friends. A couple of my aunts contacted me, telling me I am sinning and to return to the teachings of Jesus. My sister-in-law actually sent me my first “hate mail” message a couple days after coming out, saying she didn’t agree with my “lifestyle.” My brother and I, even though we still talk occasionally, seem to have fallen out for the time being and avoid any mention of my sexuality. My father and I continue to talk, but we have also avoided my sexuality. Therefore I feel my relationship with my father and brother have less meaning than they used to, and I’m uncertain what the future holds for us.

Finally, there have been times when I have been called “greedy” and “selfish” by gay men here in D.C., revealing that a place I thought was progressive maybe isn’t as much as it seems.

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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 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.

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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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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.

Contributor: 
Eliel Cruz