I’m bisexual. But I’m also too lazy to print out a sign, take a picture of myself, and upload it, so I’ll just talk about it here instead, shall I?
Step 1: Coming Out to Myself
I started my coming out process (and it is a process, rather than one big step — and that process continues as long as you continue to meet new people) in 1991. That was the year I started college. I knew before that, in a way, that I was attracted to both men and women. What I couldn’t tell was whether those attractions made me completely normal or psychopathically deranged. Because while I had plenty of exposure to gay and lesbian people (well, plenty of exposure to gay males — it was rare that I encountered a lesbian), I had never heard of anyone who was attracted to both men and women… but I had never heard that it wasn’t possible, either, or even normal. Still, I kept it under my hat, hoping someday it would all make sense to me.
And one fine day, in August 1991, it did. I was walking around with my new roommate, Andrea, and all across campus there were informational tables set up for student groups. And that was when I first saw the word: Bisexual. It was on the banner for Pride, the GLBT student group. I could parse it right away: bi meaning two, and sexual… well, let’s just say I definitely knew what that meant. I stopped in my tracks and stared at the word. I even said it out loud. I can’t remember if Andrea looked at me funny right then, because I was too caught up in my own world. And then we moved on, and I didn’t say anything else about it for the rest of the day.
But the next day, after musing on it all night, I said to Andrea, “You know, I think I’m bisexual.” And she said, “Yeah, I know. It was obvious when you saw the Pride sign yesterday.”
Step 2: Coming Out to My Parents
I came out to my parents in 1993, just before leaving the country. At the time that felt like really smart timing, but in retrospect it gave us too much time apart with them unable to ask questions or have follow-up conversations, and in years to follow, they did their best to pretend I’d never said it. Even when I would deliberately make references to this “ex-girlfriend” or that “girl I was dating,” it was just dropped as quickly as possible.
Step 3: Coming Out to My Sister
I came out to my sister in a letter in 1996, just after I’d moved to California. She’d told me before I left that she was a good pen pal, and since we’d never been close, she indicated an interest in getting to know each better through writing letters. I included the fact that I was bi in the first letter I sent her, and I never got a response. For years, I thought this was her rejection of my queerness. It wasn’t until last year, as she and I were both giving care to our dying father, that I broached the subject. And it turned out she had never received the letter. She knew about my being bi before that point anyway, as my parents had told her, and she says she would’ve reassured me that it wouldn’t change anything. Instead, the letter that got lost in the mail was one of the causes of a 9-year rift between us.
Step 4: Coming Out to My Extended Family
I came out to my extended relatives a little bit by accident, in 1998. I’d volunteered to help coordinate a family web site, and in the process included a link to my personal web site. At the time, I was running a large, high-profile bisexual resources web site, and it was prominently linked from my home page. I didn’t worry about this, because I was under the impression that at some point, my parents had divulged this bit of information to the rest of the family, and that no one would be finding out this way. This was not the case. I received a scathing email from my uncle, who called me immature and selfish, and told me I was hurting my parents.
On the bright side of that hurtful incident, my dad came to my defense, writing a letter back to his younger brother and telling him that his response has been “extreme and totally unenlightened as well as un-christianlike” and adding that his “unfair and unkind judgment” of me was “totally unacceptable.” If my dad hadn’t already been my hero, he would have been immediately promoted based solely on that one letter.
Step 5: Not Becoming Invisible
In 1997, I met the love of my life. He happens to be male, and he happens to be straight, and initially that was hard for me. I didn’t want to limit my identity to just the “heterosexual side” (I don’t actually conceive of my sexuality as having sides, which is why I use the quotes, but it’s simplest to explain it that way). I feared that if we were monogamous, I would be defined as straight, and that felt deeply wrong. But being involved with other people has never worked out well for us, and we’ve been mostly monogamous for a large portion of the nine years we’ve been together. I’m still bisexual, I still find women attractive (just as I still find men attractive — occasionally!), and I still have major misgivings about being thought to be straight. But I have no regrets about being with Karsten, and our love is broad enough and complex enough that it makes sexual orientation a moot issue.
Step 6, 7, 8, …
And so it goes. Every time I meet new people, every time someone makes a gay joke, every time I hear someone ignore the possibility of bisexuality, there’s an opportunity to out myself. I’m less forward about it in some ways now than I used to be, partly because I live in a more culturally conservative area than I ever have before, partly because I find myself questioning how relevant it is to anyone but me, and partly because it’s just there in the background, not bothering me, not needing to be announced, not needing to be talked about.
Except for today. Today I’m talking about it. I hope it helps someone understand themselves or someone else just a little bit better.
Happy Coming Out Day, everyone.