Monday, October 21, 2013

Quietly Coming Out as Bisexual

During these past weeks, with Bi-visibility Day and National Coming Out Day, I have come across a lot of bisexuals seriously stressing about coming out of the closet. Not everyone can do this, but when it's safe and possible, I believe that the quiet method of informing others of one's bisexuality is a great way to go. If successful, you get the information across quietly then go about your life. Besides needing to be in a safe environment, this method mostly just requires being secure and sure in who you are.

Of course coming out is often difficult for gays and lesbians too, but they do have some "quiet" options not available to bisexuals. A lesbian who chooses to have a "boyish" hair cut and wear butch clothes is likely to be assumed to be a lesbian. A bi woman who does the same will also likely be assumed to be a lesbian, and will remain closeted unless she comes out as bi. A gay man who shows up at social events with his boyfriend and introduces him as such is going to be seen as gay. A bi man who does the same will be seen as gay too, and will still be closeted unless he comes out as bi.

Gays and lesbians can also put rainbow flags or an equality stickers on their cars and be out as homosexual. Though the bi community has relatively recently come up with a flag to represent bisexuality, it's still so new that only other bisexuals who are involved in the bi community (a mostly on-line presence) recognize what it is.

So being out as bi is usually something that has to be more directly addressed. Still that doesn't mean there aren't subtle and less stressful ways to go about it. I'll share some examples from my own life to show what I mean.

I met a woman recently who's new in town. Upon discovering she is doing public relations work, I mentioned my experiences with building up a blog. I went on to mention that my blog has gotten a lot of traffic from reddit; mostly from the subreddit "Bisexual," and that I was blogging about bisexuality because the main character in my novel "Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe," is bisexual.

The conversation could have gone differently. I could easily have not mentioned the word bisexual. Knowing that bringing up my blog might lead her to ask more about it, I could have never even brought up the blog at all. But in fact, I made a conscious decision to mention the it, and made a conscious decision to use the word bisexual. To have navigated conversation away from where I saw it naturally heading would have been closeting myself. Instead, by allowing the flow in that direction, I instantly outed myself to a new-found acquaintance in a non-dramatic/traumatic way. Sure I didn't make it 100% clear I'm bi, but she'd have to figure I likely was. If she wasn't comfortable with that, I'd know right away, and could dismiss her as a potential friend. By going this route, I also avoided ever having to decide if and and when and how to tell her, somewhere down the road, about my sexual orientation.

This is how I've mostly come out. I know I'm lucky; I come from a relatively progress and non-oppressive background, and I've always lived in progressive and non-oppressive places. As a result, coming out has been mostly a non-event.

Sometimes coming out can just be a matter of not hiding. One night, years ago, I was kissing a woman on the sidewalk a few blocks from where a big event was occurring. Someone we knew was walking by and she tried to conceal my face, thinking I was trying to pass as straight. I told her I didn't have anything to hide. Again, I outed myself just by not making it a point to closet myself.

This simple act of not hiding also occurred a  few years ago when I was exchanging comments on Facebook with a friend who knew I was bi. All the sudden, he went to private messaging because he wanted to ask me something that he knew might out me if done publicly. I told him that the fact that my bisexuality wasn't known by our mutual friends wasn't due to any efforts of my own, but rather because people made assumptions, and I continued the conversation publicly. I'm not sure if anyone was paying attention, but if people who knew me to be in an opposite sex relationship saw the conversation where my friend asked which female actresses I thought were hot, they would have had a good hint I wasn't exactly straight.

In fact, many people I know just found out recently that I was bi when I  set up a Facebook Author's Page for a bisexual themed novel and posted links to my blog about bisexual issues. Again, a non-dramatic/traumatic self-outing. I just thought well, if they hadn't figured it out yet, they'll know now.

Though I think that for many people coming out could be a lot less stressful if they'd only not build it up as such a scary monster in their heads, I also know that sadly, for many, coming out has serious ramifications. Certainly there are situations when a one-on-one sit down talk is necessary. Even then, I'd recommend not acting like it's a big deal, but rather a fact that needs to be shared. Those we come out to take our lead when considering how to respond. Sure some people will be biphobic and overreact no matter what, but if we project that we are okay and fine with who we are, and don't act like our bisexuality is a big deal, chances are a lot  of people we come out to will be more likely to keep their cool too. Meanwhile let's all look forward to a time when a person's sexual identity - to borrow a phrase from Bob Marley and Haile Selassie - "is of no more significance than the color of his eyes."


  1. "...let's all look forward to a time when a person's sexual identity - to borrow a phrase from Bob Marley and Haile Selassie - "is of no more significance than the color of his eyes." Yes!! I can't imagine why sexuality would have anything to do with anyone other than the person involved. I have no desire to wear a sign saying I'm a non-practicing hetrosexual, and I couldn't care less about what anyone else may do or don't do! Here's to the realization that there is truly no male or female, other than in our learned material beliefs. We all embody and exhibit characteristics attributed to gender. There truly is no difference other than in our attitude toward it. Woo-hoo!

    1. It would be great if everyone had the same attitude. However, since the majority of society is heterosexual, there is rarely a need for someone to come out as hetero; everyone already assumes you are. Gays and lesbians were treated for so long - and still to some extent - as being sick or perverse; it was therefore important to come out to show the world what a non-straight person really is like. I think the coming out movement is 99% responsible for the new level of acceptance of gay people and of gay marriage. Once people saw what gay people are really like, how they really live, it was easy for the straight world to see there was nothing wrong with them.
      Coming out was also important for gay people who were taught to be embarrassed or ashamed of who they were. By remaining silent and hiding their relationships they were promoting the idea of homosexuality being shameful.
      Straight couples walk down the street all the time holding hands; straight couples go to events together and present themselves as a family. For a gay couple to do this, they are automatically announcing their sexual orientation to the world. So sometimes the act of coming out with a non-straight orientation is just a way to prepare people for who you're partnering with when they have assumed you're straight.
      Now that gays have been accepted more, bisexuals are finding that they have largely been left behind. The attitude from both the gay and straight community towards bisexuals has changed considerably since the 1980s, and now it seems it's almost cool to bash bisexuals. Many bisexuals are closeted as being gay because they find more acceptance this way. So for the same reasons why it was important for gays and lesbians to stop hiding their sexual identities, it's now becoming increasingly important for bisexuals to be open about who they are. Bisexuality is often even considered made-up and nonexistent - if people are in the closet it just helps promote this notion, and perpetuates stereotypes of those who do claim this orientation.
      Yes, hopefully someday none of this will be necessary. Hopefully people will not make assumptions about who you are and when they find out otherwise will not make automatic negative assumptions about what that means about you.

    2. There are of course other reasons to make one's sexual orientation known as well. For example how are those two lesbian,s sitting side by side at the shoelace factory, each secretly in love with the other and each assuming the other is straight, ever going to get together if they don't make their orientation known?

  2. I am Bisexual, at first I thought I was Gay just because I love men sexually, But I also realized I love women equally, but I can not come out because I work with Children and the people who know me assume Gays and Bis are child molesters. I have absolutely no interest in children that way. Its sad i have to be in the closet with my friends.

    1. Yes, it's sad that you cannot come out, and it's a vicious cycle because until people realize that some of the people they know and love are bisexual they will continue to assume horrible and incorrect things about us.