Sunday, November 2, 2014

Advice for Coming Out as Bisexual

While there is excellent information available about coming out as gay, there is little specifically for coming out as bisexual. Partially, this is because most gay coming out info is also quite relevant to coming out as bi. However, there are additional issues encountered when coming out as bisexual. The advice in this blog is intended to address these bisexual-specific issues, and is meant to add to, not replace, standard coming out advice.
                          
It’s a great idea to first come out to people who will be supportive, and build from there. Unfortunately, bisexuals sometimes make the mistake of assuming that coming out to someone who is gay, or a gay ally, will go well. Sadly, many gays are hostile towards, or ignorant about, bisexuality, and gay allies often follow their lead. So, just like with straight people, it’s wise to see what a gay person’s, or an ally’s, attitude towards bisexuality is, before deciding how and when to come out to them.

When coming out as bi, it’s important to keep in mind that most monosexuals have never given bisexuality much thought. Don't assume that friends and family will pick up on hints. Often people don't see us even when we wave our flag in their face. The reality is, most people have no idea bisexuals even have a flag, nor what the bi colors are. In fact, one of the biggest frustrations you may face is that even when you explicitly come out as bisexual, you may still not be out. You may need to come out to the same people over and over again. Often people just don't get it, refuse to accept it, or actively deny it.

Some people may not even know what bisexual means. They may confuse the word with transgender or androgyny, or think it’s just another way to say gay. People may confuse bisexual with polyamory or assume bi means that you have to have more than one lover to be satisfied.

Indeed, it’s wise to be prepared for a great deal of ignorance. You may want to have educational resources available. Often people just repeat things they have heard others say, without giving it much thought. A little bit of information sometimes goes a long way.

Bracing yourself for possible ignorant and biphobic reactions, and thinking about how you might respond to these, as well as to the typical homophobic reactions, can ease the process.

It’s not unusual for people to react by insisting that bisexuals are really straight, or gay. You may be subjected to stories about people who said they were bi and later came out as gay. You may be told that it would be easier if you just chose to be “just gay,” or straight. You may be accused of seeking attention, or being greedy, indecisive, confused, oversexed, or going through a phase. Others may insist that identifying as bisexual is transphobic, or that you should ID as pansexual. Some people may declare that based on your relationship history you are not bi, or ask you to prove that you are bisexual by giving them an intimate history of your sex life.

To stop people from crossing boundaries, be prepared to say things like, “That’s too personal of a question; please respect my privacy,” or, “Please respect my right to choose not to share details of my sexual experiences.”

Since porn labeled “bisexual” gives the impression that bisexuals engage in indiscriminate sex with lots of people, it may be wise to explain that bisexuals are no more prone to this kind of sexual lifestyle than gays or straights. Explaining that bisexuals simply have a wider sphere of people we are possibly attracted to, can help monosexuals understand better. Further, it can make a difference to point out that bisexuality isn't exclusively about sex, but rather about being sexually and romantically attracted to more than one gender, and about whom we might potentially fall in love with.
For more ideas on how to respond to biphobic reactions, see “Helpful Hints for Biphobics” 

For most people, coming out to themselves was a difficult and drawn out process; your friends and family may need the same kind of patience. 

Advice for Coming Out as Bisexual first appeared as my BiAngle Column in the October Issue of The Gayly.

6 comments:

  1. Sometimes it helps to identify with an organization. For a brief time, I served on the Board of Directors of the Bisexual Resource Center in Boston. In that position, I had a business card that identified me as a representative of our group. During that time, when people ask what I did, I would simply give them a card as if it was the most natural thing in the world and the remarkable thing is, most folks would express curiosity and start asking questions. Which I would answer--openly and honestly.

    What I discovered was that if I presented a plausible premise--i.e., a member of the board of the BRC, then folks were more than comfortable talking about it and will to learn more about what bisexuality means.

    I have had wonderful conversations on planes, in hotels, domestically and in foreign countries, and have met a lot of people who are curious about bisexuality, not only as regards others, but as pertains to themselves.

    So, my suggestion is, if you belong to a bi group or in involved in a bi group, then you should create either a business card or a small handout of some sort that you or your members can offer to others. This might help to break the ice and allow some really productive conversations.

    Dan

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    1. Good point Dan; I agree completely. When people ask what I do, I tell them I'm a writer and an activist. Usually they want to know what kind of activist I am or what I write, and then suddenly I'm talking about my bisexuality as if I was talking about being a truck driver or a bank teller. If we act like it's nothing unusual and not about sex, sex, sex, then, like you said, people are usually comfortable discussing the topic and have things to say, or questions. Those who are truly uncomfortable usually just smile awkwardly and find something else to do.
      This is along the lines of an earlier blog post of mine: Quietly Coming out as bisexual: http://harriefarrow.blogspot.com/2013/10/quietly-coming-out-as-bisexual.html

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  2. Thank you for writing this piece Harrie! - GH from BIWOC

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  3. Good piece, Harrie. I may even when find the opportunity to use some of your advice on occasion.

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    1. Thank you Brian. Best wishes for all your coming out experiences.

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