I never really had to come out as bisexual, because honestly, it just never came up.
I’ve dated women before, and told a handful of my friends and my immediate family, so it’s not like it’s a secret, but my only two long-term relationships have been with men, so most people just assume I’m straight. (In fairness, the frilly dresses and obsession with Timothée Chalamet probably lure people into a false sense of heterosexuality as well.) It’s often easier just not to correct them.
I do have a trick for when I want to let people know. I have a trilogy of bad dates I went on between my relationships, and I fire them off in quick succession.
“The first guy turned out to have a secret son, the second dude got way too annoyed at me for not reading enough books, and the last one, she turned up to a date black-out drunk.”
It’s a “blink and you might miss it” pronoun revelation. Everyone is too afraid to ask, for fear that they might have just misheard.
Having never been in a serious relationship with a woman I’ve never been forced to have those difficult conversations with my extended family, or compose an Instagram post declaring my identity. Because I never had to, I never did. I’ve certainly reaped the benefits of that decision, but it isn’t without consequences.
When 23 September rolls around and “bi-visibilty day” posts fill my social media feed, it makes me feel strange, because I know my own actions, and a society with a long history of heteronormativity have combined to make me almost invisible.
Being part of the LGBTQ+ community has never really felt like something within my grasp. I say to myself, I haven’t struggled like everyone else did. No one has ever told me I’m going to hell for loving my partner, or glared at me for holding his hand. So in a way, claiming to be one of them makes me feel like a fraud.
I went through all the emotional turmoil, self-hatred and unrequited love in high school to be part of the club, but then it’s almost like I’ve let my membership card expire.
And bisexuality is different to being gay in a lot of ways. There is far less culture and language or established identities to gravitate towards. Besides tucking in my shirt, cuffing my jeans and loudly listening to the song Sweater Weather there isn’t much I can do to “connect with my people”. “Bi-culture” is slowly developing, but sometimes it still feels like the most cohesive common experience we have is people dismissing bi-men as gay and bi-women as experimenting.
Having only been in relationships with men, even other LBGTQ+ people I have come out to have their blind spots when it comes to my sexuality. Proudly gay people have proclaimed themselves to be the “only queer person in the room” as my boyfriend squeezes my hand because he knows it bothers me. Other bisexual women have had me cornered at a party explaining how I “wouldn’t understand their experience”. It’s a first-world problem, but it still stings.
There is also a part of me that’s afraid that if I’m too loud about my identity, people will think I don’t love my boyfriend. When you are bi or pansexual, but in a relationship, the very act of defining that part of your identity is highlighting the fact that there are other people that you could possibly be attracted to. My incredibly supportive boyfriend isn’t fazed by that, but I still worry about the world judging our partnership as less worthy and less pure.
The other problem with never really having come out is you also never really have to deal with your own ingrained hatred of your sexuality. In all honesty, a large part of the reason I never posted about it to social media is the fear of seeming cringeworthy. “Honestly,” I would say to myself, “who really gives a shit?”
There have been times that I have told people I’m bi and they reply, “Oh, well who isn’t?” I’m sure they were trying to make the (very valid) argument that everyone falls somewhere along the sexuality spectrum, but all that turn of phrase achieves is compounding my feeling that if I “come out” people would just think I’m seeking attention.
Bi representation on TV is slowly getting better with Brooklyn 99, Crazy Ex Girlfriend and even reality shows Vanderpump Rules featuring characters and cast members explicitly defining themselves as bisexual, but this still in far from the norm.
Actor Kristen Bell confirmed her character in the Good Place, Elenor, was bi in an interview but said they didn’t need that to be “harped on” or made explicit in the show.
Often on TV the best you get is half a line about “sexuality being a spectrum” and their identity remains unnamed and unexplained. It’s almost like the word bisexual is a bit passé or uncool. So, in turn, I’ve always been embarrassed to use it.
The raging pit of internalised biphobia within me would look at other people brandishing their sexual identity and wonder why they don’t just be a bit more low key about it like me. It’s easy to pass off being semi-closeted as just being socially progressive sometimes. It’s also easy to use derision to hide your own green envy of others’ capacity for self-acceptance.
I wouldn’t change my relationship for anything, but I shouldn’t feel like I have to in order to validate my identity.
Being invisible and quiet and oh-so-casually surfing the “heterosexual until proven otherwise” wave is easy. It served me well for a while but now it feels like I’m enforcing the very social pressures that have silenced me since I was teenager.
So, with that being said, this bi visibility day feels as good as any to decide for myself that my LGBTQ+ membership card has been renewed.