How I stopped feeling ashamed of my bisexuality
A few months ago, a close friend of mine came out to me as biromantic. I congratulated her and asked how she was feeling about it, and then we moved on, talking about our friend’s wedding and TV shows we’re both watching.
She wasn’t the first (or last) friend of mine to come out to me as bi+, an identity that, according to the Bisexual Resource Center, includes anyone romantically or sexually attracted to more than one gender. I have an entire community filled with queer, pansexual, and bi+ friends.
I’m really lucky, because that wasn’t the case several years ago. When I first came out at 13 (as gay at first), I was the only LGBTQ+ person in my friend group. For years, I was one of the only queer people in my life, at least offline: Online, I had access to a larger LGBTQ+ community, including many of my first bi+ and trans friends.
Bi+ people often face negativity, biphobia, and erasure in LGBTQ+ spaces, according to Dr. Megan Crofford-Hotz, a bisexual therapist and researcher. “This can often include monosexism, reducing the spectrum of sexual attraction to heterosexual or homosexual, and erasing bisexual, queer, and pansexual members of the community in the process,” they explain.
Before I had many bi+ people in my life, I struggled with internalized biphobia.
I’ve taken in so many negative messages about bisexuality over the years—that bisexuality isn’t real, that bi people are promiscuous and prone to cheating, that we’re faking it, that we’re just afraid to “pick a side” and just be gay. I’ve let people just assume that I’m gay to avoid hearing these harmful reactions.
It’s hard to combat those messages when you don’t have many bi+ role models or on TV; in 2012, the year I came out as bi, bisexual characters only accounted for 18% of all LGBTQ+ television characters. A recent report by GLAAD shows that in the 2018-19 season, 27% of all LGBTQ+ characters were bisexual, so the media landscape is improving.
“Given the limited visibility of bisexual folks in media and society, and the rejection many bisexual individuals face from the LGBTQ+ community, spaces and opportunities to engage specifically with other bisexual+ folks are incredibly important,” explains Dr. Crofford-Hotz.
I finally came out as bi in 2012 when I was a sophomore in high school. I was in a monogamous relationship with a woman, so it felt odd to come out. My internal battle with biphobia rose again: What if people assumed this was just a phase and I was finally “ready” to admit I wasn’t attracted to women? What if they thought I wanted to cheat on my girlfriend or break up with her because I was bored? I swallowed my fears and came out, not for anyone else but for myself.
Since my coming out, I’ve built a strong community of bi+ people in my life.
My fiancée is also bi and attracted to people of all a/genders, like I am, so none of our friends are surprised when we trade opinions on hot people we knew in college or someone attractive we spotted on the train. (“Tell me if you think the person reading in front of us is hot,” she texted me a couple months ago as we sat side-by-side on the train ride home.)
Our shared bisexuality has brought my partner and me closer together, and that understanding has only strengthened as we’ve both made more bi+ friends. “It can be incredibly beneficial for individuals of minority groups to have friends who share the same life experiences,” says leading LGBTQ+ expert Kryss Shane. “For queer people, this can allow for conversations without having to explain or prove some of the nuances of how they are treated by others. It is also a space for conversations about sex, romance, relationships, and self-exploration. This allows for moments of bravery and for moments of clarity while one person’s growth can encourage or spark another’s.”
Several of my close friends are either asexual and biromantic or bisexual/pansexual. I’ll often complain with other bi+ friends about how bi invisibility wears on all of us; it makes people assume that my friend (a woman who’s engaged to a man) is straight and has the opposite effect with me. My bi+ friends intuitively understand why it’s frustrating when bisexual people are unwanted in LGBTQ+ spaces, or why I’m constantly looking for books with bi+ protagonists.
“In my research, bisexual queer women highlighted the importance of bisexual affirmation and activism in maintaining a connection to their identities,” explains Dr. Crofford-Hortz.
My ties to my bi+ community feel strongest in those moments when I’m sharing Happy Bisexual Visibility Day posts with friends, reacting to friends’ posts about how bi people are welcome at Pride, or tagging people in the best bi memes (everyone knows the Venn Diagram format was literally made for us).
There’s strength in our visibility. I recognize that being out and vocal about your orientation isn’t possible for many people, and some of my bi+ friends have to remain in the closet with their religious families for safety reasons. But when we are able to safely express our bi+ pride, it reinforces that we’re not giving in to biphobia and erasure. We’re proud, and there’s no reason to hide or be ashamed of being bi, as I believed for years.
Recently, another friend of mine told me that she’s bisexual. It was unexpected; she’d never talked about being interested in anyone besides men before. She second-guessed coming out to me. “Is it silly that I’m telling you this now?” she asked. “I mean, you’ve known for years.”
I reassured her that it wasn’t, and that there is absolutely no timeline on figuring out who you are or deciding to share that with others. She doesn’t watch Broad City, so I told her how much I loved Abbi’s anti-coming out storyline in the final season, where she never formally announces anything and just dates a woman.
“Don’t worry about it,” I told her. “I’m just glad I can send you bi memes now, too.”