It’s weird, coming out as bi: once you’re out, you might rather you’d just stayed in.
I’ve known I was attracted ““ emotionally, romantically and sexually ““ to both men and women since I was 16. I didn’t come out, though, until almost ten years later, by which time most of my family and close friends thought they’d nailed my personality down as tightly as could be expected. Adjusting to this new information has proven to be surprisingly difficult for some of them.
I guess my perspective on it is skewed. I’ve known this about myself since puberty, while they’re all having to re-jigger their mental picture of who I am. Deep down, though, a little voice is shouting: why is this such a big deal? My bisexuality, although it was hidden for years, doesn’t change who I am. I have not vanished and replaced myself with some individual whose sexual deviancy must be taken into account. My mother, who said, “I don’t know what this means,” when I told her I was bi, didn’t seem to be able to understand that nothing about me had fundamentally changed.
Of course, none of this is any different than coming out as gay or lesbian.
What is different is that, as bisexual, neither side wants you. Being bisexual sometimes feels like being a child in the middle of a custody battle ““ except no one wants custody. And that’s where the guilt begins.
LGBT people ““ we’re right there in the name, before “trans*” and after “gay.” I identify really strongly with the gay movement; certainly anyone who is anti-gay and -lesbian is anti-bisexuality too, right? We’re all on the same side, which is the side of non-straightness. Discrimination hurts us all. But neither the straight nor the gay sides seem to feel that way.
I hear it when, while joking about what a terrible gay I am because I’ve never seen Rocky Horror, a lesbian friend chips in with “No, you’re a terrible gay because you have a boyfriend.” I hear it when my brother, after a night of drinking in which we both flirt with the same woman, says he’ll make me an omelet “only if you promise never to fake-lesbian cock-block me ever again.”
We’re doubly outsiders, the bi folks. Straight people think that we’re greedy, or assume all bi chicks are really just more likely to make out with a girl while their boyfriends can watch. Gay people think we ruin the cause, that somehow we lend credence to the idea that gays can be “cured” or turned back to heterosexuality. Obviously, these are broad generalizations and definitely don’t apply to everybody, but it’s surprising how often these attitudes are the ones that prevail. I feel guilty that we can’t find a space for bi people, and that I might be letting the side down because I’m on the spectrum somewhere, rather than sitting firmly on one end.
Bi folks can “pass.” I have a male partner right now, so the front I present to the world is overtly straight. Inside, I know it’s a lie. How different would my life be now if my partner were female? How would people’s perceptions of me change? I feel guilty that my life is so comparatively free of overt prejudice compared to other LGBT people, whose differences are more easily perceived from a distance.
I can’t speak for other bisexual people, but I go through cyclical kinds of sexuality: a while liking men, a transitional period where men and women are equally attractive, full on love for women. These cycle through without warning or definite duration. What do I do if, someday soon, I wake up and have to tell my partner that I’m no longer attracted to him, because another side of me has kicked in? I feel guilty that I may never be able to have a stable relationship, and that I’m a terrible partner as a result.
Mostly I feel guilty because, even despite all the marches and pride stickers and “It Gets Better” videos, my upbringing still can’t be erased. Generations of stern German Lutheran ancestors are looking through time and chastising me ““ not for my sexual preferences, but for my inconsistency and inability to pick a side. It’s exhausting, being unable to reconcile two sides of myself into what should be a healthy whole. It’s not for nothing that I often describe myself as “half gay.” I know that, strictly speaking, it’s not accurate, and it’s a label that many other bisexuals despise, but for me it’s often the only way I can come to terms with who I am.
I’ve submitted this article as Anonymous, despite being a regular contributor to Persephone Magazine. Yet another little guilty failing: being unable to own up to these feelings, even if it’s under an alias. Forgive me that. Just like all the straights and all the gays, I’m only human.