Becoming Visible: On Coming Out As Bisexual

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It’s 2014, and queers are coming out in droves, increasing visibility and demanding basic human rights. But in many ways, bisexuals have a harder time coming out. We’re substantially less represented in fictional media and in public life, and plenty of people still believe bisexuals are selfish, greedy, duplicitous, indecisive, emotionally unavailable unicorns going through a phase. Bisexual adults and youth are much less likely than their gay and lesbian counterparts to be out to their friends and families, according to recent reports from LGBT Movement Advancement Project and the Human Rights Commission.

via LGBT MAP

via LGBT MAP

Some bi people put off coming out or come out as gay or lesbian because they feel forced to be decisive and hear from all corners that bisexuality isn’t a legitimate choice. There’s no one way to come out as bi — some people have an easy time and lots of acceptance, others have to fight harder to gain respect for their decision. Some figure it out young, and others come out as bi after identifying as straight or lesbian for a long time. To celebrate Bisexual Awareness Week, we turned to our readers for their anecdotes and advice about coming out as bisexual. Add your own ideas, stories and questions in the comments!


“The quickest/least arduous way to come out to all those acquaintances and other people who don’t really deserve a personal disclosure IMO is to start posting super gay pics of yourself on facebook.” – Jeannette, 29

My coming out experience has been pretty great, honestly. I didn’t really let myself explore dating women until a few years ago, and so I’m going through all these milestones as a mostly independent adult, which has had its advantages. Like a lot of bisexuals or femmes I know, coming out is an ongoing, piecemeal process. The first person I came out to was a dear friend and mentor who identifies similarly. She was wonderfully supportive and in hindsight I’m glad that I told her first. Everyone should be so happy for you when you come out to them!

My friends have been mostly awesome, and I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly they adjusted to being more gender inclusive when talking about dating and sex partners. I was absolutely terrified to tell my conservative, Christian family. I was afraid that they would stop talking to me or keep me from spending time with my little siblings, nieces and nephew. Thankfully, that actually went pretty well too. My mom and older sister were definitely surprised when I first told them I was bisexual, but they didn’t yell or question what I was saying. My mom was more concerned that I hadn’t felt like I could tell her sooner. (We didn’t, and still haven’t, discussed her homophobia/biphobia in relation to my waiting so long to come out.) More of their discomfort surfaced when they later met the woman I’m dating, but that’s another story! The quickest/least arduous way to come out to all those acquaintances and other people who don’t really deserve a personal disclosure IMO is to start posting super gay pics of yourself on facebook. They’ll figure it out.

I still choose to come out to people all the time in all kinds of situations; it is exhausting and scary, but overall my experiences have been positive. My age, the fact that I’m white, living in a relatively liberal town in CA and my “gender-normative” appearance have all made this fairly easy for me. I know that I am so privileged to even have a choice to come out; for me it has been an immense relief and hugely affirming. I believe coming out is a personal decision, and I think that all lgbtqia people coming out deserve to be met with warmth and joy.


“I’ve yet to meet a man who is immediately comfortable with my sexuality.” – Hannah Hodson, 23, Autostraddle writer

I never really came out as bisexual until after college. In middle school a bunch of girls were being accused of saying they were bisexual to get the attention of boys, so I kept my relationship with a girl under wraps. I couldn’t stand to be bullied more than I already was. In high school I tried to embrace it, but all of the girls I ever wanted to date ended up with the boys I wanted to date. I wasn’t ashamed of it or anything, but my fear of rejection prevented me from ever approaching women outside of the context of hooking up at parties. By the time I got to college, I was so used to downplaying my sexuality that I didn’t feel “queer enough” to be a member of the queer community. As a cis femme bisexual I had the was often perceived as straight and didn’t think I related to the same kinds of adversity the queers in college seemed to face. I had never been a member of any kind of queer community and was terrified of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person, which did happen a few times actually. So I told people that I identified more with being a Black woman than with my sexuality, which was a lie.

Coming out to men was an experience of its own. For male friends, there was an immediate dismissal involving something along the lines of “yeah, but you’re not really gay though.” I will never understand why, because it had nothing to do with them. For male partners there was one of two reactions. The first, most common reaction was to tell me they thought it was really hot, and immediately ask me if I would consider having a threesome. One time the guy even asked me to have a threesome with the girl he was cheating on me with! I mean, obviously that guy was an asshole, so maybe that was to be expected. It’s not that I’m not open to the idea of being with multiple people, but the immediate assumption that being bisexual means that I’m into something kinkier was definitely offensive. On the flipside, and this was with the men who actually respected me, they took my bisexuality very seriously and saw it as a threat to their masculinity. It’s kind of funny actually, because after a while I would suggest that we try something kinkier, and they would jump to the conclusion that I was dissatisfied with the relationship and wanted to run away with a woman or something very drastic. I’ve yet to meet a man who is immediately comfortable with my sexuality. The latter sort of dude, though, is easier to work on.

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It wasn’t until a few years ago that I began dropping hints to my parents that I was bisexual. I don’t think I ever told them because I knew it wouldn’t be a big deal to them, and I didn’t want to act like it was some kind of… well, big deal. They know now. My dad couldn’t care less. Growing up my dad told me “I always thought it be really hip to have a gay kid,” dropping the hint that either he knew, or that he would embrace it. My mother actually took it harder than I thought she would. I think she mostly felt as though this was something she should have known about me and was sad I didn’t tell her sooner. I guess I’m still sort of coming out. I’m learning to embrace my sexuality as a primary part of my identity rather than an afterthought. It feels really good.


 

“You know how you can be attracted to a blond girl or a brunette girl, but hair color wouldn’t be a deal breaker or majorly affect your level of interest in someone? That’s how I feel about gender.” – Kadry, 28

When you say the word “bisexual,” a bunch of stereotypes come to mind for most people. So I avoided the word entirely; instead, I told people that I was attracted to humans regardless of gender. I didn’t bring out the B word until I had already given people some time to get used to what it meant.

Here’s how I explained bisexuality to my monosexual friends who just didn’t get it: You know how you can be attracted to a blond girl or a brunette girl, but hair color wouldn’t be a deal breaker or majorly affect your level of interest in someone? That’s how I feel about gender. An individual’s personality, not their gender expression or sex, is what attracts me. And if you married a redhead, you could still appreciate the attractiveness of other hair colors without feeling a burning need to satisfy your desire for brunettes. Hair color and gender are all just categories that have as much significance as you give them.

Kadry


“It feels like the opposite of a coming out story; I was out and proud as a lesbian, and now I don’t know what I am.” – Rachel, 24

This article is my coming out as non-lesbian. I’ve identified a lesbian since I was in high school. Throughout high school, college, and grad school, I have been exclusively interested in women. This summer, to my surprise, my found myself attracted to a cisgender, straight guy. I’ve known him for a while, and I had never thought of him in a romantic light… until one day, as if someone snapped their fingers and put a spell on me, I woke up and was romantically attracted to him. Nothing ended up happening with this guy, but the crush changed me. It feels like the opposite of a coming out story; I was out and proud as a lesbian, and now I don’t know what I am. I don’t exactly identify as bisexual, and I still feel very attached to the lesbian & gay labels, so I’m trying to figure it out.

To help myself figure out what’s going on, I wrote a one-act play based on my experience. I’ve used the play as a coming out device. I had a reading of the play recently, and the people involved were very appreciative of the subject matter, as it’s something some of them have experienced. Before I started writing the play, I told several friends about my crush, and I received a wide variety of responses — everything from “sexuality is fluid” to “whaaaattttt???!!!!” I don’t even know if the guy knows about my crush on him, but he unknowingly changed me.

One of my favorite quotes is, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” -Mary Engelbreit. I definitely have new eyes.

Rachel used writing a one-act play to help her understand her experience with sexuality.


“The assumption was I’d want to get settled and married, buy a house and start having kids soon, so I shouldn’t do anything that would soil that path.” — Anonymous, 35

When I came out to my mom, she told me not to let anyone know I’m bisexual. She was afraid I’d lose my job. She was afraid men I’d date wouldn’t want to settle down with me. The idea that I might want to date women wasn’t something she understood. Gay people have such a tough time in life, so obviously if you could be attracted to the opposite sex, you’d go that route, no brainer. Why be happy when you could be normal? The assumption was I’d want to get settled and married, buy a house and start having kids soon, so I shouldn’t do anything that would soil that path.

I do volunteer work with kids, and my mom said that if the parents of those kids found out I was bi or gay, they’d start looking for signs I was molesting their kids, and then I’d be sued by one of them. She also brought up the sexual abuse I’d suffered as a nine-year old. We hadn’t talked about it since I was that age, so it felt like it was from left field. It seemed like the implication was that experience had made me queer, and therefore my identity was unnatural or perverted.

It was the king of all uncomfortable conversations. That was 10 years ago, and we haven’t spoken of it since. I haven’t had a relationship with a woman that’s progressed to meeting my parents. Some day I hope to. I think it will go OK because she’ll be an actual person for them to talk to and relate to, and not an abstract concept of sexuality.


“It wasn’t until I realized I was falling in love that I came clean.” – Anica, 31

I came out almost two years ago… again. After happily living as a lesbian for years, I was dumbstruck when an evening with a male co-worker ended in an enjoyable kiss.

For me, our relationship was quite similar to many first, unexpected homosexual relationships. I only told a couple of very close friends the truth and played the pronoun game with everyone else. It wasn’t until I realized I was falling in love that I came clean.

I think it’s easier coming out as bi after you’ve been out as a lesbian, because usually the big risk is whether the person accepts non-heterosexuality. In my experience, the straight people couldn’t care less; some found the announcement hilarious, but most thought it unnecessary, as they didn’t understand its significance to my life or identity. My lesbian friends, on the other hand, well, they accepted it eventually. There was the obligatory watching of Chasing Amy and listening to “I Spent My Last $10 on Birth Control and Beer.” There were the looks of disgust, which were always fun, but they subsided.

The real issue for me being bisexual is the bisexual bias and how many women don’t want to date a bi girl. The coming out part was easy in comparison.

Anica with "the guy that messed it all up."

Anica with “the guy that messed it all up.”


“There can be scrutiny from lesbians or gay men, as bisexuals may be considered indecisive or imposters, which doesn’t always make it easy to be yourself.” – Hellcat, 25

My history of intimate partners includes partners of a range of genders, as well as both cis and trans partners, which play a role in how I present myself in society. If I have a boyfriend I’m perceived as “straight;” if I have a girlfriend I’m considered a lesbian. Regardless, I typically “come out” as bi to indicate that part of my identity so I’m true to myself and for others to realize we exist. I “come out” by mentioning an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend in casual conversation with a potential partner of the opposite sex, or I blatantly say I’m bi. Within our community there can be scrutiny from lesbians or gay men, as bisexuals may be considered indecisive or imposters, which doesn’t always make it easy to be yourself. Unfortunately, living in Texas means my sexual orientation poses a threat. Ultimately, the choice to come out is yours and your safety and wellbeing should be a priority.  If something isn’t working for you (job, relationship, etc.) you should get out of it and move on with your life. Surround yourself with people who accept you, and remember that your sexual orientation is only a piece of your full identity.


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Audrey is a writer, a Texan and a sometimes-heretical Presbyterian. They write about bisexuality, gender, religion, politics, music and a whole lot of feelings at Autostraddle and wherever fine words are sold. They hope to adopt a dog some day. Follow Audrey on Twitter @audreywhitetx.

Audrey has written 132 articles for us.

111 Comments

  1. I am really glad for these stories. As a lesbian, I will never experience the sort of “erasure” or “you’re confused/greedy/going through a phase” type stuff that bi folks go through. I mean, I get plenty of hate for being gay, but at least I can say that I’ve never had anyone question it, especially since I’ve been totally out since I was 14 and never went back in.

    I am also using these visibility week posts to get a better understanding of bi women. Every time I’ve dated a woman who isn’t totally gay, it has been a miserable failure. That could be coincidence, or it could be that we weren’t great matches for other reasons…but somehow I think that the disconnect that was automatically there had at least a little bit to do with it. So, glad Autostraddle is putting so much effort into this week. Definitely educational for all, whether we’re gay, bi, or anything else. Thanks again.

  2. I used a very similar tactic to the hair color statement mentioned here. When I came out to my boyfriend (thanks for the liquid courage, alcohol!) I explained that my attraction to women was no different that his own attraction to women; I can see a beautiful girl on the street and think she’s hot, but I don’t pursue her because I’m already with him. That seemed to really alleviate any uncertainty he had, and he was totally OK and accepting of it!

    I’m only out to a few people though, so reading this made me less uneasy about casually letting other people know.

  3. I am super grateful for this article, and also super grateful for the picture of one of the writers with her male partner. I feel like sometimes, even in the queer spaces that are welcoming of bisexuals being part of the community, it’s like “ok, you can be here, as long as you never overtly mention your opposite-gendered partners/romantic/sexual interests.” It made me sad that my knee-jerk reaction to seeing that picture was, “oh no, she’s going to get some flak for that.” So thanks for reminding me that that’s not always true, and thanks for being braver than I would have been.

      • @Layna– I don’t think it is intrusive. I think it is just that people who are totally gay simply don’t understand it. I mean, I can’t speak for anyone else, but being anything but a complete and lifelong Kinsey 6 is totally foreign to me, and I guess, on some level, it would be kind of strange to come to a queer space and see women talking about being in opposite sex relationships. I wouldn’t say “unwelcome” though. I’d likely just read a bit and move on, because it isn’t something that really interests or concerns me, but I wouldn’t be hostile about it.

        You might be met with some hostility, sure, but they pretty much delete stuff like that on AS, so I doubt it would be up for long. Pretty sure people who aren’t interested will just stay out of those threads.

        • @shannon1981 – thanks for your perspective! I agree that AS is great about keeping hostility out – I should have clarified that I was speaking more in terms of some other online spaces, and in-person groups I’ve participated in.

          It’s awesome to hear from a self-identified Kinsey 6 that you’re cool with that sort of discussion. I think my biggest struggle is trying to find the balance of discussing heterosexual dating as it relates to my bisexual identity without feeling like I am detracting from what queer spaces are about in the first place. So to have this article, coupled with your comments, tell me “it’s ok to talk about this” really helps me feel more confident about being open about my identity and experiences in queer spaces 🙂

      • The way you phrased this is really important to me: “Dating men is still part of my queer experience.” Because any couple I am in will be a queer couple, no matter the gender of my partner, and I’m still figuring out how to navigate and own that, in and out of queer spaces.

        • @layna– No problem! Like I said in my first comment here, this can all be really educational for everyone, bi or not. I think part of the issue of the “divide” that happens between gays/lesbians and bisexuals is that we don’t talk enough about the tough stuff. They are two completely different orientations, and likely two different life experiences totally. We’re a community, sure, but all letters in the acronym have unique needs and experiences of our own. The silence is often deafening, and damaging. For some people, it is just easier to not talk about it.

          And I am aware that different online spaces have different atmospheres…sometimes it might take feeling a place out to decide what is/isn’t appropriate to discuss. For instance, a thread like this would never fly on, say, The L Chat. Different spaces completely. Something I’ve learned about this site is that there’s plenty here to read and comment on. If something doesn’t apply to me, I scroll on along, because it likely applies to someone, or it wouldn’t be here.

          It took me a long time to realize that not everyone in this community is gay, and that online queer spaces are for more than just gay people. But, now that my eyes are opened, I’ve re-discovered this incredibly rich and diverse community in all kinds of new and exciting ways.

    • I frequently write about my male partner in a gender neutral manner. In queer spaces I’m afraid of being written off, and elsewhere I don’t want to be automatically labelled straight. Ironically, he’s bi too and we fail enough at heteronormativity that we’ve been mistaken for a gay or lesbian couple or hetero but genders swapped on multiple occasions. I’m sort of proud that a stranger cycled through all of the above before figuring it out, once.

  4. 90% of the people in my life assume that I’m a lesbian. I mention my wife and, well, that’s the natural conclusion for most.

    I came out when I was seventeen and telling my mom was terrifying. While my family has been gay/lesbian friendly for as long as I can remember, my mother would say things like, “Be careful with those bisexuals. All they want is sex.” While there were a few bobbles along the way after I came out (lots of implying that it was a phase – lol, 15 year long phase), my mother took the opportunity to grow and change and now embraces the whole spectrum of gender and sexuality. It takes an incredible person to do that, I think!

    Anyway, back to today… I find that even after coming out to people as bi, they’ll forget and start referring to me as a lesbian again. It makes me think they don’t take bisexuality seriously as an identity/reality.

    I have the hardest time coming out to other queers, even though there have been many instances where the other person said, “Oh, me too.” I try to make a conscious effort to be out in queer spaces these days, but it’s so hard.

    • I see this happen all the time too for my girlfriend (who is bi; I am not), so I always identify her as bi when the conversation comes up. It sucks as her partner to see everyone misidentify her, but she doesn’t seem to be as interested as I am about being out to Everyone so it’s been an odd balance between respecting her ability to self-identify to other people while still trying to push against bi-erasure.

  5. Most of my friends have been totally cool/understanding about it, mostly because I tried to incorporate very gay comments into conversation long before I came out, even while I was exclusively dating guys. So when I finally opened up, everyone was just kind of like “ooohh MAKES SENSE.”

    On the other hand, I’ve had the experience of being soundly ignored and written off by women. Sometimes I will go out dancing – and sometimes I will get flirty with both men and women in the same night. It’s frustrating to me that even if I’ve spent the huge majority of my night dancing with and interacting with women, I will STILL get asked if I’m “straight and experimenting.” I’ve even had a group of queer women hoot, yell, and point when I kissed a girl at a club (while ignoring the other gay kissing couples around us), as if I’d just been “converted” or something, because they’d seen me talking to a guy earlier in the evening. These assumptions are exhausting, embarrassing, and difficult. I just want to dance with cute people, dammit!

    (Also, in the online dating world, I’ve been told my bisexuality is a deal-breaker enough times that I even switched my OKCupid profile to gay for a while just to get women to actually talk to me).

    It’s not all bad though, I’ve definitely had the privilege of meeting and dating truly delightful women who have zero issues with my bisexuality. And the Autostraddle community has been absolutely wonderful at creating a space for bisexuality and making me feel like there really can be a spot for me in girl-on-girl culture.

    • Dancing is THE WORST sometimes. It’s one of my favorite activities yet I am wildly unsuccessful with women on the dance floor for similar reasons. Nothing makes me consider butching it up more than a long night of dancing as a femme only attracting creepy men while the hot queer women flock to each other. I promise you universe, I’m not just some girly straight cousin who is hanging out with a bunch of queer ladies on gay night!

  6. I have never, ever come out to a male partner without being asked about a threesome.

    Personally, I am still in the twenties hellscape of feeling like a big queer failure – if I fall in love with a woman, does that mean that I just accepted that I couldn’t hack the husband-house-kids route and gave up and found someone who wanted to watch Doctor Who and drink tea with me? If I fall in love with a man, does that prove that I was just kidding myself about the girl thing this whole time? Does it prove that I was misgendering one ex and never really loved the other? Am I looking at men too much? Am I looking at women too much? IS EVERY FIRST KISS WITH PEOPLE OF ONE GENDER QUANTIFIABLY AS ENJOYABLE AS EVERY FIRST KISS WITH PEOPLE OF ANOTHER? DOES HOLDING HANDS FEEL AS GOOD? And on and on and on and on. Everyone always says “If you could be in a straight relationship, why wouldn’t you, since it’s easier?” as an example of a prejudice other people put on them that they overcame, but, like: I’ve ended relationships with men before because the logistics of the relationship made it too hard. And I don’t know that I even believe in True Love so powerful that I wouldn’t care about that; if I am a person who once broke up with a man because he wanted to move to the opposite coast at a time that would be ruinous for my career, wouldn’t I give a shit that falling in love with a woman would mean I could only live in a few small pockets of my home region without getting endless crap? Is Dan Savage right about everything after all?

    It’s awful. And I feel like I’m letting down Queer Pride so much by admitting that doubt exists.

    • Hello, are you me? I am a bi femme with a long-term male partner and upon a new girl crush last year I went through a whole roller coaster of freaking out about what feeling was “more genuine.” Have I just been gay all along? Will I get married and have kids and then throw myself off a cliff once I have the Ultimate Lesbian Epiphany??? It was exhausting. I don’t want to go back to the constant comparison. The doubts, the agony, the attempts to quantify and compare the enjoyment/attraction/activities/love… I am less concerned with queer pride than I am with feeling settled, and unfortunately the fluidity of things means no safe hard boxes and lines.

      I think you have to take care of yourself and do what feels safe and good. Be gentle with your heart. Let love happen. Believe in your feelings. It’s okay. Date whoever. Deal with the “logistics” along the way.

      • to be able to find myself in the things that are written here its a total relief. i grew up thinking i was cheating on everyone, since i liked more than one gender. it was my own self taking the guilt trip.
        as for queer pride,we need to feel really accepted by the community as we are trying to get over our own doubts. we will get there, eventually.

        (doctor who and drinking tea hooray for sure!)

        i’m so so glad you people are out there and we can share experiences.

    • I think “wanting to watch Dr Who and drink tea with me” should goon your list for what you want in a partner regardless of gender. Second guessing yourself is the pits, and can so quickly become soul draining. What helped me was finding stuff like Dr Who and tea that was important regardless of gender. Then, I was holding all my relationships up to one standard and I could see them as a more coherent whole. I hope you find what you are looking for in you life.

    • Yeah the threesome comments from guys get old fast! Same with most lesbians just flat out refusing to even give me a chance. Woody Allen is credited with saying that bisexuals have twice the odds of having a date on a Saturday night…but it’s more like half the odds of our straight and gay counterparts :/

    • Friend, my doubts along those exact same lines get so severe sometimes they make my obsession with my hair seem non-pathological in comparison! I feel like THIS is what no one wants to talk about. Like, when we really do have doubts and feel indecisive, or like a decision we make now might not be the right one Forever, etc.

      Thank you for saying what you said <3

  7. I could not have read Kadry’s comparison of gender to hair color at a better time. I recently started dating a bisexual woman, and (I can’t believe I’m saying this, but) I have surprised myself by feeling nervous and doubtful about her feelings. Mostly the “how can she be so crazy for scruffy hipster dudes and also be attracted to me?” kind of doubts. Thinking of gender as just another “type” she is into makes sense, though. I don’t know if the nerves will go away completely (I mean if I was with a girl who was SUPER INTO BLONDES I would have to at least joke about it) but that explanation is really helpful in understanding what it doesn’t mean.

      • I am so glad I am not alone!
        The first time I was attracted to a man after ten years of dating women exclusively was a very isolating experience. I didn’t tell anyone for months. I am much happier now that I have decided to embrace it, but I am still in that coming out space, which is surreal since I have been through it before and honestly didn’t think I would ever have to deal with it again.

        • Yeah, I feel pissed off at all the initial brainwashing I had no idea I was undergoing about having to pick one side or the other. I always thought that my early twenties feelings for girls meant that my previous ones for guys didn’t mean anything and wouldn’t happen again. Surprise!

  8. Thank you for giving so much space to articles about bisexuality this week.
    The biggest struggle I have in coming out as bi is that I always feel the need to justify myself and explain exactly what it means. Most of the time just saying “I’m bi” doesn’t seem enough. I think that this constant need to “prove” my sexuality is the result of some internalized biphobia, like I have to give some proof about my identity otherwise people will not believe me. I’ve always been rather reserved about the people I’m crushing on/dating so having to explain it all, especially to people I’m not really comfortable with (PARENTS), can be really hard. I struggled a lot with this in the past, I still do, but I realized that keeping myself closeted is way worse. So.. working on it.

    (sorry if this was messy, I was about to go to bed and part of my brain is already asleep

    • It’s exhausting feeling like coming out always has to be followed by responding to the stereotypes that most people seem to rely on regarding bisexuality. All too often, coming out (especially to gay women) looks like this:

      (To girl #1): You’re gay? Cool.
      (To girl #2): You’re straight? Cool.
      (To girl #3): You’re bi?…So have you ever BEEN with a woman?

      If I’m in the mood I tell people why it’s problematic for them to do this, but it gets frustrating because I have had this same interaction numerous times.

      • Yup, I’ve know I was bi since I was 15, but have had a pretty… minimal… dating life. I had two romantic relationships in university (one for about 4 months, one for about 7 months) and a couple fwb situations, all with boys/men (as age appropriate). I’m not at all bothered by my mostly-single existence – mostly at this point (and in the past as well), what I want are relationships with people with whom I can be emotionally close with and vice versa, people I can have intellectually stimulating conversations with, people who are fun to hang with, and people who enjoy mild platonic cuddling. And I’m lucky enough to have various friends who meet all those needs and more.

        But. I’m reluctant to talk to queer women who aren’t my friends (yet!) about my lack of romantic / sexual experience with women, because I can’t bear the thought of someone responding by questioning my identity. I’ve had crushes on girls, and girls have had crushes on me, but nothing’s ever happened because it was unreciprocated or bad timing; and because right now being in a romantic relationship isn’t that important to me, so I’m not really doing anything to seek or pursue one. Which should be a choice I get to make without fear of someone using it as ammunition to invalidate my identity.

        TL;DR: Friendship is magic; and if my saying that I’m bi isn’t good enough for you, then kindly have a flawed understanding about the correlation between inclinations and behaviours somewhere else.

    • This is the part that is *exhausting* to me, especially because I am married to a man. If I do come out as bisexuality I have to deal with people going “Really?” and doubting my own feelings, grilling me about my past relationships, giving me inane in-the-moment attraction tests (“So do you find that girl hot over there? What about her?”), etc. It’s so frustrating that most of the time I just don’t feel like dealing with it, gah!

  9. My coming out stories are pretty boring, but from the first time I got a crush on a girl at age 15, I’ve identified as bisexual. (Before that I’d had crushes on boys and considered myself straight-so-far, lacking evidence to the contrary; part of me was definitely secretly hoping I was gay because it would solve all my ‘how to be friends with the this boy I like who doesn’t like me back’ problems.)

    I’m in my early twenties now, and I have noticed since I first came out to myself that though both my feminist and queer cultural and philosophical identities are very important to me, I struggle at times to integrate them. To echo/quote what @hibiscus said above, sometimes in queer spaces,there’s a feeling of “ok, you can be here, as long as you never overtly mention your opposite-gendered partners/romantic/sexual interests.”

    How one relates to men is a major topic in feminism, understandably. But, for many good reasons (not everything has to be about men all the time, relationships off all types among women are less frequently discussed and yet vital to our health, potentially alienating to lesbian women who want a refuge from having to hear about stuff to do with dating men like they do in every other corner of their lives), it comes up much less frequency in queer women’s spaces.

    There is a cost though. Sometimes the lack of discussion around the roles of men, as family members, friends, and romantic and/or sexual partners in the lives of bisexual and otherwise non-mono-sexual women, and how we deal with and feel about it all, leaves me feeling like I have to cut myself in two to be able to learn and talk about how I feel as a person who likes women, and how I feel as a person who likes men. Or worse, like I am half of a straight woman and half of a lesbian woman squished and stitched together, a Frankensteinian freak.

    Here is the truth, or at least my truth: I don’t stop being a person who likes women and non-binary people when I have a crush on a man. I experience that crush as a person who also likes women and non-binary people. And I don’t stop being a person who likes men when I have a crush on a woman or a non-binary person. I experience that crush as a person who also likes men. I am bisexual; I am 100% queer, and as is my crushes, and as is my friendship with my best friend, a man.

    And so I long deeply for a place where every part of me is accepted, and reflected back whole. Where I can hear the stories of people like and unlike me, and in listening be healed, and be home.

    On a less poetic but equally heartfelt note, thank you to the staff for all of the posts on bisexuality in the past month, and thank you to everyone (both non-monosexual and otherwise) who have shared your thoughts and experiences in the comments: it’s been both wondrous and wonderful.

    <3 d_s

    • Your comment really resonated with me! I also struggle to with seeing the whole of myself reflected in society. For me it was always the other way around though- I wanted to be gay because it would give me an excuse to turn down guys that felt less hurtful than simply not finding them attractive. Or I wanted to be a gay man and have a chance with all of those cute gay guys :-D.

  10. I loved this article. I’m openly bisexual and came out to my friends and classmates when I was 14. At the time I did it because I’d recently passed through the confusion and scared stage and wanted to make a statement. I wanted to know what coming out felt like and I wanted to establish myself as a new person. It helped that my school was so gay-friendly.

    I didn’t expect to continue with the self doubt, confusion, and fear until I was 16. But I did. Coming out to my parents when I was 17 was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I never thought I would need to come out to them! But then it felt like something was missing, like I was lying. I hated not being out and I wished I had done it earlier. The thing was, I KNEW that my parents were gay-friendly. Watching Glee with my parents and having a constant dialogue about that let me know they were very sympathetic with Kurt and Santana’s stories and ever since Ellen and Portia got married I knew they had no problem with gay marriage. I was scared to come out in case they wouldn’t believe me. I was scared that they wouldn’t believe bisexuality was real and I was scared they would treat it like a phase, even if they did so nicely.

    In reality, they were beyond okay with it and told me they knew all along. I am the luckiest.

    Now that I’m in university and meeting tons of out people, I’m continuing to learn what it means to be out and proud. It’s weird to think about how a decision I made when I was 14 will carry through the rest of my life. I’ll always be out. Huh.

  11. I’m learning a lot from reading everyone’s stories so thanks for sharing!

    I’m especially enjoying hearing about other women who identified as lesbian and later came out as bi, since I find a lot of bi resources I’ve checked out so far assume you identified as straight before.

    I think coming out as bi for me has been as hard if not harder than initially coming out as gay. My Dad had pretty much exactly the same confused but sweet I-love-you-no-matter what reaction. It was a pretty funny deja vu moment. But I’ve also had some unfortunate encounters with lesbian making funny-not-funny penis ‘jokes’ (which are transphobic as well as biphobic). It makes me speculate why so many lesbians are uncomfortable with it–I feel like there are a lot of them who might also identify as bi if it weren’t for the stigma they’d get (that I’m getting) in the queer community. Otherwise why are they so uncool with it?

    • I think there’s also a lot of fear – fear of interlopers, fear of being hurt, fear of our existence somehow diminishing theirs.

      I think our community needs to take a CBT-like approach to this problem – confront and change unhelpful thoughts so we can have healthy relationships!

    • I think there are many, many reasons for the biphobia that happens with some lesbians. For one thing, in my experience, old school lesbians pass down their feelings regarding bisexual women. One of the first things I was told when I was first going out to lesbian bars,etc as a baby dyke was to stay far, far away from bisexual women. The usual stuff about greediness, leaving for men, etc. I’ve always known my own mind, though, so I paid no attention to it.

      Fast forward a few years/relationships later, including relationships with three bisexual women. All of those women explicitly said that they ended the relationships due to something surrounding attraction to men/not being able to handle being in open same sex relationships. All three are now exclusively rocking the straight life.

      Now, I am smart enough to know that these women were just flaky as people. It had nothing to do with their bisexuality. However, a lot of people cannot understand that it is wrong to take those sorts of experiences and tar an entire community. So, combine a general tradition of mistrust when it comes to bi women with some genuinely bad experiences with self identified bisexuals and you get a bunch of women who’d rather just take the easy road and date other lesbians.

      Also, factor in a genuine aversion to penises, and some people can’t get past that part of things either. I know that yes, penis-phobia can be transphobic as well, but some people genuinely cannot get past that.

      Also, I found in my relationships with bi women that there was a genuine disconnect. I’m a total Kinsey 6, and have been out of the closet for most of my life. I have no concept of what it means to find men attractive, date them, sleep with them,etc. It was like, when they would share that part of their lives with me, I just didn’t even know how to respond, I’d be really (often visibly) uncomfortable with the conversation, etc. It was like this wall that couldn’t be torn down.

      TL;DR- There are lots of deep, complex reasons for this divide between the two communities. This is a brief analysis from my own experience, and I am sure I have barely scratched the surface.

    • Maybe lesbians are uncomfortable with women who come out as lesbians and years later start dating men because this is a narrative that is constantly imposed on us? Someone said that they weren’t met with any challenges / doubts when they came out as a lesbian – which is great – but plenty of us get “don’t worry you’ll grow up and find the right man” from homophobic family members.

        • @dina– While, yes, the ire is definitely misdirected, I think it is also important to note that people’s preferences regarding interpersonal relationships are deeply personal. I know that it is hurtful to be written off as a dating possibility simply because of sexual orientation and nothing else, but I also think that one thing that often shuts this conversation down before it can even start is when we tell lesbians who won’t date bi women that their preferences are wrong or unacceptable. We can’t go demanding that someone has to be open to dating or sleeping with someone they are not comfortable dating or sleeping with lest they be labeled a bigot. Besides, when you go into a relationship with someone who possesses a trait with which you are uncomfortable from the get go, the relationship is already doomed, and it just makes for a lot of misery and heartache all around.

        • Not dating someone is one thing, but discounting someone’s queerness is never ok.

          Like, I don’t give a crap if someone wants to date me or not. I’m married! But tell me that I’m not queer enough because sometimes I’m attracted to dudes and I’m not a happy lady…

      • @andreea
        “Maybe lesbians are uncomfortable with women who come out as lesbians and years later start dating men because this is a narrative that is constantly imposed on us?” By us you mean lesbians, right?

        See the thing is, I think if more people coming out as queer had the knowledge that being / identifying as bi was okay, that narrative of a ‘lesbian’ later deciding to date a man wouldn’t happen nearly so often. Women who are bi are pressured to identify as lesbian when they realize they’re attracted to women (this is exactly what happened to me). It’s unfair that lesbian culture pressures us to identify as lesbian and then punishes us for not adhering to the definitions of that identity that never fit in the first place.

        As @dina said, blaming bi women or justifying biphobia because of homophobic family members saying “don’t worry you’ll grow up and find the right man” is misguided– that’s the heteropatriarchy, not bi women!

        • That’s a really good point! Personally, I came to my realization from the other side (interpreting my attraction to men as a sign I was straight and thinking my attraction to women was “just me being weird”), so I never thought of it that way.

  12. I came out to someone important to me recently. Well, I kind of came out to him. I didn’t explicitly say “I am _____” but I said things that made it very clear that I’m not straight. So now he knows that I’m not straight, but the thing is, he still doesn’t know that I’m not gay. And I don’t really feel ready for him to know, even though I know he wouldn’t care and would never treat me any differently and everything would be the same as it is now except that he’d know. But “I’m gay” feels, in the time and place that I live in, like a serious, respectable thing, or a matter-of-fact, boring thing (not that I’m all that comfortable with being out as not-straight, even now), whereas “I’m bisexual” feels…wildly fringe, prurient, unprofessional, ridiculous, a racy punchline, something people say with raised eyebrows and a snicker in their voice. The person I came out to is personally important to me but our relationship is also a quasi-professional one, and even though he wouldn’t care, would still respect me, even though I’ve seen him go out of his way to be inclusive of bisexual people when he didn’t have to, even though I’ve heard him say “bisexuality” perfectly matter-of-factly without a hint of a snicker, even though his wife is a professor of LGBT studies and it has occurred to me that she might be bisexual herself — even so, I could not bring myself to come out to him fully. I feel like I still have a secret. I feel like I cheated. I feel like I lied. Not that he even cares what my sexual orientation is, but…coming out is already so fraught with decisions and worries, I wish I didn’t have to also worry about whether to come out in a way that simply reveals I’m not straight, or whether to come out “all the way,” twofold, not straight and not gay.

    • I struggle with this too. Generally, I describe myself as queer. When I’m in a queer space full of women, all too often it’s described as being a gathering of lesbians. And I wonder, do people just say “lesbians” when they mean women who love women? Even if they do, should I point out that probably half the people in the room don’t identify as lesbian, or will I just be seen as a buzzkill?

      And sometimes I feel like like the bisexual label is too “wild” for me, too. It has to come with qualifiers: I’m bisexual (but monogamous! Not looking for a threesome! And I’ve dated women! So, you know, not like those *other* bisexuals.)

    • ‘“I’m bisexual” feels…wildly fringe, prurient, unprofessional, ridiculous, a racy punchline, something people say with raised eyebrows and a snicker in their voice.’

      Ehhhhhhhhhh. Yes. I’m scared of this too. I feel weird calling myself bisexual. The word even feels strange in my mouth. I have thought a fair bit about this. I’ve even wondered if it’s because it involves the word ‘sexual’.

      I’m not out to a few of my freinds still. To my girl freinds I’m scared they will find me threatening. Which part of me knows is silly. To guy freinds, I’m scared it will be met with “thats hot” which has been the reaction a few times so far. For guy freinds who I am trying to cultivate a very platonic, brotherly freindship with, I sometimes let them think I’m gay. As though being bisexual would be this sexy super sexual thing, with lots of casual sex and threesomes.

      Still havent figured out how I’m going to word my sexual orentation to my parents. I always felt like it was irrelevant to them, until I was in a real relationship with a girl. So I procrastinated. I’m not very open with them about my love life. But I know there will be a girl one day, who I will want them to meet.

      • My 19 year old son came out a year ago. His friends were very accepting. Just drove him nuts when they all thought he must then be attracted to them. But it wasn’t in an “eww” kind of way…it was more like they wanted him to be, for their egos. I’ve know numerous bi guys. There are a lot of you out there! Most don’t come out because of fear of other people’s responses. And I don’t blame them! I have run into way to many (especially gay and lesbian) people who totally deny the existence of bi men. It’s sad… and frustrating. And I really hope it changes for all of our sakes. Because as bad as I have it, as a Bisexual woman, the guys have it twice as bad :/

  13. I’ve dated 3 guys since coming out as bi. One I had to sit down and explain how bisexuality was actually real. His dad had recently come out as gay, so there wasn’t any weirdness around that, but man it’s a bitch having to have that conversation with someone who otherwise seemed like a decent catch.

    The other two though are also bi, and hands down that’s my preferred scenario if I’m going to date a guy. It’s such a relief going into a relationship knowing you don’t have to deal with queerphobia or explain what being bisexual means and that it doesnt mean you’re non-monogamous or how it works or that it’s even a real sexual identity to begin with.

    Meanwhile on OK Cupid I have to deal with half the bisexual and lesbian girls out there stating “gay girls only” in their profile because even bi girls don’t think bi girls can be monogamous???? Hooray internalized biphobia.

    • I haven’t seriously dated anyone since coming out. I am definitely apprehensive about weirdness in that area. Can’t I just give them a book that debunks all the stereotypes and tell them to let me know if they have any questions? That’s how they did it in the good old days.

      I recently reactivated my okc profile and hid myself from straight people. It’s been refreshing, and has cut down on threesome requests significantly. But I’ve been pretty diligent about contacting people that interest me, and I’ve already run out of local people. When you eliminate the biphobics and the people who don’t date black girls, it narrows your options considerably. :/

      I guess my only option at this point is leaving the house, but I was really trying to avoid that.

  14. Thank you, this was a helpful read. I realized I was bi a few years ago and immediately blundered out of the closet because I was totally oblivious to the fact that anyone other than hyper-conservative bigots might react negatively to my new label. I quickly discovered I was wrong, especially considering I’m in a heterosexual relationship and am very femme. Being reminded that other people experience the same issues is such an wonderful feeling. Reading articles like this helps, and Autostraddle has helped. I decided to quit lurking and create a profile a few weeks ago and just pinned a bi pride pin on my backpack. 🙂

    • Yay for delurking! 😀

      I was in almost exactly the same situation. I grew up in a conservative Christian environment and was never even exposed to the concept of bisexuality (except the occasional TV stereotype). I seriously thought I was the only person who felt this way. When I came out, I was so excited to join up with queer community…then I discovered that there was a new flavor of discrimination waiting. :/

      That’s one reason why I love autostraddle. The community here is so explicitly, aggressively welcoming of everyone who identifies as queer. The website and the in person events have been such great places to figure myself out.

  15. I’ve shifted between identifying as bisexual, lesbian-with-an-exception, lesbian and now back to bisexual since I was 14 (I’m 24 now).

    While most of my straight friends have been SUPER cool about the gay thing, and the bisexual thing (although honestly I don’t have htat many straight friends), when I began dating a gender non-conforming man after knowing a group of lesbian women for 2 years, when I’d only identified and dated women in that time, and also came out as polyamorous, I lost all of them. It really hurt…

    Is this a thing other bisexual women have experienced?

    ALSO ALSO ALSO: How do bisexual ladies do the okcupid thing and get lady-type humans to look at them?

    • OKC sucks in regards to you’ll often run across profiles of people who say they don’t want to date anyone bi, but even those people will still occasionally decide you’re the exception to their rule (though at that point I have lost the ability to give any shits).

      My profile is set up as “bisexual” and “interested in girls who like girls”, and then I hide myself from straight people to avoid the constant barrage of messages from straight boys. I’m not poly, but I get a TON of hits from poly people and couples, so depending on where you live you may not hit too many roadblocks in that area.

      My downfall comes in that I’m just so insanely awkward when I’m deciding whether or not I’m interested in someone. It takes me a while to ease into that sort of thing, even in person. I think I’m afraid of leading people on and then realizing I’m not into them? Plus hitting on girls is hard. 🙁

  16. I realized I was bi 2 years ago. I never struggled with it because I was 25 and if anything, I felt it was late for me to figure this out (and also, I missed out on all the University opportunities, grrr).

    Starting coming out to close friends not long after processing everything myself (not denial, just processing) and nobody was really shocked. Apparently a lot of people have thought I was gay for a while. Came out to my sisters a few months after (one of which thinks is a phase) and my mom straight out asked me at some point (negatively) and I think she accepts it but I won’t know until I get a gf. All my friends (and new people I meet) are super cool with it, they don’t care. Like they actually don’t care, to the point that when I was coming out I was kind of like “hey guys, this is sort of a big deal”. I love them for not making it a big deal but it was still a big self-discovery thing for me. What I love is that the guys will talk to me about girls and how if I don’t get her, they want her or something lol or that we’re competing for the same girl.

    Even in a Metropolitan city though I have a hard time finding girls. A lot are younger and likely only bicurious or LUGS, and I have a few LGBT friends but most of my friends are straight (which doesn’t help).

    Anyway glad, that bisexuality is being talked more and more. I think 2014 is the year for bisexuality.

    • I appreciate your comment and thoughts, but the language you used to describe finding girls makes me a little uncomfortable. I was once a “bi curious straight girl.” Then I dated women as an out lesbian for ten years. Now I am dating a man. I don’t think that makes me a LUG, and I really resent the term.

      I understand the fear that women are only playing with you or using you as an experiment, but it is fundamentally unfair of youto project your fear of being hurt onto someone that has expressed genuine interest in you. I am just not cool with denigrating someone’s expressed desires because of fear.
      Life is inherently risky. Take the leap! Date a bicurious girl!

      • I’m not sure what LUGS are. Anyone willing to translate that term for me? I do think the term “bicurious” has had an impact on society viewing us as just being in a “phase” though. I don’t think that when people are experimenting with (or figuring out) their sexuality, that it has anything to do with bisexuality. I think it’s a combination of just plain human nature and/or someone figuring out who they are. But that term makes any (and all) experimentation appear to be related to bisexuals :/

        • LUG stands for lesbian until graduation. It’s a derogatory term used within the lesbian community to describe women who date women for a short time and then return to men for their “real life” “adult” relationships.
          I have never liked the term.

    • My 19 year old son came out a year ago. His friends were very accepting. Just drove him nuts when they all thought he must then be attracted to them. But it wasn’t in an “eww” kind of way…it was more like they wanted him to be, for their egos. I’ve know numerous bi guys. There are a lot of you out there! Most don’t come out because of fear of other people’s responses. And I don’t blame them! I have run into way to many (especially gay and lesbian) people who totally deny the existence of bi men. It’s sad… and frustrating. And I really hope it changes for all of our sakes. Because as bad as I have it, as a Bisexual woman, the guys have it twice as bad :/

  17. I didn’t come out even to myself until I was in my early twenties thanks to bi erasure and phobia. I’d always spent plenty of time trying to covertly stare at cute girls in school, when a girl asked me out I considered it seriously and was planning to accept until she revealed she’d been dared, a lesbian friend and I regularly fangirled over her Angelina Jolie poster together, etc, but I sort of wrote it all off because any interest in boys automatically equalled straight, right? I didn’t know there were other options. Then Girls Gone Wild based stereotypes and tATu hit when I was in high school, and people became very openly and vocally critical of “fake lesbians” and slut shamed any non-monosexual woman as doing it for male attention in addition to dismissing her identity. The boys I dated told me they were glad I was straight, because they equated bi girls with drama and cheating and didn’t want to date one. My own family was fully accepting of a gay relative but said biphobic things. It was not an environment conducive to self exploration, and I think I was too busy jumping to deny that I was one of “those” girls* to notice all the blatant signs that I wasn’t straight.

    It took a non accusatory friend observing that I seemed strangely interested in his monitor as he was browsing pinup pictures for me to consider that oh, maybe I like women. Everything clicked after that and it seemed painfully obvious in retrospect. He was the first person I came out to, and he came out to me as bi too (yeah, he’s the partner I mentioned in my reply to hibiscus above.) I’ve been pretty open with everyone other than family and employers since, and have slowly been cluing in my relatives over the last couple years. Friends have been great and some of my relatives are totally accepting. I’m not sure what my mom thinks, but at least the casual biphobic remarks have ceased.

    *I’m pretty sure I was one of those shitty biphobic allies everyone hates before I realized I was queer. I have mixed feelings about how to deal with them. They’re shitty and should be criticized, and it shouldn’t be anyone’s job to educate them unless they want to, but I’m optimistic that bad allies might get better or find their way out of the closet, and feel inclined to take some pity on their blunders if they lack malicious intent. I wasn’t consciously trying to be a closet case with internalized phobia, but that was kind of what happened. I thought of myself as a “good” girl, nothing like the demonized stereotypes of bi women I was getting deluged by, and bought and perpetuated the “those” girls mindset. I’m bad at expressing myself, hopefully that rambling sort of made sense?

  18. This was really good for me to read, though I wish it had come a few days sooner, I came out on Facebook on Tuesday. (It went over much better than I was expecting.)

    I’ve been with the same guy for 10 years, since I was 16, so figuring out that I do like people other than men has been a struggle. What’s a bit hilarious is that he’s known for years and I only figured it out like a year ago. Which is part of the reason I came out in honor of bi visibility day, if there had been more bi role models while I was growing up, I wouldn’t have thought “all straight girls are like this.”

    • “all straight girls are like this” – sums up my first 20 years of life so perfectly haha. I remember once having a conversation with a friend that went kind of like “Everyone would hook up with Angelina Jolie give the chance right? Straight, gay, or bisexual? Right? I can be straight and want to have sex with Angelina Jolie, RIGHT?”

      • I remember my (straight) mom randomly pulling me aside in like, 8th grade to tell me that just because I thought women were hot didn’t make me gay. “Oh, ok …. what makes you gay, then?” ….[awkward silence] … “Falling in love and wanting to marry a woman.” Since this was the late ’80’s and there were no visible examples of two women falling in love and getting married, it was a totally foreign concept to me so I assumed I must be just another straight girl that wanted to make out with women. But in the back of my mind, I was always thinking “Mom on this one I think you’re full of it.”

  19. The hardest part about being bisexual for me is that, although I identify as being more attracted to women than to men, I am in a long-term committed relationship with a guy. So I feel like I can’t belong in the queer community, or like I can no longer be bisexual and have to now just be straight, or something. Identifying with my sexual preference makes me feel – or sometimes others think – like I am being untrue to my male lover. Bisexuality is stranger and more difficult than being just straight or just gay because in those two situations, once you find someone, that’s it, no worries, you don’t have to think about your preference any more. But when you’re bi, even when you’re with someone presumably for good, it always seems like you’re thinking about not being with them by saying “well but I’m attracted to the other sex too”.

    Y’know?

    • This this this. As a bi girl who primarily dates guys (let’s be real, hitting on girls is hard and guys are more likely to make the first move, and with the combination of femme invisibility and how we’re programmed our entire lives to act, the odds are stacked) there’s this definitely feeling of Not Being Legitimately Queer.

      I am grateful that I have so many bi friends, guys and gals, that it feels more normalized now to identify as queer in spite of being in a typical boy/girl relationship, but it took a really long time for me to feel comfortable identifying as bi without having completed a checklist of activities to “prove” my identity to the world.

  20. Great article. I especially liked Kadry’s hair color comparison. I will need to start using that.

    When I came out for the first time at 15 I came out as bi. It was in a TGI Fridays, and I came out to my Dad. He was very confused. “Bi? Bi what? Bye?” After further explanation, he was still confused. I gave up for the evening. We then went to see The DaVinci Code.

    After just a few years I got so sick of people (friends, potential partners, complete randos) asking me which I liked more- men or women. I would make up percentages, forget what I said, and then say something different the next time.

    Since then I have hopped back and forth between “bi” and “lesbian” more times than I can count. Calling myself a lesbian is just easier, because I GENERALLY prefer women.

    That all gets messed up though when I inevitably fall for a guy. We’ll get together, it will go well, but then the thing will end, I will hate all men, and I will declare myself a lesbian again.

    Annnnnd the cycle keeps going.

    As of late, I have just been telling people that I am “attracted to both men and women.” That’s it. When they ask for details or percentages, I tell them it’s none of their business. And it’s not. Even partners. Every woman I’ve dated has been a lesbian, and a couple of them would get on my case about being bi. I’mdatingyourightnowwhatistheproblem.

  21. I kinda hate being non-monogomous and at the very least biromantic (if not bisexual, because I’m never sure I want to have sex with anyone), because it feels like I’m validating stereotypes, especially because I have a straight boyfriend/fuck buddy/platonic-ish male life partner. It’s especially interesting how many women are okay with non-monogomy when they would be the first relationship partner or there’ll only be women, but freak out at my boyfriend/fuck buddy/platonic-ish male life partner, even when they never have to meet him.

    • Same. I am bi and married to a cis straight man. Even though he and I have an open marriage and my dates never have to meet him, there are a lot of women, bi or lesbian, who won’t even consider it. When I add the fact that he’s rarely even in the same state, it still doesn’t change. Big sigh.

  22. I feel like some of the questioning of bi people could have to do with the intersection of politics, gender representation and sexuality that queer identities stand for. This variety of components mean that people seek out queer communities for a number of different reasons, of which sexual orientation may not be the most significant part. For example, I imagine that some hetero or mostly hetero women seek out same sex experiences out of a desire to avoid having to deal with the misogyny and rigid gender roles that one encounters the hetero dating scene, or are simply looking to explore the boundaries of the kind of intimacy offered by female friendships. Other primarily opposite-sex attracted people may just feel more comfortable presenting in a more masculine way than expected by hetero standards. In both of those cases, labeling yourself as bi might be easier than giving a complicated explanation. On the other hand, I also know gay-identified people who don’t connect with the community because they represent in a gender-typical way. As someone who identifies with different aspects of queer identities describing sexuality, gender, ideology and other non-normative traits but doesn’t fully embody any of them I can imagine that the kind of approach to queer identity I represent could be confusing to someone who mainly identifies as gay.

  23. (i don’t know how relevant this is here, but) as a bi person taking bi to mean “same and other genders,” i really can’t see myself dating a guy (i’m a dfab mostly feminine-presenting genderfluid person), which adds a whole new layer of weirdness in both reactions and what this section of the community has to deal with. i don’t really face that stigma in queer circles of being judged for different-gender relationships, because both my girlfriend and i are very visibly queer and non-binary, but there’s also the issue of not feeling a real sense of belonging within any community other than that of the general “queer” identifiers. i dunno, i’ve been floating between labels for a year and a half, and it’s hard to find anything that fits for that reason.

  24. I was in so much denial until I hit my 40’s! I was convinced that ALL women were attracted to other women (as well as men) but just not willing to admit it. I became the Co-chair of the LGBT Alliance at Utah Valley University when I was starting over after a 21 year marriage. I went into the club as a straight ally and a few months later admitted to myself (and my teenage kids) that I was bi. I came out at school by way of a photo campaign that I created for the club where we posted photos of members with “I’m gay UVU” or “I’m bi UVU”, etc. It was much better received than expected but also highlighted the discrimination faced by LGBT students on campus. When I came out to my dad he also didn’t want me telling anyone and I just told him I wasn’t going to hide anymore. I’ve run into all the stereotypes and have been fighting my own small battle for bi visibility ever since. Lesbians won’t date me (I’ve been on two dates with other women)…In the 3 YEARS I’ve been out. Many guys won’t date me or just want a threesome or to discuss kinky sex stuff. It’s frustrating. And kind of lonely. And dating sites like Plenty of Fish, eHarmony, etc… make your choose between lesbian or straight. So basically deny half of who your are. I also compare bisexuality to blonde or brunette preference. I did a whole presentation that addressed that for my Writing for Social Change class. We really need a public voice. Like our own documentary that shows the issues we face with biphobia/invisibility. I’d like to be part of the solution. But I’m just one voice.

      • @layna Thanks! I just wish I could do more. I’m trying to find people willing to share their stories with me so I can try putting together a script for a documentary, on Bisexual Invisibility, and help change societies views. Like Bridegroom. Something really moving, yet relatable. It’s hard enough finding (out) bisexual people in general. It is really hard here :p. So I’ve tried branching out to reach people outside my circle since most of my friends are L, G, and T. Nice to meet someone from my neck of the woods

  25. @Beck: Yeah, I really understand what you mean. I was hesitant to post in the Bi thread at all, because I really feel like bisexual doesn’t work for me as a descriptor because my attractions change in function of the gender I am, and also because every bi experience here is about being a woman attracted to men and women (plus nonbinaries for those who include it). Not that there’s anything wrong with that, more that it’s just not something I can relate to at all.
    I like girls, always liked girls, whatever gender I am, but I also discovered I like boys when I am one. There’s no word for that. I just feel like I’m a wierdo, not a part of an acronym for anything.

    • You’re not the only one! I know several lesbian-identified women who read/write slash fiction about men. They aren’t interested in being with men as women, but as a male character they are. The gender power differential between a man and woman, being subject to the patriarchy-reinforced male gaze… it’s real. And I bet a lot of butch women-loving women have their gender identities tied up in that attraction, too. I mean, why do we even associate butch presentation with queer orientation? Because for many butch people, they’re related.

  26. This is the hardest conversation because it’s the realest conversation. I tried to make the lesbian label fit me for years and I couldn’t understand why it didn’t feel comfortable. I stared out thinking I were bisexual, but felt pressured to “pick a side” (ew ew ew) so I halfheartedly picked the lesbian one. But queer fit me better. I think I’m a Kinsey 4 at this point, and that is totally fine by me!

    At 22 I’m (still) working on understanding my queer/bi identity and how it is only up to ME to define/not define who I am. Somone who identifies as bi themselves even tried to convince me I’m a lesbian, not queer/bi. They are out of my life now. I am starting to realize I’ve probably been bi all or most of my life and that is fine/great/okay.

  27. So grateful for this!
    Most people that have come to know me in the past years have always known me as a “straight woman”, since my guy and I have been together for 7 years. I was never comfortable about being perceived as straight, since I thought I was gay for the longest time before I started dating my boyfriend. What isn’t visible to people, when I hold my guy’s hand, is my teenage years full of torment, and crying myself to sleep over my gay feelings.

    I ended up living the het life for a few years. I had only a few friends, and my boyfriend who were “in the know” about my orientation. But at some point things got heavier for me, and I needed to “get out” for real.

    How I came out basically, is that people were questionning my straightness anyways. I wasn’t very good at hiding the gay. I also really wanted to be visible, but always felt to shy to claim a part of the LGBT blanket for myself.

    I ended up feeling very anxious about wether I should be blunt about it or not. My boyfriend, who is my best ally, suggested I should stop being afraid of peoples reaction, and he even suggested I should come out to my mom.

    I pondered it for myself, and eventually took the steps one at a time. Tell X, a close friend. Then tell Y, a good friend. Then tell Z, a new friend who’s very fun and trustworthy. I slowly got “used” to the coming out process.

    Then I told my mom. Hard, but worth it.

    I’m now out to most people, and even though there are still the ones who question it, or seem to believe (though they won’t say it to my face) that it’s a phase or attention-seeking thing, it makes life much more easier to navigate.

    Now I have people who treat me like I am queer, and who are really wonderful. And I also have people who “respect it” if they aren’t exactly sure what it “means”. All around, life is better, and getting questionned sometimes is, I find, better than being erased all the time.

    Autostraddle, you get all the bi allyship cookies!

    Xxxx

  28. I have been reading Autostraddle for years now, and this is the first time I have dared to actually sign up and create a profile. I always felt like I couldn’t really contribute to any conversations on here because pretty much everyone on here is American and has American experiences, and it’s just very different from everything I ever run into in the Netherlands. But I signed up so I could comment on this thread, because it is resonating with something deep inside me.

    Just like many other commenters I have been identifying as gay for ages, and I thought it was me! Even though I never liked the word ‘lesbian’ at ALL, and although I have found men sexually attractive since I became aware that sexual attraction was a thing, I always just kinda.. wrote it off? As something that can’t possibly be important, because I never fell in love with a guy. (And I still think I would have a very, very hard time falling in love with a straight guy. Just. Ugh, no way!) I liked “gay” because it was an easy way to get my point across to people that HEYY I am really, very queer, and don’t you see my buzzed off hair and my dapper clothes???

    But I am getting tired of the way that the gay community is so.. binary, in a way. And so shitty toward bi or pan people. I feel like trying to embrace my attraction to men and nonbinary people is sort of an upgrade in queerness, like I am finding a little bit more of myself and thereby reaching the Ultimate Queer Version of myself. But I am too scared to come out to ANYONE, because I am afraid that people will see it, instead, as a downgrade. Like they will say “Oh, so you’re only half gay?” This is, of course, RIDICULOUS, but the fear is there and it is real, and only my (bi) roommate knows that I am even considering identifying as bisexual.

    Like others have said as well, the whole WORD bisexual feels weird in my mouth, but I know it is the best I’ve got (since pansexual just doesn’t fit me at all), and I am trying to use it to identify myself at least privately, so that I know for myself that I am not only attracted to women, and it is OKAY, and I am still super queer. I’m going to put up a “being bisexual is a job too!” poster in our kitchen soon (it sounds better in Dutch, I swear), and I hope I will gradually become more comfortable with the label, and soon we can announce we are an “all-bi household” or some shit like that.

    Writing this comment helped a lot (although probably not many people will see it, seeing as I’m kinda late to this article!), and I would like to thank you all for this really great piece, with this really great comment thread, on this really great site. A site that helped me realise my queerness when I was 15 and is still helping me realise it now.

  29. AS a young bisexual I have had a bit trouble since coming out. Not so much hate but rather a perpetuation of the stereotypes associated to bisexuals coming towards me. Because of my age (came out at 15) I’ve had a lot of ‘you’re just confused’ or ‘its just a stage’. I know many people like myself who have decided only to come out to certain people because of this. The there’s the constant ‘well you’re dating a girl so you’re gay’. It’ wasn’t easy at all coming out as bi even now. It seems like every time someone hears about it or finds out I have to explain it to them all over again. But it’s all worth it to help educate and stop the spread of ignorance. Places like this site helped me to realise that that’s the right thing to do in that situation instead of try ignore it.
    I’m so grateful for articles like this letting me know it’s not just me but other people too and it’s given me new ways to describe it. I’ve gone for the whole ice cream and donut metaphor for ages now but the hair colour one is a new one I can use.

    • Hey Cait, I’m late in this article too. Your comment really resonated with me. At 15, three of my close friends were bisexual, three were gay, and one was M to F transgender. It would have been the perfect space to come out, yet I was not at all ready to face the world especially since I couldn’t (and still can’t) identify one way or the other.

      During college I discovered a dynamic where girl-on-action was frequent at parties and always was a means toward gaining attention from boys. My friends and I thought it was trivial but we still attended the parties. I later started dating a girl, and when we held hands or kissed each other in public we received unwanted attention from boys and were ostracized from other girls. When the boys realized we weren’t putting on a show for them, they began ignoring us and stopped wanting to hang out on weekends or study together, etc. After graduating college I’ve reflected on this a lot, and wish I’d been more open about my sexuality in high school, considering the queer-friendly environment.

  30. I’ve come out as bisexual to only 5 important people in my life. So basically I’m closeted. Every other day I experience anxiety about the fact that my actual photo is my profile pic on Autostraddle and my boss [or my grandmother] might see it. At least once a week I consider deleting my Dattch profile. This probably stems from the time in 6th grade when I was sent to the principal’s office for taking a quiz on a site about the Kinsey scale during recess in the computer lab. I’ve dated lots of people but my only significant (6-year) relationship wasn’t with a girl. A couple of the people I attempted to discuss this with either told me I was confused, experimenting, or not yet through with the “gay until graduation” phase. It’s reassuring to read this and articles by other people who also recognize bisexuality as a real thing and not merely the product of “club kid culture” or “lack of boundaries”(I recently heard both, in those exact words).

    I think clothing, hairstyle, and overall appearance have placed me in both categories: “straight” and “gay”, depending on the year or my mood one month or on a particular day, even. I’ve cut my own hair for years, and when I did the “undercut” (this was literally a week before Miley Cyrus did it) I was called Miley at work for days. Interestingly, I also got more respect. I was working at a music festival as a production assistant, and suddenly after cutting my hair I was offered extra shifts on stage crew doing manual labor. These were shifts I had to beg for before. I also received fewer sexual advances from men on touring crews. They treated me like less of a princess. Nothing about my personality, demeanor, or wardrobe had changed. When I worked hospitality for a show for which the headliner was a woman who dates women I felt a different vibe from her than I did when I worked her show the previous year. Upon receiving backlash from my more recent job and my family about the undercut I let it grow out.

    I don’t feel as if my style is a representation of my sexual orientation. I’m still trying to navigate it, and I’m not sure I need to let my style be an outlet for showing the world who I am. Maybe that’s the closet factor, but perhaps it’s not. I haven’t worn a dress, heels, or lipstick in over two years, but I often wear mascara, I shave, and I’m kind of obsessive about the shape of my eyebrows. Clearly, those things shouldn’t pinpoint one’s orientation…but the many people in many societies would say otherwise.

  31. Thank you all! I read this article when it was first posted and just read it again along with all of the comments. It’s wonderful to hear your voices. You’ve helped me feel very solid, which makes me realize that I had been feeling a bit fragmented.

    This is why I love AS, well … this and the goat cheese recipes, obvs 🙂

  32. I love how I’m a male looking for affirmation that this process is also possible for men, and not a single story or comment from a man (or I should say, cis male). I’m deeply committed to a hetero relationship, and have been for 7 years. I know my thing for men is not merely a fetish, and I would consider a relationship with anyone I felt affection for. I’m not really sure what “love” is anymore, but I wasn’t aware your sexual orientation required that at some point you’ve fallen in love with the genders you’re 100% positive you’re attracted to. I’ve had sex with men, been obsessed with gay sex for periods, but if I’m bi or pansexual I wouldn’t need to be attracted to every type of man, every possible form and degree of gender expression, would I? A gay man doesn’t have to be attracted to bears to be gay, so why should I have to in order to be bi? Just because I’ve never fallen in love with a man doesn’t mean I’m “just confused” does it? I want to come out, I want to share this with people, I want to be able to openly express these things, at least to the people I’m close to. I shouldn’t have to bite my tongue anymore, but I think people will reject me because I can’t prove that I’m attracted to men, because I am in and have been in an exclusive relationship.

    • Hi Robert,

      This is a site catering to queer women, so don’t be discouraged by the lack of dudes commenting on here: you are absolutely not alone! I think the pressures/challenges on bi men are a bit different and make visibility possibly even harder for bi men.

      But people doubting your identity because of who you are dating is something addressed in this thread also: http://www.autostraddle.com/we-see-you-an-open-thread-for-bisexual-women-dating-men-300258/ Again, it’s specifically about women but the basis of the problem is the same, so maybe the comments would be of help to you.

      At the end of the day, you define yourself. It’s bullshit for anyone to try to make a checklist that you have to fill for them to accept how you define yourself. You definitely don’t have to like a certain type of man or have been in love etc. to know you are bi.

      Sending good thoughts your way that you get to have the conversations you want to have and find the acceptance you deserve.

  33. My story is different than Robert’s. I knew I was different than other males in high school but I didn’t understand until, after hanging around with a couple of girls, that I met one boy who “turned my key”. I wanted him badly, but in the homophobic south of the 80s that would have likely been a disaster for both of us. I instead kept him at arms length to keep us safe and I buried those feeling deep. When he killed himself a few year later I couldn’t grieve, I pushed that down too. I thought “out of sight, out of mind”. My romantic life in college was completely disastrous! Every women I tried to date ended up hating me. I realize now it was self sabotage. I later married, divorced, and remarried. I realized that I love the person, not the sex organs. If my romantic partner had a vagina or penis or something in between, or neither, I know that’s not a deal breaker for me. The only reason I dated only women is that I live far away from the gay neighborhoods, the only men that would be interested in me. Where I live dating and marrying single straight women was easy because there are so many of them around me. I only came out to myself when all of the buried feelings and losses that has accumulated year after year exploded in March. I finally owned up to who I really was, bisexual, and came out to some close friends, my wife (she is in denial, but that’s fine), a lesbian co-worker (who came out last year herself) and my lesbian sister. I learned one of my friends is asexual. She is married and has one child but she views the occasional sex as something to give her husband pleasure, not for herself. I have looked in the internet forums and finding any advice for bisexuals are overwhelmingly females. I felt invisible since the very little written about bi males is false and insulting. I am a bisexual, monogamous, never had sex with a male, and I am “clean”. I am not “greedy” or dirty or unfaithful. I am confused on how to come out while respecting my wife’s denial. Our marriage is too important to have that issue hurt it. I will give her time. I just wish coming out to family and work was easier. I remember the fighting that forced my sister out for coming out as a lesbian. My family is deeply Catholic and may not understand. There is no guidance, that I have found, on how to deal with my situation.

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