Happy Bisexuality Day 2022, we love you.
💗💜💙 — Autostraddle
“So what are you, like, bi now?” my best friend asks as we walk down the street.
It’s the beginning of the school year and we haven’t seen each other much over the summer. I hadn’t told her that I had been hooking up with a girl since before the previous school year ended. I didn’t really tell anyone about it, not because of shame, but more because I had never told most of my friends that I liked girls.
My sexuality was simply something that had never come up in conversation. This was 2003, as teenagers, we didn’t ask questions like that. By high school we had moved past the “truth or dare” type questions of “who do you like?” — that was information we just shared openly. I’ve never been the type of person to make a big deal out of who I like. I didn’t swoop in and dramatically declare crushes on anyone — was never my style. My bestie knew I had crushes on boys in the past, but that was all the way back in freshman year; we were seniors. There was a guy I went on a date with that summer, but I had to ask my friends if it was a date and he never even tried to kiss me.
I guess after hearing that, finding out that I was hooking up with a girl was a surprise. I wasn’t going to sit my friends down and have a “very special episode” type talk with them about the fact that I liked girls. I figured I’d let them know if and when there was a reason to. A select few friends knew that I was bi — they were subjected to my absolute meltdown during the Justified/Stripped Tour concert we went to. But I didn’t tell them about my crushes on both Justin and Christina before the show, they found out in real time. Since my attraction to girls was something that had been more theoretical until that summer, I kept the information on a need to know basis.
“Yeah, I dunno if I could be a lesbian though, I don’t know if I could go down on girls all the time.” I shrugged, kind of playing it off.
I honestly don’t know why I said that, even in the moment. I knew then that it wasn’t true, but I think it was some sort of coping mechanism. I don’t know exactly what kind of reaction I was anticipating from her, but the one I got wasn’t it. So I think I was thrown for a loop. Was I expecting a parade? Maybe. Of my group of friends, I was the last to have my first kiss. Even though I didn’t make a big deal out of it, I was hoping my best friend would. Isn’t that what best friends are supposed to do? Shouldn’t she have been excited first and then asked about the rest of it after?
About six months later, I hooked up with a boy for the first time. The two experiences could not have been more different in terms of my friends’ reactions. My bestie definitely threw me a parade this time. I’m almost entirely sure there was a high-five when I told her. She wanted every detail of how the whole thing unfolded from start to finish. This was everything I had wanted when I told her that I had kissed a girl over the summer.
I’m not saying that the way my best friend reacted to finding out that I was bi caused me to lock that part of myself away during college, but I’m also not not saying it, if you get what I’m saying. Being questioned about my sexual identity in such an accusatory way by someone that close to me made me fearful of how other people would react. So the easiest thing to do was just not tell anyone close to me. This way they couldn’t make me feel bad about it. But it went so much deeper than that, which is something I didn’t even realize until I was older.
That blow to my confidence didn’t just lead me to not revealing my sexuality to friends, it sent me so far back into the closet that I wouldn’t even consider pursuing women.
Since I was a kid, but especially during my teenage years, I was pretty outwardly boy crazy. I had these deep crushes that bordered on obsessive in elementary and intermediate school. I had two pretty intense crushes in freshman year of high school, but then that was it. The only guys I had crushes on after that were celebrities — by their nature, celebrity crushes are supposed to be obsessive. But even while I was publicly thirsting over Justin Timberlake, I was secretly searching for lesbian fan fiction featuring Christina Aguilera. Much like a millennial stereotype, I figured out I was attracted to women when I saw Angelina Jolie’s breasts in Gia when I was like, 12. My teenage bedroom was plastered with posters of the celeb guys I loved, so no one questioned why the wall of pop princesses was the one I could see when I laid in bed.
“Remember your bi phase?” my best friend asked when we were in our 20s. I rolled my eyes.
“Yeah. It was never a phase,” I groaned.
This wasn’t the first time she had asked the question, and it never got less upsetting. Just because I only hooked up with one girl doesn’t mean that it was just a phase. At the time, I didn’t really know how pervasive this line of thinking was, especially for bisexual women. I did know that every time my friend said those words, my skin started to crawl. No matter how many times I would correct her, she never seemed to receive it. I don’t know if it’s because she found it funny or because she knew it bothered me, but she never stopped referring to it as a phase.
After my son was born and my relationship with his dad started to deteriorate, I found myself being more attracted to women. I remember watching Orange is the New Black and being drawn to the lesbian relationships. I don’t think I shut up about how hot Ruby Rose was for weeks. I had a massive crush on a woman and even though nothing was ever going to come of it, this time, instead of running away from it, I ran towards it. Like clockwork, my friend busted out her usual response.
“Remember your bi phase?”
“Dude, I’ve told you. It was never just a phase,” I said, barely even mustering up the energy to do something about it.
Maybe if I had sat her down from the beginning and explained to her that my feelings were real and had existed for a long time, she would have responded differently. But I also don’t think it was my job to constantly beg her to validate my feelings when I knew they were real. Someone who is supposed to be your best friend shouldn’t need to be convinced to believe you. Plus, even if it had been a phase or a one time thing, that still doesn’t make it worthy of being treated as a footnote or an afterthought. That experience was an important part of who I am and how my life has gone since.
In 2017, at the ripe old age of 31, I decided to come out to everyone and share with the world that I was bisexual. I was tired of not being able to talk about my feelings openly with everyone. The following year, I decided that talking about it wasn’t enough and that I wanted to try pursuing relationships with women. I hadn’t been attracted to a man in years (again, celebrities don’t count) and I was beginning to realize that even though I was craving a relationship, my lack of attraction to men was what was holding me back from trying to date.
When I shared this with my best friend, she was glad I was starting to date, but seemed indifferent to the fact that I was dating women. She was never as invested in the trials and tribulations of my dating adventures, but would constantly expect me to care about what she was going through. When I met someone I really liked, she mustered up some excitement at first, but after our first date, she didn’t ask much more. So I didn’t share anything with her. I had lost interest in trying to get her to care about my attraction to women.
Her lack of interest is one of the many reasons why our relationship was coming to an end. I had other friends who were so invested in my romantic endeavors and they made me realize that I could choose who I shared that joy with. It was important to me, and I didn’t have to share it with people who couldn’t even pretend to muster up some excitement for me. As my relationship with the woman I was dating progressed, I only shared it with the people who I knew would honor my excitement and match it. If I hadn’t posted pictures on social media, she wouldn’t have known anything about the relationship — she never asked and I never told her. We stopped speaking for good a few months later.
The way my former best friend handled by bisexuality definitely hurt my feelings over the 10+ years of our relationship. At first we were young and it’s easy to see how she was blindsided and confused. But as time went on and I repeatedly told her that my feelings were real and never just a “phase,” she should have course corrected and tried to change her mindset. From what I’ve heard, she now identifies as pansexual, and I’m really happy for her. But I’ll admit that it hurts to see her twirling around in a rainbow skirt for Pride when my sexuality was a joke to her for so long.
It also hurts because she’ll never get to see me truly happy. She’ll never meet my fiancee, the woman I was meant to be with. But I’ve learned these things happen for a reason.