Feature photo by Sara Julie on Unsplash
For Bisexuality Visibility Day, I want to specifically address a question that bi+ people get all the time: “Why did you come out if you’re already in a monogamous relationship?”
I asked some friends and writers to join me in talking about coming out in a monogamous and/or long term relationship, how it impacted us, and why it felt important to claim our bisexuality in those moments.
Meg: The first time I ever came out as bisexual, I had been married for about three years to a straight, cis man, one that I remained married to for another eight years.
Mel: When I came out as bisexual two years ago, I was a working married mom in my 30s (I remain these things, and have recently even added a kid!). First I came out to my partner, then to my parents and my brother, and then to Facebook, because as mentioned above, I am in my 30s.
KaeLyn: I was out as bisexual before I got into my current long-term monogamous relationship, nearly 20 years ago. However, I continue to identify openly as bisexual and I have to come out all the time; I don’t get clocked as queer in most contexts.
Meg: Coming out as bisexual was something that I wrestled with for a long time, in large part because I wasn’t asking for my monogamous relationship to change in any way. I didn’t want a divorce, didn’t want to open our relationship, didn’t want to start dating other people — I just wanted to own this piece of myself that I’d spent a lifetime denying.
Mel: Coming out to my partner was a couple of conversations, clarifying what it meant to me and what I wanted. Coming out to my parents and my brother was a to-the-point text message met with supportive words and emojis — and also my brother coming out as bi+! — which was a neat surprise!
Meg: I’m not particularly proud of the way that I came out to my ex. I’d been drinking too much, using it to blur and numb my emotions, and after choking down a few bottles of prosecco with a friend, I blurted out “I’m bisexual” in the middle of climbing into the passenger seat of our car. He looked startled, then stunned, and then awkwardly smiled. “Okay.”
It wasn’t that easy, of course, and we talked about my queerness plenty in the coming weeks and years. (And while we did ultimately decide to get a divorce during the pandemic last year, it had nothing to do with my sexuality, and everything to do with the ways that we’d realized we needed different things in our relationship. Someday I will write an essay on this, but today is not that day.) But I’m so glad that I came out to him, because having my partner’s support in coming out to friends, to family, helped me find my footing in a world that believes we can never be queer enough.
Mel: When I came out on Facebook, it was with a cute picture of me labeled “i’m bi” in Microsoft Paint and an explanation of why I was even doing this. I realized being bi was a fact about me, so I wanted to correct the record and show it off a little, because sometimes it feels great to get to know yourself better. Another reason was that I had, and still have, “Straight American Lady Bingo” — stable job, stable marriage, a healthy kid, financial and housing security, and white privilege. Heteronormativity plays directly into all of these signifiers and the supremacy that comes with them, and so it was extra important to me to identify publicly as queer as soon as possible. I wanted to make sure that people from my high school and my home town and my job all clocked the change, and possibly altered their idea of what a queer person looks like.
KaeLyn: Yeah, even though I’m monogamous and partnered, I think it’s extremely important to be out. To push back on bi stereotypes, to find and meet other bisexual folks in the wild, to set an example for younger bisexual people and closeted bisexual people that we exist and defy stereotypes.
Meg: It scared me though, the thought of coming out! I was already wrestling with other things: purity culture, lack of community, not feeling queer enough. I was terrified of my husband judging me, rejecting me, deciding that my queerness was too big of a burden for him to bear. Yet hiding that identity was having a massive impact on my mental health, kicking up my depressive disorder and aggravating my already difficult-to-control insomnia to the point that I was a ghost, drifting through my days. I wanted to feel alive again, wanted to stop hiding.
Of course, I’ve had to come out many, many times since then. And now that I’m dating a femme lesbian, I still have to regularly come out as bisexual, still have to correct assumptions about my sexuality constantly.
KaeLyn: I get that! My partner and I are both queer, but we could somewhat choose to fly under the radar. We are usually interpreted either as a lesbian couple or a straight couple. We wouldn’t identify as either of those types of couples. So coming out is something I have to choose to do, wherever and whenever I want to be out.
Mel: My self-presentation is barely queer-coded now, and certainly wasn’t at all queer-coded then. I look like a mom in her 30s because that’s who I am!
I want people to remember that this is what a queer person looks like sometimes — a person in generously cut jeans and sensible shoes who maybe owns a little more flannel than she used to.
KaeLyn: My spouse and I have been together since we were baby gays in college, so we’ve been through several different versions of ourselves in the past sixteen years. One thing that’s remained constant is my identity as pan/queer/bi. I’m lucky that my partner has always been supportive and doesn’t have any weird hang-ups about bi women.
Meg:Yes! I’ve been very lucky to have had partners that are wildly supportive of me, that have made the endless need to come as bisexual a lot easier to do, and that have never made me regret my choice to own that identity.
Mel: When it comes down to it, my sexuality is as regular as anything else, because I wholeheartedly believe that being queer IS regular, and the only thing that makes us feel otherwise is the spirit-crushing falsehood that permeates our whole society: heteronormativity. It makes queerness dangerous and deadly in the worst instances, and unspeakable or uncomfortable in better ones. And so I would like to kick that falsehood right into the sun, you know?
After coming out, I heard from friends across time and state lines who were encountering their own bisexuality, but in different and sometimes more difficult ways. And it was just nice to see each other and be seen. Visibility isn’t available to everyone, but it is to me, and I will be as noisy about it as I possibly can, for anyone who needs to hear that they aren’t alone in how their hearts are behaving, now or in the future.
thank you for this.
I always enjoy bi-visibility week at AS and this really resonates with me. It’s so nice to read about how other bi+ folx handle coming out / being out while in a monogamous relationship.
I came out as bi twice – first in my early 20s when I figured it out and then again in my mid 40s, after I realized that I’d accidentally bi-erased myself after 10+ years with my husband.
Now, in my early 50s I still have to come out all the time but it feels easier now that I have a baseline level of openness already established. It’s also strengthened my marriage – and we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary next month.
Happy anniversary! We’re celebrating our sixteenth then too.
I came out three times: to my first serious boyfriend (the classic “Oh cool, me too!”), to my now-husband before we started dating, and then finally to the rest of my family a few years ago (and my husband again because he FORGOT and was that ever an eye-opener).
For anyone who needs to hear it from more than one source, I was like Meg and didn’t come out to everyone because I was happily married so why would it matter? Wouldn’t that just be an attention-grab or inappropriate oversharing or etc. etc.? Finally thanks in significant part to AS I realized what a ball of internalized shaming nonsense that was. I feel much better now. Husband is 100% supportive and has gone out of his way try to erode his own heteronormative assumptions and really see me. Our relationship was strong anyway but this has only made it better. Hugs and best wishes to anyone in a similar situation considering coming out.
Cute! Thanks all
Thank you all so much for being the representation I needed to see today.
This is so close to home, I can’t even breath… I realized I’m bisexual more than 10 years ago, I was not 30 yet but close, and I was on a straight relationship with a man I loved with all my heart. At the time we had been living together for 4 years, and in a relationship for at least 6. Unfortunately I realized this in the middle of a crisis in our relationship, too many stupid mistakes due to being young and inexperienced. For a while I thought I didn’t need to come out, nothing had to change if I loved him…But I didn’t know how to address what was going on in the middle of everything else, the problems in our relationship led me to fantasize about how it would be with a woman…I started to re-think all my previous relationships with women, and questioned my experiences… I wanted to know what I had missed…so the final result was a break up. At the same time I got in contact with some queer/lesbian women through a webpage…I met someone and got into a relationship. It took me a while to realize that it was not my best idea. I’m still struggling with the aftermath of all that.
I came out to friends, and a few family members. I haven’t come out yet to my parents, brother or other people. I think it is eating me alive, but my parents are quite old and I don’t think they can deal with it…but after the pandemic I’m not sure I can deal with them not knowing either. They know my partner but as a friend, and I feel terrible each time we visit together when they address her as my “friend”.
I don’t think I have ever addressed this in this terms to anyone…There are still open wounds about the whole process in myself. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one, even if our experiences are different.
Than you for sharing this. I can see the weight of it all is very painful for you, but I know there’s lot of people who will read your comment and relate hard, whether due to their current circumstances or past ones.
Yay, I love this! I can totally relate to being a bi femme mom in her 30s. But I’m so glad to have the support of my husband (who is also bi!), family, and friends.
Love this! So much resonates. I’m a bi femme mom in her 40s. Out to all the important people, as I say, but thinking maybe it’s time to be all the way out. October 11th is around the corner!
So proud of coming out as bisexual and soooo tough to meet other people. They are model for others who is afraid of coming out the closet. I find this resource to illustrate bi sexual orientation, relations and stds in sex life