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.