I’m here. I’m queer. And I’m dealing with it.
This may be a surprise to some of you. This may not be a surprise for others. I do hope you take the time to consider why you reacted the way you did after you’ve read the rest of what I have to say.
Put less bluntly, I am a bisexual man in a committed heterosexual monogamous relationship with a woman. But I am realizing how exhausting it is to hide such a big part of who I am. It’s easy to hide it. I’m married to a woman, so it’s super easy for me to pass as straight. But I don’t want to do that anymore. I am attracted to both men and women (regardless of their gender identity), and I want to be out and proud.
I spent a lot of my time being confused about who I was. I’ve known I was attracted to more folks than most folks since I was a teenager, but I thought that just made me gay. Because I grew up in rural Missouri where social convention hides the existence of bisexuality as an identity. I didn’t know what I was because social mores and regressive pop cultural media didn’t show me experiences like mine existed. If I encountered the term “bisexual” in media, it was in the form of a tasteless joke about a closeted homosexual individual or about that “phase people go through at college.” And the idea of being anything but straight was legitimately terrifying where I grow up. My hometown was and is a deeply homophobic/biphobic/transphobic place. Even just the suspicion someone was different could result in bullying, harassment, peril, and harm.
I was bullied in high school because a group of upper classmen suspected I was gay. I was terrorized and threatened with violence (and I know I wasn’t the only individual confronting these threats at my school). They taunted me in the hallway. They pushed me and hit me. They yelled slurs at me. They threw things at me from their vehicles as I walked home from school (a full 44 oz styrofoam cup of orange soda on one particularly memorable occasion). One classmate even pulled a knife and threatened to castrate me. On one dark and stormy night, a group of classmates attempted to run my car off the road and to force me to hit their vehicle by driving erratically in front of me. They cut me off, braked suddenly, and then sped away when I successfully avoided a collision. But then they turned around in the parking lot of my high school (of all places) and followed me home while yelling slurs at me out their car windows and throwing things at my car. In a very real way, I feared for my life. And I didn’t talk about this experience for years because I was, at that time, also scared sharing this experience would perpetuate the suspicion I was different and create further risks.
So, I spent a lot of time and energy trying to hide my truth. As if somehow ignoring it would convince even me that there was “nothing wrong.” This was deeply traumatic to my self-esteem, self-image, and sense of self-worth. My mental health was in a poor state. Every moment of faux-masculine hetero bravado filled me with shame. But I felt like I needed to fit in. For my own safety. Throw in some body image related anxiety, and I was just a big ball of terrible mental health practices and harmful thought. I did and said a lot of stupid things because I didn’t want to emotionally expose myself. I contemplated but never carried out self-harm. I struggled to create emotionally complex relationships because there was a huge part of me I was trying to hide (even from myself).
But no more. As of writing this, I am only “out” to six people. My wife; my parents; and my friends Cameron, Kristy, and Jonathan. And now I’m out to anyone who may be reading this. To all of you.
Hello! I’m bisexual. And I’m still me! I still love Star Wars. I’m still shamelessly enthusiastic about cinema. I still love Tom Waits. I still listen to metal music. I still have terrible reading habits. I still make stupid jokes or ruthlessly quote British humorists in conversations. The stuff you liked or hated about me before hasn’t gone anywhere.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I do want to talk about some of the experiences I’ve had with being bisexual and with coming out.
I came out to my wife before she was my wife. We were engaged already at this point, but I felt like she should know the truth before we got married. (Because I had the distinct idea that secrets might be harmful in a new marriage.) She was the first person I told. It was terrifying. I spent months building up the confidence to do it. And then I kinda just blurted it out one night when we were watching the Hogfather miniseries on Netflix. But she was (and is) incredibly supportive. Her reaction emboldened me, and it is because of her I began the process of slowly coming out to the other people in my life.
Coming out to Cameron was pretty easy. I told him and then we played Nintendo. Which is a pretty perfect way to summarize my friendship with Cameron. (P.S. Cameron, I love you, man. Your friendship is one of the best things in my life.) He was cool with it. It was super easy and low key.
Coming out to Kristy was impulsive. I came out to Kristy in a text message conversation like it was no big deal. She was cool with it. It was super easy and low key. My friendship with Kristy was one of those in which, in hindsight, I was deliberately restricting or obfuscating myself. Revisiting that friendship now, even without having seen Kristy in person for almost 10 years, feels like a healthful step. The friendship feels more mature and more real. (P.S. Kristy, you’re amazing).
Coming out to Jonathan was a bigger deal. Jonathan is a queer man and discussing my experiences with him made me reconsider or consider for the first time a lot of things about my identity. He is a great man and a great friend, and I owe him a huge debt for offering a listening ear and an open heart. Everyone should have a Jonathan in their life.
Coming out to my parents was a little different. They were, of course, supportive. I have incredible parents. But they were of a different generation than any of the other people I’d come out to. And they carried misconceptions and bias about bisexuality with them. My mother encouraged me to “be safe.” With a tone which made it seem as if my being bisexual meant I was now also engaging in sexual activity with multiple partners. I am not. I am married, and I love my wife. I am faithful. Being bisexual does not mean I “sleep around.” My father asked if this meant my wife and I wouldn’t have kids. A person’s sexuality doesn’t mean they will or won’t have kids. But these are common misconceptions about bisexuality which are embraced and reinforced in literature, cinema, and television. There is a lot of misinformation about the queer experience. Even within the LGBTQ+ community, there is some hostility targeted against people who identify as bisexual. Things are obviously better than they used to be, but there’s still a lot of confusion about a lot of identities.
Which isn’t to say all bi representation is lacking. In a recent arc on the series Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the character Rosa Diaz came out as bisexual to her coworkers. When she said the words, “I’m bisexual,” I cried. It’s powerful to see yourself represented positively on screen by a character you know and love. A character who is a big part of the series. And the two episodes about Rosa coming out confront a lot of the misconceptions and prejudices about bisexuality in a way which rang true to me. I highly recommend the series in general, but these episodes are a great primer for the bi experience.
It’s 2018. The U.S. is a dumpster fire. But I’m trying to be more cool with who I am as a person, and that’s easier to do when I’m honest about who I am. I’m bisexual. But I’m still me. And I’m still going to cry when I watch Paddington 2.
Some of you may be wondering why you are finding out about this via a publicly available blog rather than a personalized message. And to that I can only say every attempt to determine which of the people in my life would deserve such a message resulted in crippling anxiety. How do you decide where the line is?
And why in the world am I coming out to all of you like THIS? For one: I’m more comfortable with the written word. I’ve been working on this for two months. TWO MONTHS! But that’s because I have this innate desire to get this right, and it’s a lot easier to fix a written document than it is to fix a human interaction. And therein lies the rub: I’m also doing it this way because coming out is FUCKING TERRIFYING. And rather than having those individual prolonged repeated moments of panic, this allows me to get through all the panic at once. And there’s also something more permanent about words. I would never consider myself inspirational, but there is a part of me who hopes this reaches someone else who is on a similar path. And it fills me with immense joy to consider my frankness might help or comfort another person in some small way. And I also hope, by doing it this way, I can help people realize anyone can be different. People are so quick to default to straight when they think about other people. And maybe if me coming out is unexpected for some readers this will help them to confront why straight is their default. Because if I could be queer without you realizing it, then so can anyone else. (SPOILER ALERT: WE’RE EVERYWHERE.)
Anyway. This is my coming out, and I get to decide how to do it.
Epilogue to the Epilogue:
But seriously: have you seen Paddington 2?