I have spent most of my life as a straight girl and woman, and am currently in a relationship with a straight man. Due to the divided and often invisible identity that bisexuals like me tend to have, I have dated several times over the years – and it has rarely gone well.
About six years ago, I told my parents that I was bisexual for the first time in an argument over discrimination against LGBTQ people. My dad didn’t think refusing to bake a wedding cake for someone whose “lifestyle” went against your religion was so bad.
Obviously, there was a lot to unbox there – on the history of discrimination in the United States, the additional civil rights that the same groups were also attacking, the many assumptions he made, the outright oppression of others that he could so easily ignore as a white, straight man.
But after going through them, I appealed to his heart. I told him that his daughter and many of his friends – people he had dined with, taken prom photos – could one day be subjected to the same abuse.
“I am bisexual, daddy.
The answer was confusion and discomfort. First, my parents weren’t convinced that I was bi. You’ve always dated guys! (I just didn’t tell them about the girls). Second, they just didn’t want to talk about it.
The conversation ended shortly after my confession, and I felt deflated but not surprised. I never planned to talk to them because I suspected it would not go well. Now that it was over, I felt like I had revealed something deeply personal for nothing.
In the whitewashed, predominantly Christian suburbs of Knoxville, Tennessee, people often tell you that sexuality is private. Tell my parents I loved boys and girls? Inappropriate, unnecessary. (But of course, they’d never had a hard time teasing me about relationships, PDAs, and even sex with boys and men over the years. In reality, privacy didn’t matter. only if you did not correspond to the status quo).
But my struggle to get out – again and again – didn’t end there. A few years later, when I let friends in the LGBTQ community know that I identified somewhere between straight and lesbian, one of them encouraged me to understand myself this weekend – by having sex with them.
They seemed to believe that they were doing me a favor, and they repeatedly invited me to go to gay dance parties. to “explore” my sexuality with them almost whenever I saw them, even after making it clear that I wasn’t trying to figure out anything. These offers made me uncomfortable and aIt’s hard because I had worked to accept myself over the years, this person’s pressure and assumptions made part of me would like to stay with my original id: ally.
Coming out with my current partner was an exception. It was easy. He had been raised with queer family members and had dated many bi women in the past. He automatically accepted me, and he said if I ever wanted to be with a woman, that was something we could pursue or I could explore on my own – with her consent. We would be monogamous with an open door.
He understood that I had spent over a decade unable to be fully myself, and he didn’t want to deprive me of the experiences I wanted to have. We therefore agreed to sail together in this territory.
But with almost everyone, coming out meant I had to stand up for and explain all bisexual people. I had to stress that we actually existed with overtly personal examples – like how my sexual response to men and women was exactly the same.
I want bi + people like me, those who may still be partially invisible or who don’t know who to tell in order to fully accept themselves, that there are no hard and fast rules for the right time, the right place or the right people to say.
Sometimes taking the time to have difficult conversations has paid off. My mom asked a lot of questions about monogamy in particular, as did my aunt, and I told them it was the same for me as it was for straight guys: a choice shared between romantic partners. While there are still times of confusion or misunderstanding, I know they love me and accept me for who I am, my sexuality included.
When I first realized I wasn’t 100% straight, I was a terrified 11 year old boy who had just seen two girls kissing in a Youtube video. For years after that, my bisexuality was private, only mine, or only played out when I was too drunk to stop myself. In a world where it felt like I had to choose between straight and gay, it felt easier, if not better, to hide a side of myself for the rest of my life.
After a while, however, I felt I owed it to other LGBTQ people to be honest about myself. When other people who couldn’t hide their sexuality were attacked, it seemed mine had to go public to be meaningful and political.
But since then, I have adopted a more nuanced position. There are people in my life who might never know I’m bisexual (unless they stumble across this article.) These are people who have made biphobic remarks. These are people who have not done any work on their own to know or understand LGBTQ people and who have given me no indication that they are interested in doing so. They are doctors, employers and acquaintances who just don’t need to know just yet.
I understand that as a bisexual person this lack of self-disclosure is sometimes seen as a privilege, but I also know it as a pain. I want bi + people like me, those who may still be partially invisible or who don’t know who to tell in order to fully accept themselves, that there are no hard and fast rules for the right time, the right place or the right people to say.
Sometimes keeping your Invisibility Cloak on means less stress, emotional labor, prejudice, and discrimination – all potential triggers for the many health disparities that bi + people face, depression and anxiety to substance use problems and increased suicidality.
While being seen and accepted by loved ones in safe spaces can be a great relief, it is normal and even self-protective to decide whether or not to share that you are bi on a case-by-case basis. Ultimately, there is no impetus for any queer person to disclose their sexuality, especially given the danger that this could pose to them.
At the end of the day, I know I’m bisexual and always will be. Despite the fact that we are less likely to go out compared to our gay and lesbian peers, I also know that bi + people represent the most of the LGBTQ community.
And although I can barely name a handful of people in my own life who have spoken to me, I still feel connected to a sea of beautiful and complex people living in spaces that many others still believe impossible to inhabit. Whether or not others can see us, we are here – everywhere.
Do you have a compelling personal story that you would like to see published? on HuffPost? Find out what we’re looking for here and send us a pitch!
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up to become a founding member and help shape the next chapter of HuffPost