The first person I ever admitted my same sex attraction to probably doesn’t even remember it. To me, it was the very first tippy-toe step in a journey that wouldn’t end in my coming out for years. To him, I suspect it was a throwaway comment meant to intrigue.
The moment is crystalized in my mind. He was driving, and I was in the passenger seat. We weren’t especially close in high school or now, but for a brief period in between we found ourselves alone once or twice and developed a sort of friendship. I trusted him implicitly, perhaps projecting that he shared some of my confusion. His reaction was one of such non-reaction that afterwards I’d wondered if I even said anything about it at all. It was almost as if I’d said something about considering naming purple as my new favorite color instead of considering radically changing how I presented to the world. It was exhilarating and yet completely anticlimactic at the same time.
Since then, I’ve been coming out in incremental degrees to people of all sorts. My parents, my siblings, friends, acquaintances, the occasional coworker, et cetera. And that thoroughly unimpressed reaction has become almost completely singular in my experience. On one hand I can count the people who truly made me feel like “the news” did not change the fundamental framework of who I am as a person to them. I don’t blame people for any other response; I can understand why people would ask me questions about my slightly unusual sexuality just like those I receive about having red hair and a Latino heritage. It generally comes from a place of genuine attempts at empathy and wanting to understand the how and why. It’s just nice when someone just gets it. They hear “bisexual” and automatically add it to the mental dossier of things they know about you and move on, casually integrating it into your interactions in a way that makes you feel accepted without making a big fuss.
Over time, I’ve come to categorize the reactions I receive and have listed a few below. I again need to reiterate that it’s my pleasure to answer questions that come from a genuine and loving place, even if the words said mirror those I lambast below. I do my very best to remember Hanlon’s razor and to “never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by [completely understandable and soon to be fixed] stupidity.” I’m also incredibly lucky to have never quite experienced the full force of in-your-face biphobia I know to exist in both the “gay” and “straight” worlds. I generally don’t mention my bisexuality in the “real world” at all unless it comes up naturally, and those sort of people don’t tend to bring up bisexuality at all. The online dating world is a whole other ball of wax fraught with assumptions and entitlements I don’t even want to touch right now; this is specifically for telling people that already know me in some small or large capacity.
*Gasp* “Does your boyfriend know?”
Because I happened to be dating a man when the bulk of my coming out process took place, this one was probably happens to me the most and irks me the most. For one, why would I be telling you before I told my primary partner? This is information that is much more relevant to him than it is to you, since he needs to know that my sexual interests include him. Perhaps there are some people that come out to random people at a party before telling their partner, but the logic here isn’t solid if they’ve been dating any time at all and have any sort of semblance of a healthy, trusting relationship. As a first reaction, saying this just makes me feel as though that person defers to the opinion of the man closest to me before knowing how to react. I want to yell, “No, this is about ME, not about HIM [as much as I dearly love him].”
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone!”
Yeah, I got this one once from a coworker I really didn’t know so well. Him saying this made me instantly regret my super casual mention of a girl I used to like. We were off the clock at lunch, and this was a tentative foray into becoming friends. Here I was, trying to show how cool and comfortable I was mentioning my sexuality near a workplace for one of the first times. Then getting the closet door slammed in my face. I had to then tiptoe around, “no, you can tell people. I mean, don’t just tell everyone indiscriminately…” while trying not to be upset that there was the plain assumption that since I’m not visibly queer, I must be in the closet.
“Yeah, I can see that.”
This is the one I like almost as much as the “huh, okay” type of reaction. I remember a sorority sister who said exactly this, and when pressed, cocked her head to the side and thoughtfully followed with, “because you always seemed so…free, I guess?” It’s possible that she was just affectionately calling me a slut, but I chose to think that she could see through my femme exterior and past relationships with men and know that the drunken make out she’d once witnessed me have with a girl was something real for me. That maybe I wasn’t as invisible as I’d feared. That if she could see it without me having to spell it out, maybe I could talk to women romantically without having to wave a rainbow flag in their face.
All these little moments are likely forgettable for the person I shared them with, especially those with the reactions I most treasure. But I keep these moments, from the first to the last, in a little box where I can take them out and hold them in my heart in times of need. Those moments where I let them in, just a little, and the reactions mirrored the acceptance I had to give myself.