Identity + Intersectionality / Bisexuality

, , , , , , , , , , ,

“Is it okay to call myself gay when I am bisexual? Gay has become such an umbrella term that it feels much easier, but I will stop if I’m not allowed to.”

-Question Submitted by buckybarnesfanatic

Kristin Says:

Okay, okay, okay, okay. There is a LOT going on here, so let’s take this apart a tiny bit, shall we?

You are ALLOWED to call yourself a giraffe if that is what you want to call yourself. Words, and especially identity words, are incredibly complicated things, and you have to pick the one that fits the way that you feel, period. That might mean not even PICKING a word! It might mean using several words in combination. It might mean telling someone your entire history with identity categories when they ask you how you identify, which I will refer to as the “Kristin Russo Method.”

Let me employ the Kristin Russo Method for a moment and tell you my own relationship with identity terms. Perhaps it will help!

I came out when I was 17 and when I did, I came out as bisexual. That word made sense to me because I knew as sure as hell I was crushin’ on girls and I also knew that I would one million percent still like to make out with a boy (especially if he looked like Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise, but that is another story for another day and also really makes clear just how old I am!!). That was as far as my reasoning went in 1998, because at that point I was clueless about gender being complicated and not operating on a binary. Are you still reading?! GREAT. So, I came out as bisexual and rocked out with my identity term UNTIL my mom was like UGH KRISTIN IF YOU ARE BISEXUAL WHY CANT YOU JUST BE WITH A BOY and I was like UGH MOM FORGET EVERYTHING I SAID I AM ACTUALLY A LESBIAN.

I legit just claimed that word as my identity only to quiet my mom. Then, I dated girls for a long time and the word stuck (even though it never felt quite right). Sometime later, I went to grad school and learned the word ‘queer,’ and was like oh THIS is lovely, this feels just like a warm coat on a chilly night, gimme that queer identity marker to roll all around in. Kaboom.

BUT THEN (and, dearest buckybarnes, this is really where I am circling back to you), just two years ago, I started really thinking about how I had tossed that word ‘bisexual’ right to the curb without a second thought. The reason I started to mull it all over again was because I was learning more and more about how bisexual people are completely fucking erased in oh-so-many communities! I experienced queer people saying rude, dismissive shit about bisexual people just as much as non-queer people! Oh, and then there was this whole report released by HRC!!! It really got me BUBBLING, let me tell you.

All of those thoughts were enough to make me unpack my own identity all over again, at the ripe old age of 34. I wanted to take back the word bisexual for myself, I wanted people to hear it and see it and have to think about it more and more, and I felt like my own experience could add to that conversation.

So, buckybarnes, here’s the thing. You’re right. Saying you’re “gay” is an easy answer to give to people. And, while you are honest-to-god allowed to do whatever you want (refer to earlier comments on giraffes), I do want to tell you that sometimes the easy answer actually makes things way more complicated for you (and me, and others) in the long run. I just want you to think about that as you go on your own journey with these words and with yourself and your heart and your attractions and feelings… because I wish I’d thought about that before I tossed ‘bisexual’ to the curb all those years ago.

No matter what you do or what you decide, identifying as bisexual doesn’t mean that you have to always give the same answer, and it doesn’t mean you can’t sometimes just say “Yeah, I’m gay,” and call it a day. I have those days, too (in fact, here’s a little anecdote about me pretending I had a boyfriend at the passport office!), and that’s a-ok. You may, find, though, that having people ask you more questions or wonder about the complicated nature of who you are is sometimes way, way more powerful than the alternative.

Have the best night.

x, Kristin


, , , , , , , , , , ,

“I came out as a lesbian at school last year, but have since realized that I’m actually bisexual. I want to be out as my true self, but part of me feels like I shouldn’t bother coming out as bi because people might not believe me. What should I do?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Red Davidson as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Red Says:

Many people think of sexuality as something that is entirely unchanging.  Once someone has “discovered” their sexuality, that’s supposed to be the end of the story.  This narrative is often used by other lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as well—the “born this way” argument—because on face value it seems to make arguments for civil rights more effective.  But this narrative leaves out people whose experience of sexuality is fluid and constantly shifting, or people whose “discovery of self” did not happen linearly (I’ve always loved this post by Riese at Autostraddle that shares her own experience of identifying as bi/queer/a lesbian).  These experiences of sexuality are not actually uncommon, much as they are underrepresented.  It is not rare for someone who is bi to later come out as gay, and vice versa.  None of that means that a person’s “first” sexual identity is somehow invalid, or was a lie, and it definitely doesn’t mean that all bi people are really gay (or straight).  It means that in a world where we allow people very few options of how to fall in love or experience attraction—and in a society where conversations about sexuality, romance, and attraction rarely occur in any depth—that it can be hard for people to understand an experience of sexuality—especially a changing one—that does not match their own.

I empathize with your struggle, though, and while I definitely understand your desire to be true to yourself, I want to first state that it is absolutely no one’s right to know your sexuality. You are under no obligation or deadline to come out again, or to do so in the same way as you did before.

If you feel hesitant to come out because you are afraid of how people will respond, you might consider running a “hypothetical” scenario past a few friends to gauge how they respond to the idea of someone’s sexual identity changing or shifting. If they respond well to the idea in the abstract, hopefully their response to you will be supportive as well.

Because everyone’s experience of sexuality is so varied, I can’t give you the specific words to have a conversation with your friends about your identity.  But if you do decide to come out to them, thinking about how you would articulate your experience of sexuality for yourself (and whether any of it resonates with what I said above) could help you figure out how and what you want to share out loud.

If, on the other hand, your friends respond negatively to a hypothetically posed question, you can try talking through whatever their reservations or opinions are. If they think that bisexuality isn’t real, and that people only identify as bi to “get attention,” the issue probably isn’t going to be solved with a single conversation (although telling them that any attention bi women receive is rarely positive and that the entire concept is rooted in sexism might be a good place to start). You can challenge them on those opinions, but it might not be safe for you to come out to that person (or people) right now. If someone’s response is something more along the lines of confusion about how or why someone’s identity might change, or if they’re skeptical but not openly hostile, you might have better luck coming out to them. However, it’s never your responsibility to explain your identity, or to ever act as educator to someone regarding sexuality. Especially if you feel uncomfortable or potentially unsafe. How you came to realize you’re bi, what being bi means to you, and why you want to identify as such are all no one’s business but your own.


Click through to read more about Red and our other Second Opinions Panelists!


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Dear Kristin and Dannielle, I am pretty young ( under 15 ) and I’m pretty sure I’m bisexual. I’ve had crushes on girls and guys, but I haven’t told my family anything about it. I think my parents will say ‘You’re to young to know that.’ How do I fix this? Is there some way I can prove it to them? Please help.”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

Dearest most loveliest Anonymous,

First, I want to apologize. I want to apologize that we all live in a world where others (even our own parents!) don’t often believe that we know ourselves, know our own feelings, and speak truth about our identities. This is true no matter how old we are, but when we are young… it’s even worse. I know this. I’ve lived this. I can’t tell you the amount of times I hear people speak about young people as though they have no awareness of their own feelings. I know that you have real, true feelings, and I know and believe that those feelings are valid and important.

Next, I want to tell you the most important thing you need to know: You do not need to prove those feelings, or your identity, to anyone. You can express who you are in whatever way you think makes sense, but if your parents do not believe you, it does not invalidate the realness of you.

Now, I am going to try to help you with ‘what to do,’ though I think this looks different for all of us. If you know that you live in a safe environment – one where you don’t have to worry that your parents will disown you or be abusive in any way to you once you come out to them – then you should think about what you want them to know. A lot of times, when we know that we are bisexual or gay or trans or queer, keeping our identity to ourself feels horrible. It feels like every tiny thing we do, even going to the fridge and eating a cheesestick, is a lie. If this is how you are feeling, then I suggest you write a letter to your parents. Tell them what you’ve told us: that you have had crushes on boys and girls and that you identify as bisexual, that you were hesitant to tell them because you were scared they wouldn’t believe you, and that you realized that they didn’t need to believe you… because you’d still be exactly who you are without that belief. Tell them you would love to have their support. Tell them that you love them. Maybe, if you’re really feeling it, tuck that letter in a copy of This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids.

Lastly: Even if your identity shifts and changes over the years, it will never take away who you are right now. Right now you are an under-15-year-old who has feelings toward more than one gender. No one can ever take that away from you, and we are here to tell you that we believe and support you one million fucking percent.


Hi! Our advice is always free for all to read & watch. Help us keep this gay ship chuggin’ by donating as little as $1/month over here on Patreon. xo


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

"Even if you may not have much experience with helping bisexual guys, I don’t know where else to turn to. My family is not very religious, so that isn’t the problem, but my dad is kind if conservative. Although bisexual, I see myself in the future with another guy. Should I come out to them as gay, because I fear that if I tell them I’m bi, they will focus towards the fact that I still have a chance with a girl, and ignore the fact that I like guys as well. Please help, I’m a junior in highschool"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

I think this is totally up to you and what makes you comfortable. I think if your parents want to believe you’ll end up with a girl, that will come REGARDLESS of how you identify. When people aren’t totally comfortable with someone’s identity, they tend to make excuses. They try to brush it off, ignore it, figure out when it will “go away,” and do just about anything they can to avoid actually having a conversation and changing their views.

I think if you come out as gay, and date some men, then end up with a woman, you’ll do a bit of damage to your own feels and identity. Because once you meet a woman, your parents might say, “see! it was just a phase!” or “we knew you weren’t really gay!” or “thank god THAT is over!” and all of those statements are super hurtful. They also completely erase who you are, which is a bisexual-identified guy.

I also think it completely sucks how often the bisexual identity is treated like shit. People INSIDE the LGBTQ community will be jerks just to be jerks and like… THE B IS IN THE ACRONYM PEOPLE. It’s not fair to tell someone to ‘choose,’ it’s not fair to erase someone’s identity, it’s not fair to make someone’s coming out even harder, when you are supposed to be the support system. Your parents may make it harder on you, the community may make it harder on you, but you know what? This is who you are, you are a bisexual dude who should feel comfortable coming out as such and should stick by your identity because the people who give you hell don’t know what they’re talking about.

Be proud of who you are, and don’t ever do something because you think it’ll be easier for someone else. Especially when it involves your coming out. This is YOUR coming out. It will be a process and it will be hard. It seems to me that you think it’ll be hard no matter what, so why not have a hard process and know deep down that you were completely honest and true to yourself.

Kristin Says:

Hooboy, can I identify with this question, and damn did Dannielle just totally shed more light on my own experience. I know this isn’t about me, Anon, but let’s walk this one together, shall we?

I came out to my parents, initially, as bisexual. I didn’t know what I was, really, but I just felt as thought I was attracted to all sorts of people, and girls were definitely included (annnnd kind of at the top of the list). Past that, I had no clue what to call myself, so I went with bisexual… and that word made things so goddamn difficult with my mom (mind you, they would have been difficult regardless).

The word bisexual, however, wouldn’t allow her to let go of the idea that I could still like boys and that if I just met one — if her prayers could be answered — everything would be okay again. So, after a short amount of time dealing with that nonsense I said EFF THIS, and I came out again as gay. Gay gay gay mom, I will never be with a boy, stop your dreaming, I am GAY. I just wanted her to shut up and stop hoping that I’d be someone that I wasn’t…

I still didn’t really know what I was (I still really don’t, but bless the word ‘queer’ to that end). All I knew was that I liked girls and I kept dating girls, so why not just say the word that might help my mom let go of her hope and start accepting me for who I was… right? Well, not really. It did help out a bit in the beginning, because the finality of my statement forced her to let go of some of the hoping… but ultimately I was exactly where Dannielle says that you may be: I was then horrified that I’d meet a guy and have my entire identity erased.

What’s more, my false declaration of my identity closed our conversation off in a place that wasn’t true, and it also closed off my mom’s understanding, for the time being, of the complexities of sexuality and identities.

Biphobia is a real and present thing in this world — and it’s by speaking out about our identities that we can shake the misconceptions and the bullshit away. That said, this is your identity and your experience — and so the right answer here is what feels right to you. At the end of the day, work as hard as you can to be true to yourself and remember that your mom has the capacity, over time, to understand that your sexuality (and all that goes with it) is far more complex than and either/or experience.

(Shameless plug alert: This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids totally kicks this question right in its teeth. In the good way. <3)

Hi! Our advice is always free for all to read & watch. Help us keep this gay ship chuggin’ by donating as little as $1/month over here on Patreon. xo