“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
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.
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