Am I Bisexual? My Uncomfortable Awakening
There’s no such thing as a typical coming out experience. It’s not something we’re taught at school or college, not even for an hour of embarrassing sex education. Coming out is a series of realizations. For bisexual people, coming out involves an added layer of discovery. I first realized I was bisexual around the age of 14, enveloped by hormones, family trauma, and the love that dare not speak its name.
Looking back now as a proud bisexual man, I can vividly remember biphobia and prejudice, which I’m quick to criticize today. I was told by friends and family members that it was just a "phase" – a cursed statement many bi people have heard. I was "confused" or just "experimenting," as if to find a natural home as straight or gay. There was never any real sense of acceptance that, actually, I was happy in my queerness.
In fact, so common and cruel were these biphobic clichés, it made me doubt my identity on multiple occasions. When I got to university, I hoped that my sexuality would be liberated from the toxic prison of school. But like many young, queer people, I didn’t find quite what I wanted. Those same tropes of biphobia followed me, as they continue to today.
“Just because I’m bi doesn’t mean I want to have a threesome.”
I’ll freely admit to being a sexually frustrated young adult, but the idea that my queerness was a symbol for being "greedy" stuck with me. To some people, it’s as if seeing bisexual on a dating app description or proudly open on social media means open season! And the truth is, even if somebody was hypersexual and proud of it, assuming that bisexual identity was another word for "easy" is a snooty, unkind sentiment.
This example featured in my third year of university as I tried hard to make more friends through societies and clubs. I’d joined a sports club where the atmosphere was heavy on drinking, having sex and being fit. I wasn’t good at any of those, but went with out friends on a misguided whim. At one house party, a drinking game was played with the forfeit being the loser kissing someone random. Playground, childish nonsense — so naturally, everyone loved it. A muscular jock lost his round and was egged on by someone to kiss me, as in his words “If he closes his eyes, he won’t know if it’s a girl or boy who’s grabbing his balls!”
Mortifying. People were happily laughing away, beside themselves at the idea that I would just take this guy as a punishment. Here in the UK, there’s this idea that men are all distinguished and dashing. Nothing could be further from the truth, as this dire experience shows.
But it’s not just men who’ve been so cruel. My first serious girlfriend asked me to swear I’d never check out another man while we were together. She was reluctant to become an item on this idea that I’d be cheating on her. Bisexual people shouldn’t need to justify their attraction to anyone, nor should they have to play down their identity to fit with a partner’s way of thinking.
I said earlier how coming out as bisexual adds a layer of discovery. But what we don’t often hear about, especially around Pride Month, is how traumas and events can cause such a devastating effect on someone’s identity that they are profoundly changed, unsure of who they are. In my case, I was raped by another man.
It destroyed me to the very core of what I had believed for so long. The physical scars and bruises lasted weeks, reminding me of my insecurity. I never reported the crime, nor would I want to. Like so many queer people, sexual assault is a grim fact. We’ve found ourselves through trauma, our lives connected with ribbons of unbelievable pain. I doubted who I was. I doubted whether I could ever be attracted to a man again — to this day I still shudder at the thought of sexual attraction.
Only with time has this experience been firmly stamped on my timeline of coming out. Surviving is something that we LGBTQ people are so good at.
Coming out is unique to every queer person. No one should ever feel pressured to burst out of the closet wearing bright, sparkly clothes and draped in a rainbow flag. Pride is a brilliant season for liberation and protest, but it’s not as good at respecting people’s unique circumstances.
It’s okay if you haven't come out as bisexual. Not many people will tell you that, perhaps even some LGBTQ people too. It’s sad that biphobia is rife in our community when you’d hope the rainbow was all about acceptance and love. But don’t let their ignorance tell you that you’re not valid.
You can be bisexual regardless of your experience with any gender. Your sexuality isn’t conditional on any number of saucy hookups or drunken reach-arounds. If anyone tries to tell you that you can’t possibly be bisexual if you’ve never kissed someone of any particular gender, ignore them. Like coming out, sexuality blossoms to your own rhythm.
Finally, and importantly, being bisexual isn’t about spectrums or Kinsey Scales. Doing an online quiz to determine who you prefer more, based on a stratified, cast-iron pie chart isn’t the best evidence of your sexuality. If it brings you some validation to see your preferences marked down, go ahead. But bisexuality isn’t fixed in place — it’s who you are as an individual unbound to any rules of the game.
Coming out isn’t everything. You should still be proud of who you are and what you have achieved regardless of your closet status. Bisexual people are so often misrepresented because of who they are attracted to. Everyone has preferences and desires, but you’re the only person in the world who can tell you who you love.