When we come to understand ourselves as queer, we look back on our childhoods and try to understand our journeys into the people we are now. This poem is a message I wish I could send to myself at this moment in my queer childhood.
When I was very young (and scared)
And my friends were more than I could bear
I would play hide and seek with no one.
My hideaway was the closet, and I sought my comfort there.
It was close with coats and dim with dust
Except for the little plastic stars
Glowing green in that tiny dark
Taped to the walls and ceiling.
I hung up my fears, and in there, night
Was vast in my imagination
And from the little plastic stars
I dreamed my constellations.
In the queer community we like to talk about the maze of awkwardness, politics, safety, and inspiration that is coming out. In a world where everyone is taught to make assumptions about how “normal people” ought to live and love, those of us who don’t fit those norms are going to have to correct the assumptions of at least one person: ourselves. Coming out to yourself is what matters most, yet this journey is too often skimmed over in narratives of coming out.
I’ve come out to myself three times: as queer, kinky, and poly. The funny thing is that I’ve gotten better at it over time. My first coming out to myself was a torturous and slow process. My third self-outing was an exciting discovery. There are skills you use as you come out to yourself, and they’re skills that can be useful in every part of life. So for everyone who has a coming out journey yet to come, I present to you what I’ve learned about how to come out to yourself, as whatever you are.
How many bisexuals do you know? You know what? I bet you know more than you think! (Yes, even if you are yourself.) See, research shows that bisexuals make up a larger percentage of the total LGBT population than gays or lesbians! In June 2013, The Pew Research Center reported that bisexuals make up 40% of the total LGBT population, though they also found that many more women identified as bisexual than men–see graph at right. And in 2010, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that among all American adults, 3.1% self-identified as bisexual, compared to 2.5% as gay/lesbian. Yet bisexuals are surprisingly closeted! While over 70% of gay men and lesbians said they are out to most or all the important people in their life, only 28% of bisexuals are!
The invisibility of bisexuality has lots of negative impacts on the health and welfare of bisexual people. The San Francisco Human Rights Commission published one of the better studies on the subject in 2011, which found, among other things, that bisexual people experience greater likelihood of depression, poor health, and risky drinking than the broader population. These impacts are a result in part, of the pain of being not accepted. And that’s a pain I know well.
So why are bisexuals not visible? A lot of it has to do with biphobia, which drives people into the closet. Lucy took down a lot of these problematic myths, so I won’t repeat them all here. But I want to focus in particular on the problems we run into in the “performance” model we apply to sexual orientation. People are expected to “perform’ their sexual orientation by dating someone of the orientation they’re attracted to. And bisexuals by this model are assumed to need “one of each.” But this isn’t true!
People often ask me about my “coming out story.” What was it like? The truth is that when you’re queer, you come out all the time. Mostly because everyone around you assumes you’re straight, but also because your identity may change over time. You get better at coming out, over time, as you learn how to manage people’s reactions. Sometimes coming out is fun. Sometimes it’s terrifying. So I thought I might document some of my thousand little coming out stories, in more or less chronological order.
Some of the stories will only show what I said. Some will only show the reaction. Some will show both. All of them are from high school, since I no longer make an announcement of my sexuality, but mostly let my hairstyle and casual use of female/gender-neutral pronouns for love interests speak for themselves. I hope they give some insight into what it’s like to come out so many times, in so many ways.
friend, age 16
“Luz, you are attracted to both males and females. By definition, you are bisexual.”