Jennifer Wilber is a writer, teacher, and bisexual rights activist from Ohio.
You Want to Come Out—Now What?
Figuring out your sexual orientation is a big step in your life. You may have known for years that you are attracted to more than one gender, but you were afraid to admit it to yourself and to your family and friends. Or, perhaps you've only just realized that you are attracted to more types of people than you had previously thought. Whether you are just figuring out your sexuality or you have known it for years, you may be feeling a little bit lost as to how to come out as bisexual.
Wanting to be loved and accepted for everything you are is a common feeling, but bisexuals often feel conflicted about whether they should let the people in their lives know about their sexual orientation. Because bisexuals are often less visible than other people within the LGBT+ community, it can feel especially important to make your identity known. On the other hand, it could also feel less intimidating to simply stay in the closet if you know you can pass as straight or gay. Here are some tips for becoming more comfortable with your bisexuality and for coming out, if you choose to do so.
1. Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin
Before you begin telling other people about your sexuality, it is important that you have already accepted that part of yourself. If you feel embarrassed or ashamed of who you are, you will automatically assume that the people you come out to will feel the same way about you, regardless of whether this is true. This mindset is not healthy. Before you make the decision to come out as bi to your family or friends, be sure you are comfortable with identifying with who you are.
2. Make Friends in the LGBT+ Community
If you have friends who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans*, or any other identity included in the LGBT+ spectrum, you might feel more comfortable coming out to them before outing yourself to the straight people in your life. People who have already gone through the process of coming out know what you are going through and will be able to give you support as you prepare to come out to your other friends and family.
3. Practice by Coming Out to Strangers or Casual Acquaintances First
If you are nervous about coming out to close friends and family, you may want to practice coming out to people you don’t know as well first. This could be people in online forums or strangers you are making small talk with in public places. Coming out to a stranger may seem scary, but casually mentioning your sexual orientation to someone you don’t know can help you to become more comfortable with discussing your identity. This revelation about your orientation doesn’t need to be dramatic. It can be as simple as simply mentioning celebrities of different genders that you might have a crush on.
4. Arm Yourself With Knowledge
Before you come out to people who may be less than supportive, it is important to prepare for any ignorant comments or questions they may throw at you. You will feel more confident about your identity if you start the conversation prepared. Bisexuality is often misunderstood, and stereotypes and myths about bi people are still very common. Be prepared to dispel any myths or stereotypes about bisexual individuals that they might still believe.
5. Make Sure the Timing Is Right
As eager as you may be to shout to the world who you are, in certain scenarios, it might be better to wait before coming out to certain people. If your parents have demonstrated that they are unsupportive of the LGBT+ community, you might not want to risk coming out to them while you still live under their roof and depend on them for financial security. In a perfect world, parents would always love and support their children no matter what, but sadly, that is not the world we live in. If there is any reason why coming out might be dangerous for you right now, it is better to wait, as hard as that may be.
6. Come Out for Yourself, Not for Anyone Else
Be sure that your decision to come out is for yourself. Though many people in the LGBT+ community view coming out as a defining milestone in a young LGBT+ person’s life, only you can decide if it is the right time for you to come out. Don’t do it just because that is what you think you have to do upon realizing that you are bi. If you are comfortable with your identity and want the people closest to you to know who you are, do it. If you are not yet comfortable with your identity, take all the time you need before letting other people know. If you never feel comfortable with coming out, that is your choice too. Never let anyone else make you feel bad or guilty for making either choice.
7. Understand That Approval Doesn’t Matter
When you do choose to come out to someone new, it is important to remember that your happiness is not contingent on their approval. You can’t force everyone to accept you. As heartbreaking as it is, there will always be some people who won’t accept your bisexuality. Some straight and gay/lesbian people alike refuse to accept bisexual people out of ignorance or hate. Even within the LGBT+ community, there are still people who refuse to accept bisexuals for various ignorant reasons. You can be confident about your identity and love yourself, even without the approval of others.
8. Remember That Bisexuality Is Only One Part of Your Identity
Coming out as bi does not change who you are. You are still the same wonderful person that you have always been, regardless of how others view your sexual orientation. Claiming the label “bisexual” does not mean you have to adopt every stereotype about bi individuals. Don’t change who you are or how you act to prove to anyone that your identity is valid. Bi is only one part of your identity. The other parts of who you are as a person are still just as important.
9. You Don’t Need to Prove Your Identity to Anyone
More than any other orientation, bi people are expected to prove that they are actually bi, rather than a “straight attention seeker” or “gay and in denial.” Whether you have been involved with many people of different genders or have never even had a relationship yet, if you identify as bisexual, then you are bisexual. You don’t need to have been with a certain number of people, or the same number of men and women for your identity to be valid.
10. Only You Can Determine Your Identity
You are still bisexual if you end up with a man, a woman, someone who identifies outside of the gender binary, or even choose to remain single. The person or people you are currently with does not change your orientation. You do not have to identify as straight just because your relationship looks “straight” to outside observers, or as gay or lesbian just because you are in a same-sex relationship.
If later on you realize that some label other than bisexual better defines who you are, you are also free to begin identifying in that way instead. You are the only person who can figure out your sexual identity. If you find a label that better reflects who you are, you can begin the coming out process all over again, but only if you want to.
Come Out, or Not. It’s Up to You!
Coming out can be a scary and confusing process. If you still have doubts about your identity, it can be even more difficult to confide in the people you want to come out to. It is important that you are comfortable with your identity and are confident about who you are before coming out to new people. Coming out can make you feel more comfortable with your entire identity.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: How can I ask my parents if they're homophobic without sounding suspicions?
Answer: If you want to find out if your parents are homophobic without actually coming out to them yet, you could mention something about a recent news story about the LGBT+ community to see how they react. If you have an LGBT+ family member or friend, you could also find out how they feel about that person if you can find a way to bring them and their significant other up in conversation.
Question: When is it the perfect time to come out as bi?
Answer: You are the only person who can decide when it is the right time to come out. You may find that you are ready to come out to certain people in your life before others. For example, maybe you feel like you are ready to come out to your close friends, but not your family right now.
Question: How can I tell my grandparents that I'm bisexual and that I have a girlfriend?
Answer: You could tell them by asking if you can invite your girlfriend to have dinner with them. Depending on how open minded you expect your grandparents to be, you could simply introduce her as your girlfriend and not make a big deal about your sexual orientation.
© 2018 Jennifer Wilber