One afternoon in December of last year I went to a café in town and sat for about an hour thinking about things. Whilst I was there I made an important life choice: I decided to come out as bisexual.
I had gone over the topic many times in my mind throughout the previous months, and now at last I’d come to the conclusion that this was the right thing for me to do at this moment in my life.
When I finally resolved to go through with it, coming out proved to be the most terrifying thing I had ever done. This wasn’t because I was expecting to encounter prejudice or because I was ashamed of who I was. It was because I knew this was the most significant thing I’d shared with anyone about myself and I had no idea what effect it would have on my relationships with people. Would they think I was confused or just going through a phase? Would they think I’d been unable to trust them? Would they think I’d been in denial about my sexuality until now? Would they think less of me for these and similar reasons? To say I approached coming out with some trepidation would be a serious understatement.
As soon as I’d done it, I knew I’d made the right choice.
The responses I received from family, friends, and colleagues were overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. Everyone I’ve shared my news with over the last two months has shown me such kindness and generosity that I feel I’ve really seen the best side of people. I’ve been moved by the conversations I’ve had and the many supportive Facebook messages and emails I’ve received. Coming out has even helped me reconnect with some old friends I hadn’t been in touch with for far too long.
Understandably, some of the people I’m close to were not at all surprised when I told them. My flatmate and a few of my other friends had either known or suspected that I was attracted to more than one gender but had tactfully assumed I preferred not to label myself. Like everyone else, they have been fully and enthusiastically supportive of my decision.
Before I made this disclosure, I could never have anticipated what an impact it would have on my life. In hindsight, I think I’d been working on the mistaken assumption that coming out would simply mean using a new word to describe myself when the occasion called for it, but that apart from that my life would remain essentially unchanged. In practice, I’ve found it to be so much more than that.
Revealing who I am has been a liberating and joyful experience – one which I am only now beginning to appreciate and make sense of. In embracing the term ‘bisexual’ I feel I’ve allowed a vital aspect of myself to express itself and become known to others. My life is more truthful as a result as I no longer feel obliged to accommodate myself to categories which I know are not applicable to me. I also feel able to be more open with people as I’m no longer holding back something of such importance from them.
I should say here that the circumstances of my coming out were unusually favourable: I come from an open-minded and accepting family, I belong to a very progressive academic community, and I live in one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world. Unlike so many people who wish to disclose their true identity, I was not risking my life, livelihood, or reputation by telling people about my sexuality. In writing this post, I do not wish to imply that coming out ought to be prioritised over considerations of personal safety, which must always be paramount for LGBT+ people.
What the last few months have made me realise is that – as any LGBT+ person who has come out can confirm – there is all the difference in the world between privately inhabiting a sexual orientation and having that dimension of your being acknowledged by those around you. I’m conscious that the latter has only been possible in my case because of the extensive network of LGBT-friendly people in my life, and I’m acutely aware that such networks are not available to everyone. Let’s hope that before long stories of acceptance like mine will have ceased to be the exception and become the norm during LGBT History Month.
This blog first appeared here.