Coming Out Sucked: How Biphobia Ruined My Coming Out

Screen-Shot-2015-07-07-at-4.10.48-PMComing out in the new millennium is nothing like it was for our predecessors, or we’re told. For them coming out was fearful and even dangerous. For us it should be a joyous occasion. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Biphobia, both external and internal, can make coming out just as hard as it ever was. Here, Alex takes us through her journey.

Coming out sucked.

I remember looking out over the black water as I stood in my favourite thinking place – a now eerily empty and quiet park on my way home in Berlin – and saying those three magical words for the first time: I am bisexual.

The thing is, they didn’t feel magical at all. I spat them out like bile rising in my throat. They never soared, they fell right back down on me, paralysing me with fear and dread. Those three words were no victory cry, they were an admission of defeat: the recognition of an unwanted yet inescapable truth about myself that I (and others) would go on to question many, many times. From “Wow this lady is so pretty! Great, maybe I’m gay after all!” to “Man, look at this guy, he’s sooo handsome, maybe I am straight? Maybe it was just a phase after all?” These were the conversations I kept having with myself every time I fancied anyone of any gender for the next two years. I so did not want to be bisexual.

Would everyone now assume I was a cheater, going through a phase, trying to steal the thunder of “actual” queer people? How could I even be attracted to more than one gender? Wasn’t that something I should have figured out in puberty?

My coming out to myself was shaped by feelings of regret, defeat, shame and fear. How would my lesbian friend react – the one who had taught me most of the internalised biphobia I was carrying around? Would everyone now assume I was a cheater, going through a phase, trying to steal the thunder of “actual” queer people? How could I even be attracted to more than one gender? Wasn’t that something I should have figured out in puberty? Which side was I actually on now, gay or straight? Could there be another option?

I felt like I was stuck on a tiny boat floating in the middle of a raging river. I had left solid ground, but was nowhere close to reaching the other shore. I was alone, confused and scared.

In short, it felt nothing like I had been told coming out was supposed to be: there was no dark veil lifting from my life as I came to terms with myself, no feeling of liberation, relief and self-affirmation. Neither did it bring me any closer to the LGBTQIA community. I had seen and heard countless times what a “proper” coming out should look like. To this day I feel awkward when fellow queers recount their experiences, so radically different from my own. How their eyes would glow!, their voice taking on an eerie, dreamlike tone, relishing in the memories flooding through them. Eventually they would turn to me and say, “Coming out was the best thing that ever happened to me!”

Good for you. No, I mean it. I don’t wish 25 years of constantly doubting yourself due to a complete lack of accurate bisexual representation in the media or support from the LGBTQIA community on anyone. It meant that, at that time, coming out as bisexual was the worst possible outcome to a decade-long internal struggle over my sexual identity. I wasn’t happy, I was angry and scared. I wasn’t relieved, I felt anxiety rising up in every pore of my body.

And yet, I knew it was a truth I couldn’t deny. Despite all the fear, the self-loathing, the anxiety and pain I could not convince myself that I wasn’t bisexual. I knew absolutely nothing about what the word actually meant: that it was a real and valid identity, that one did not have to choose between being gay or straight, that I could be in a relationship with a gay or a straight person and still be bisexual, that there were amazing people of more than those two old genders to fall for.

So, to my lesbian friend who should have been the first person I came out to and ended up being the last. To my mother who told me that everyone was bisexual (“except for those gay guys”) and that I was nothing special. To my therapist who happily suggested I shouldn’t make such a fuss about the whole thing and let it get me down so much. To all of those out there thinking bisexuality isn’t a thing, that it’s a stepping stone towards coming out as gay, that it’s a phase for straight women bored with men, or something to attract straight guys with:

I was right there with you. I believed all of those things (except the last one, I mean, even I knew that one was complete bullshit). But I still knew I was bisexual. I hated it and I tried so very hard not to be. But I was and I am. And now, three years since that night in the park, I finally feel that pride and happiness and conviction of being in the right place, of being my true self. Most of the time. But damn if it wasn’t an incredibly hard and painful journey to get here.

And it needn’t have been. Only one bi character on television that wasn’t “greedy”, overly sexualised, and eventually “chose” to be gay or straight (I’m looking at you Joss Whedon). Only one conversation with my lesbian friend acknowledging that leaving a woman to be with a man didn’t make you a traitor or a “hasbian”.
It might simply mean you’re bi. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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Alex Esche

Alex is a historian, musician and writer based in London where she is currently doing research for her PhD. She spends way too much time raging about bisexual erasure and biphobia on Twitter (@alex_esche). In her free time, Alex is queering up the Camden Open Mic scene with her songs about the love life of a proud bisexual woman.

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