"No, I'm not straight… or gay": Coming out to new acquaintances

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“I don’t want to closet myself, but I also don’t want to be asked for the thousandth time which gender I’d choose if I had to, or if I’m down for a threesome”

Amanda Gun looks at the often complicated process of explaining your sexuality to people you’ve just met…

One of my friends recently moved to London, and is staying in a  hostel until she finds more permanent accommodation. She’s been hanging out with a group of boys who are also staying there, and while she thinks they’re perfectly okay to hang out with for now, she doesn’t really want to stay in touch – and because she’s not the type to shout it from the rooftops, she hasn’t come out to them yet.

That isn’t a problem in itself, most of the time (I am of the school that if you feel comfortable coming out, you probably should, but it will always be up to you when you feel comfortable enough), but it does lead to some pretty awkward situations sometimes. Like last night, for example; they were out, and as boys who have had a few beers are wont to do, they started gossiping. The conversation turned to one of the other girls who is staying at the hostel, who had declined to come along with them. Their verdict? “She’s a vegetarian AND a lesbian, of course she’s a killjoy!”

Record scratch moment for my friend, for whom two of those three labels apply.

I wouldn’t say I live in constant fear of someone saying something homo – or biphobic, but I am somewhat aware that when meeting new people, situations like the one above are never too far from hand. Until they know that you are not one of them, they might start talking like they’re alone, and telling you the things you didn’t want to know that they secretly think.

When you make new LGBT friends, the conversation will eventually wind its way around to “When did you first come out?”. Some of us have pretty interesting stories, some of us have tragic stories, and some of us have fairly undramatic ones that would fit easily into a tweet. Straight people will sometimes ask you as well, but a key difference is that while our brothers and sisters all know that coming out is not something you do once, some straight people seem to think that once you’ve done it, that’s it. You are out, always and forever, and it’s uncomplicated. The reality is, of course, that every single time you meet someone, you have to make a decision – will I be out to this person, how do I come out to this person, how are they going to take it. Coming out will never be over.

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“Only twice in my life has someone looked at me and assumed I was bi rather than straight – I don’t know what I was doing right those times but I’ll keep trying to replicate it!”

In a way, I think that being bisexual further complicates the issue somewhat. You know that when you are talking to someone new, eventually you will get around to being asked if you have a boyfriend. For our lesbian sisters, it’s pretty easy to come out without making a big production about it: “No, I don’t do boys,” or, “No, I have a girlfriend”. Saying nothing of how emotionally simple it is to come out, at least once you’ve decided to, you can do it swiftly and gracefully. For us? There is just no such way. Do you go with “No, and…” or “Yes, but…” and give an explanation far longer than the conversation warrants at that time? Saying nothing feels to me like lying by omission, but saying something often requires sidetracking the conversation into something I might not be happy to go into at the time. I don’t want to closet myself, but I also don’t want to be asked for the thousandth time which gender I’d choose if I had to, or if I’m down for a threesome (none of your business and yes, but not with someone who would ask after knowing me for half an hour).

I would personally have less of an issue with this if the immediate assumption wasn’t always that I was straight. Assuming that I was a lesbian would at least come with an acknowledgement that I might have had reasons to be scared, when younger, and that my confidence in myself did not come from unthinking privilege, but from hard work. Ideally, of course, they would assume that I am bisexual each and every time, but that has only happened to me twice in my life – despite the piercings and the blue hair! I don’t know what I was doing right those times, but I will keep trying to replicate it – because it’s very freeing to be seen for who you are from the very start.

Main photo ©  Wonder J, licensed for use under Creative Commons

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Amanda Gun

Originally from Sweden, Amanda has spent the past few years living in London and in Australia. If all goes to plan, she will get to call a few more countries home before she shuffles off this mortal coil. She loves big cities, pole dancing and selfies, and when she grows up she wants to be a circus princess/burlesque dancer/writer/makeup artist. One time, she met Mickey Mouse on a plane, and he told her she was pretty.

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