The Biscuit Guide to Coming Out as Bisexual

 

doorIn honour of National Coming Out Day tomorrow, Biscuit presents our guide to coming out as bi.
Coming out, as many bisexuals will tell you, isn’t a one off event. Once you’ve done it once, you’ll find yourself doing it all the time; to potential partners and new friends, to healthcare providers and public services. Because the gender of our partner or date doesn’t announce our sexuality, we find ourselves coming out more often than most. We never entirely get over the fear of coming out to someone new, but there’s no denying it gets easier.

Coming out for the first time, though, can be daunting. When you feel like you’ve been carrying an exhausting secret, the thought that you might be soon letting it go can be overwhelming, and not all of those thoughts are positive. Anxieties about how your life might change, or how your revelation might be received are bound to crop up.

On the whole most people find coming out to be a positive experience. It is a truism that each individual that comes out as bisexual benefits the community as a whole. Each voice added to our number makes our movement stronger, provides another role model for queer youth and inspiration for those struggling with their own orientation.

We also know that coming out is good for the soul. You can tap into a whole new community – and a potentially a whole new support network – you can date the type of people you want to date and most importantly you can finally feel like your true self.

But as with all things, it’s safety first. There are some situations in which coming out would be dangerous – if you fear a violent or abusive reaction, for example, consider staying in the closet a little while longer. You’re not denying who you are: you’re taking care of yourself.

1. Make sure you’re ready

Making sure you’re ready to come out isn’t just a matter of getting your thoughts in order. That’s obviously a good idea, but to make things easiest for yourself it’s best to do a bit of housekeeping too.

If you’re experiencing a lot of stress in other parts of your life, maybe with a house move or a period of exams, you’ve got enough on your plate. Consider leaving coming out until the current stress has dissipated.

It’s also a good idea to test the water when it comes to how your friends and family might react. You’ve probably got a fairly good idea about what their feelings towards LGBT people are, but casually mentioning a bi celebrity or talking about a cultural event like Bi Visibility Day or LGBT Pride can provide clues.

When you’ve decided you are ready, pick your moment carefully. Make sure you’ll be able to contact your support network, and be ready for a reaction other than what you’re expecting. Negative reactions are increasingly rare, but unfortunately they still happen.

When it’s time, take a look at our seven coming out tips. You might find the process is easier than you think.

2. Find out other people’s stories

Ask friends or go online to find out how other people handled coming out. Don’t be afraid to shamelessly steal someone else’s technique if you think it’ll work for you. Resources like rucomingout and WhenICameOut provide numerous examples of coming out stories – the inspiring, funny and tragic as well as the reassuringly dull.

By doing a bit of research you’ll find that there is no universal coming out story, and hopefully you’ll feel a little more confident about your own.

3. Plan what you’re going to say

If you’re worried about getting flustered, or forgetting what you want to say, there’s nothing wrong with planning ahead.  Have a think about what you want to say – do you want to talk about how you’ve been feeling keeping your sexuality secret, or would you prefer to just say ‘I’m bi’ and leave it at that? Once you’ve decided what you want to say, practice in front of a mirror or in your head, or write yourself a script. Whatever works for you.

Planning what you’re going to say isn’t just about preparing a monologue, it’s also about deciding what questions you’re prepared to answer. You may be asked about your sexual history, if you have a preference for one gender or another, or any number of intrusive questions. Don’t feel pressured to answer them if you don’t want to.

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4. Don’t feel pressured to be ~*original*~

We’re used to thinking of coming out as a big deal, and it is, for you. But that doesn’t mean it has to be big event. Coming out to a room of assembled family and friends, or on stage at your graduation does happen, but that sort of sensationalism isn’t for everyone.

Coming out cakes might be the thing on tumblr right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to – no pun intended – make a meal of things.  If you want to hire a sky writer that’s fine (and if you’ve got that kind of money to throw around I’d like to draw your attention to our donation button up there ), but don’t forget that what you’re saying is much more important than how you’re saying it, and if you want to have a simple chat over a cup of tea, that’s just fine.

5. Start Small

Coming out to a large group might result in an overwhelming response, whether it’s positive or negative. There’s bound to be questions (people generally want to know how long you’ve been waiting to tell them, for one) and you’ll may find the situation difficult to control.

Instead, start with a single trusted friend or family member. Once you’ve told them and digested the experience you can decide who to talk to next. Unless you’ve asked your friend to keep your coming out a secret, you might find that the gossip tree does much of the rest of the work for you.

6. Be firm

As bisexuals we often experience dilution of our identities by people who are keen to tell us that we’re not really bi, but gay people who are too scared to come out ‘fully’, or by people happy to tell us that we are too stupid to understand our own sexuality and we really ought to call ourselves pansexual.

No one who says these things intends them as an insult, but that’s what they are and it’s ok to say so.  Its hard to know whether to expect statements like this, but it’s good to have a retort in your back pocket just in case. Practice saying, “Coming out was a difficult decision for me and I don’t appreciate having my identity undermined”, or “Right now the label that fits me is ‘bisexual’. That may change or it may not, but it is not for you to tell me how to identify”.

7. Have something to look forward to

If you can, plan a treat for yourself as a reward for a job well done. Take yourself out for ice cream, line up a Netflix marathon or buy yourself that pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on. You just did something really hard. You deserve it!

Good luck!

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Libby Baxter-Williams

Libby is a 30-something Londoner, who spends more time reading picture books than is seemly. She became a bi activist entirely by accident, but now she can't imagine living any other way. In the event of an emergency, she'll have a large gin and tonic, thanks.
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