It’s National Coming Out Day. No, this is not a coming out post. Most people reading this probably know me IRL, so you likely know how vocal I am as an advocate and proud member of the LGBTQ+ Community.
That said, this is more-so a pep talk for my brothers, sisters and non-binary siblings in the non-straight identifying community who are still in the closet. Yes, you’re still part of this community and abso-LUTELY yes, this is a safe space for you.
There are three big issues I wanted to cover, so let’s dive right in:
First of all, you’re allowed to take your time.
I have a lot of queer friends in my social circle, and most of them came out fairly young. That wasn’t the case for me.
I grew up in a conservative small town in rural Ontario. Need I say more? Before the “What’s Up, Arnprior?” militia comes for me, I will acknowledge that the town has taken strides concerning diversity, especially since its population broke the 10k mark. Even in the relatively short time since I was in school there, there have been improvements. Their town hall has a pride flag now, so that’s cool. We just won’t talk about the absolutely ludicrous amount of resistance they had trying to get it there. Anyway, baby steps.
All that to say, I didn’t feel safe coming out until I was practically an adult. There were three or four openly queer people in my high school, and seeing the way they were treated on a daily basis was enough to scare me so far into the closet that I wasn’t sure I would ever come out.
I did come out, but only after moving to the city for university.
Because of that, for a long time I had a terrible case of impostor syndrome. I felt like I hadn’t “earned” my place in the LGBTQ+ community because I didn’t come out young, and didn’t go through the aches and pains of growing up queer the way my friends had. I felt like a coward, and most importantly, I questioned my own “queerness.” Those feelings took a long time to work through.
So, I’m here with your daily reminder that there are absolutely no rules set in stone about when and how you should come out. If you’re not ready, take your time. You will be ready at your own pace, and you’ll know exactly when that is. You don’t need to justify that to anyone else and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
I once knew a man who didn’t come out until he was in his early 50’s. By that time, he had a wife and two kids. Now he’s in his late 60’s or early 70’s, he’s out and proud and living his best life. He is on great terms with his kids and ex-wife and is a major LGBTQ advocate in his community.
No matter how old you are or what stage of life you’re in when you decide to come out, it does not invalidate your identity. You are NOT an attention seeker, a coward, or faking it. You and your identity are valid.
So, about that biphobia/bisexual erasure…
On a similar note, I would be remiss if I did not address the rampant bisexual erasure associated with coming out.
When I first “officially” came out, it didn’t go the way I expected. I say officially because I came out in three stages: Stage One was posting cryptic, not-so-subtle memes about bisexuality and pansexuality on my Facebook and Instagram pages, hoping that my friends and family would catch on. Stage Two was telling close friends and family members individually, and Stage Three was a long-winded but iconic Facebook status on National Coming Out Day in 2013.
During Stages Two and Three of my master plan, the most common response I received – even from the people closest to me – was something along the lines of “well, why does it matter? You’re with a guy anyway.”
They weren’t wrong. I WAS with a guy. In fact, I ended up marrying one.
I can’t believe I even have to say this in 2020, but that does not matter. Or at least, it shouldn’t. In fact, the fact that so many people tried to make me feel like my identity didn’t matter when I was trying to open up to them about something I felt was important is pretty tragic.
I guess I should consider myself lucky because there weren’t any overtly negative responses, at least not to my face. But being dismissed like that didn’t exactly feel wonderful either. I also got wind of some chatter that I only “came out” for attention, or to fit in better with my friend group.
If I had ended up marrying a woman, would that have made me a lesbian? Nope, still bi. Your partner does not define you. Other people do not get to invalidate or undermine your identity for any reason, and if the way you identify is something that is important to you, no one gets to tell you that it doesn’t matter.
I’ve also had people try to say my identity isn’t valid because I’ve never had a girlfriend. I actually have had multiple female partners, but that’s irrelevant. This person hadn’t spoken to me or made an effort to get to know me since high school, at which point I was still in the closet, so, duh.
Even if I hadn’t had any female partners, surprise, it still wouldn’t matter. There are a ton of queer people who have only been in straight or straight-passing relationships, but that doesn’t make them any less queer. This should be obvious by now, but it’s not cool to make assumptions about someone’s romantic/sexual past, nor is it cool to gatekeep whether that person is or is not queer based on those assumptions. Again: duh.
On the subject of past female partners, my first experience dating a girl in university was, well, problematic to say the least. She was a lesbian, and the first time we went out together with her circle of friends she asked me if I could refrain from letting it slip that I was bi. “If anyone asks, just say you’re a lesbian,” she said. She played it off super casually so I didn’t really take issue with it at the time, but looking back… yikes. That just goes to show that biphobia is not reserved solely for the straights, and illustrates exactly why many bi people feel unwelcome in both the queer and straight communities.
Your identity matters and there is nothing wrong with you. You matter. Don’t let the internalized biphobia get you down.
Labels. Ain’t. Sh*t.
(Unless you want them to be!)
Throughout this post I’ve referred to myself as bi, or bisexual. Usually that’s how I choose to identify myself to others, for the sake of convenience and simplicity. However, in my internal monologue, the way I “label” myself shifts and evolves on almost a daily basis.
When I first came out, I came out as pansexual. However, before long I started leaning more toward bisexual because it was received better by most people. It’s a term people understand, and although the bisexual label has its own issues, that’s nothing compared to the plights of those who identify as pansexual. Don’t even get me started on that one.
Anyway, I flip-flopped between bi and pan for a while because for a long time, the skinny among us queer folks (and straight allies) was that bisexuals are attracted exclusively to two genders – excluding trans and non-binary people. Which, in my humble opinion, is far from the truth.
If you were to ask me today about my sexuality the answer would depend entirely on my mood, the day of the week, what I ate for breakfast that morning and where I am in my menstrual cycle. I would either say bisexual, pansexual in rare cases, or just plain ol’ queer, which I consider to be an umbrella term.
Most days I consider myself completely genderblind. As in, a nice butt is a nice butt regardless of that person’s gender identity or sex. If you’ve got a solid head on your shoulders and a killer taste in music, I don’t care what’s in your pants or how you present. My husband’s gender had nothing to do with why I fell for him. In fact, sometimes I’m attracted almost exclusively to women and the only man I will allow within a 10ft radius of me is my husband, because he’s an amazing and brilliant human being who happens to have an X Chromosome, a Y Chromosome and a penis.
Long story short, and I say this knowing you’ve heard it a million times before and it’s probably entirely unhelpful, but sexuality is fluid. You don’t have to label yourself if I don’t want to. If you do want to, then that’s wonderful; you should absolutely do so! And if that label happens to change later on, you’re still valid and you still matter.
This ended up being way more than a “quick” note, but I feel that it’s important to remind everyone every day (but especially today) that everyone is taking a different journey. Your life and your experiences are going to be completely unique, so don’t let anyone tell you how to live.
Whether you plan on coming out today, tomorrow, next month, five years from now or not at all, you’ve got this. I see you, I’m here for you and I believe in you.