Why aren't more bisexual people out? As Global Bi Pride Day, or "Celebrate Bisexuality Day" (CBD), approaches this Sept. 23, it's a perfect time to talk about how hard it is for bi folks to come out, and why. First, let's define who we're talking about, using gender and sexuality expert Robyn Ochs' commonly accepted definition of bisexuality:
I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted -- romantically and/or sexually -- to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.
What's so great about bisexuals? If you're a bisexual person and proud of it, you are courageous, and you are strong. If you are bisexual, you are a free thinker and a free being. If you are bisexual, you don't fit into a mold; you make them. It often takes some time to be completely comfortable with this sexuality superpower, hence the coming-out stages for many bisexual people are complex and often take years to complete. While everyone's experience is different, over time I've seen some commonalities for bi folks making their journey to freedom.
How to Come Out as Bisexual
Step #1 Ooh, he's hot! Wow, she's so cute. Wait? What is this? Am I lesbian? Am I gay? Am I straight? What the heck is going on?!
Step #2 Hey! Angelina Jolie, Evan Rachel Wood, Alan Cumming, and Brett Easton Ellis have all called themselves bisexual? What is this word, "bisexual," and how come it's not spelled with a hyphen? Should I be gay and then be straight, or vice versa? How long do I get to make up my mind?
Step #3 OK, after talking to friends and telling people I'm bisexual, it's not really working out. Gay guys don't want to date me, because they think I'm still in the closet, or that I'll leave them for a woman. My friends insist that my relationship history decides my orientation, so I'm going to have to be gay. I can't be straight, so is there another word I can use that won't make people think all these horrible stereotypes about me? Oh, look at that: "pansexual"! I like pans, or Pan, or a word that means I can love and/or lust regardless of gender! Oh, what do ya see there, something called "sexual fluidity"? That's also pretty appropriate, because my sexual/romantic attractions could change over time.
Step #4 OK, now that I've been fluid and/or pansexual for some time, it doesn't feel like it's enough. I know now that "bisexual" can describe me, no matter what type of relationship I'm in (or not in). We have to band together, or else these lesbian, gay, and straight people will think they keeping running into the same bisexual over and over again! Why not use bisexuality as an umbrella term for all of us who are not lesbian, gay, or straight?
Step #5 Oh, you don't want to use the term "bisexual" because you believe it reinforces the gender binary? Don't you know that's just internalized monosexuality coming out to bite you? I see, you have a problem reclaiming a term that was once used as a clinical designation? Oh, you've been assured that bisexuals don't actually exist, much like unicorns or diet Dr. Pepper? Can't self-identify using a term that people have considered a slur in the past? Well, you're just not bisexual enough!
Step #6 I've now spent enough time being part of a bisexual community to understand that one word will never be enough to describe our awesome diversity. I'm OK calling myself bisexual, and if you want to be pansexual, fluid, queer, and/or live without labels, I shall embrace you and call you my brother, sister, or sibling. After all, what fits for one person doesn't fit for another, and what is our orientation if not flexible? I'll tell everyone I meet about the different ones so numerous that people often forget to count us.
For a more thorough trip through bisexualities, read The Bisexual's Guide to the Universe by Nicole Kristal and Mike Szymanski.
Thanks to the Noun Project for "sharing, celebrating and enhancing the world's visual language" through free symbols. All images used are provided by the Noun Project and are either in the public domain or use a Creative Commons license.