Coming Out Bi: A Life-Long Process

Published: September 23, 2013

The idea of “coming out” of the proverbial closet as LGBT+ is thought to be a singular event for many – you come out to your friends, family and possibly coworkers, and that’s it, you are out. For bisexuals, however, coming out oftentimes can be a daily experience, sometimes multiple times within a 24-hour period. The irony comes with the mixed messages the bisexual community routinely receives for being out. In a New York Times piece from May 2013 on coming out in the workplace in which I was quoted, a majority of the responses to the article harkened to the idea that we shouldn’t be brandishing our bisexuality at all, that we should keep our pants on and our closet doors shut. And yet, at the same time, others tell us that bisexual invisibility is the fault of bisexuals and that if we want more visibility, we must come out and stay out.

The truth of the matter is that it can be more difficult for bisexuals to come out as opposed to gays and lesbians. According to a PEW Research Center study surveying LGBT Americans, bisexuals have a lower rate of coming out to family and friends than gays and lesbians (28% v. 77% and 71% respectively), which might correlate with the fact that we have to constantly continue to come out to everyone we meet. We experience this in our individual lives and see it in the public lives of bisexual celebrities as well – just look at actress Evan Rachel Wood who has had to affirm and reaffirm her bisexuality since she is married to a man. Unlike a lesbian who can introduce her significant other and be rightly identified as a lesbian, for instance, our significant others do not necessarily proclaim our bisexuality unless we are dating people of multiple genders at the same time. For those of us who are single or in monogamous relationships, if we want our bisexual identity to be known, we must verbalize it to everyone we meet. Without verbalizing our bisexuality, we are invisible as bisexuals.
Bisexual activist, writer and speaker Robyn Ochs attested to this predicament, saying, “Because of binary thinking, and bisexuals’ categorization by others as heterosexual or homosexual depending upon the perceived sex of their partner, bisexuality tends to be invisible except as a point of conflict. We tend to assume that a person’s sexual orientation corresponds to the sex of their current partner, so it is difficult for a monogamous person to make their bisexual identity visible to acquaintances. If we are silent, people will almost inevitably misread us. If we speak up, people may think we are providing Too Much Information.”
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