Coming Out As Bisexual in a Straight-Passing Relationship

Art by Darcy Rae

Growing up, I didn’t have many friends who came out. People speculated on who might be
gay, but precious few were openly out in my rural, English countryside high school. It wasn’t
until university that I met people who were proudly out to their family and friends. I felt in
awe of these people. But none of them were bisexual.

Being Bi – An Introduction

I didn’t even know that bisexuality was a thing until my late-teens. Until then, I thought of
sexuality in black and white: you were either gay or you weren’t. I don’t remember when I
first came across the description of bisexuality, but I remember that it was the first time I
realized that I wasn’t alone, and that being attracted to men and women was actually a
thing.

Pinpointing an age that I realized I was into girls is tricky. But I would guess that I was
somewhere between the ages of 11-13 when I recognized what I was feeling. The shame I
felt can only be attributed to being so young and not having a lot of information around me
that I could turn to. In LGBTQ+ youth, the average age of coming out is decreasing. In a key
study from 2010 in the US, the average age of coming out was at its lowest ever age of 16
years old
– almost an entire decade younger than previously recorded.

A study from 2018 comes to the same conclusion about this age trend. It shows that on
average, Baby Boomers realized they were LGBTQ+ at 20 years old and came out at 23.
Comparatively, Millennials realized at 16 and came out at 18. This decrease is attributed
mainly to the media. More recently, Gen-Z have had a wealth of online communications
available to them to discover their own communities and find representation and validation
for their identities that I never had as a Millennial. It is this lack of information which made
me feel like I should be ashamed of how I was feeling.

I never spoke to any of my friends about being attracted to women for the fear that they
might think I was into them, or that I suddenly wouldn’t get sleepover invites. I didn’t want
to be that friend – the one that other girls spoke about in hushed whispers behind their
hands, moving away from me in the changing rooms. Online communities were in their
infancy, and I couldn’t even begin to comprehend how merciless my peers might be if I
tentatively admitted that I was attracted to women. Knowing it, however, burned deep
inside of me, no matter how much sand I tried to throw on the fire.

The Uni(versity) Experiment

Throughout my teens, I always dated men. Once at uni, I decided to experiment. In my first
year I went home with a girl that I met in a club, we had sex and I then slunk out of her
house at 4am and declared myself straight the next morning. My exploration into how I felt
about women stagnated for a while after this encounter. There was a lot going on. We were
both drunk and it was a clumsy but spirited attempt as both of our first times with women.
By the time I sobered up, I didn’t know how to deal with the aftermath and I felt a lot of
confusion. I was so not ready and I coped with this by another round of repression. But
whatever it was, it ensured that my bisexuality became, once again, strictly confined to my innermost thoughts and fantasies.

A year after this encounter, now nineteen, I moved universities and suddenly found myself
in a new city with a new sense of freedom. I felt more like an adult and I felt like now was a
good time to tentatively begin exploring my sexuality again. I started talking to women on
Tinder, flirting, planning dates, and even making out with women in clubs. I finally felt
comfortable enough in my sexuality to come out to my close friends in February of 2016 to
a warm and supportive response. But when I went back to my parents’ house in my
childhood town, I felt a jarring clash of identities.

There was this new version of myself who was openly bisexual at university, and this version
of me that my parents saw who had exclusively dated men. I had never even hinted that I
might be attracted to women. I wasn’t sure what to do. I was texting a girl I liked, but I
rationalised (somewhat defensively) to myself that I didn’t share every fling I had with a
man with my parents, so why should it be different just because I was seeing a woman?
Truthfully, I was anxious about the conversation. I didn’t want to have to explain myself
because I felt like I shouldn’t have to. So I said nothing.

As I became more aware of the bisexual community and it’s place in the LGBTQ+ space, it
felt harder to come out. From people I spoke to and off-handed comments online, it
seemed like bisexuals weren’t taken seriously, often being treated as college girls
experimenting, labelled ‘greedy’ or ‘more likely to cheat’, or seen as being in denial about
your identity. Bisexuality was treated almost as a half-way house before you inevitably came
out as ‘properly’ gay. I hated all of these insinuations that people knew more about my
sexuality than I did.

For the next few years I had casual flings with women in between my long term ‘straight-
passing’ relationships, but nothing was ever that serious. I began to notice in those years
that bisexuality was slowly becoming more included. On television, there has been a recent
increase in bi characters, like Rosa Diaz in Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Oberyn Martell in Game
of Thrones. I love seeing these figures which I can see myself in. It feels so validating – and I
imagine it’s the same for so many other people like me, too.

Coming Out Bi On Instagram

I assumed my days of wondering if I would ever publicly ‘come out’ were over once I was engaged, in the most ‘straight-passing’ a relationship can be. I had committed to spending
my life with a man so I grappled with what the point would be. But September is Bisexual
Visibility Month and it felt like the opportunity I had been subconsciously waiting for. And so on the cusp of turning twenty-five, I made a post about being bi and sent it out to the
public. It was scary but liberating – this felt like the ‘coming out’ moment I never thought I
would have.

So why did I bother to make a public Instagram post when I was engaged, especially after
being adamant that I wasn’t going to make a big deal about coming out? Truthfully, as much
as I felt defensive over my right to keep it private, I also felt like I had the same right to be
public. Social media is such a huge part of our culture. It has influenced the age trend of
young people coming out, and even though I was now older than that average age, I still felt
like I was comfortable to share something so personal online. It felt like a safe space to
share my identity now that I was so comfortable with myself.

The information and representation that I now had access to online helped me work
through the feeling of shame that I used to have when I was younger. I felt like I could be
true and honest to myself. The reception was positive. There was no dramatic backlash or
shocked messages. To most people in my life, this was anything but groundbreaking news.
As much as the post wasn’t for them, it was encouraging nonetheless to have such a good
response.

The Takeaway

My journey is one that goes back and forth like a swinging pendulum. I went between men
and women, between not wanting to explain my sexuality and then making a public
Instagram post. The road to coming out isn’t always linear. I have things that are still
unresolved. I can’t pack everything up into a neat conclusion … but that’s okay. You don’t
have to have everything figured out. The fun thing about sexuality is that it isn’t black and
white. It is fluid, it changes, and it’s messy. But I do know that what helped me was
being gentle with myself whilst honouring my truth, and having open conversations.

I still haven’t sat down and had the conversation with my parents. They saw my post on
Instagram and reacted positively and have not felt the need to bring it up again. It is hard to
open up to people, but know that there is always a community for you and someone to
listen at The Trevor Project if you ever need it.

Your identity is yours alone to honour and explore. Coming out comes at a different time for
everyone, and under so many different circumstances. So is there any point in coming out
when you’re in a ‘straight passing’ relationship? Fuck yeah, there is. If that is what
works for you.


About The Author

Based in the UK, Darcy (@dxrcyer on Instagram) is a BA and Master’s by Research graduate in History specialising in medical history. Her work focuses on violence on the body, the evolution of public views on anatomy, and corporeal metaphors through time. This also includes the presentation of the female body and the expectations of female dignity before public execution. Darcy is also a self-taught digital illustrator and this fascination with anatomy is also found in her work which combines messages of body positivity and female empowerment.

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