By Katy Ray
Spring time is here! The flowers are coming out, the sun is coming out, and maybe some of you are contemplating coming out.
For many people in the LGBTQ community, coming out can pose its own risks. From homophobic family members to a discriminatory workplace, coming out can be a painstakingly difficult process, full of fear, trepidation, and insecurity. Although there are so many of us who have cocooned ourselves in the protective bubbles of progressive urban cities like New York, DC, and LA, there are still others–many, many others–who live in places and spaces that are unaccepting, intolerant, and ignorant of the queer community and all its beauty.
In hopes of helping you spring out of the closet and into the gay and glorious light, we’ve interviewed a few out and proud queer persons for our spring writing series. From coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, to coming out as an ally to the queer community or coming out to your colleagues as a drag king or queen, this series will speak just a few of our thousands of truths. While it’s nearly impossible to capture the vast spectrum of our varied identities and experiences, perhaps this series will ignite something that lies deep within you, Quties!
Part 1: Coming Out as Bisexual
It’s often said that bisexual people have an unfair disposition in both the gay and straight dating worlds. Gay women may assume that a bisexual woman will “always leave for a man,” while a straight man may always try to turn a woman’s bisexuality into his ultimate fantasy. Educating both gays and straights about bisexuality can help alleviate some of that classic discrimination bisexual people are unfortunately subjected to; hence, our interview with Carmen. Below, she describes what it was like to embrace her own bisexuality and to come out to her Mexican-American family.
Before we can come out to our family, friends, and colleagues, we first have to come out to ourselves. How old were you when you started coming to terms with your sexuality?
I always felt myself drawn to both men and women even when I was younger. I didn’t have a relationship until college and that was when I first labeled myself, and it was mostly because other people needed that label more than I did. I’ve always just been drawn to whomever I liked at the time.
What did coming out look like for you? When did you come out to your family or colleagues?
My parents were always super open-minded. They raised me to be the same. When we actually had to sit down and have “the talk,” I honestly thought it would be easy, that they would just accept me absolutely. They struggled–I could tell they wanted to be more supportive, but I think it was just too much because it was THEIR kid. It’s easy to be open-minded with other people’s kids.
It took about a year, which was awkward and filled with sometimes forced smiles. Then one night they watched this documentary called For the Bible Tells Me So. After that, they did a complete 180 and began to support me. My mom was ready to march on Washington for me. I could feel the change: what was before a forced support was now genuine. They stood up for me fiercely, even to their closest friends. It took an adjustment period, but they have been by my side since, always supporting my identity.
What initial fears did you have in regards to coming out?
I honestly was more scared for my extended family. Growing up in a Mexican family, I was worried about their acceptance. We are incredibly close, and I didn’t want them to treat me differently. Some of my extended family still calls my ex my old “roommate”.
What advice would you give to anyone struggling with coming out at work, school, or to family?
It’s ok if there’s a transition time. I had this expectation that it would be immediately fine, like I’m sure some people assume it will be immediately horrible. I think it’s allowed to evolve. That documentary really helped my parents; it helped them find answers to questions they didn’t even know they had. As a parent myself, I know you just want to be the best parent you can be. Don’t stop trying or talking…keep trying to find a different way to have the conversation. Sometimes it just takes the right combination of words. My parents are my biggest allies now, and I’m glad I didn’t give up that first year.
Photo of a proud bisexuwhale.
Of course, not everyone will have the same experience as Carmen. If you rely upon your parents for physical shelter or financial support, coming out as LGBTQ can seem like a scary, unstable choice to make.
Always consider your personal safety when deciding to come out. A good rule of thumb is that if it hurts you more to keep it a secret–if you feel like you want to hurt yourself–it’s better to come out. However, if you are financially dependent upon your parents, it may be best to wait to come out until you can gain your financial footing or independence. If you’re dependent upon your parents, but are considering coming out, have a place to stay lined up with an accepting friend in the event that your parents or loved ones aren’t able to accept the news.
Coming out to your parents, family, or friends can be intimidating, but if you’re ready to take that step, remember that you are strong and resilient. You deserve to be proud of exactly who you are.