How to come out as bisexual

Coming out as bisexual can be a difficult thing to do.  We have to deal with a range of fears, including fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment and fear of being misunderstood.   While such fears are often unavoidable, if we get overwhelmed by fear then we can communicate poorly, making it hard for the person we’re coming out to to understand what we’re trying to say.

That’s why it’s worth thinking carefully through how you will come out, and making a basic plan to guide you, so that you don’t get thrown off course by your nerves.

There are many ways that you could come out, and you’ll probably want to stamp your individuality onto the guide below. The guide lays out some general principles which I hope will lay a foundation from which you can design a way of coming out which suits you and your personality.  Your backstory and current experience are unique to you, so be true to yourself and personalise your coming out in whatever way makes sense to you.

Most of the people we want to come out to, at least at first, will be the important people in our lives, such as partners, family and friends. This guide might not therefore be so appropriate if you are coming out to a work colleague or acquaintance.  However, many of the general principles in the guide could be applied to any coming out situation.

1) Accept and tolerate your anxiety about coming out

Anxiety is a normal reaction to the idea and process of coming out.  We might be afraid of rejection, misunderstanding, embarrassment, or prejudice among other things.  Accepting these nerves as unavoidable is crucial.  Anxiety doesn’t feel good, but it won’t harm you, and will subside shortly, especially after you’ve overcome the hurdle of actually saying, ‘I’m bisexual’.

Just let the fear be there, accept that it’s normal and inevitable.  It may help to reimagine the anxiety as a positive force that’s pushing you to come out, that’s wanting you to do something that will free you and make your life better.

2) Choose an appropriate time to come out

It’s important that there’s plenty of time and space to talk after you have revealed your bisexuality.  Choosing a private, calm and preferably familiar environment is sensible, so that the conditions are optimal for a relaxed conversation.  If you prefer a coffee shop or another relaxed public venue, and you think the person you’re talking to will feel comfortable there, then that could work too.

Try to avoid times when you know the person you’re wanting to come out to may be stressed – ie. just before or just after work.   Likewise, if they’re dealing with a particular stress or worry at a given time, then you might want to wait for another time when they are more relaxed before coming out to them.

3) Be as open as possible

Being open is important as it helps the other person understand your bisexuality better.  If they have any prejudices or faulty beliefs about bisexuality, then these will persist unless you can help them understand things differently, by explaining your bisexuality to them clearly.

It would be natural for the person you’re coming out to to have questions.  Be open to those questions, and make it clear that you’re happy to be asked and to share your experience.  This will establish that bisexuality is not a ‘sensitive’ topic which should be avoided, but a normal and interesting part of life, and something they can safely show an interest in in the future.

4) Explain you are bisexual using clear and simple language

Be straightforward in your word choice and descriptions so that it’s clear what you are communicating. Having an idea in advance of precisely how you’ll break the news can be very helpful, so that you don’t get overcome by nerves and find yourself rambling.

You could write down some ideas of what you want to say, and even memorise a few words or phrases that you’d like to include.

5) Affirm the importance of your relationship with the person you’re coming out to

Coming out is primarily something you do to improve your own wellbeing, but it can also help us build a better relationship with someone else.  Coming out is about wanting to involve another person more deeply in your life and experience. It’s about trust and intimacy and love, and enhancing all of these things.

So, if it makes sense to you, let the person know in your own way that they are important to you.  Doing so will also help put the person at ease, and underline the need for them to respond in a loving and considerate way to what you are telling them.

6) Dealing with any prejudice or negative reactions

For most people, coming out to the important people in their lives goes much more smoothly than they feared it might. This is because the people we are close to usually love us very much and want us to feel happy and free in our lives. Seeing us anxious or unhappy makes them unhappy too. Even if they find what you are telling them emotionally difficult, they will try to make you feel at ease and want to help and accept you.

However, sometimes we have to deal with a negative reaction from someone who we are close to, even if they are broadly kind and sympathetic towards us.  Even generally sensitive and decent people can hold some biphobic or homophobic beliefs.

If any such beliefs are expressed when you come out, it can be helpful to gently and calmly explain that those beliefs aren’t accurate.  Explaining the facts and true nature of bisexuality to others can transform their beliefs, which they have often arrived at not by rational thought, but by absorbing them from the wider society.

Biphobic and homophobic beliefs can also quickly wither away when someone realises that a person they love is bisexual.  Many times, casually held prejudicial beliefs are quickly reversed when someone is confronted with a bisexual person in their family or friendship circle.  You may even find that those who held such beliefs become your greatest supporters and champions.

Sometimes, sadly, biphobic and homophobic beliefs endure for longer.  When this is the case, we need to give a person holding such beliefs some time and space to reflect.

When you come out, if the person’s negative beliefs show no sign of changing during your conversation, then it’s probably better not to argue the point too much straight away.  Give them time to go away and consider what you have told them.

With continuing engagement with you as an ‘out’ bisexual person, they may come to abandon their beliefs over time.  Even if they cling on to those beliefs, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have a valuable relationship with that person, although it may prove challenging to tolerate their views, especially if they are keen to express them.

This blog post is an edited extract from my bookHow to be a Happy Bisexual: A Guide to Self-Acceptance and Wellbeingavailable here.

5 Great Bisexual Coming Out Videos

If you’re thinking of coming out as bisexual, then learning how other bisexual people have come out can be really helpful. Coming out videos provide an intimate way of sharing in another person’s experience. Watching these videos can help you build confidence in your own bisexuality. They also provide useful practical information on how to come out.

There are a huge variety of bisexual coming out videos on YouTube.  Here are five of my favourites:

1) Laci Green – ‘Comin’ Out!’

This video neatly summarises the challenges of coming out as bisexual, and emphasises a crucial point: coming out is your choice and you should do it whenever it feels right to do it. You don’t owe it to other people to come out, and coming out isn’t about proving anything to others.  As Laci says in her inimitable style, ‘I didn’t owe shit and neither do you!’

2) Alan Cumming – ‘True Bisexual Stories’

It’s great when public figures talk openly and articulately about their bisexuality, as actor Alan Cumming does in this video.

3) Fiona Dawson – ‘Coming Out as Bisexual’

Fiona speaks eloquently about how proudly identifying as bisexual can help break down stigma and negative attitudes to bisexuality from both straight and gay communities. She says ‘I will always choose to be authentic’.  A great message!

4) Gregory Ward – ‘My Coming Out Bisexual Story’

Greg shares his experience of coming out to family, friends and work colleagues. He has a warm and gentle way of expressing himself, so this is an ideal video to watch if you’re feeling troubled about coming out and need some calm, reassuring words.

5) Rosie (Roxeterawr) – ‘My Coming Out Story’

This passionate and frank coming out video covers a lot of ground, including the experience of biphobia in relationships, and the challenges of coming out to parents. Rosie also debunks some of the many myths and stereotypes about bisexual people. An inspiring video.

Have you come across any bisexual coming out videos that strike a chord with you? If so, feel free to post a link in a comment so I can check it out.

 

How coming out as bisexual can improve your life

There are many reasons why you might be considering coming out as bisexual.

You might be in love with someone and want to share that relationship with the important people in your life.  You might hate keeping secrets and want to be free to be yourself.

You might be troubled by your sexuality and need to talk it through with someone. You might want to start exploring new relationships, and share your experience with your family and friends.

You might want to tell an employer you are bisexual and that you want them to tackle biphobia in the office.  You might be out to your loved ones already, but want to come out more widely to increase the visibility of bisexuality in society.

There are all sorts of potential coming out situations, and many different motivations for coming out.

Coming out as bisexual is a very personal decision. It needs to feel right to you to come out. I don’t mean that you have to feel totally confident and comfortable about coming out – almost everyone will have to work through fear in order to come out. But it needs to make sense to you – it needs to be something that you want – that you hope will make your life better.

You may want to be out to some people and not others.  That’s fine – it’s up to you who you come out to, or indeed if you come out at all.

Accepting risk is an important step in the process of coming out. Your family might reject or think less of you; your same-sex friend might be uncomfortable around you; you could face discrimination or be treated unfairly.

But risk has to be balanced against reward – and the rewards of coming out are usually significant.  The level of intimacy in your relationships can increase; you can feel liberated from feelings of shame and worry, and you can experience a new freedom to explore your sexuality and find new relationships.

We also have to consider what the risks are of staying in the closet. For many bisexual people, the time comes when the pain of remaining closeted is greater than any potential pain of coming out.  It may seem safe to be closeted, but hiding your bisexuality can increase feelings of shame and low self-esteem.

Spirals of negative thoughts about our sexuality can go on and on when we don’t share who we are with others. By not coming out, we lose out on the love and support that a good friend, partner or family member can provide.

The process of coming out is often uncomfortable, sometimes painful, sometimes full of intense emotion, sometimes nerve-wracking.  It can involve working through embarrassment, fear and shame.

Coming out as bisexual can also be a powerful way of making a difference in society. Think back to your teenage years – did you wish there were some openly bisexual people in the public eye who you respected? Or how about in your personal social sphere – what if you had known a bisexual person who was living a happy life – a family member or friend?

The chances are that like me, you had no positive bisexual role models when you were young, and this impacted your self-esteem and led you to believe that it wouldn’t be possible for you to live a happy life as a bisexual.  Well, perhaps you could be that role model to others. Being out and open about your bisexuality offers someone else the chance to look at you as an example and understand that it is safe to come out and that you can lead a fulfilling life as a bisexual person.

Whatever the reason is that you’re thinking about coming out, it’s worth remembering that coming out usually has a very positive impact on your life, and many bisexual people discover that the things they feared might happen as a result of coming out, never actually happen. You might even change the world.

How to know for sure that you are bisexual

At some point in their lives, most bisexual people will have asked themselves, ‘How do I know if I’m bisexual?’. You might be asking yourself this question right now. Often the implication of the question is ‘Am I a ‘true’ bisexual?’, as if there’s a gold standard or generic way of being bisexual.

For some, being a ‘true’ bisexual may mean experiencing equal attraction to men and women, or if not equal attraction, then a fixed and clear attraction that doesn’t change over time.  If we don’t match up to the gold standard, then we can feel we don’t qualify as bisexual.

The reality of bisexual experience is that it’s diverse and hard to pin down in simple categories.  There is no gold standard, just like there’s no gold standard for heterosexuality or homosexuality. Bisexuality can be fluid and variable. Levels of attraction can change and fluctuate, as well as respond to circumstance and who is around you at a particular time.   Many bisexuals, therefore, find it very hard to say whether they prefer men or women.

Some bisexuals will have felt attraction to men and women since puberty or earlier, while others find themselves first attracted to members of both sexes later in life, having experienced only straight or gay attraction up to that point.  Some bisexual people are also attracted to transsexual and transgender people.

Uncertainty about whether we are bisexual usually arises not because we don’t know what our sexual desires are, but because we live in a society which doesn’t yet have an established, shared understanding of what bisexuality is.  In fact, society throws out a range of confusing and negative messages about bisexuality.

Sure, the idea that a bisexual is someone who is sexually attracted to men and women is widespread enough, but along with that idea come a host of myths and stereotypes which serve to invalidate bisexuality as a legitimate identity and way of being.

Among the negative messages about bisexuality prevalent in our society is the idea that bisexuality doesn’t exist as an ongoing sexual identity.  This idea suggests that bisexuality is just a developmental phase or a period of confusion that ends in hetero or homosexuality.  Sometimes identifying as bisexual is seen as a cover story for insecure gay people or straight people trying to be edgy or cool.

Bisexuals have to put up with other misguided beliefs including the notion that bisexuals are sexually voracious and promiscuous, incapable of monogamy and unable to be satisfied without simultaneous male and female partners.

So, how do you know if you’re bisexual? Here are some helpful things to remember:

  • There is no such thing as a ‘true’ bisexual. There are many different ways of being bisexual.
  • You do not need to have had sex with members of both sexes to be bisexual.  The key factor is attraction.  A celibate monk who has never had sex, and a porn star who has had a lot of sex can both be bisexual.
  • You do not need to be attracted to both sexes in exactly the same way and to exactly the same extent.  You might prefer men, you might prefer women, you might not have a preference, or your preference may change over time – it doesn’t matter, you are still 100% bisexual.
  • It is absolutely fine to be bisexual and unable to say whether you prefer one sex or another.  Heterosexual and homosexual people are not required to say whether they prefer short or tall partners, or blonds or brunettes.  Likewise, you are under no obligation to clarify your sexual preferences for others.
  • Ultimately, if you are capable of sexual attraction to both men and women to any degree, at any time, then you can choose to identify as bisexual.  Choosing to assertively identify as bisexual is one of the most powerful things you can do to build self-esteem and confidence in your bisexuality.

 

Why it’s hard to be bisexual and happy

Bisexual people face multiple barriers to living happy lives.

We suffer discrimination from both the straight and gay communities in the form of stigma and negative attitudes.  Myths and stereotypes about bisexuals are widespread – we don’t exist; we’re promiscuous; we can’t be monogamous; we need to have simultaneous relationships with men and women; we transfer disease from the gay community to the straight community; we’re confused; we’re going through a phase; we’re really gay; we’re really straight; the list goes on.

In most Western countries, the last ten years have seen huge advances in civil rights for gay and bisexual people, and attitudes to homosexuality are generally becoming more liberal.  Despite this, Western culture remains largely uncomfortable about bisexuality.

One study measuring social attitudes to a range of different communities (religious, racial, ethnic, political, sexual) found that bisexual people are viewed less favourably than all other groups except for intravenous drug users.

This unwelcoming cultural climate has discouraged bisexual people from coming out and assertively identifying themselves as bisexual.  Recent research shows that just 28% of bisexuals have come out to ‘all or most of the important people in their life’. The same research shows that 77% of gay men and 71% of lesbians are out to their ‘important’ people.  Many bisexuals end up identifying as straight or gay, in order to fit in and avoid discrimination.

The marginalisation of bisexual people not only pushes us into the closet, but impacts on our life chances. Studies consistently show that bisexual people have significantly poorer health outcomes than gay and straight people, as well as higher rates of poverty and unemployment.  Bisexual people also suffer higher rates of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Given these facts, it’s not surprising that it’s hard for bisexual people to be happy.  If you’re bisexual and struggling, remember this: it’s not your fault – there are a range of social factors beyond our control that make life very hard for us.

What I’m trying to do in this blog is show that even in an often hostile society, it is possible to become comfortable with being bisexual.  There are practical steps we can take to build our confidence as bisexual people.

Over the coming weeks and months I’ll be writing about how we can deal with the negative attitudes of others, as well as dealing with the negative feelings we have towards ourselves. I’ll write about coming out, relationships, and a range of other issues that affect our sense of wellbeing as bisexuals.  I’ll share my experience, too, as someone who used to feel unhappy about my bisexuality, but now feels comfortable and happy.

We can learn to feel good about being bisexual.  I believe that the more confident and open we become, the happier we will feel, and the more society will come to recognise, accept and make a place for bisexual people.