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.