A personal account of quiet biphobia.
My parents are socially liberal and loving people and made it clear to me from an early age that it was okay if I was gay. I was told it was fine, it was acceptable, and if I ever brought home a girlfriend, they would love me exactly the same. I’m pretty sure my dad was convinced I was a lesbian from my teen years on and didn’t mind at all (a bunch of his high school and college friends were gay).
But I also saw my mom roll her eyes at the girl who identified as bisexual at our dance studio and heard her quote the tired adage that there are no bisexuals; just gay men still half in the closet and straight girls who want attention. Now my mom isn’t a cruel or intolerant person; she’s loving and warm and an amazing human being. But she’d absorbed the cultural idea that bisexuality isn’t real/is a fad/is only the purview of attention seekers or a sign that someone is confused over whether they’re gay or not.
So the message became clear: Gay is okay. Bi is not.
I was sixteen the first time a girl kissed me and I got butterflies in my stomach. I was eighteen when, at the bottom of a drunk-hot-coed-cuddle pile, I realized my panties were far wetter than they should be, then put the dots together and figured out I had sexual attraction to women.
If I had been exclusively attracted to women, this wouldn’t have been a problem. I would have come out as gay and had a big hug party with my parents and my mom probably would have gotten a rainbow decal on her car.
But I was dating a guy at the time and I still liked guys. I wasn’t gay; I was bisexual. And to admit as much would just make me an attention-seeking whore or a poor confused soul. So I kept my mouth shut.
I kept my mouth shut long after I graduated college and said guy and I broke up. I was twenty-three or twenty-four by the time I came out, in a simple phone conversation with my mom.
I told her I was bi.
“No, I’m bi.”
“Oh, so you’re not sure.”
“No, I’m definitely sure. I like both guys and girls.”
“Well, lots of people think both sexes are aesthetically attractive…”
“I experience sexual attraction to men and to women, mom.”
“When did this happen?”
“I mean, I think I always have been, but the first clue was back when [girl’s name] kissed me at [high school summer program] in 2006.”
“….Oh. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I didn’t want you to think I was just looking for attention.”
To this day, I’m still not sure she gets it, though she’s made it clear she doesn’t mind who I bring home. I think she still thinks I’m confused over being gay or not. Dad genuinely doesn’t appear to give a flying fuck and has never brought it up beyond asking if I’m dating any cute boys or girls. Overall, I’m very fortunate. My parents love me and haven’t rejected me for my sexuality and won’t reject any partner I have.
But I still stayed in the closet for years longer than I would have if I was simply gay. Not necessarily out of fear of rejection, but more out of fear of invalidation.