Last week was UCD LGBT’s Coming Out Week, while Friday was International Coming Out Day. For many people out there, you’ll never have to know what it is like to have to “come out” to friends and family. If the statistics they always mention in the movies are true, about 10% of you will know what it feels like.
Coming out as identifying with one of the letters in LGBT is a bizarre experience. Depending on your situation, it can be the most stressful decision you’ve ever made. For others, it’s not even a decision you end up making for yourself. In a way, I fall into that second category.
I have known that I am bisexual pretty much since I became sexually aware, but I would say that I have only accepted it since I was around 16-years-old. I have been officially ‘out’ for over a year now, but I didn’t exactly let myself out of the closet in the first place.
It would be petty to get into the details here, so I’ll just say that nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, gives you the right to out someone against their will. The act of disclosing your sexual orientation or gender identity with someone else involves a huge amount of trust. If someone trusts you with that information, don’t ever make them regret that.
One of the main reasons that bisexual people, particularly bisexual men, don’t come out is because of a lack of understanding of bisexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation among the general public.
As a teenager, realising that you are interested in more than the one gender is an intensely confusing experience. If you are gay or straight, at least you know that. For years, I simply couldn’t reconcile in my mind the fact that I found men attractive as well as women.
There is a perception out there that when people say they are bisexual, it is either for attention (this usually refers to women) or you’re just saying it to ease people into the idea of you being gay (this usually refers to men). Both of these perceptions are harmful and pretty awful, really.
If someone tells you they identify a certain way, it’s probably because they do. You shouldn’t think that someone has an ulterior motive for coming out of the closet. Stigmas like these are what keep people in the closet.
For me, I found it pretty easy to hide my sexuality; I limited myself to only getting with girls and went over the top with pretending to be gay sometimes in order to make it feel like the idea of me being gay was preposterous. In reality, I was expressing a part of me that I usually suppressed. Hiding in plain sight and all that
I have always been intensely passionate about sports, something that makes people assume you’re straight. It’s strange how people’s ideas of sexual orientation are so firmly tied up in gender roles. I acted like a man is expected to act, so people assumed I was straight.
I fully intended to go through life without ever properly coming out, because I felt like I could just ‘pass’ as straight. Even to say that I’m bisexual isn’t entirely accurate. I’m actually pansexual. That means that I can be attracted to people of all gender identities, not just the binary of men and women.
When I finally did come out, even if it wasn’t entirely on my own terms, I honestly felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true. Trying to hide something like that for so long really does take its toll after a while.
It is amazing how much of a difference that can make in your day-to-day life. I honestly didn’t even realise how much energy I was wasting everyday to keep myself hidden. It’s like putting on weight gradually, over the space of a few years, and then suddenly having liposuction to remove all the weight you gained over the last few years.
It helps that I had a strong core group of friends and family who I could rely on during it all. If you have someone going through the process of coming out (and, believe me, it can be a very long process), the best thing you can do for them is just remain visible.
Let them know that you’re still around and that their sexual orientation or gender identity does not change the dynamic of your relationship. This is especially important if the friend is the same gender as you, as they will likely be worried that everyone of their gender now assumes they’re attracted to them.
It’s strange that guys who complain about no girls liking them automatically think that every non-straight guy wants to jump their bones. Likewise, the same thing happens with girls too. It’s a bizarrely egotistical homophobia that won’t ever really make sense to me, not that any form of homophobia ever does.
There are hundreds upon thousands of helpful pieces out there designed to help people who are gay during their coming out process, such as Jack’s column in this issue’s LGBT* Outreach column.
That’s not my expertise, but I do know what it is like to struggle to come to grips with a sexual orientation that encompasses more than one gender. I suppose the whole point of writing this is to try and do something that might help someone who was in a similar position to me, because it’s very difficult to find informative pieces about bisexuality or pansexuality if you don’t know where to look.
I doubt I’ll live to see the day when people genuinely don’t care about sexual orientation and gender identity, but it’s a nice thought. You can do your part to get us there by realising that there are much more important things about people, like who their favourite band is.