When I came close to dating a girl I knew during high school, I realized I was still questioning (and that I was petrified of) coming out — and so I told her that I couldn’t be her girlfriend. She didn’t exactly take it well, leading to a lot of online posts about how I was “this girl who rejected her” and how her followers were right: that I was just a straight girl who was queerbaiting her. Truth be told, I think it pushed me back further into the closet than any rumor ever did. I felt like a monster, all because I wasn’t ready to come out.
I kept my sexuality to myself, as I had for years, and lived in terror of someone finding out. There were days I wouldn’t even like queer content online for risk someone noticed. When I did figure out what my identity was, it didn’t get any easier. I thought to myself, after all that trouble, “at least I would’ve come out as a lesbian, but no, of course I’m bisexual.” I hated who I was, and a large part of that stemmed from my environment.
It’s no secret that bisexuality isn’t always looked upon with the most kindness in both the straight and queer communities. I’ve seen and heard everything from the “pick a side,” the “it’s a phase,” the “it’s just an excuse to sleep around,” the “isn’t that just on the way to being gay” to the “Pride isn’t really for you” arguments. Even the original version of “The L Word” called bisexuality “gross.” Popular media doesn’t exactly help either.
Bisexuals make up more than half of the LGBTQ population, but you might not know it if you watch television. Or movies. Or read newspapers regularly. For the longest time, the phrase “bisexual” wasn’t explicitly said in popular media. A character could have romantic and sexual encounters with people from different genders, but they would be portrayed as promiscuous, not bisexual. Thankfully, that’s beginning to change. Characters on shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Schitt’s Creek” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” have been explicitly described as bisexual. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” had an entire episode dedicated to the unique struggle that Detective Diaz faced when she came out as bisexual. There’s still a long way to go, however.
For me, the trouble later became that, after comfortably living in the closet for so long, it became more of a rent-controlled studio apartment — I was really behind on queer culture. When I was younger and encountered queer friends and groups, it felt like everyone listened to the same music, knew the same people, watched the same movies and everyone laughed at the same U-Haul jokes. I hadn’t seen Blue is the Warmest Color (still haven’t), I hadn’t even come close to kissing a girl (finally did that) and, most importantly, I was still very much in the closet — and still kind of am. I wasn’t proud and any attempts to come out were often quickly quashed by a single comment. Once again, I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, not even in the community I had longed for this whole time.
Thankfully, college has helped a lot with that. There are days where I feel as though I fit the “bisexual mold” a bit better and there are some days I still feel like an outsider. The difference is, now, I’m okay with that. I’ve been to Pride and back again, and love that I can’t be put into a box. I love being a part of queer culture, and I also love that there are many facets to my personality outside my sexuality. I’m laughing at jokes with my friends and can comfortably ask someone to explain the punchline when it doesn’t land. And I no longer feel like I have to prove myself to anyone — we’re all worthy of acceptance.
All jokes aside, being a “gold star lesbian” doesn’t make you better than anyone else. Having a boyfriend doesn’t make me any less bisexual. Gender is a spectrum! So is sexuality! Come out when you want to! It’s okay to be scared of confusion! There is no “right way” to be queer!
Whether you’re gay, lesbian, pansexual with a preference for women, bisexual who’s only been with men, asexual or any part of the LGBTQ community (including questioning), I have one thing to tell you: You’re doing just fine. Even if you try out a different label five years down the road to see if it fits you better, you’re still you. You’re right, so long as you don’t make anyone else feel excluded.
Elizabeth Short is a junior majoring in English and is assistant Opinions editor.