[I wrote this for National Coming Out Day, but have been rather ill since I drafted it, so only just getting around to posting it.
I was asked to write this piece by a friend of mine when I was trying to explain to her how coming out isn’t a one time only kinda thing]
You don’t come out just once.
So many people presume heterosexuality as being the obvious default that for someone who isn’t attracted to/only to people of the opposite gender, there are always people who don’t know, people who are making incorrect assumptions about your sexuality. On a regular basis you have to choose whether or not to correct them. Whether or not to come out. Whether or not it’s worth it this time.
The first time I came out I walked hand in hand into a place of work with a woman I had kissed the previous night, where I was met with colleagues telling me they had seen me the night before, that it was hot as hell, and asking if this meant I didn’t like boys any more. I hadn’t been kissing a girl for any reason other than the fact I fancied her, but I didn’t have the words to really explain this (other than that simple statement), nor did I have the words to say much more than that I liked both men and women. I learned how to express my sexuality quite effectively though as I spent the next few years with men trying to convince me and said woman to have a threesome with them.
Was it worth it? Yes. Despite the hassle I got afterwards, it was worth it as it was the first time I really admitted in public that I liked both women and men. I found something very empowering in making the decision to own my sexuality at that point in my life…
Then there was the time I was forced to come out. A man I had been dating for a while had been told by a friend of his that I had slept with women in the past, and he wanted to know if this meant I was promiscuous. By this stage I was older, wiser, and far more able to explain that sleeping with a woman rather than a man provided no insight into how promiscuous I was.
Was it worth it? Well, I didn’t really have a choice. I didn’t think it was really any business of anyone else at the time who I had slept with in the past, and had clearly made the decision not to get to tell the guy I was dating at the time too much about my past. It did however have the benefit of pointing out to me that I should probably end my current relationship…
Another time I came out was while talking to mental health professionals when trying to get treatment for depression. The woman I was talking to asked about my sexual and romantic history, so innocently I provided it, mentioning both male and female ex partners. She raised her eyebrows about these, and told me it may be indicative of an underlying instability. I was more than a little angry about this, ranted to a few friends as soon as I left the room, but wasn’t in a place to do anything about it. Given the response, which also made me close down about being open about any other parts of my life history, made me feel that someone was trying to interpret my sexuality as a sign that there was something wrong with me, it certainly didn’t feel worth coming out this time.
And then there was the time I mentioned a girlfriend to my father. And the last time I consciously mentioned an ex girlfriend to my work colleagues because for some reason at the time it felt important. And… And…
I can’t count how many times I’ve either had to or chosen to come out to different groups and individuals. And I know that I’m not alone in this – it’s something that many of my non-heterosexual friends have experienced. When you ‘come out’ the first time, it may be that you tell someone significant – be that close friends or family – but it is far from the only time you will have to own your sexuality, and correct other people’s preconceptions.
And each time takes the same calculations about whether or not it is worth it this time, whether or not you’re in the place to deal with possible questions, and how important it is to be true to yourself measured against any possible negative judgments or repercussions.
Although time makes it easier– and for me at least, so does the fact that I’m lucky enough to have been born in a country where my sexuality isn’t illegal – there are still too many instances when I slightly hold my breath as I casually drop in mention of an ex girlfriend when in conversation with people who aren’t aware, those who are newer in my life and haven’t known me when I’ve been dating a woman (the last significant woman in my life was pre-university).
And because I’ve realised it does matter to me that I don’t feel I’m having to hide a part of who I am, and because most people do still tend to default to presuming you are straight unless you say otherwise, and because I plan to keep meeting new people, people who don’t know that I’m attracted to both men and women, I guess I’m going to have to keep on coming out.
4 thoughts on “Coming out. Again”
Hey, don’t know if it’s helpful, I don’t know when I became aware of your sexuality but I don’t think it necessarily ever struck me that you were straight, maybe that’s because of my own sexuality or maybe you did mention it to me but I don’t remember.
I always find it difficult to judge when to out myself, I have had shocked reactions and ‘duh!’ type reactions, though maybe I’m in a special position having grown up with a bi dad and a gay godfather who has been in a long term relationship all my life.
My most memorable outing was when my mum once suggested to my gramps that I might find myself a woman instead of the man he hoped I’d find. He replied ‘don’t put ideas in her head.’ (which I found kind of quaint, however I’d never even considered it was his business tbh, at least until it became an issue and required a discussion).
I’ve also found it quite intimidating on occasion to be bi without having had any female partners, almost as if I’m some kind of pretender. Either way, I find the way we as a society view this stuff fascinating. Gender and sexuality dynamics are really very interesting to me and I found myself identifying with your post a lot.
Either way, as you point out, I’m very glad I live in a country and a time when we can be out at all, to whatever degree we wish/can manage.
Or, instead of delivering the a bit modified coming out speech, you can just show your happiness to the world by holding your partner’s hand 🙂
Why coming out at all when you could simply hold your partner’s hand and kiss them in public? You are allowed to love whoever you want without having to explain yourself unless you personally want to 🙂 Coming out is essential when talking about accepting yourself, mainly. Once you’ve had your coming out to yourself, then follows the family and the closest friends (may not be in that order). If they know, the rest of the people you’ll meet further on don’t really need to know about your sexual orientation unless you decide to tell them. yes, they will be curious but curiosity is part of us.
As for others, honestly said-if you decide you’re gonna keep coming out, you may get the reaction: experimenting. Since you identify as bi, remember that not many valid our sexuality (a bi person here). It you were gay, it would be something different (meaning: it wouldn’t be “experimenting”).
This is why, I personally don’t believe in further coming out. Once I’m out (still in the closet, sadly 😦 ..) I won’t feel the need to come out to every single person I’ll meet 🙂
The point is that even that is an act of ‘coming out’ and making a statement. Even if you don’t necessarily have the conversation following on from that with every individual who sees you doing that.
But thank you for sharing your perspective. I completely agree the most important thing is being comfortable yourself with your own sexuality and being happy with a partner. And good luck to you – I hope you feel able to come out in the future, and if you need any moral support, please do get in touch!
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