As a bisexual, I fully support the intention and continuation of coming out day, not just as an event where LGBTQ+ people can give a collective “f@£k you” to bigots who want to erase and dismiss them, but genuinely as a time when people can come out proudly and hopefully help other people feel less alone in this often harsh world.
However, like many good things, coming out day attracts just as many douchebags as it does brave folks, and while some of the douchebaggery might be well-intentioned it still can have a disturbing effect on bisexuals. So, because I’m sick of these things occurring every year, I’m going to lay out five biphobic things people do or say on coming out day. Hopefully, this might prevent some of this nonsense from happening from now on, whether you’re an ally looking to improve your coming out day etiquette or a bi who’s bitter about the same things I am, I hope this will be useful to you.
5. “But why don’t you identify as [insert identity here]?”
This is often an annoying question whatever the context is, bi people in particular get this question a lot because there’s so much misinformation about bisexuality going around others tend to be very confused and even shocked when they hear someone they know come out as bi.
Because of this confusion, such people offer “helpful” commentary such as: “Wouldn’t queer be a better label?” “Why not just come out as gay?” “How can you be [x] and bi at the same time?” “But you don’t look like a bisexual”, and “but aren’t you dating [x] gender?”
I assure you, people who ask these questions in response to people coming out, you are not the first people to ask these questions and there’s many resources answering your questions available through googling. Furthermore, even if there was a time and a place to be sceptical about the label choices of others (there isn’t), this is possibly the worst possible moment for you to do that.
Whenever someone comes out, it’s opening themselves up to abuse, rejection and general hassle, as well as opening up to others about a very personal aspect of themselves to seek a community where they can be safe and happy. It can be a pretty vulnerable time for them, loads of people trying to debate them on their identity as soon as they’ve revealed can be overwhelming.
Even worse, it can make people want to open up less about their identity or go back in the closet just to avoid getting into another argument about how “problematic” their labels are. If you do have genuine questions, try googling or asking someone at a later date.
And while I have your attention, fellow bi folks, don’t do this kind of thing to other identities on coming out day. If you feel the need to be critical or attack people for their label choices or orientation immediately after they’ve gathered the courage to take their first steps into being out and proud, you are part of the problem, yes that includes pansexuals and polysexuals, no exceptions.
4. “Wanna talk about your sexual experiences?”
Okay, so I’m paraphrasing slightly here, often people are not that polite or direct in asking this. After a bi person comes out, especially bi women, certain people believe that is an invitation to open a dialogue about what kind of sex they are having or have had.
This can take the form of asking for proof that someone really is bi: “So have you had sex with men/women yet?” Or, possibly creepier, it’s: “Would you like to experiment… with me?” I cannot emphasise enough how inappropriate this is for coming out day. Unless the person explicitly says they want to talk about sex and their sexual history, their coming out isn’t a declaration of wanting to talk about their sex life, past or present. That really isn’t the time to ask them to explore some of your sexual fantasies.
In short, bi people are not there for your sexual gratification, expressing or revealing anybody’s sexual orientation is not just about having sex or talking about sex. Again, nobody is going to be that impressed by being told that you think their sexuality is “hot”, sexualising someone who has just opened up about their identity is not that attractive. If you really do want to know about that side of the bi experience, you can again try google or get to know a bi person enough that it is neither awkward or inappropriate to discuss sharing both your sexual experiences with each other, you know, like you would do with any other human being.
3. “You’re coming out for attention”
Coming out does often attract attention, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, and that’s not always good attention. The idea that bi people come out specifically to seek attention and are “appropriating” coming out day for selfish purposes is one of the many lies that biphobes use to discourage bi folks from coming out of the closet and shame them for being happy with their orientation.
On a related note, people who declare “who cares?” dismissively whenever a bi person comes out. Again, this is not about you and your lack of understanding over who cares about people coming out, the main reason anyone comes out is because it holds some significance to them, that should be enough justification for anybody to come out.
2. “If you don’t come out, you’re living a lie/have no bi pride/are not really bi”
There’s a disturbing trend of folks believing that not openly disclosing that you are bi means that you are somehow lying to others, and yourself, because you are either ashamed of your sexuality or are not really committed properly to bisexuality.
This idea is coupled with the notion that being out and proud as bi does not carry the same risks and stigma as being out as anything else, which is another biphobic and dangerous lie.
The reality is that bi people face just as many risks of violence, rejection, discrimination and abuse as any non-straight person does, sadly not everyone is safe enough to come out. You can be filled with bi pride but are still not come out because doing so would affect your life in a negative way, whether it’s a biphobic workplace or an unsupportive family/partner.
If you are a bi person in such a situation, it sucks, but it does not make you any less bi, a liar or a bad bisexual. There is no obligation for anybody to come out on coming out day, and there’s no one way to come out of the closet. You never have to uncloset yourself to people who could hurt you in some way to be valid, whether it’s just limiting coming out to a few friends/family members you trust or just to yourself, that’s just as legitimate a coming out as shouting it from the rooftops.
And even if it is safe for you to come out, but you simply don’t want to come out as bi on coming out day or ever, for whatever reason, that’s valid too.
1. “You should come out for better bi visibility”
Wrong, totally and completely wrong. I don’t know how this notion got started but it needs to stop, especially when coming from “LGBT-friendly” sources. As stated before, you do not have to come out for any reason if you don’t want to. While more bi people being out and proud doesn’t really hurt bi visibility, no bi has any obligation to out themselves even if it supposedly is to combat bi erasure.
Too often bi people feel guilty and responsible for the lack of bi representation, it makes them feel obligated to come out when they don’t really want to, to put themselves at risk when they really shouldn’t. To put the onus on them to relieve their own oppression, or to make them feel that they’re not doing their bit by not coming out, is nothing short of disgusting.
There is no “should” in coming out day, it provides an opportunity for people to come out if they want to and find inspiration in others who also want to come out, nothing major is lost if a bi person doesn’t take the opportunity. There are many more opportunities to come out, the only thing you “should” do when coming out is come out on your own terms and at your own pace. And if you never come out, that’s also valid, you’re not hurting anybody by doing that, let alone yourself or the bi community.
The only people responsible for biphobia are biphobes, and all they have to do is stop being biphobic, that’s remarkably easier and safer for all despite how much they belly-ache over it.
Alex Liddell is the deputy editor of Bitopia and a non-binary bisexual with a love of pop culture. They also blog at obscuricom.com and tweet from @obscuricom.