My coming out story is a little unconventional. I did not craft some careful plan to unveil my identity. Instead, my coming out consisted of a few too many drinks and a slip of the tongue that revealed to my boyfriend that I may not be completely straight.
I had wanted to tell him I was queer for some time. I mean, of course, who would not want to tell their biggest secret to the person they are closest to? He is my best friend and the one person I wanted support from the most. Yet, I could never figure out the right time, place or way to say it. Until one day, I threw some drinks back and thought “What the hell…NOW IS THE PERFECT TIME!”
I cannot recall exactly what I said to him, but I imagine it went something along the lines of:*Giggle, stumble, slur* “So…what if I didn’t just like guys?”
Of course, he was confused and wanted to know what I meant and where this was coming from. He started asking questions as I panicked and shut down immediately. I assumed this was the end of my lengthy three-year relationship. In my mind, he was going to hate me for “lying” to him or think of me as some freak he could not possibly be in a relationship with.
To my surprise, I was wrong. He calmed me down and gave me one last question: “Well…do you still love me? Do you still want to be with me?”
I told him, yes. That was not what this was about. I did not want to be with someone else; I wanted to share this integral part of myself with him. This news obviously came as a shock and took some getting used to, but it was worth the awkwardness to know that I no longer needed to hide myself, at least from him.
Many people in the queer community will tell you that coming out is not a one-time event. You do it every time you meet someone new, every time you behave in a way that does not fit into the norm of heterosexuality.
Being a cis, femme, bi woman in a heterosexual relationship, I deal with this a lot. Really, my relationship has the potential to invalidate my identity by totally erasing who I am. I “look” straight, and there is no woman in my life “proving” otherwise. Therefore, I am not straight enough for one population or queer enough for the other; I am just a strange anomaly that nobody wants to acknowledge. This judgement from both sides excludes certain groups of queer people and keeps them from feeling any sense of community. Because bisexual people do not fit neatly into the gay/straight paradigm, it is easier to disregard our existence and refuse our membership than adjust the existing communities and spheres of support
In one instance, I was in class discussing whether or not an LGBTQ+ person needed to make their sexuality known to signal camaraderie with others in the community. After explaining the imminent discrimination one would risk facingㅡpossibly losing their jobs, relationships and moreㅡa classmate said to me, “Well, none of us are really in this community, so I think it is hard to say.” This comment was one of the first microaggressions I faced after coming to terms with my sexuality and identifying as an LGBTQ+ person. The newness of this identity in my life and the underlying judgement that lay in her voice made me feel insignificant, invisible even. I thought to myself: “How am I ever supposed to embrace this part of myself, when people are going to continuously tell me that my thoughts and experiences are not representative of the LGBTQ+ community?”
Here is what gets me: what tells you that I am not a part of this community? If I chopped my hair, wore masculine clothing or put a rainbow pin on my backpack, then would you guess I belong?
If you have made similar mistakes in assuming a person’s sexuality, I understand. I do not condone it, but I understand why: this is how our society programs us to operate. Humans want to make things simple and efficient. By defining a population in such a narrow way, it makes it much easier to categorize and judge others. However, it also leads to discrimination and homophobia. Many people are taught to think that “gay” means men with high voices and women with short hair. These assumptions of what “being gay” looks like not only mark individuals who fit into those categories as open targets, but neglects a huge portion of the LGBTQ+ population and ignores the wonderful complexity of each individual within the community.
My relationship has been great. My boyfriend has done his best to support me through this process of self-discovery and always expresses his love for me just the same. However, it is difficult to not feel the least bit of remorse for our relationships, as his mere presence teaches people to make assumptions about who I am and who I love.
It is easy to make assumptions and have a desire to put everyone in a categorical box, but life is not that easy. You cannot possibly know who is attracted to, simply by taking a look at them (or even by judging the relationship they are in now).
My relationship is not what limits me. It is the onlookers who rope me in with the countless other straight couples they know and assume there is nothing unique beneath the surface. Do not use my partner (or anyone else’s) to trick yourself into thinking you can pinpoint my identity and make assumptions. Life is not that simple. Let people be who they are without putting an unnecessary pressure on them to constantly validate who they are. Being queer is about living outside the heterosexual relationship binary. We may not make sense in a word that divides us exclusively into two limited categories, but that does not mean we should have to continuously explain and justify ourselves. Doing so is exhausting, and most of us do not have the time or energy to constantly do so.