Updated: Oct 12, 2021
I knew I liked girls by the time I was seven, but coming to terms with my bisexuality has taken my entire life.
At the time I was convinced that there was something fundamentally wrong with me, so I developed a deep sense of shame and guilt, and I harbored my awareness of my sexuality for years.
There was a day during my freshman year of high school where the guilt grew to be too much and a rush of intense panic washed over me, and through thick sobs, I asked my best friend if she thought it was possible to like both boys and girls.
She said no, she didn’t think that was possible, and it was a wildly sobering moment for me. I composed myself quickly and yanked my truth back into secrecy, telling her that I had only been joking.
Instead of working through my inner turmoil, I dated a boy. I wouldn’t say he was my first love, but early into our relationship I became almost obsessed with the need to be wanted by him. I was fourteen, I thought I was living out my Bella X Edward dreams, leave me alone.
In reality, dating him only made it harder for me to deny my bisexuality. I was aware that I was attracted to him, but I was also painfully aware that my attraction to women had not diminished during my time with him.
This relationship lasted until the beginning of my junior year. Our dynamic was never healthy, as I’m sure you assumed from my admittance of obsession, but it only got more difficult to maintain when volleyball season came around and I realized I had a crush on one of my teammates.
The combination of an abusive teenage relationship and a super hot volleyball player pushed me to come out.
After days of feeling like an evil, adulterous troll ---- and an especially dramatic cry in the living room ---- my sister asked what was going on. All I could manage to say at first was that I liked someone else, but she knew who it was anyway.
She was incredibly supportive and that gave me the courage I needed to tell my mom.
Fifteen minutes after coming out to my sister I sent my mom a text, too mortified to have an actual conversation. I told her that “I like a girl” and how I hoped it wouldn’t change the way she looked at me.
Her response soothed me further, and I felt reassured that, even if some people didn’t approve, at least I had them in my corner. Telling my mom and sister was a relief, and I broke up with my boyfriend a couple of days later.
I was feeling emboldened after flipping my entire life upside down in just a few short days, so I figured why the hell not, I’m going to tell her I like her.
I was confident that the feeling was mutual after months of friendship and weeks of ~vibing~, so it was a huge blow to my baby gay soul when I was rejected and subsequently blocked on social media.
I was respectful of her discomfort and asked that she be respectful of my privacy as well because I wasn’t ready for everyone to know yet. She agreed but didn’t follow through, so when I noticed the funky stares from people around campus, I realized the only option was to fully own it.
When I officially came out to my friends and the rest of my family, I didn’t label my sexuality right away. Instead, I once again managed to choke out “I like girls” in between hysterical sobs. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was somehow letting everybody down.
I remember having a candid conversation about my sexuality with a family member shortly after coming out, and when I expressed that I thought I liked both boys and girls, I was told to “just pick one.”
I retreated into myself at the suggestion. It reminded me of the conversation I had with my best friend freshman year, and I felt the same humiliating vulnerability. I didn’t understand how something I had felt for so long could be wrong.
Looking back on it, I wish I had been kinder to myself at that moment. I wish I had given myself permission to speak, to say no, I don’t have to “just pick one.” I wish I had known there was so much more depth to sexuality and identity as a whole than this one person understood.
But I didn’t say anything. I didn’t defend the way I felt or communicate that what they said had hurt me. Instead, I told people I was a lesbian.
I knew I was ignoring the full scope of my identity when I claimed the lesbian label, and that came with its own share of shame and guilt. But I wanted to give myself the space and freedom to explore my sexuality, and the people around me seemed most comfortable with my exploration when there was a big “L” stamped across my forehead.
So, I held onto that lesbian identity for five years. It carried me through a four-year relationship, cost me the phone numbers of cute boys, and flooded me with doubt.
Calling myself a lesbian never felt right, because I’m not a lesbian.
When my girlfriend of four years and I broke up (for the last time), I allowed myself to fully embrace my bisexual identity.
My relationship with her had lasted so long that continuing to say I was a lesbian just made sense at the time. In reality, my attraction to someone has never been limited or confined by their gender identity.
As a child, I was embarrassed and confused by my sexuality because it seemed to stray so far from what was “normal.” As a teenager, I took the beliefs of those around me too seriously and denied myself the chance to truly be myself. But as a twenty-three-year-old, I am proud to be bisexual.
Today I’m married to a cishet man, but I no longer feel disconnected from my bisexuality. This relationship has been validating for me because I don’t have to defend who I am with him. He has never denied or sexualized my identity, he just respects who I am on all levels.
And while the impact of a support system is undoubtedly beneficial, I also had to put work in on my own to be okay with my bisexuality. Countless cry sessions and journal entries got me through a lifetime of internalized self-loathing, and now I know that nobody’s beliefs or opinions have power over who I am.
Bisexuality comes with bi-erasure no matter who you are dating. Being in an opposite-sex relationship means people simply assume you’re straight. When in a same-sex relationship, people immediately assume you’re gay. You combat the icky feelings this can cause by keeping your people close and putting in the work to heal and understand yourself fully.
Being bisexual can be uncomfortable. It’s hard to feel secure in yourself as a young person when the people around you tell you that the way you feel is not valid or real. It’s also hard to be confident in your bisexual identity as an adult when it’s so easily erasable. People will always talk and dismiss you.
But being bisexual doesn’t have to be a constant battle of trying to accept and prove yourself.
You are valid in your bisexual identity no matter how old you are, who you date, or how you figure it out. Be proud of you. I know I am.