The beginning is filled with lies. There’s supposed to be a big moment with tears and either some acceptance and hugs or shunning and homelessness depending on the story you’ll have to tell until you die. Coming out for me was nothing like that. I don’t even remember the first person I told. People had tried to coax it out before, sure; the bisexual woman I dated in early 2015 got me to admit that I’d looked at men too. She saw the pain behind my eyes. She didn’t push it. She grinned in that sly way she always did and reached across the bed for her lighter and touched up her cigarette and never brought it up again.
At least I know the timeframe. At least I know that I don’t have the luxury to have known since the beginning like many lesbians and gays: “monosexuals,” some have called them. I questioned it when I was fifteen. That was the first time the thought of being with a man-any man-crossed my mind. It distressed me. There were many things I didn’t know about myself. I had been diagnosed as obsessive compulsive. I had been groomed by a pedophile. I was homeless. There was too much going on at once to afford a period of self-reflection over something I didn’t understand.
I don’t know if it went away for a while after that. I don’t know if I was good at hiding it or if I became blind to my own micro mannerisms and words and actions and look. I lived in a household that made me fight it. My mother knew I was a faggot and never scoffed at the chance to remind me. I always fought back. I was Normal. I was straight. I liked women. I didn’t know what kind of man I would like, therefore, I couldn’t be anything but Normal. That’s how I stayed in my own head even after I left.
Men propositioned me. I am small. Hideously boyish. Baby-faced. A girl I saw in late 2016 asked if I was bisexual since men seemed to want me. I told her no. She said ok as though she actually believed me.
We went splits. I was alone, again, but I expected it. The majority of my life is spent alone with brief periods of a single person’s courtship. I can’t bear the burden of dealing with two potential partners at once. It isn’t in my DNA. I couldn’t be bisexual, even as the thoughts of men identical to those of women creeped in the recesses of my mind regardless of sobriety or wakefulness or time of day. Bisexuals are supposed to be promiscuous and fuck someone new every week. They’re supposed to be attractive to all who lay eyes on them and I knew that I wasn’t. That’s how I knew. Because I hated myself.
I stayed alone and it made the thoughts worse. They intruded on everything. They gnawed at me. They pissed me off. Wikipedia said: Homosexual OCD. So straight you think you’re gay. You continue to question it. It drives you insane until you crack or it disappears just like everything else.
The former coworker I dated the summer after didn’t work out. She was fun but we had nothing in common. She wasn’t poor. She worked for spending money. Her parents foot the bill for the new loft in Boston. We went splits soon after. I was sad because she was beautiful and I convinced myself I’d never have sex again.
I went home a few nights later and lay in my bed. There were no more thoughts. I was alone with a single admission wrapped around me.
That was what it took to be free.
I don’t remember the first person I admitted it to. I went to a punk show in Providence with some friends two weeks later. It makes sense in my mind because that was where I met him. We talked. He was funny, he was gentle, his smile was bright, he didn’t talk down to or fetishize me. For the first time, I wasn’t scared. I was ready to be happy. I got his number. He paid for my drink. We never broke eyes. The friends drove me home and I knew I was enamored because his name rang in every heartbeat like so many women before in my adolescence.
“You know he’s gay, right?” the snotty one asked from the seat behind me.
I looked not out the window but at my reflection as I said the words.
“I’d hope so.”
They all snapped into silence. The driver, the dude I’d known since I was twelve, grinned first my way laughing than at himself. I bit my tongue to keep from smiling. Minor Threat was the only sound the whole way back. I never saw the kid behind me again.
They never tell you that in the beginning you’re left to face the consequences by yourself in a moment of light flittery silence.
The heavy shit came after. A week of texts gave way to dates in Providence. He was middle management at a PR firm. His specialty was talking, he was always fond of saying. Dates gave way to his apartment, and love in the dark I’d never known. He was thin and corded and gentle and patient. I’ll never forget the smile when I admitted after the first time that it had been my first time. All he did was sneer and kiss my button nose and close his eyes and breathe warmth on me. There, in the dark, was a home worth dying in.
We didn’t last long. I didn’t know his reputation. Scoops, they’re called around here. They chase first timers. In the end that was all I was. I didn’t mind. He taught me more about myself than any lover before.
The first time I came out to family was also on a ride back to my house. I was complaining about an Uber driver who dressed like money yet still looked like shit and played Kenny G and tried telling me that Puerto Rico wouldn’t be out of power if they all had jobs.
“And I’m bi,” I told my brother, “So I always think he’s hitting on me.”
He and his roommate/driver looked at each other and blinked. We continued to complain about people. It filled the gnawing silence mercifully.
The last lie is the easiest. Coming out isn’t the end. It’s only the beginning of another part of your life.
Next come the consequences that have run through your mind for weeks. Erasure: perhaps the greatest form of casual discrimination. “I don’t understand, therefore you don’t exist.” You remind yourself of places on Earth where an admission that you have been with men is a death sentence. It doesn’t matter to them that you’ve been with women in the exact same way, or how many, or what you’ve felt towards either or to any other gender. You are a perversion to them. You deserve to be shunned and have a pink triangle slapped on your forehead and shoved somewhere where you and the 9 million other bisexual Americans can be quietly erased.
I couldn’t come out just for me. I came out for them. Whether it be from the straight people who are already convinced that I’m an abnormality or from the gay men who will treat me like a tryhard Judas or other minorities whose cultural heroes want my kind dead, I am loud about who I am because they try to silence us. I fight their stereotypes every time I say those two accursed words because I fit none of them. I am not promiscuous. I am not conventionally attractive. I never “switched teams.” I don’t sound feminine when I talk. I have an average relationship with my father. What and whom I have loved is beyond comprehension and that is terrifying.
I may be comfortable with what I am but too many still aren’t. I won’t stop until threats to our existence as human beings are wiped into the dustbin of history. Until they stop calling our bravery bullshit. Until our partners don’t mistrust us when we admit who we are. Until we don’t have to hide from 49% of our co-workers or experience three times as much violence from police than the straight people.
I fight for the idea that there will be a day no one else will have to.