Coming to Terms With Coming Out
Three bisexual women talk about their different experiences and mixed emotions when exploring their bisexuality and coming out.
Written by Jillian Angelini, Sexual Wellness Journalist
Reviewed by Alice Child, Somatic Sexologist
If you need tailored advice and support, no matter where you are on your journey, please book in a session. Alice Child is an LGBTQIA+ practitioner and welcomes people of all sexualities, genders and identities.
My biggest obstacle wasn’t what others would think, but feeling like an imposter in the LGBTQIA community. I wasn't gay enough to be gay, but wasn't straight enough to be straight.
Coming out of the closet, as they say, can be a very exciting time. Behind all the confusion, unknown, and self-exploration, there is a person on their journey to learning more about themselves. Understanding and claiming one's own sexuality can be an empowering moment for their identity and sense of who they are.
However, for some, exploring one's sexuality can also be very daunting and dangerous. Out of the 195 countries around the world only 34 have legalised same-sex marriage, and most of those countries have only recently approved the law.
Australia, for example, legalised same-sex marriage only six years ago - after decades of inequality, shame and fear. Even today, outdated prejudices still exist in many communities. This means many people are still living 'in the closet', or have never felt able to act on their desires. There is still a long way to go before LGBTQIA+ and queer communities feel true equality, safety and acceptance.
Even for those lucky enough to live in a place where they can freely express their true selves, coming out is often a time of mixed emotions. Self-liberation and celebration combined with self-doubt and fear.
In this article, we honour that complexity by sharing the coming out stories of three bisexual women, and what it took to learn more about themselves:
“I came out as bisexual very gradually over a period of time across my mid-twenties, without making a huge deal of it. I'm lucky - I have very open-minded friends and family - my biggest obstacle wasn’t what others would think, but feeling like an imposter in the LGBTQIA community. I wasn't gay enough to be gay, but wasn't straight enough to be straight. For me it started with exploration with women at parties and events, which I gradually told my friends about, but I didn’t really see myself as bisexual until many years later. I think lots of bisexual people struggle to find a label that works for them, as bi implies it needs to be the same for how you feel about men and women. But it doesn’t - I now happily call myself bisexual even though I date men more regularly and have had more romantic relationships with men. That doesn’t take away from the incredible experiences I have had (and continue to have!) with women - it’s just different for me! I still sometimes feel that feeling of “do I belong here” in certain queer environments - especially when I’m with my male partner as we present so straight. My most memorable coming out stories were to my mum and friends: To my friends I told them about a gay sex party I went to and my first ever time sleeping with a women - they were very supportive! I came out to my mum over the phone when I mentioned going on a date, and that it happened to be a woman. She was surprised but then very excited, too. It was very supportive and lovely and took away any fear I’d felt.” - Anna, 30
“I always felt odd about coming out. My parents and family were always on the more accepting 'cool mum' side of things, and I knew if I told them (or any of my friends) I was gay, it wouldn't matter. I always saw coming out as something reserved for people where coming out was a danger or an issue or led to some cathartic release of tension. So I never really came out. I started declaring I was bisexual in high school when asked, I made my affections for women obvious without feeling the need to disclose anything. It wasn't in my lane to have a coming-out story. In my high school mind, I wasn't "fully gay", my family wasn't religious, and my best friends wouldn't care - it wouldn't affect me. Self-exclusionary homophobia, perhaps. But I thought it was good! Hopefully, people don't need to announce their sexuality at great risk. And now, years later, when me and fellow queers sit at 3 am on our mdma-fuelled touch-laden hyper-bonding session, I have nothing to say. It gets to my turn, and I say, "Oh, I never really came out.” - Grace, 28
“I came out to my best friends as Bi when I was 17. I was so nervous I would lose the physical platonic intimacy we had, but they supported me fully, and nothing changed in our friendship. They allowed me to feel confident to explore my sexuality. I wouldn't change anything about this, sharing it with peers who were also discovering themselves in every aspect of life made this easy. I didn't come out to my mum until I was 22, by this point, I was living in Sydney, engaged to a man, and was exploring ethical non-monogamy. I wasn't planning on coming out but my parents were visiting just before pride and my young relative who sees my father as his main father figure had recently confided that they were gay and were nervous about sharing the news with the family. To put it in perspective, my family is from a small village In England, everyone lives within a 10-minute drive of one another and they have extremely traditional values. I love them dearly, but hearing homophobic comments, my parents would say in passing made me understand my relative's apprehension. After some heated discussions during their visit on the topics, I ended up outing myself to my mum to try and make her see reason and see what the response may be for my relative. This didn't go down well, and all that was said on the topic was "You're marrying a man, we do not need to talk about this, and do not tell your father.” We have not spoken about it since. I think this inability to share a part of myself has played a big part in my choosing to stay in Sydney, somewhere I can be unapologetically myself. I still try to challenge my parent's point of view in hopes of creating a safe space for my relative to come out one day. In hindsight, I wish I'd come out to my parents sooner, before I was in a committed relationship, as I think they may have been able to understand it better if they had met some of the serious female relationships I'd had. Now, they don't know that I practice ENM so from their point of view they don't see why it affects me, or why I need to identify that way.” - Anonymous, 27
To those of you still on your coming out journey, remember the experience should be for you only. There is no pressure, and we never suggest sharing those details of yourself that can put you in danger.
In any stage of your coming out experience, there is an entire community out there waiting to accept and love you. Good luck finding yourself out there!
Alice Child - Somatic Sexologist, Sex Therapy & Sex Counsellor - helps people achieve happier and healthier sex lives through 1:1 sex coaching, couples sex counselling, hens parties, and workshops. Book a session here.