Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Coming out

Yesterday (April 1) a lot of people had a laugh at pretending to come out of the closet and have since had the privilege not to give it another thought. I'm not laughing. My identity is not a joke or a punchline.

Since today has a slightly lower risk of ridicule and derision, I decided to publicly come out as bisexual on Facebook. I wanted to do it yesterday when I read about the Michigan woman who married her partner and was beaten by hateful homophobes because it scared me so very much. That isn't something people should have to be afraid of, and fewer would if more of us spoke up.

Many of my friends already knew, many didn't, and many probably won't see the post and still won't know. I typically have remarkably bad coming out experiences, so I don't know if I'll do it again.

I've known for over a decade, and it wasn't the fear of attack or judgment by strangers that kept me silent but all the thoughtless things said by friends and family in that time that hurt and made me afraid.

When I was 17 or 18, I told my very best friend. She recoiled in disgust and firmly asserted that she didn't feel that way about me. What the hell? I was hurt that she would be so repulsed by the thought, though I certainly hadn't even hinted at an interest in her and never found her attractive. Feeling dismayed, I never brought it up again.

I don't talk much about my relationships to my family, and my stepmother used to suggest I should be a lesbian so she could be the cool mom in the neighborhood, at which I internally groaned and silently rolled my eyes. I decided then and there to never give her the satisfaction. But over the years I've grown so very tired of her attitude and judgmental nature.

Over this past holiday visit, apropos of nothing whatsoever, she went on and on about how she could never be a lesbian because she hates the smell of women. I mildly suggested there are men she hates the smell of and there are women whose smell she never notices, but she was adamant that all women smell disgusting and she could never be a "rug-muncher," as if it were something so universally distasteful. I dropped it because she has little interest in the logic of confirmation bias and seemed to really get a kick out of going on about it.

Now, after coming out online, she tells me I should have called to tell her because I have nothing to worry about and she couldn't care less about my orientation. And she always wanted to have a bisexual child. Seriously, how on earth does she manage to make my coming out about her?

Coming out to my dear sister as polyamorous some years back was more horrific than I could have imagined, and our relationship suffered for a long time after. She's the one person in the family that I would have counted on to accept me, and after that I decided I never wanted to come out of any closets again as far as family are concerned.

But I'm tired of fear and complacency, discomfort and policing my own words. What kind of ally or activist am I if I'm content to rest on straight-passing privileges? What kind of partner could I possibly be?

So far, those who've responded have been very supportive. Though I don't quite understand why I'd be offered "Congratulations!" on coming out. "I'm bi" feels a lot like telling someone that my favorite color is purple (or green, depending on the day). I don't like that people should have to come out at all, but I hope my doing so can make it easier and safer for others as well in the future.

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