“But just because you’re telling a good story doesn’t mean it’s the right story. And I think it’s really important to tell the right story.”—Dahlia Adler, “Cool for the Summer.”
I’ve always been pretty headstrong, independent, and content with how I exist in the world. While I don’t live life with regrets, I sometimes tuck things deeply inside myself and then forget about them for much longer than I should. My sexuality is one of those things.
All my life, I just assumed I was straight. I noticed I was attracted to men, and I thought that was that. It quite literally never occurred to me that there was anything else I could be except straight. I saw a quote recently by Evan Wolfson (an attorney and gay rights advocate) in the book The Book of Pride that explains this: “Who you are is profoundly shaped by the choices society gives you.”
Growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t have much exposure to LGBTQIA+ perspectives. I was always a fairly loud supporter of equality for all gender identities and sexual orientations. But I didn’t know much about bisexuality until late college when marriage equality was finally legalized and mainstream media got a little better at representation. Still, the vast majority of my exposure was to gay and lesbian relationships. I don’t think I personally knew any “out” bisexual people until a year and a half ago.
Like most people, I spent a lot of time at home over the last year. I worked remotely, played a lot of Animal Crossing New Horizons, made miniature plants, and focused on finishing grad school. I watched Schitt’s Creek multiple times (though it didn’t really click that I was relating so heavily with David Rose’s character because perhaps the “into the wine, not the label” scene might apply to me, too).
I found myself drawn to reading a lot of LGBTQIA+ books. Characters who were starting to question their sexuality began to resonate with me in a way I still didn’t quite understand at the time. I noticed something was there, but I just thought I was loving all the diverse types of relationships I was finally seeing on the page.
Many months later, things finally started coming together.
Connecting the dots
Everyone’s journey coming out to themselves is very different. No two experiences are alike, no two people realize in the exact same way, and despite popular misconception, it doesn’t always take meeting someone in real life who you want to form a romantic relationship with for things to “click,” either.
Here’s how it happened for me. On a chilly March Iowa night, I sat bundled under my favorite blanket and flipped on the Grammys. Dua Lipa walked on stage and her performance brought back many feelings of attraction I had forgotten I’d felt before towards women before (though the reminders would come flooding back quite soon). I was riveted by the entire performance—equally so each time I watched it again, just to be sure.
I couldn’t get the moment out of my head. It might seem too simple or just a bit ridiculous for this to be the spark, but for me it was extremely clarifying. This full-on girl crush happening at a time when new perspectives on bisexuality were already floating in the back of my head made me finally realize, there’s something here you need to pay attention to.
I wasn’t looking to understand a huge part of my identity at this point in my life, but it happened all the same. This time, I picked up the pieces of my past and present I had tucked away, dusted them off, held them up to the light, and finally they clicked into place.
I spent weeks researching, reading the perspectives of bisexual people, and self-reflecting. Finally, I felt more sure of who I am than I ever have in my 27 years on earth thus far. And what a beautiful thing that is—to fully come to know who you are with so much of life yet ahead.
Embracing my full self
I am bisexual. I like the way Robyn Ochs describes it: “I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”
I’ve always been bisexual—I just didn’t recognize those feelings for what they were until now. Or I explained them in a straight way, like many people who are bisexual do. If I choose to dwell on it, it’s easy to look back and wonder, how did I miss this for this long?
Well, I am an introvert that keeps her friendship circles small. I moved before high school to a new state. I wasn’t super interested in dating until late high school. By then, I’d had plenty of crushes on boys, and every sign around me in society told me I was straight. So I didn’t put any weight into the equally crush-like feelings I can now identify I felt toward several women throughout college.
I distinctly remember feeling intensely nervous when trying to make friends with a few specific women, but not all women. I remember telling myself this was because I’d mostly been friends with boys. Or because I was just intimidated since they were so good looking.
I didn’t recognize that I was feeling the same butterflies I felt towards men I was attracted to, or the fact that I was spending time thinking about how they’re so good looking. I definitely didn’t question why I wanted so desperately for them, specifically, to like me—even though I didn’t much care what most people thought as a general rule by this time.
So, I stayed content with my close-knit circle and kept dating men. When I was 22, I met a great one who I married. He’s kind, understanding, and challenges me to be the best version of myself every day. I love the life we’ve built together over the last three years, and can’t wait for what’s ahead.
Navigating coming out
Coming out can be a challenging process for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. As someone in a straight-passing relationship, I could very easily never do it at all. You might be wondering why I’m choosing to now, if you’ve managed to read this far.
The simple answer is: to not share would make me feel like I’m hiding part of who I am, and I fully accept and love this part of myself. Being out helps me find more people who can relate to my story and make connections in the large and vibrant LGBTQIA+ community that I am now a part of. And I want to visibly show others that it’s possible to be bisexual and happily married in a straight-passing relationship—a perspective I yearned for more of as I navigated the last few months.
I am endlessly grateful for the support I’ve received from Ryan and those closest to me as I’ve started to come out. At first, I kind of winged it. One Saturday morning I was standing in my kitchen getting ready to run an errand when I felt the intense anxiety of, “If I don’t share this right now, I am going to overthink it to death and ruin my day.” Because even though I knew who I married, there’s still a lot of stress associated with that very fleeting possibility that this won’t go like you’re hoping. So, I walked into Ryan’s office and word-vomited before I could have a second thought.
His initial response was, “Okay, thanks for telling me.” He had a few follow up questions that were totally understandable, but pretty quickly shifted to, “How can I support you?” If anything, these last few months have made our communication better than it’s ever been. Our marriage is stronger and we’re even more committed to each other—and only each other—than we were before I burst into the office and said, “Hey, so, I think I’m attracted to women, too!”
Not every step in this journey has been such a breeze. It’s been exhausting, overwhelming, and stressful. I expect it always will be, to a degree. That didn’t really hit home until I started thinking about telling immediate family and considering how out I wanted to be at work.
But coming out has also lifted a huge weight off my shoulders that I had no idea I was carrying for this long. I was bursting to share this part of myself and wanted to continue feeling that burden ease, so I initially rushed to tell a few more close friends I was pretty confident would support me.
I quickly realized I needed to slow down and make myself feel more in control of my story. Ryan reminded me that I can share this in the way that fits best with his full support, and that there’s no set time schedule to how I do so.
Naturally, I mapped out a plan for how to proceed. In great detail, in a truly iconic communications plan that’s color-coded with a Q&A and everything. I am who I am. Yes, this blog is the last tactic in my communications timeline, and for the record, the timing feels just right.
Finding a new LGBTQ+-affirming therapist has helped me a lot, too.
I’m sure there’ll be more ups and downs. I’ve read many times that coming out feels like a never-ending process, especially for people like me. Most likely, people will continue assuming I’m straight when we interact since I’m married to a man. I’ll have to decide in the moment whether it’s safe or worth it to present them with my whole self. There’s always the chance that when I tell them, they’ll jump to conclusions or judge me based on stereotypes they don’t recognize are harmful, because bisexuality is still not well understood. I’m still trying to make peace with the fact that I can’t control that.
Living bravely and authentically
“Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that it takes some amount of bravery to live your life one way and then suddenly diverge from that path.”—Julie Murphy, “Ramona Blue”
In many ways, I’m still navigating what it now “feels like” to be fully me, and unpacking some of the other things I’ve always done because society dictated I should. For starters, I’ve opened my wardrobe and hated almost everything in it for most of my life. I’m looking forward to finally figuring out what styles make me comfortable in my own skin. I wish I could hire the Fab 5 to help me do so, but alas.
The hardest part has been trying to explain that from a practical standpoint, nothing in my life has changed. From the outside looking in, it may feel like no big deal. My marriage looks the same, our future plans are unchanged, and we can’t wait for whatever life has in store for us together.
But for me, everything has changed, because I understand who I am much more profoundly than I did before. And fully embracing who you are, then choosing to share that full self with the world is a very big deal indeed.
I love this part of myself and want to share it openly with the people who love me—just like I share all the other weird and wonderful things that make me “me.” Not everyone will understand that still, and that’s okay.
Regardless of my past or present romantic relationships, I am a bisexual woman. I am happy and in love with a man who feels like home. I’m still me: donut-loving, always reading, extremely opinionated. I just have a new piece of myself to hold on to, and I’m choosing not to tuck it away this time.
Resources and further reading
- Need help understanding acronyms or language I used in this post? Check out this resource.
- Need a little more information or education on bisexuality? Read more about what it means to be bisexual here and here.
- If you want to be my ally, this resource is a good guide.
- If you are a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and are struggling and need support, the Trevor Project is a great resource.