Featured Illustration: “Show Me as I Want to Be Seen” by Claude Cahun
I’m a bisexual person. My pronouns are she/they and the more introspection I do, the more I find that I’m slowly slipping into the non-binary territory. And that’s cool but every day I wake up and face a dilemma. Do I need to have a coming out? Should I even have to? Does not coming out invalidate my identity in any sort of way? I think about how coming out to my parents could go either way: loved and supported or kicked out and forced into financial instability as I finish my degree. I think about not saying anything but coming out feels like an intrusive thought. It shows up at random and demands to be voiced. Maybe I’ll just bring a partner home one day. No questions asked. This is who I’m happy with. Take it or leave it. But then I saw Happiest Season by Clea Duvall and decided against inflicting emotional trauma on my significant other. Although personally, I don’t think I would bring my partner home and then insist on reinforcing my heterosexuality. But that option still seems a little sus.
I mean, I’m not closeted closeted. I’m not actively changing the way I present or act. I’m vocal in my attraction to women and my general disdain for men, but my parents don’t seem to have caught on. If they found this though, who knows what kind of family meeting we’d have. I feel like the only reason my parents don’t know yet is because they aren’t queer literate. There’s slang, gestures, and appearances that act as shortcuts between queer people. Subtle identifiers that heteronormative people don’t always notice. Queer people see me and recognize queer. Straight people don’t seem to catch on unless I have rainbow-colored hair or speak in a questionable and affected accent.
Coming out feels like an intrusive thought.
Despite it feeling obvious to me, that I have my sexuality tattooed on my forehead in neon pink ink, I still won’t open my dating app preferences to women while in my hometown, just in case. I worry that when my parents use my Hulu account, they’ll see the LGBTQ+ category and just… know. I worry that my advocacy is a red flag to them. Although I have no active desire to come out and would prefer to just live my life unlabeled and unburdened, that seems to be harder than anticipated with the steps that are part of my every day, steps I take to not be outed before I’m ready.
And yes, I don’t want to be outed but I’m not entirely closeted. I’ve been vocal about my bisexuality since the first time I said it aloud at 12 or 13. Vocal about it to everyone but my family. My friends, who are also mostly queer have spent time slowly coming out to their families. But I just can’t seem to do it, nor do I feel like I should have to. I’m just not entirely sure if I can live my life, not have to worry about having queer-centric conversations and constantly worrying about who might overhear us. Extended family, old schoolmates with a vendetta or Facebook friends that might accidentally out us. How do I reject coming out but still be an authentic version of who I am, and who I want to be? I feel like I’m constantly censoring myself and I’m not entirely sure how to navigate a middle ground of “I’m not closeted but please don’t tell my parents.”
I have no desire to change who I am, but my home life is stable for the first time ever and I feel selfish in regard to those around me who have to keep this “secret”, and disingenuous to myself for not wanting to come out. Morally, I feel like I shouldn’t have to come out because straight people don’t have to but if that’s how I feel, why can’t I stop thinking about it? Come out. Come out. Come out. Am I denying a part of who I am but not saying anything? I don’t know but it’s starting to feel like it.
Additionally, I also haven’t explained my pronouns to my parents. I think it’s mainly because it would take more effort and possible distress to teach them than I feel like handling. A week or two ago, my mother in a quiet voice, asked me what non-binary means. When I offered her an explanation, her face scrunched and voiced some discomfort. I asked her if it’s because she doesn’t agree with it or just doesn’t understand and she admits it’s the latter. My father applauds Harry Styles for gracing the cover of Vogue in a dress and skirt, ala Kurt Cobain if Cobain wore Balenciaga. I wake up feeling like progress is made, and the next morning he utters “Don’t force that gay shit down my throat.” In regard to something he saw on TV.
I wonder how he would feel knowing that Gay Shit was living in the guest bedroom.
My parents don’t commit hate crimes. But they do commit casual homophobia and microaggressions despite my best efforts. There are plenty of queer people in their circle. Extended family, friends, and coworkers, so it’s not an absolute culture shock. Yet somehow, I worry their reaction might be different when it’s their only child.
I love my family even when I don’t like them, and I’ve worked really hard to find an equilibrium with them. So why do I want risk it all and tell them I like girls too? I’d love to stay in this little bubble, breakfast on Sundays and nice voicemails rather than the angry manipulative ones that still sit on my phone from a year or two ago.
I think I’m worried that if I tell them, if I talk about it, no one will listen.
The final verdict seems to be that I know who I am and where I stand, and no one can decide that for me. Will I tell my parents at some point? Probably. Maybe. I don’t know. I know that my current track record of dating men doesn’t make me any less bisexual, although some of my more… interesting exes might disagree. I’m going to take a deep breath and do my best to manage this middle ground, thread a needle between being true to myself and maintaining my family until I absolutely have to do otherwise. Wish me luck.