yesterday was national coming out day. so i did.

It’s October 11th. Most won't identify today as anything significant, but there are millions of others who’ve made a life-changing decision on this date to step into the whole of themselves. Truly brave people have risked rejection and worse: threats of harm, marginalization, their livelihoods, their lives. On the spectrum of the upset that coming out can create, my situation sits waaaaaaay down on the easier end. I’m a grown-ass woman with a strong sense of myself, an incredible network of compassionate and smart friends, and a family that loves and supports me anchored by a remarkable son who is growing up in a world very different than the one I did.

Still.

I’ve been doing a do-I-say-don't-I-say about this for a long time now. It's really only my closest friends who know I'm bisexual; most of my family, including a parent, do not.  As a younger person it seemed an impossible thing to own—I didn’t even fully understand it myself, but I did know that in my little world of Fairview, PA, "queer" was considered, well, queer. Once I married, it was a non-issue. Then in the two and a half years since my divorce, even as the world has begun to make it easier--at least where I live now, certainly not true for all--I told myself, “Seriously, who cares, Deb? Nobody gives a shit who you sleep with. Let it be.”

As a bi woman, I can pretty easily go about dating men out loud and women quietly. I thought it’d really only be if or when a relationship with another woman became serious that I’d bump up against the need to come out in order to live authentically. If you’re not forced to, why do it, right? Why make unnecessary noise when the quiet is so comfy? That’s where I’ve been keeping this part of me—in the peaceful shade of not saying.

But there are problems with that.

Hiding any integral piece of who you are so as not to rock the status quo takes something from you. We all know this. There’s also a societal consequence to sitting in this loophole; my quiet contributes to the marginalization of bisexuals. We are the least likely of LGBTQ people to come out. Many of us can and do get by without claiming the full truth of our sexuality, and so we appear to be many fewer than we are, and a cycle is created. Today seems as good a day as ever to step out of that cycle.

There's also the sticky issue of marginalization within the LGBTQ community itself; although it's widely posited that bisexuals comprise the largest segment of the community, many still doubt the veracity of the orientation. To many, bi people are just people who haven't picked a side. Other people might think I'm a straight person seeking attention. The list of "is that really a thing?"s is long. {Shall we go down the internet rabbit hole together? Start with this polarizing piece from NYT and the many think pieces it birthed.Or Google "bi erasure" and "bi phobia." So much to learn!} Staying quiet, it just kept me free of these conversations. 

Since the day he was born, I’ve been telling my beautiful son that it is his birthright be whoever he wants to be, to choose who he loves regardless of gender/race/dancing ability. When I came out to him just a few months ago, he showed me how well he had absorbed this truth. He listened quietly, then told me that it was fine. I think he might have shrugged. Then he hugged me hard and asked “What’s for dinner?” because he’s a fifteen year-old who’s eating me out of house and home. That conversation on the couch was a big step. Huge, really. But I still wasn’t fully there.

So it didn’t feel like an accident that on October 9th, just two days ago and even as I continued my internal debate around whether or not to write this today, my son’s papa and I sat in a dark theater and watched as Wyatt and his classmates sang along with members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles in a program called “It Gets Better.” Students aged eleven to eighteen sat rapt in the audience while actors portrayed real people's stories of being gay, trans, bi, genderqueer.  To witness those children being told by other children and on a grand scale that they have the right to be and say who they are because they are human beings, and that is all that matters? Profoundly moving.  I was so happy for those kids and oh-so-proud of our boy. But still, I was outside of it.

 

And then there was what I can only describe as a flash in my heart, and I realized that Wyatt and his classmates were singing to me. And that as a grown-ass woman with a strong sense of myself, it wasn’t just my right to say. It was my responsibility. That staying in the quiet shadow where it's easier was the exact opposite of what I'd been preaching to my kid. Other people with far less power have risked so much create a world in which I now have the freedom to be fully who I am.

I showed this to Wyatt before I posted it. He nodded and said, "Yes."

So. Heart pounding, I offer this as my own small gesture of thanks and truth and solidarity with others who have come before me and with those still on their way. It’s October 11th. Whatever color it is, let your freak flag fly.