I'm a woman and started to question and discover things about my sexuality. I think it's possible that I'm bi, but can't accept this part of me because I fear it will reduce my identity to only my sexual orientation and overpower my virtues in other areas. In this time of identity politics, I don't know if I should express this part about my sexuality or simply keep it in the dark/closet. Should I do something about this?
I’m so sorry to hear that you feel unable to accept your bisexuality. I hope that by writing to me you are at least on the path to self-acceptance, even if you feel you can’t communicate your sexuality externally at the moment.
With regard to your concern that bisexuality is an overpowering identity that might overshadow the rest of who you are, I’d say your concerns are valid. It’s no different than what most people worry about when they consider coming out, that their sexual identity will define them and people won’t be able to move past it. Some worry that they will be rejected by those they love, some worry they will become the targets of abuse, and some worry they won’t get ahead in their career. What this all boils down to is that people worry others won’t be able to recognize their kind spirit, their work ethic, or their artistic talent, if they come out.
You’re coming from a similar angle, identity politics. The idea that if you come out you’re a pawn in a wider political narrative. That you are suddenly involved in arguments and movements that perhaps you’d rather not be involved in. Whilst I could make the argument here that, like it or not, as a bi person you’re part of the politics, the truth is you still have a choice on how much you want to be involved.
It’s also worth remembering that bi people come in all colors and political leanings. Just being bi doesn’t mean you have to support particular politics or even be interested in it. Saying your sexuality makes you think or vote a certain way is not an assertion based on any kind of fact. I’ve often found many bi people's political beliefs are "complicated", hard to stick a label on, and piss just about everyone off at some point.
Reading your letter also reminded me of some research I came across a few years ago, The Pew Research Center found that bi people are less likely to view their sexual orientation as central to their identity. I think this can be evident in a lot of bi people and if you feel that coming out would negatively impact your life, I can understand your reservations on the need to be out.
I have to put my cards on the table, I’m a huge believer in things being better when you’re out of the closet. Mainly because I believe this allows you to be your authentic self. It’s also because I often find people wanting to stay in the closet to keep people happy and avoid rejection. If you feel worried about being rejected by those you care about and respect, because of something you can’t change about yourself, this is a negative existence. You don’t want to spend your life hiding.
I would caveat this by saying that I also don’t believe you should come out before you're ready. That can be just as negative. I’d describe it as a Goldilocks zone, you don’t want to come out of the closet too early, but you also don’t want to stay in too long. And only you can know when is the right time.
You also have to decide what coming out looks like for you, and what feels authentic for you. You say that you don’t want to come out because being publicly bi would overshadow you. No one is saying that you have to do cartwheels down the street waving the bi flag. You don’t even have to put anything on your social media. But I would hope that if there are people you feel close to that you would like to tell, that you feel able to do that and not held back by a fear that they will see you differently.
Thanks so much for your letter, and good luck!
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Bisexual people often have few other bi people to turn to for support or to ask questions. This means we often can’t build on the experience of other bi people and improve things for the next generation. Ask a Bi Dad is aimed at tackling this.
Lewis Oakley is one of the leading bi advocates and writers, campaigning to improve the public’s perception of bisexuality. Recognised by the Pride Power List 2021 and with various award nominations under his belt, Lewis has been successful in making bisexuality national news.
Lewis knows more than most how lonely being bisexual can feel, particularly in those early years. Now, confident in himself, his relationship, and a dad of two, Lewis recognises how rare and lucky he is. This is why he wants to help where he can by answering the questions of bi people from all around the world.
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