To come out as bi is to become very familiar with a very powerful, very pervasive, very unfortunate concept: stigma. Bisexuality is an orientation that sadly remains misunderstood, judged, and discriminated against (that is, when people aren't ignoring its existence altogether).
People have very strong judgments and preconceptions about what it means to be bi and what characteristics bi individuals possess. You've heard them all before, a hundred thousand times. They think we're greedy. Slutty. Indecisive. Deceptive. Attention-seeking. Insecure. Promiscuous. More likely to cheat. They think we're lying; to ourselves and to them.
These beliefs are everywhere, and they run deep. At times these ideas can feel so common that the fear of being confronted with them makes it hard to come out as bi to anyone, whether you're at work, a bar with friends, or being introduced to someone new. It's difficult to feel comfortable coming out when experience has taught you that you're sure to be hit with one or more of those stigmas or stereotypes.
I know the commonness of these stigmas, not only as an openly, out bisexual woman but also as someone who used to believe in many of these stigmas myself. Before I came to realize my sexual orientation, at age 18, I remember living my preteen and early teen years as a person who I now recognize to be pretty damn biphobic.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I remember hearing stories about a senior who came out as bi. Predictably, everyone — including myself — thought that this revelation meant he was simply gay. I distinctly remember my friend telling me this student was bisexual, and me saying "So, gay, then". She laughed and said that was probably a correct assessment. We had been raised in a society that wanted us to believe that when a man said he was bi, it really meant he was gay but either didn't fully realize it or, more likely, he wasn't comfortable admitting it yet. We understood his hesitation towards not coming out as "fully gay"; we lived in suburban Colorado, in an area that leaned heavily toward Bush/McCain/Romney/Trump territory.
Around that same time, I heard rumors of a couple of girls kissing in the bathrooms, and there was virtually zero speculation about them being bi. We thought they had to be doing it for the boys' attention. These specific girls had always had boyfriends, which indicated to us all that they had to be doing it for attention. They couldn't be bi because they'd always been with boys.
As a quick side note, I'd encourage you to look at the inherent misogyny present in our society when we assume that anytime someone says they're bi, it means they're interested in men; i.e. bisexual men are really gay, and bisexual women are either going through an "exploratory" phase or doing it for men's attention. My feminist soul cringes at the entire idea. I digress...
Just a few short years later when I came to realize my bisexuality and the irony of it all, these pervasive stigmas began to appear to me like they never had before. I couldn't help but wonder if I would have been able to figure myself out sooner if they hadn't been floating around my head. My bisexuality has always been there, ever since I can remember. For every adolescent crush I had on a boy at school or an actor on my television, I can point to a girl or actress I felt the same way about. But perhaps, in my mind, I didn't think I could be bi because the way I saw myself didn't align with the way I saw bisexual folks.
I saw them then the way too many people still do now. I couldn't be bi, I wasn't greedy. I couldn't be bi, I wasn't slutty. I couldn't be bi, I wasn't cruel or deceptive. It turns out that I could very much be bi, and being bi doesn't inherently mean I'm any of those things. Had I known that at 14, I might have not only been able to figure it all out sooner, I might have also been able to (hopefully) change some of my friends' minds.
I finally did figure it out at 18, after some long reflection and a deep infatuation with Grey's Anatomy's bi badass, Dr. Callie Torres. Between Sara Ramirez's fantastic portrayal as a bisexual woman who refuses to adhere to any stereotype or preconceived notion and my own doubts and questions about the stigmas, I was able to come to one monumental conclusion: being bi doesn't mean anything about my personality. It doesn't mean I'm slutty or more likely to cheat or greedy or anything else. It just means I'm bi. That's it. Period.
It was then I began to see that we need to destroy these stigmas. We need to share our stories and build bonds with each other. We need to have more open minds. We need to question the idea of "that's just how it is". We need to continue the trend of positive bisexual representation on TV. We need to encourage writers who make jokes at our expense — jokes that reinforce the same crappy stereotypes built on the stigma— to rethink their concept of "funny".
It's an odd thing to say — that I used to discriminate against other bi folks. But I did. I didn't think bisexuality was sound or valid. That's how I was taught. And I was taught wrong. It's my hope that in sharing this regrettable part of my past that I can expose these false teachings and encourage those who may have been taught the same to reevaluate and advocate for better. For themselves and for bi youth all over the world.