“Let’s be real, you’re gay.”
You might assume that a stranger on the internet, a religious bigot, or just a confused straight person uttered these words. Sadly, prejudice against bi individuals is not limited to those outside of the LGBTI community; in fact, some of the harshest judgment I’ve experienced has come from within the queer community. This includes being told repeatedly that I must be gay.
Eventually, you get used to the barrage of negativity that is thrown your way and realize that no matter how hard you try, there will always be people out there who will never understand or accept you; that’s just a fact of life. But the reason this comment hit me so hard is simple: it was said by someone I consider to be a friend.
Hearing this from someone I am close with was vastly different than getting a message from some random person online. This is supposed to be someone who knows and trusts me, who understands how hard it was for me to accept myself and who knows about my ongoing struggle to find acceptance among others. This person is supposed to care about me.
If we are friends, the only “proof” you should need of my bisexuality is that I’m telling you that I am bisexual. (Even if we aren't friends, you should probably just believe people when they say they are bi.) Why is it that you can accept that I’m an avid Harry Potter fan without question, but not this? What is it about this specific aspect of my personality that makes it so hard for you to believe? What kind of “proof” could I even provide?
The sad thing is, I used to try to prove my bi-ness to friends and strangers alike. I would answer invasive questions because I was scared that by leaving them unanswered, I was leaving my sexual orientation up for debate. Oftentimes even these answers were not enough to get the seal of approval for my bisexuality.
Eventually, I made the choice to draw a hard line with these inquiries, especially from strangers. I am of course happy to answer whatever questions I am comfortable with, but there came a point where these questions felt more like an invasion of my privacy than education. Even after this change in personal policy, I still tried to be as open as possible with my friends and family, perhaps even to a fault.
The reasoning behind this was simple: with them, there is more to lose. I was anxious that if I wasn’t being as transparent as possible, they would question me, either to my face or behind my back. The thought of this terrified me, so I continued to be an open book with those closest to me.
Hearing a friend deny my bisexuality immediately transported me all the way back to those days of answering questions from strangers. The insecurity I used to feel about being bisexual came flooding back, as did the anxiety that everyone thought I was a fraud.
You might consider that to be an overreaction but bear with me. Imagine someone you’re close to quietly whispering that comment to you as if it’s a secret that they alone have discovered and that you can trust them to keep it to themselves; you just have to admit that they are right. To me, that negates the idea that they find me to be a reliable, trustworthy friend because they clearly do not consider me to be competent enough to understand who I am as a person, nor do they trust me to be honest with my friends.
Do you really think I would lie about this for years? Do you really think that you understand my sexual orientation better than I do? What kind of friendship do we have if you cannot believe me when I tell you something like this is true?
After being out for so many years, I had hoped that I was past this visceral reaction, that I had somehow risen above the pain and anxiety comments like this can trigger. However, I’m not sure if that will ever be the case, especially when it comes to friends and family. Despite my years of being a proud and vocal bi man, I'm somehow still considered to be “in a phase” and therefore, invalid… even among those who I am close to.
Luckily, after a brief downward spiral, this comment ignited a new fire in me. I realized that if I was still experiencing this after all these years, there are still people out there who are probably facing it on a larger scale. There are still those out there trying to give proof by providing sexual stats and calculating their “male/female preference” percentages, yet continue to be mocked and ridiculed for their bisexuality.
My advice to them is this: you do not owe anyone anything. If you want to be an out and proud open book, by all means, charge ahead, but never feel obligated to do or say anything you are uncomfortable with. You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone. The people in your life who truly care and accept you are not going to ask you for proof. They will be the ones you can turn to for security and acceptance. If you find that you can’t turn to certain people for these things, perhaps they’re not as great of a friend as you think. Saying "I'm bi" is enough.