Meet Ginny. Ginny is in the closet.
Terror. Worry. Feelings of futility. These all describe how one feels while in the bi closet when you just want to be able to confess who you are to just one person without rejection. I asked Ginny to describe in one sentence why she hasn't come out bi to the world yet. She replied, “I mainly feel a sense of embarrassment about coming out to certain people, as well as thinking that it's no one else's business.”
While it's perfectly normal to feel embarrassed and having secrets are fine, it's also just as normal to not have to be embarrassed about one's bisexuality nor feel that by confessing your love for multiple genders you are somehow making it another person's business, but rather you are just being your authentic self by being able to have normal, healthy conversations about who you love in your life, as our heteronormative society already does and has for time immemorial.
“When talking to straight people, cis straight males in particular, they will often make crude comments about 'girl-on-girl action,'” Ginny said when I asked if she felt that the gay, lesbian, straight, and ace communities accepted her bisexuality. She continued, “My gay friends are wholly accepting of my sexuality. I don't have much interaction with the lesbian and asexual communities. On a night out I will rarely be approached by a lesbian woman as I appear to be 'straight.'”
Bi. Pan. Fluid. Flexi. Omni. Open. Non-monosexual queer. These are all words that people who have bi feelings and attractions and who may exhibit bi behavior use to describe their own sexuality. What labels does Ginny use to describe herself? “I don't really like the label 'bi'”, she noted. “I prefer to just state that I like men and women. Being a mixed race woman, I often struggle with labels, identity and 'fitting in,' and so maybe that's why I don't feel a sense of comfort or belonging by identifying as bi. I have a sense of myself as 'other' in many aspects of my life. I sometimes think that maybe I'm more towards pansexual on the spectrum, although I've not had any physical experiences with (for example) trans people or bi men.”
What was Ginny's experience like when she initially realized she was bi? She revealed,
My first sexual experiences were with females at a very young age, whereas I didn't have sex with a male until I was 20. For a long time I thought that maybe I was a lesbian, but that didn't seem quite right - I think that was because I hadn't had any sexual experience with a man, whereas once I had, I realized I liked women AND men.” How has she dealt with that knowledge? Ginny related, “I have fully come to terms with my bisexuality, but there's still something in me that feels a sense of shame and embarrassment. I think this may be because lesbian and bi women are often hypersexualized and objectified by the media, especially in porn. I feel like if I tell people I'm bi they're going to see it as sordid and dirty. My family are liberal, open-minded and I know they'd support me (both of my mum's sisters are lesbians), but there's still something holding me back.
What kinds of things has Ginny heard from friends and/or family about bi people that has discouraged her from coming out to them? She confessed,
I actually don't hear anything negative from family or friends. My friendship group is very diverse - I live in [a major city in England] which is a very multicultural city with a large LGBT community, so it's not really taboo. However many of my friends who are gay and lesbian aren't really involved in the LGBT community themselves as it can be quite cliquey and a lot of the culture revolves around alcohol and sex.
Is Ginny aware of the large community of bi folk online and does she participate online? She replied, “I am aware but I've never participated in anything online.”
Has Ginny ever been to an LGBT bar/organization/pride event? Ginny stated, “Yes, I attend [our local] Pride every year and also go on nights out [to bars in a local LGBT district]. It's normal for straight people to go out there, and perhaps that leads to a lack of bi visibility - most of the bars and clubs are geared towards gay men, with some even not allowing women in (and there is only one lesbian bar).”
Does Ginny feel that she will ever fully come out bi? She replied, “It's not on my agenda at the moment to come out to those who don't know. I think if I was to start a relationship with a woman then I would obviously have to, but as I'm single I don't feel the need to. If it came up in conversation then I would feel comfortable disclosing, but I wouldn't want to make it into a big ceremony.” And it never has to be. Coming out has been fairly popular for about two decades now. At first it was celebratory and now may feel redundant and almost unimportant but it is important and the importance of it is that you can live your true, authentic self. You can talk openly about who you love and that shouldn't feel like it needs to be a big announcement. It should be normal in our greater world to do so.
Has Ginny ever been in a same-gender relationship? She related, “Yes, I have, twice. I find that the dynamic with two women is very different than with a man and a woman. I often say that I like men 80% of the time and women 20%, because although I am attracted to women, I'm not sure I could see myself being in a long-term relationship. Sexually it's not the same, and both the women I was in relationships with were quite emotionally demanding, but the men I have been in relationships with haven't been as caring (although I think that's more of a comment on my choice of partner!).”
Lastly, what about being bi makes Ginny feel the most joy and comfort? She stated, “I believe I am a loving, open-minded person, and the fact that I am open to loving anyone regardless of gender or identity makes me proud. Everyone is beautiful in their own way and I don't believe in being restrictive - how can you decide you can't love someone just because of their body?” Yes. How?
That is Ginny's story.
In an effort to bring to the public the fears and discouragement of why many bi people choose to remain in the closet, I present to you a series of interviews with those I call “damp bi” folk. Though just as fluid in their sexuality as any openly bi person, a damp bi is someone who cannot fully embrace their fluidity in their sexuality safely or surely, and therefore are only “slightly wet”. This series hopes to instill in the reader a sense of encouragement and hope, for those in the closet, and a sense of awareness and insight to those non-bi folks who want to encourage bi people to live their lives openly and proud.
52% of LGB persons surveyed are bi, according to most recent statistical analyses. Many bi people remain slightly wet. This ranges from gay and lesbian identified people who also have attractions to other genders, straight identified people who are also attracted to many genders, asexual identified people who sometimes have sexual attraction to men, women, and non-binary folk, and the average person who gives no hint of their sexuality but is generally perceived by others to be straight. This suggests numbers may be higher among the non-LGBT demographics. What can you do to encourage bi people to come out? Do you help facilitate a safe environment for bi people to feel comfortable coming out to you? Do you see the importance of people living as their true selves, to be able to talk openly about the relationships they are in regardless of gender?