Alice is an aspiring writer and proud bisexual woman, based in Prague. She writes about mental health, feminism, and world travel.
The year is 2020. Coming out shouldn't be a big deal anymore. It is less socially acceptable to be homophobic, but those views still exist. I feel like most people presume that the world is a much more accepting place than it actually is. Being bisexual is an extremely important part of my identity and I am still shocked when people so adamantly oppose my existence. It makes coming out over and over again to new people still anxiety-inducing because I am never 100% sure how someone will react. Here's how some people have reacted over the years.
Coming Out to Yourself
When I realised that I liked girls, it was scary. It felt like a shameful secret that I could never tell anyone else. When another girl at my school came out and I witnessed my peers bully her, I was terrified. Thankfully, it wasn't violence in this case but the way that girls ostrasized her and made comments to her face about how "grossed out" they felt changing in front of her was really eye-opening. All of my experiences to this point taught me that "lesbian" was an insult or a joke.
I always had the feeling that I liked girls, but I was always in denial about it. Even when I would spend my free time reading lesbian Harry Potter fanfiction, I felt like it was a shameful secret. Around this time, I went to the cinema with some friends to see "Black Swan". There is a lesbian sex scene in that movie, as I am sure you are aware of if you are reading this. It was something I was already curious about, but when we came out of the cinema my friends were joking about how disgusting it was. I didn't say anything.
I felt like I could trust my next friend group more until my best friend at the time told me she would never get her hair cut short because people would think she is a lesbian. The subtle "jokes" about sexuality were common and they delayed the inevitable coming out to myself. I ended up getting a Tumblr account in 2011 and I was perfectly happy reblogging hot girls and hot guys in my little bubble of the internet (until my account got 5000 followers from a fanfiction I wrote and I got anonymous messages asking about my sexuality which I hadn't figured out yet).
Coming Out To Friends
Coming out to my friends was largely anti-climactic. Probably because I didn't really have many to come out to. I had a conversation with my best friend about liking girls and she followed my Tumblr where I tagged every other post with "IM SO GAY". I casually told her brother while we were walking to a Chinese takeaway restaurant and I told another friend in the cinema waiting for a film to start. The response was usually just "that's cool!" and then it was over.
I never actually came out to a lot of my work friends, except a few of them when I was drunk. At this point, I was happily and confidently bisexual but anxious about less supportive people finding out. We worked in a primary school and I had nightmares of parents complaining because they don't want an LGBT person teaching their kids. I wrote a blog post in 2018 about going to Pride as a confident bisexual woman and that post was shared to a whole bunch of people I worked with. The bright side was that I didn't need to come out, but having that control taken away from me was really frustrating. Luckily, I didn't encounter anyone being openly homophobic or biphobic to me during this time but I had also already quit the job and that is the last time I saw a lot of those people.
Coming Out To Family
I came out to my Mum first, who was supportive although a bit annoyed about the tattoo I got without telling her first. I mentioned an ex-girlfriend in passing to my Dad once, but I don't know if he ever took that comment in or if he knows that I am bisexual. I came out in person to one of my cousins before travelling with her for two weeks. I told my Nan that I am bisexual while I was dating someone and she was really supportive. She even asked me what LGBT stood for a few months ago when I was visiting her because she heard it on TV. She is probably one of the most accepting and coolest women of the older generation I know.
I live abroad and don't see my family very often, so I didn't really need the big coming out ceremony for everyone. At a family party, someone approached me to tell me she and all of my cousins had read my post. I was very stressed because she started the sentence "I heard about your lifestyle" and I immediately downed the glass of wine I was holding. It all worked out fine in the end obviously. Is it lazy to come out via blog post? Maybe. However, that is the way the majority of my family found out that I am bisexual. If you are a family member or actually anyone who missed out on my 2018 blog post, this is me now coming out to you. Hello, I am bisexual.
Coming Out To Strangers
I have travelled the world for 2 years and in that time I have come out to a lot of people. Sometimes it comes from mentioning an ex in passing or, more commonly in hostels, a game of Never Have I Ever. Most commonly it is anticlimactic, similar to how it was with my friends. Sometimes, I get told that being bisexual is hot (because a man is trying to have a threesome). I don't really care, but it can be frustrating how bisexual women are often fetishized for just existing with our sexuality. Sometimes people ask me questions about what percentage of me is attracted to which gender and I don't really care too much about answering. I hope that I have encouraged some people to be more open-minded.
There are unfortunately always some people who are not accepting: Bisexuals aren't real. You're just too scared to come out as gay. You're just doing it for attention. You're just trying to seem interesting. You're going to pick a side in the end anyway. Okay, but if you had to choose which one would you pick? I don't mind if people are gay, but just don't do it in front of me. Why does it matter? You are shoving your sexuality in my face.
Why does it matter?
I have only encountered a few people on my travels who are biphobic or homophobic, but it is still hurtful. It is just unacceptable, but we still hear these comments and jokes constantly. It is mainly from straight cis white men who think that their jokes against a minority group are the pinnacle of humor. If you can't be funny without being offensive, maybe you just should leave the jokes to someone with a better sense of humor.
I'll call someone out on their offensive jokes and be told that I'm ruining the mood, when in fact the person who made the hurtful comment is the one that did that. I am not going to stay silent while someone makes me uncomfortable or anyone else who maybe isn't in a position to speak up against these comments.
There are currently 12 countries that you could be sentenced to death for your sexuality and it is illegal in 70. Whereas, marriage equality is only in 29. Being able to get married in your own country is a huge victory for LGBT rights, but it doesn't mean everything is suddenly equal. Homophobia is still rampant in many countries regardless of the legality.
The anti-LGBT zones in Poland scare me. Travelling to Borneo last year and even being close to Brunei (where it is illegal to be gay, but they were introducing a death penalty) was terrifying. People told me that I would be fine because I am a tourist, but why would I want to pay tourism money to a government that treats LGBT people in that way?
Want to learn more about Poland's anti-LGBT zones?
Things are changing. In popular media, there is a definite increase in the amount of LGBT characters and storylines. That is wonderful for the new generation of LGBT kids and teens who will grow up with themselves represented on screen, as well as educating non-LGBT kids about lives that differ from their own. In theory, the current generation should be the most open-minded and accepting so far. However, unfortunately, those who oppose this progression are louder and more aggressive than ever.
I don't think people realise the number of issues that LGBT still face today in 2020 and the actual danger that many of us are in simply for just existing as ourselves, even in countries considered more "tolerant". LGBT hate crimes in the UK have tripled since the marriage equality law came in and in the US, Trump reversed a law, meaning it is now legal for medical professionals to refuse care to a trans person. It is so important to challenge that bigotry when we see it, especially if you want to show support to the LGBT community.
© 2020 Alice Sullivan