The first person I came out to as bisexual, my best friend at the time, said something along the lines of “Ew gross!” and never spoke to me again. It absolutely crushed 18-year-old me, who had just discovered her bisexuality. My best friend’s response sent me back into closet crying. At the time, I didn’t know any other bisexuals and my area didn’t have any bisexual social or support groups. I felt disgusting, dirty, wrong, and alone and had no one supporting me or telling me otherwise.
My other friends were wonderfully receptive to my coming out once I built up the courage to come out to them more than a year later, but my ultra conservative family was not. I grew up within an environment that was a constant barrage of hate towards everything gay and bisexual. I got the message that gays and bisexuals were sick, broken, wrong, and even deserved to die. I only came out to them once I was safely across the country from them in the hopes that learning their daughter was one of those bisexuals would change their viewpoint. It didn’t.
My family took my coming out as bisexual as a confession that I was sick and a sex addict. I didn’t have the resources or ability to explain through my shock and pain that bisexuality has nothing to do with promiscuity.
I came out four years ago and nothing has improved with my family since. I rarely see or speak to them because it feels like they only love and accept a part of me, while hating and condemning another. I have worked hard to accept who I am and refuse to go backwards. Right now, that means limited contact with my family. I hope someday that changes, but I am no longer waiting for their acceptance. What they think of me no longer has anything to do with the way I see myself.
On the whole, it has been a really difficult experience. It took me a few years to figure out how to cope with coming out going badly. Here are a few of the things I wish I knew at the beginning.
Educate Them If You Are Able
A lot of times intolerance comes from a place of ignorance; education can help people become more tolerant and empathetic to other’s struggles. Most people don’t understand bi+ identities. They see them as all the negative misconceptions surrounding them rather than what they are – valid and real sexual orientations.
While it is not your duty to educate others if you are neither willing nor able, providing resources such as this, this, and this can help people learn what bisexuality and other non-monosexual/romantic identities truly are, learn to be more understanding, and provide tips to help support the person coming out as bi+. Sometimes it’s hard to get people to read the resources, but providing them can encourage people to educate themselves. Make sure the person you’re coming out to knows it would mean a lot to you for them to learn more.
Give Them Time
Many people don’t respond well when people first come out as bisexual. Their knee-jerk reactions can range from strange to cruel. Thankfully, many of these people come around. They calm down enough to ask questions and try to learn and listen. Often, in the end, their love for the person coming out as bi+ makes them care enough to learn and do better, transforming their previous oppressive mindset.
Taking a step back from someone who doesn’t respond well to your coming out as bi+ is important for both of you. For them, it is important to process the information, learn about bi+ community, and not say something they will regret. For you, it is important to remove yourself from a possibly hurtful situation and get support from people who do support your sexual orientation in the meantime.
Not everyone comes around. I don’t want to provide false hope here. However, enough people do that it’s worth giving someone a few weeks, sometimes months before accepting that they won’t be in your corner. I’ve even heard of people, usually parents, coming around after years of being bigoted and unsupportive. It’s at least nice to imagine as a possibility.
Get Support Elsewhere
Having someone respond poorly to your coming out can be a really hard thing to process. For some of us, like me, it throws us back into the closet to hide from further rejection. It is important to seek support from someone else in these situations, whether it is family, friends, or a mental health professional who understands and supports bi+ people. If you have the access, seeking help from a mental professional is especially important if the person you are coming out to reacts in an abusive way.
Reach Out to the Bi+ Community
I have only met a lucky few bisexuals that have had amazing, wonderful responses from every single person to whom they have come out. Most people in the bi+ community have experienced the harsh rejection of our identities – to differing degrees. Therefore, most people in the bi+ community will understand what you are going through.
Being a part of the bi+ community after a bad coming out helps to make you feel like you aren’t going through a hard time alone. Being a part of the community also helps you remember that your sexual orientation is valid and that being bi+ doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.
There are organizations, like PAVES, the Bisexual Resource Center, BiNet USA, and many local organizations, support groups, and online spaces where you can find educational resources, bi+ culture and history, and bi+ people from all walks of life to remind you that we exist, you’re okay just as you are, our issues matter, and our contributions to this world are important.
At a certain point, you have to accept that the person you came out to isn’t going to be positive or supportive of your sexual orientation anytime soon. You don’t have to give up hope that they someday will change or cut them out of your life completely, but you can’t wait around for them to be supportive forever.
Only you can decide what this means to you. Maybe you need to remove them from your life completely for your mental health. Maybe you can handle having someone in your life who doesn’t accept an important part of who you are. Either way, there comes a time when you can no longer wait for them to come around or you will be hurt over and over again. Remember, you can never rely on anyone’s opinion of you for your self- worth.