By Denarii Grace, Bisexual Resource Center board member
Okay – not quite a decade, but almost! On October 11th, 2007, I came completely out as bisexual. October 11th is recognized in the U.S. as National Coming Out Day. According to the Human Rights Campaign’s website, it’s a 29-year-old day of observance that “celebrate[s] coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) or as an ally.” (Though many in the community, yours truly included, would strongly object to that last inclusion.)
Back then, Instagram and Snapchat didn’t even exist. Facebook and Twitter were just toddlers; Facebook hadn’t even removed the “is” yet. (Remember that?! Dark times, indeed.) People actually still used Myspace (sort of, I think). It was a quiet coming out. I didn’t make any big Facebook status update nor was there an announcement around the nonexistent family dinner table. I just discreetly, but proudly, changed my relatively easy-to-find sexual orientation marker on Facebook (and Myspace). Simple, subtle, but revolutionary. Soon after, I began posting bi- and larger community–related things, unapologetically.
At the time, I was a junior at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. I’d just begun my tenure as the secretary of LLEGO, a now 20-year-old student organization for LGBTQIA2S+ (plus) people of color; the next year, I became co-president. I’d joined, only as a member, my sophomore year, after (finally) coming out to myself in early 2006. Until that point, like many queer, trans, ace, intersex, and Two Spirit students on campuses across the country, I was fully out at school, but I wasn’t out to family, K-12 school friends, nor the people in my community back home. I felt safe enough to be honest about who I am, but not safe enough to be who I am all the time.
I’d briefly changed my sexual orientation marker on Facebook a couple of years before, at the beginning of my very first semester of college. My best friend at the time messaged me, to give me a heads up that if I didn’t change it back, people would think I was “funny.” I think I’m pretty hilarious when I want to be, but she was referring to an old school term that many Black American folks of a certain generation use to describe people who don’t conform to society’s expectations of how one should dress, the mannerisms one should adopt, who one should love, and with whom one should sleep (because, of course, the expectation is that you’d sleep with someone eventually).
I do recall being genuinely taken aback, but I also have this faint memory of something like…disappointment, as though a part of me – deep down – knew exactly what it meant and changed it deliberately. But her “warning” reminded me that it wasn’t really safe to do so. Of course, it’s never truly safe – not even in New York in 2017, but I wasn’t ready to face that uncertainty head-on. I changed it from “interested in men and women” back to “interested in men.”
Of course, once I came all the way out, I still didn’t have bi+ (plus) community specifically, except for the online one I’d joined in early 2006 when I first came out to myself. It was mostly full of folks, of various ages, trying to figure it all out, no sense of direction – just like me. So it was still quite a bumpy road: no sense of where to learn about my bi+ (plus) elders or our history. I tried finding books and managed to discover poet, activist, and Black bisexual woman June Jordan, but it wasn’t enough.
Yet there was something deeper in me, deeper than my wandering, deeper than my communal loneliness, that stuck with me. It wouldn’t let me give up. It wouldn’t let me stop being me. There was a strength and resilience that wouldn’t let me change that marker again and pretend.
In the years that have followed that small revolution, I’ve recognized and proudly honored more identities within me: femme, fat, disabled, and neuroatypical. I graduated from Rutgers (eventually). I worked in retail. I attended graduate school. I dropped out of graduate school (after two solid years). I struggle(d) to find traditional employment. I got my first byline as a freelancer. I navigate(d) my mental health, trying to take it day by day. I moved back in with my mom. I got my first full-time job. I lost my first full-time job. I premiered my two-hour showcase of original music, poetry, and essay excerpts. And other big things (that I can’t announce just yet) are just around the corner.
I’ve found elders. I’ve found community. I’ve found and better understood our specific history, culture, and needs. I’ve learned so much more in the last decade, not just about my own bisexuality or this community in general, but about myself and who I really am. And, I guess that’s how it’s supposed to go, right?
I’m 30 (and a half) now. And as Bi+ (Plus) Visibility Week begins and my 10 year coming out anniversary looms ahead, I look forward – greatly – to the next 10 years.