By Karen Remaley
There are numerous ways to describe me. I’m a Black woman who has been married to a white straight man for almost 25 years. I am an independent thinker and a quiet rebel. I’m also fairly new in my journey as an out bisexual woman.
Almost a year ago I fully acknowledged my bisexuality and came out to my husband and children. There are many others to whom I have not come out because there are different depths to my relationships. There is a direct correlation between how accepting I perceive someone to be based on personal experience and whether I have been honest with them about my sexual orientation.
I am coming to terms with my sexuality later in life than most people at this point in America’s history. In previous generations, people were more likely to be closeted due to the lack of acceptance for anyone who was not straight. However, in the last twenty to thirty years we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of people who freely express their identity within the LGBTQIA+ community.
My husband and I have been a couple for almost thirty years. Like any relationship, we’ve experienced numerous peaks and valleys. We have made it through the deepest valleys by improving our communication skills and being forthright with each other.
Yet, even though I consider my husband my best friend, I was still nervous about telling him that I’m bisexual. No one wants to face rejection, especially from someone we love. I finally decided to come out to him by connecting my coming out with wanting to attend the upcoming Pride parade in our city and asking him if he was interested in attending. His response was extremely positive and supportive. If not necessarily at that moment soon thereafter he told me that he already knew before I came out to him.
The freedom that I’ve felt in coming out to him combined with the complete acceptance and affirmation that I’ve received from him has made me feel completely loved for all that I am. We are happily married and neither of us has any interest in separating.
I know that some people question why a married bisexual person who is not leaving their spouse bothers to come out. I think that the freedom that that level of honesty allows is the main reason for coming out. I can’t answer that question for others but I know that, for me, being completely honest with the people that I love the most has been an incredible boost for my mental and social health.
I’m an introvert who spent much of my life being concerned about what people thought and how I could best present myself so that people would like me. That can be a ridiculously exhausting way to live. Among the people who know that I’m bisexual, I don’t feel the need to make myself into someone else or limit what I say. I’m able to fully express myself and set boundaries in a clear way. By being out to these individuals I feel like a whole person.
I came out to my teenage children because I wanted them to have a better understanding of who their mother is. I know that at their age they don’t enjoy talking about sexuality with their parents, but I want them to understand that as their mother I’m willing to be vulnerable with them about something that might make both of us feel a bit awkward but that is important to discuss. They were both extremely surprised. My son, as is typical for him, sought to end the conversation as quickly as possible while my daughter made a point of being supportive and agreed that she wanted to go to Pride. My wish for them is that they will fully embrace all of who they are, not just when it comes to their sexual orientation but other aspects of their humanity as well. I want them to understand that they can discuss any challenging situations that they face as they head into adulthood knowing and appreciating that they have my unconditional love.
By contrast, there are numerous family members to whom I haven’t come out. Mostly this is because, for religious reasons, they are not supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community. When I’m with them, I sometimes feel like I should’ve prepared a list of topics to discuss because I can’t discuss some of the more important aspects of my life with them. At times I’m anxious around them, not really wanting to talk about my sexual orientation with them and simultaneously feeling like nothing we say will be meaningful unless I do. That’s an awful way to feel about people you love and who love you (or at least the version of you that they know and understand).
In an effort to experience understanding within the LGBTQIA+ community it became important to me to build connections with that community. As I was beginning to accept my bisexuality, I was encouraged by reading social media posts from members of the LGBTQIA+ community. I began to follow people like Broderick Greer, Eliel Cruz-Lopez, Parker Molloy, and Ashley Ford and organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD. While I am older than all of the individuals listed, I felt encouraged to take a bold step by coming out and I did.
Suddenly I had this feeling that the internet gives and the internet takes away. I began to experience a sense of dread as I began to read accounts of bi+ people experiencing bi+ antagonism or bi+ erasure from the broader LGBTQIA+ community. I wanted desperately to seek out members of the community in real life but I was also concerned that I would be rejected for being bisexual.
Nevertheless, I feel like the beginning of 2017 has brought me fresh opportunities for additional support within the community. The Meetup groups that I’ve joined have given me a chance to feel included in the community. I’m hoping that throughout this year the relationships I form within these groups will allow continued personal growth and improved social health. Furthermore, it is my sincere desire to come out to more people in my circle of family and friends during this year. While I obviously hope for acceptance and support, I have a stronger need for complete honesty.
Karen Remaley is a thinker who writes as a coping mechanism to handle the current state of our nation. She focuses on the confluence of gender, race, and sexual orientation and is especially concerned about increasing bisexual visibility. You can find Karen on Twitter.