By River McMican
The first time I came out, I was 13. I was sitting in a loose circle of other students in my high school cafeteria and we were doing a tolerance and diversity exercise, talking in small groups about the ways we were similar and the ways we were different.
I don’t remember what I said or why I decided to say it. It wasn’t a dramatic confession, no cold sweats or anxiety, just a matter of fact statement before the surprised facilitator moved us along.
Well, whatever, I thought, it’s no big deal, and I won’t have to say it again if I don’t want to.
Ok, so. Maybe I was a little naïve at that age.
The next year, I came out again when one of my friends said she didn’t know any queer people.
And the year after that, when my health teacher claimed that bisexuality didn’t exist.
And the year after that and the year after that and so on and so on, and at some point I realized that every year of my life, I would have to speak up about my queerness whether I wanted to or not.
And every time, I would wonder, why do I have to do this? If you’re not gonna date me, why do you care if I’m bi or trans or polyam? Why does it make a difference? If it wasn’t a big deal to me, why did it have to be a big deal to anyone else?
And then someone else came out because I did first.
And then someone else said I was the first person they were comfortable talking to about their identity.
And then someone else said that they wished they could come out too, that they just couldn’t do it, but they hoped someday they could.
And then I realized that coming out wasn’t about me, it was about other queer people. It was about showing them that they weren’t alone. It was about using my identity to create space for theirs. Coming out wasn’t a big deal to me, but it could be life changing for them. That was why it mattered. That was why it made a difference and that was why I had to keep doing it.
I’ve been coming out for twenty-odd years now. Here’s to another one. Happy National Coming Out Day. ❤️
River McMican (they/them), president of the Bisexual Resource Center Board of Directors, is a nonprofit communications professional, project manager, and freelance graphic designer with a focus on inclusive, accessible communication. Their passions include weird musical instruments, queer comic books, and board games that take way too long to play. They’re still trying to figure out this whole Instagram thing.
For more on coming out as bisexual+, check out the BRC’s brochure.