Since somewhere around middle school I knew that I wasn’t just interested in boys, but I didn’t know how to articulate what I was feeling — I didn’t have the words or the support net to explain it. I recall, at about 12, giving my friend a back massage and feeling an overwhelming desire to kiss her. I knew I couldn’t, and I felt deeply ashamed for even thinking about it.
When I was about 13, I told my mom about my bisexual identity. I decided somewhere between doing my homework and sitting down to family dinner that I was just going to start saying it. She responded with a 20-minute rant about how I was just looking for attention. I didn’t bring it up again for 15 years.
I officially started using the term “bisexual” to identify myself about two years ago.
I’ve never been in a relationship with a woman. I’ve dated and had sex with a few girls casually, but all of my long-term relationships have been with men. I’m getting married to a man in five weeks. This opens a strange and familiar Pandora’s box for me. I often don’t feel like I have a right to use the term “bisexual” if I’m dating all of these cis guys, as if I’m taking something away from the LGBTQIA community by using their word. It feels like stealing.
It doesn’t help that no one outside of my close-knit girlgang and bisexual friends seem to believe I’m telling the truth about my sexual orientation. My gay siblings think I’m jumping on the gay bandwagon, and my straight siblings just think I’m lying “for my brand” — I’ve been told that being a bisexual sex-positive writer and sexologist would obviously be good for my image, so I’m clearly making it up.
“It’s vital to acknowledge that biphobia is a real thing and that it’s not just something you made up,” says Pam Shaffer, LMFT. “That said, you are in control of your own personal narrative. When you are feeling like biphobia is holding you back, take a moment to examine the story you are telling yourself about being bisexual.”
“If your feelings are right for you, then they’re right. There’s no reason to try to match your feelings to what society dictates.”
The story I’m telling myself is an uncomfortable truth: I’m bisexual, I know I’m bisexual, and I feel like a fraud. I’ve found myself sabotaging potential relationships with women because of my own internalized biphobia. I’m a sex educator. I’m supposed to feel comfortable in my skin, but when it comes to my biseuxality, I don’t. I’ve gotten wrapped up in a lengthy flirtation and then ruined it. I’ve been rude and unresponsive simply because I’m insecure, up to the point that I drove women away.
The constant questioning of myself is downright exhausting. There have been hundreds of times when I’ve looked inward and thought, Wait. Am I bisexual? Is this just a phase?! What if I’m making it all up, after all? How can I feel authentic with so many layered things telling me that I’m not?
“Your feelings are your feelings, plain and simple,” says Sunny Rodgers, a certified sex coach and clinical sexologist. “They aren’t ‘wrong.’ If your feelings are right for you, then they’re right. There’s no reason to try to match your feelings to what society dictates.”
I try to tell myself this. Sometimes I believe it. I know I’m not only hurting myself.
“Discomfort can make a person sabotage relationships and friendships, and cause countless hours of mindless second-guessing,” Rodgers says. Speaking with my bisexual tribe, I know I’m not alone in this. Having a community helps. It’s been the one guiding light I can depend on.
But it’s nonetheless been a whirlwind and at points, it felt like it was never going to end.
Eventually, I just had to say, “enough.”
I feel like now is good time to announce that I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% comfortable with being bisexual. To that end, I’ve begun pursuing an alternative goal: getting comfortable with not feeling entirely comfortable.
“Being comfortable with discomfort is a key skill not just for coming to terms with your sexual identity but also for life itself,” Shaffer says. “There will always be situations that make us feel discomfort, and knowing that we can withstand them helps us to thrive instead of dissolve into a puddle anytime we face external or internal adversity.”
Rodgers has gifted me the mantra of saying “I am perfect” to myself at least 20 times in front of the mirror every single day. Most of the time, I whisper it. Sometimes, when I’m alone, I shout it.
I envy those people who are comfortable in their own skin and with who they are. I also celebrate them. But that’s not me. And that’s okay, too.