Under swaying pine boughs and misty stars, I came out as bisexual to my husband in a hot tub at thirty-four years old.
It was early 2021, about a year into the pandemic. I chose the moment for its privacy, knowing I wouldn’t have to see his face in the dark, fearing my words might form a hairline crack in the sturdy foundation of our marriage.
My delivery lacked eloquence but delivered these main points: I love you, what I’m about to say doesn’t change how I feel about you, and I’ve always been attracted to women as well as men.
I knew I was queer as long as I can remember. Jasmine was just as cute as Aladdin, my buxom art teacher allured as infuriatingly as the bearded substitute. I lusted after both softball and baseball captains. But coming of age within a religious family and uptight New England community, I learned quickly to conceal this side of myself.
My parents weren’t overt in their homophobia, but it was subtly implied in how they discussed their rare LGBTQ+ encounters: “The lesbian neighbors have company again,” or “Can you believe so-and-so is gay? Not that I have a problem with that…”
After a confidential and troubled queer relationship in college, I joyfully married a man and assumed the woman-loving part of my life was over.
For a long time, it was. My husband and I had a baby, bought a house, and settled down. When Covid shut down the world, like everyone else, I had a lot of self-reflection time. I started to realize the part of myself I’d buried was still in there, shuffling about in neglect, and that by hiding it from my daughter in particular, I was being inauthentic.
How could I expect her to embrace her true self if I wasn’t doing the same?
When I came out to my husband, hiding in the hot tub, he was tender, supportive, and unsurprised. He said he loved all of me, and that I should let others do the same.
After this heartfelt conversation, I timidly chose the path of least resistance and declared myself bisexual in one fell swoop via an Instagram post. My friends were exuberantly approving, my religious family’s reactions were predictably mixed, but after a week, the hoopla settled. I wondered what I’d been so worried about; it was over.
The other day, I received a text from a good friend: “Wait you’re bi? When did that happen?” Now that we’re on the “other side” of the pandemic, I’ve had to come out repeatedly. In queer spaces, I’m assumed straight because I’m partnered with a man. On the playground while picking up my daughter, most parents I meet revert to ‘husband’ without inquiring, even after I use the neutral term ‘partner.’
These instances make me feel small and silly, like my sexuality is a trivial preference akin to sports fandom, like I’m an annoyance every time I make a correction. Monosexism exists in both straight and queer spaces, assuming singularity in sexual preference without leaving room for those whose preferences are expansive.
I’ve learned that as a bisexual person in a straight-presenting relationship, coming out isn’t a one-time deal. I have to proclaim my identity again and again. In fact, I expect I’ll have to do it forever.
There’s privilege that comes with being able to hide my queerness, in my ability to tuck it up neatly as I stand next to my husband, but there’s a cost in having to assert myself over and over, too.
Being closeted for over thirty years is sad, desolate, yet deceptively normal until you catch a glimpse of someone else standing in a shaft of light while you cower in the shadows.
What happens when you stay in the darkness that long is an unfulfilled sense of self and a cavernous pit of loneliness. I won’t go back.
This is why I choose to assert myself, over and over.
This is why I’ll keep coming out forever.