Coming Out When You Don't Know the Category You Belong To
September 29, 2014 9:02 PM   Subscribe

Over the past few months I've been coming to terms with the fact that I am about 80% straight and 20% gay, and this NCOD I am thinking of making a video and posting it to Facebook to let my very close friends know. On the one hand this seems like a really rewarding prospect, because I would like to start being more authentic with other people and this is a part of my identity that I want people to know about. It's the specifics I'm not sure how to handle.

On the whole, I think the easiest way to come out to my friends (and eventually family) is to say that I'm bisexual and that's that. What concerns me is that I am not an even split and never will be, and that will become pretty obvious as time goes on. I am pretty sure I want a husband, not a wife, and while I am definitely attracted to some women in a significant way (for me, anyway) and am open to dating women, I am generally not romantically attracted to women for reasons I can't explain. I am also not often interested in even having an actual physical sexual relationship with a woman even though I am sexually attracted to women. I was actually sexually attracted to women before I was attracted to men and have had crushes on women for a while, but I have always been outwardly and visibly boy crazy (and still am) so I am expecting a fair number of people to be flabbergasted by this pronouncement. Basically I really like girls but I sort of want to just admire them from afar and not necessarily up close.

To me, all of this sounds like the weird stereotypical "bisexuals are just confused, mostly straight or mostly gay people who want to mess around a bit" crap that biphobia and bierasure is based on, and that SUCKS because I am not confused at all. I just like what I like and that happens to be mostly men but also women. Other people will probably not even be privy to the specifics of all this but most of my friends will ask and I'd like to be honest about it so they don't suddenly start sending every lesbian they know my way because that's what they've done for other bi women in the past.

Anyway, a lot of this is me beanplating, so my TL;DR questions is this: would it be inaccurate of me to come out this October as bi even if I am mostly attracted to men? Does generally preferring one gender but still being open and mostly attracted to another make my claim to bisexuality less valid? The term "queer" is not a fit for me so I don't want to use it, and I also don't want to say "mostly heterosexual" or "bisexual but hetero-romantic" because that feels off, too. If you're bi, how do you explain it to people? Are you specific and does that confuse anybody?
posted by Hermione Granger to Human Relations (70 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think it would be inaccurate because I think that sexuality is about feelings, not action. My sexuality is kind of similar to yours (mostly straight, not really interested in acting on other feelings, but i realised later than you did) and i just don't really bother with definitions because me finding some women attractive doesn't have a big effect on my life. If i was interested in dating them, then there would be more imperative to be out. With close friends i am okay with being honest about who i am, but i don't feel any need to discuss it with my family. I also feel like coming out and saying, "I'm bi, but prefer to just admire women" is a bit... odd. If it was me, I would either be out as bi with no clarification or not explicitly out at all, but not make a point of hiding it (eg. Talk about people you find attractive without feeling like you should only mention dudes you think are hot). I guess I think that going into details about that kind of thing is unnecessary.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 9:21 PM on September 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

The definition of bisexual is not "an evenly split attraction to the male and female gender", so no it wouldn't be inaccurate at all for you to label yourself as bi. A lot of people, even bisexuals, can't agree on an exact definition, but to be honest, that doesn't really matter. How do you want to identify yourself? I am bisexual, but for the last few years I have had relationships exclusively with women (I am a woman), and I'm just fine with bisexual. Sometimes I discuss being "homoromantic", but only with other people that would actually understand that term (ie. not most of the world). Sometimes some people do need a bit of help because there are a lot of weird misconceptions about bisexuality, like people who seem to think sexuality is like a light switch, and that if I'm with someone of the same gender my bisexuality is "on", and if I'm with someone of a different gender, my bisexuality is "off" and I'm straight again. The best thing is to confront that stuff when it arises, rather than try to head it off at the pass to everyone that you reveal your sexuality to.
posted by katyggls at 9:29 PM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

would it be inaccurate of me to come out this October as bi even if I am mostly attracted to men?


Does generally preferring one gender but still being open and mostly attracted to another make my claim to bisexuality less valid?


But I don't know why it's so important to you to "come out" about it since it seems unlikely that it will be an issue.

I mean, I really like carrots, and I support other people who like carrots, but it's totally okay for other people to not like carrots. And if it comes up, I'm not ashamed to admit my love for carrots. But I don't feel compelled to make videos about how much I like carrots, and the degree to which I like carrots in comparison to peas, and...
posted by jingzuo at 9:37 PM on September 29, 2014 [41 favorites]

Dan Savage invented a term for but heteroamorous.

That said, I agree with kinddieserzeit and think this idea is odd and unnecessary. Honestly, seeing a video of this on Facebook from a close friend would completely squick me out. Not because the idea of this kind of sexuality is gross - on the contrary, I share similar leanings - but because this has little to no effect on your everyday life (you don't plan to enter a long-term relationship with a woman or marry one) so what you're essentially doing is making a video telling people about your sexual turn-ons and posting it to Facebook. To me that's some gross oversharing I wouldn't want to see on my feed. Again, it has nothing to do with the nature of the acts - I don't want to look at my Facebook feed and know about what anyone is doing sexually. I guess there's some value in coming out about that information- I believe Dan Savage suggests and supports it - , but you can do that, as has been suggested, through your conversations and interactions with other people. If you really feel it's important to come out, I would suggest saying bisexual and leaving it at that - particulars are not necessary.
posted by unannihilated at 9:41 PM on September 29, 2014 [16 favorites]

Yeah, but jingzuo, no-one is walking around saying "carrots are gross, people who eat them are weird and in denial and twisted, I'd never like/love someone who was into carrots."

Well, they might be, but it's a lot less common than biphobia. I think it's a good idea if your social circle does videos like this on various topics (ie: the medium is accepted - video things like that are weird to me, it would be an open letter or a badge - man, I miss those old pride badges you stuck on a backpack next to your greenpeace badge and the one that says "Hooked on Heroines" and the Xena/Gabrielle..... 90s #nostalgia) I think it's neat - I wish I was bolder about my own identity and I think this is great.

October 11th, huh. Maybe I'll step up to the plate too.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:43 PM on September 29, 2014 [8 favorites]

Maybe just BE however you are, instead of making a big announcement?

Like, if you date a girl, then you say that. In the moment.

Or if you find someone attractive, no matter their gender, you say so.

Making an announcement is inviting commentary. Simply putting yourself out there and being authentic just seems like the classier way to go about, well, being who you are!

I'm from a different generation, so a video or manifesto seems drama-y to me, but it might be totally normal amongst you and yours.

At the end of the day you gotta do you. Good luck!

PS. I speak from experience. I did not announce anything, ever, people discovered what I was about from my actions and choices. Always worked well enough! I don't regret not taking on a label, FWIW.
posted by jbenben at 9:43 PM on September 29, 2014 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: It's important for me to come out because literally no one in my life knows that I am gay and I would like to change that asap. I need to come out to my friends and eventually my family. I would like to be able to be honest about the people I am interested in and attracted to for once without giving people an abridged, girl-less summary. I asked this question because I'm trying to make sure that bisexuality is the right category to put myself in, and National Coming Out Day feels like the safest time for me to tell my friends. I want to do it in a video because the majority of my friends don't live close to me anymore, and while you might not think it's a big deal, this is a big deal to me.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:45 PM on September 29, 2014 [17 favorites]

Sexuality, which is an immutable and pretty important part of someone's identity, is not at all comparable to one's preference for vegetables. Some people would just like people to know the real them, especially close friends and family. This is not weird.
posted by katyggls at 9:46 PM on September 29, 2014 [12 favorites]

BTW, I agree the details are not important so much as saying "Hey, I'm bisexual, not straight. So now y'all know someone who's bisexual too for National Coming Out Day. Thanks for being my friends." Short and simple. No-one needs to hear all the details except people you're flirting with or in a relationship with, or your best friend. What matters is being visible, not explicit.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:47 PM on September 29, 2014 [28 favorites]

Everyone's different and has a different dynamic with their friends. If posting a video to Facebook is honestly what you deem necessary and consider the best way of sharing it with your friends, ok. Go ahead :)
posted by lizbunny at 9:47 PM on September 29, 2014

Does generally preferring one gender but still being open and mostly attracted to another make my claim to bisexuality less valid?

No, it doesn't, and to some extent might be useful if you know people who are maybe kind of unexposed to bisexual people., I don't want to squash you, but I am a bisexual woman who's been monogamously married to a man for many years, with all the privileges and assumptions that come with, and I don't feel like the movement needs me right now. Yeah, there are moments, where straight women make assumptions and I do think I am doing something useful to say, "Uh, I'm not straight, just FYI" but for the most part not.

I don't feel like bi-visibility needs heteroamorous women all that much right now. My identity as a feminist and an ally to homosexual and trans people means more to me at this stage in my life. But I do remember what it was like when I first realized I liked girls too and wanted to be like "oh my god y'all, have you tried this?" but I am kind of glad I figured out that I should hang back. As a white American, I should. I'm not significant in the larger context. I am a cliche, in fact, and I know it and I'm at peace with it.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:48 PM on September 29, 2014 [21 favorites]

Response by poster: Also, fwiw, my sexuality has a lot of an impact on my day to day life because I work in a homophobic environment that leaves me feeling invisible and defenseless at the end of each day. Asserting my identity for the first time to my friends is something I need to do to survive that environment for as long as I have to be in it. I wanted to make sure I wasn't losing out on some other subset of sexuality that was a more accurate depiction of what I am, but if bi is accurate, then bi it is.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:53 PM on September 29, 2014 [9 favorites]

I completely agree with jingzuo and unannihilated.

I've had candid conversations with friends and family, and in those conversations it's been easy to acknowledge some amount of fluidity about my sexuality. In fact, most often I've found that many women feel the same way (though, full disclosure, I've experimented some and most in my social circles either haven't or don't mention it).

Really, I don't see the need for coming out in your case (unless I'm reading this wrong, you sound more bi-curious than bisexual, anyway).

If you want to do something that raises curiosity and invites conversation, get involved in supporting LBGTQ rights. Then, if Facebook is your outlet, join groups and causes in a way that people can see. If anyone questions your sudden interest, you can explain without making a "coming out" video.
posted by whoiam at 9:57 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hi, I'm bisexual. I've never dated or hooked up with a girl, as I've been in a monogramous heteronormative relationship since I was 18. I once asked a really similar question here on metafilter--my first--where I was all in a panic about whether I could claim the term bi or if queer was more accurate. I was worried, among other things, that I might alienate queer friends whose sexualities are more visible and who have to deal with active homophobia.

Some people pushed back and told me that I was a poser, that my sexuality didn't count, and so on, and so forth. And my own internal reaction--that this was who I was and it was important to me and I have just as much of a right to claim it as anyone else, that calling me straight felt like a lie, and a lie that denied an important part of myself--helped me to realize that yes, I'm bi, and yes, it's okay to say it.

It feels good to say it. Liberating, even here. I came out (awkwardly. Inadvertently) to my immediate family a few years ago. Otherwise, I don't bring it up, except where it's relevant. But when it is relevant, I don't feel it necessary to hold back. It feels good to own it--to own me.

Yes, be aware of your privilege in speaking to other queer people. But bi-erasure is a huge thing (even among queer people), and your sexuality should not be erased. Go for it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:58 PM on September 29, 2014 [26 favorites]

viggorlijah, you can still use badges!

I get them free from the HRC just because I make a small monthly donation.

OP, could you go that route? Put up stickers, badges, what-not at your homophobic work environment, and publicly join causes (for your long-distance friends to see) on Facebook?

I'm not trying to talk you out of your idea so much as I admire the approach of Lyn Never. I can also respect what PhoBWanKenobi says, and if this is really important to you, then go for it (but do expect questions about experience and girlfriends... if you've had neither, it'll be more awkward than simply showing full support, IMHO).

Edit to say I will send you some stickers if you want... just MeMail me.
posted by whoiam at 10:24 PM on September 29, 2014

Lyn Never, I'm in the same position as you and it makes me feel even more like I should speak out. I try to whenever GLBT stuff comes up in conversation, to identify as someone who is bisexual, but partly because there are so few bisexuals known, it ends up being super confusing for people who barely understand gay people exist. I have circles who are very traditional in my life, and the very few times I've brought it up from glbt issues, it's been a big shift to their worldview to have a "regular" mom and wife they know be glbt.

I need new t-shirts clearly!
posted by viggorlijah at 10:28 PM on September 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Something seems to have gone awry here, so let me clarify a few things...

1. The video I would like to post for National Coming Out Day would consist of me letting my friends know that I am gay. I am not planning to be specific about sexual stuff because that's not what the video is about. I don't know where some of you got that impression. I plan to face the camera, wave, and say that I have been wanting to come out for a while and now I am.

2. Me coming out is not in question. I am gay, not curious. My hesitation about getting intimately involved with a woman has to do with inexperience and shyness. It doesn't invalidate my attraction. It does not mean I will never have a relationship with a woman. There is a woman in my life right now that I want to get to know but I want to come out first before I pursue her. I want people to know. I am not straight and never have been. My question has to do with figuring out what type of gay I am.

3. Telling me not to come out because to YOU I have nothing to come out about is not helpful.

Thank you.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:29 PM on September 29, 2014 [19 favorites]

The idea that showing who you really are might be "unnecessary" is pretty toxic. Passing in any sense is a complex and painful process. I'm very familiar with the particular bi passing of "well, I guess being seen as straight is good enough." I also think of my father. He was able to pass as white while his brothers were seen as unmistakably Mexican, and this gave him mobility in his profession but also alienated him from his family and culture and sense of self. He didn't even think to teach us Spanish, past a few simple words. It wasn't until I was 23, a little drunk and sharing a cigar with my uncle Tim who I'd only met once previously, and listening to Tim's stories and seeing the generosity and warmth of his children, that I realized what a wall my father had built between himself and a world waiting to claim him with love and belonging.

The LGBTQ community, while complex and sometimes like this giant bickering family, is also a family waiting to give you love. You don't have to be a super OUT QUEER ACTIVIST all of the time or whatever, but approaching this part of you -- that you identify in a way that deviates from the heteronormative mold, whatever the degree of variance -- with love and acceptance will give you the gateway to sharing and spreading that with others. That's a beautiful thing! Don't wait decades until you're sitting around a back porch to realize "oh, shit, this is love that I arbitrarily denied myself." It's inconvenient to give up the privilege of passing. It's complicating. You get rebuked from both sides. You can doubt yourself -- was this really me all along? But the thing is, you've already been having this experience of bi-ness or queerness or whatever. It's not like you're doing or becoming anything, you're just leading with it rather than pushing it aside.

And as for bisexual identity in particular -- you'll always get a person or two who is protective of their particular strand of queerness. And that's not inconsequential. I totally agree with PhoBWanKenobi, be aware of privilege and try to think a bit about where they're coming from. Their feelings have nothing to do with the validity of your experience, however. Again, I think it really helps to not think of this as a choice, but rather, an acknowledgement of your experience. You're not "doing" anything, just opening lines of communication between yourself and the world (and between different warring, self-silencing parts of yourself! Those parts don't do so well with the whole radical self-acceptance thing.) Ten years after coming out as bi/queer, I can happily report that it gets better.

This is all a long-winded way of saying be you and be out! It's a lovely way to be. In terms of the actual technique of coming out (the publicly posted video), I would just say that you should concentrate first on feeling like you're being compassionate and loving and affirming to yourself, and that you take a look at your relationships and also try to do right by those. Will any close close friends or family members feel a little hurt by coming out publicly versus individually first? If so, and if you want to strengthen your intimacy and trust with those people in general, I would consider speaking with/messaging them beforehand or individually, perhaps in addition to the video. Just give it a little thought -- but it's all absolutely up to you. Way to go, again!
posted by elephantsvanish at 10:30 PM on September 29, 2014 [13 favorites]

If you want to claim the bi label, you get to define it for you. I have several female friends who are bi and have only ever dated men for as long as I've known them. Maybe it's because they're more into guys in general, maybe they've just happened to meet guys they like, maybe they don't actually want to date women, who knows. I do however think it'd be perfectly appropriate to let your friends know that you don't need or want All Of The Lesbians! because seriously, that's not actually a great way to respond to someone coming/being out.
posted by teremala at 10:33 PM on September 29, 2014

I feel as though you are getting defensive because you are receiving responses that are questioning the motives behind your plan, when you have made up your mind that this is something you want to do.

My suggestion is to use these responses to further formulate your plan of attack in creating your announcement. I would think that many of your friends and family will react in exactly the same way, and have the same questions and confusions that people here are expressing.

All these different points of view are going to allow you to craft your message to answer a lot of questions that will inevitably come up, such as you being clear that you are gay and yet have never had a relationship with a woman and don't see yourself marrying one. You need to figure out an answer for that, other other sticky questions because a Facebook video is not a one way street. You can't expect that you get to make an announcement like that and have everyone go 'oh ok, awesome, moving on now.'

Hopefully when you look back on this thread in a few days it will help you determine where you fit in relation to how you are planning to respond to your loved ones.
posted by Youremyworld at 10:44 PM on September 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

Hmm. Lesbian here. Sounds like you're struggling a bit with terminology. The most common coming out terminology for people attracted to both genders that I come across is:

1. Bisexual
2. Queer
3. "Also attracted to women" or "attracted to both genders" or something similar that avoids a label entirely.

Queer has some political connotations attached to it, but you might prefer that term as it's a bit more flexible, or you might prefer to not use a label at all. As you get more involved in the LGBT scene you'll find the terms that you prefer, I think, so just pick whatever sounds good to you right now. You could also go for something like "I am 80/20 in terms of attraction" or "a 2 on the kinsey scale".

If you haven't already, you might want to do a bit of googling on how to come out and what to expect. You are going to get pushback from people, both those that are homophobic and those who don't believe you. You should decide ahead of time how you want to handle these people - what will you do if they are friends? Family? What will you do if somebody tells you that they don't believe you? Figuring out as much as you can ahead of time will save a lot of struggle as you actually go through the process because you can just enact whatever plan you've come up with and then give yourself time to process later.

Coming out for folks attracted to both genders is even more of a drawn out process than coming out as gay is, because you constantly have to push back against the straight narrative whenever you are in a opposite-gendered relationship and against the gay narrative whenever you're in a same-gendered relationship. It sounds like you are willing and ready to do a lot of pushing back right now, but just remember that if things start to get exhausting or frustrating, it's okay to take a break from coming out for a while. It's really worthwhile, but it can also be exhausting.

Good luck! It sounds like you've thought a lot about this beforehand and you will be fine.
posted by zug at 11:01 PM on September 29, 2014 [9 favorites]

Yeeeeeah. There is a lot of inappropriate pushback going on in this thread, and I'm really sorry you're having to deal with that here. I fully support you in coming out, if you choose to do so, via whatever method makes you most comfortable, on whatever timeline makes you happy.

I am out, and have been out for many years, yet I still take time each October 11th to publicly make a statement about who I am. I'd love to have you join me in making a statement on that day, if you'd like. It's a great day to come out, and I think a short video on Facebook is a lovely way to make that happen.
posted by zebra at 11:06 PM on September 29, 2014 [16 favorites]

I tell people I'm bisexual (or queer, depending on how I feel). I don't go into percentages, because my % freely changes, there are many genders, and it's nobody's business, really.

Between you and me, I wasn't an even split for a long time. I think this causes stress for a lot of bi people. It certainly did for me. I also think it's really common.

If someone is nosy about percentages, I tell them I've dated men and women before, I don't really think in percentages, and I also date gender queer and trans people.

If they ask out of genuine curiosity, I'll tell them that it's a sensitive topic for a lot of bi people because of bi invisibility and that it sounds like they are asking me to "prove" my sexuality. I couch it in a lot of "I know you don't mean it this way but a lot of people that ask me these questions DO mean it like that."

If they seem like a jerk, I just tell them it's complicated and I don't quite think of my sexuality in those terms and leave it at that.

If you want to make a video, I think that's amazing and you should do it. That said, one thing I've learned is that coming out is a constant process and not a single event. It's often clumsy and takes a couple tries to tell people, even when you're being obvious and direct. But I recently posted a "happy bi visibility day!" post on Facebook and have no regrets, even if it didn't get a million likes. So more power to you!
posted by yaymukund at 11:07 PM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Totally make a video if that's your style, but personally I'd be too paranoid to trust Facebook with such a thing. And the news might really be better shared in one-on-one or small group video chats anyway. Some people will have questions, and you'll perhaps want to think ahead to what those questions will be and how you want to answer. Some people may not treat it as much of an event -- "Oh you're into ladies too? Ok cool."
posted by ktkt at 11:07 PM on September 29, 2014

Mod note: Just a note, folks: Ask Me is for providing answers, and isn't the venue for either "let me just give you my thoughts on the broad topic," or a back and forth conversation among commenters, and this question is actually fairly specific. Please check the last paragraph for the questions OP has for other Bi people. Or if not the whole last paragraph, then this: If you're bi, how do you explain it to people? Are you specific and does that confuse anybody? Thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:30 PM on September 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

You just missed Bisexual Pride Day (Sept 23) - that's when I'd think would be your best time to post something. You could still link to or mention Bi Pride, though.

Me coming out is not in question. I am gay, not curious.

This is a little confusing considering you also believe you are likely to end up in hetero relationships 80% of the time. If you do declare yourself gay and then later have a boyfriend, your friends may not understand the complexities of the issue, and will assume you've somehow changed your mind about it.
posted by mdn at 12:21 AM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm not one for labels, but to each her own. However, it is confusing when you say (in the comments) that you want to come out as "gay," but you have never dated a woman and are not romantically attracted to women.

I don't know why queer doesn't work for you, but I would stick with that or bi. And I would leave percentages out of it.
posted by girl flaneur at 12:43 AM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

First of all, I admire you for taking this step in sharing your identity with those closest to you, even though you know it will come as a surprise to them, and even though you spend a lot of time in a homophobic environment. Go you!

Second, this label thing is so tricky, and so personal. It can be really hard to explain to people what your identity really is when it isn't 100% obvious. I (female) had to have a couple of strange conversations with relatives my parents' age when I got engaged to my (female) partner. They seemed confused by the fact that my previous long-term relationship had been with a dude, and what had changed? So a completely different situation than yours, but one where "bisexual - it's a thing!" can come in rather handy.

What I've ended up doing as a part of my coming out/explaining process has been to phrase it closer to what I feel is true for me - that I'm not going to fall in love with someone because they are a man or because they are a woman or anything else, but because of who they are as a person. I don't fall for everyone, but once I do fall for someone, I don't really care about the gender aspect. (So the label "pansexual" fits me better than "bisexual", but I tend to simplify because so few people are up on current alternative sexuality terminology.) I've never tried to be specific in the split, and I would suggest that it might fall into TMI territory for a lot of people.

No matter what you end up choosing, you are the one who gets to determine your own identity. All we can offer is advice on how to phrase it to help other people understand it - but don't let the internet tell you want you can or cannot choose to call yourself when coming out.
posted by harujion at 1:14 AM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Welcome to the QUILTBAG, friend. I think you'll have a better time if you use a term other than 'gay', since most people understand that to mean homosexual when you are not. 'Bi' is a good descriptor. 'Queer' is very good too. FYI, overcomplicating your sexuality is, like, a bi trademark, so you will probably be identifiable as bi to many people the minute you start talking about this :). Personally I would not make a video, but I am an Orwell Baby not a Millennial, who knows how you folks roll these days, if you want to write your own rap about how you are bisexual and perform it on YouTube nobody in the world can stop you.
I honestly don't think it matters how many women you want to date. When I came out as a lesbian*, I didn't specify exactly what percentage of women I was attracted to. Feel free to talk to your friends about that in a normal confiding-type conversation where you are both sharing how sexual you feel in everyday life, but it's not information you owe anybody and isn't all that relevant to your coming-out process. Also, as people have pointed out, that shit changes.

*Just to be clear, 'coming out' is a vicious lying trick of a phrase. The joy of living in heteronormative society is that you will have to come out continuously for the rest of your life. I look like someone's fucking cartoon of a contemporary lesbian - I even sometimes wear bow ties, for fuck's sake - and I still have to come out, regularly. The trick is doing it often and calmly enough that your body stops reflexively pumping out adrenaline over a really simple conveyance of information and starts putting it into the same category as telling someone in passing that you like reading science fiction or even mentioning a science fiction book you recently enjoyed.
posted by Acheman at 1:16 AM on September 30, 2014 [31 favorites]

I am bi, I've known a lot of bi people, and I don't think I've ever met anyone who was a 50/50 split. That makes zero difference - if you want to identify as bi, identify as bi. Welcome to the tribe!

But, yes, your terminology seems muddled. It seems like you're using bi and gay interchangeably, which is not typical and is going to really confuse people. Either have a really good explanation handy for what you mean by using both, or pick the one that feels right to you.

You may also want to look at writing on pansexuality, which in some circles seems to be taking the place of bisexuality as a desriptor. I'm old and cranky and set in my ways but if I were coming out now, I might be calling myself pansexual instead. It's worth getting a handle on the different terms, so you can represent your truth well.
posted by Stacey at 3:02 AM on September 30, 2014 [12 favorites]

You are allowed to identify as bi and date all or mostly men. (Not that it's relevant but at least two people in my very close friends and family circle identify as lesbian and are coupled with cis men.) Don't let anyone tell you you don't need to come out; your needs are yours, not theirs, and are completely legitimate.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:51 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

What about if you called your closest friends and family and told them over the phone? That would give you the confidence and identity that you're going for, right? I mean hell, all you have to do is tell one person you know in the real world, and the deed is infinitely further progressed from the current state.

Talking directly to the people you love about who you are is better than using Facebook to do this and hoping they watch your video and hoping they like it and hoping they comment on it and hoping they don't have a weird public embarrassing reaction and hoping Facebook doesn't try and sell you bisexual themed vacations for the rest of your life.

Get off of the internet and affirm yourself classically!
posted by oceanjesse at 4:53 AM on September 30, 2014

First of all, you are not alone. I have so many friends who have had deep, meaningful relationships with people of both genders. I'm in my fifties so there's nothing new under the sun.

When coming out, it's not necessary to say exactly where you are on the Kinsey Scale. You don't owe anyone any details.

It's enough to simply say, "Folks, I'm one of the lucky few who can double their chances for a date on Saturday night. I'm attracted to both men and women. I'm going to live my life out and proud."

Then do it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:28 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thinking about this more... I hope something in this thread helps you find a term that fits you comfortably, and if so, that's awesome. But if not, well, maybe you're getting more hung up on a descriptor than you need to be right now. If the important part is being authentic and open, then maybe that means being open about where you are right now. Maybe your statement is something like "I find myself somewhere on the queer spectrum, and I don't really know yet what term best defines me. I'm interested in people of all genders, and I am looking forward to exploring that, and you're all important to me so I want you to know this is what's going on in my life right now. I'm not looking to be set up with anyone right now, but if I am at some point, I'll be sure to let you all know."

Just another way to go, which maybe will feel better than hurrying to pick a term by an arbitrary deadline.
posted by Stacey at 5:30 AM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think it's very cool that you're taking this step, and I'm sorry you're getting so many deliberately unhelpful answers encouraging you not to come out, or to rethink your characterization of your own sexual orientation, etc. Ugh.

...would it be inaccurate of me to come out this October as bi even if I am mostly attracted to men?


Does generally preferring one gender but still being open and mostly attracted to another make my claim to bisexuality less valid?


The term "queer" is not a fit for me so I don't want to use it, and I also don't want to say "mostly heterosexual" or "bisexual but hetero-romantic" because that feels off, too. If you're bi, how do you explain it to people? Are you specific and does that confuse anybody?

"I'm bi - open to dating/being with both genders, though it more often shakes out that I'm attracted to men." I don't think you necessarily need to address the fact that you think you'd prefer a husband over a wife at this point - mostly because it's early (in the sense that it doesn't sound like you're in a Serious, Headed towards Marriage Relationship right now) - but I totally get why you'd want to clarify that you probably won't be dating exactly 50% women and 50% men.

...most of my friends will ask and I'd like to be honest about it so they don't suddenly start sending every lesbian they know my way because that's what they've done for other bi women in the past.

You should also feel free to explicitly ask your friends to not send every available lesbian they know your way. Sometimes people need to be told things like that up front, and the end result is that you and they will be happier and more comfortable.

Good luck - and congrats!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:30 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd just go with coming out as bi (in the video or however else you'd like) and leave the percentages out. Unfortunately, while many people are now comfortable with the label gay/lesbian, people still have trouble with the label bisexual. I personally think the percentages are unnecessary - you're attracted to both sexes, maybe you'll be in a relationship with a woman, maybe it will be with a man, maybe you'll be single and have casual sexual relationships with either sex. Your label doesn't dictate what you are and aren't allowed to do in your life. I have a friend who is bi, but she's married to a woman, so she no longer sleeps with men. Does that mean she's not bi anymore? No. She's just monogamous and happens to be in a relationship with a woman.
posted by melissasaurus at 5:32 AM on September 30, 2014

3. Telling me not to come out because to YOU I have nothing to come out about is not helpful.

I high-five you!

Agree with others about identifying as bi is fine even if the split isn't even, because that doesn't matter. Many of my exes have identified as bi although their histories have been mostly lesbian in practice. I like the video idea a lot, and NCOD is perfect for this.

For everyone here who's wondering about why the need to come out at all (and for anyone else who hasn't read it because it's fantastic), google up Audre Lorde's essay “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action."
posted by rtha at 5:46 AM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]

Not a direct answer to your question, but there was a great essay in the New York Times by Charles M. Blow about his acceptance of his bisexuality that you might find helpful in your process of thinking about this.
posted by Shoggoth at 6:14 AM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

You're not gay, as I understand the term

Telling a bunch of people (in this case, women) that you're not interested in sleeping with them or dating them is typically considered rude, so if you want to come out as bi, don't include all the stuff about what you're not into.

I'm not heterosexual but since I basically benefit from straight privilege nonstop I'm sort of "meh" on the coming out thing for myself and am much more comfortable acting as an ally. I would certainly not aproppriate "lesbian" or "gay" as terms to describe myself while I'm regularly and exclusively partnering with men. YMMV.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:16 AM on September 30, 2014 [20 favorites]

Also, I'm very sorry your work situation is demeaning and upsetting. I wish you had a better environment. Hang in there.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:38 AM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

You can come out as bisexual (being aware that many people consider the term now offensive against genderfluid and transgender people) regardless of your split. It's not about percentages, it's about how you feel.

In general, I tend to refer to myself as queer, but that's because I'm an activist. I march, I write letters, I obstruct court houses. I write about queer topics, and I am a vocal proponent for queer equality. I could pass, and I don't want to. We need more voices, even if our voices are occasionally mistaken for allies.

People are still confused when they discover I'm married to a man. My mother finally understands that my sexuality is not a phase. It simply is-- it's who I am. If this is simply who you are, don't give people the chance to pick apart what they think bisexuality is. Don't be defensive. Your limits and parameters don't matter.

If you'd never, ever date a guy with a handlebar mustache, that doesn't make you less attracted to guys, general. It's not an exception you would make regarding a het relationship; don't make it one for your queer relationships either. You have absolutely no idea what might happen if the right pan-gendered person came along.

So, congratulations on coming out. I wouldn't make a video, simply because it will give you the opportunity to ramble and be defensive. Put up a Pride flag, mention you're proud to be queer, and if people have questions, answer them. Or don't. You are who you are. You don't have to justify that to anyone.
posted by headspace at 6:41 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think it's great for you to be out and I support that. Woo! Congratulations on being out!

I don't know your friends, but in my circle a video would be considered quite dramatic and somewhat odd, unless it was hilarious or artistically innovative. I would expect you to get a range of reactions to coming out in this rather dramatic fashion, not all of which were positive, from queer people. Biphobia is real of course, but also, the act of coming out feels qualitatively very different for someone who has never had gay relationships/relations and might not have them any time soon, from a more conventional coming out, in that they just involve a very different life experience.

I think the video in particular is rubbing me the wrong way because presumably it will be seen by people who are primarily in queer relationships, or primarily have queer sex or whatnot, and it may feel strange to see something so BIG about being GAY or BI from someone with much less experience in a lived queer experience. I know this is all really complicated, and your lived queer experience is just as real as anyone else's, yet your experience is undeniably different from someone who, for example, has been out for 30 years, is read as queer in the world, has had multiple queer relationships, has perhaps experienced discrimination, etc... It's not really about the bi-ness for me - I know people who have had like, 1 out of 10 hookups that were queer, and I still get that they're queer, it's that there's just so little experience backing up the announcement. Although it's very real to you, it might be perceived as primarily intellectual to others, and some negative response you might get might be around people who feel like, "Hey, I've been queer all my life, I've had xyz hard experience because of it, I feel a part of this culture, I feel I've earned my queer mantle, and this person who just thinks she may like women 20 percent of the time is stealing my thunder."

So I guess if it were me, I would also want to come out to family and friends, but I don't think I would do it on Facebook or by video or by mass announcement. It just feels weird. I'm not sure I can even totally quantify all of why.

Good luck. I think it's great you want to share your truth with your community.
posted by latkes at 6:44 AM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

My question has to do with figuring out what type of gay I am.

Whatever type of gay you want to call it. I'm bi, and I'd call it bisexual.

I think you may have an idea that being bi means being exactly split 50-50 in your attraction. I think that exact 50-50 split is MUCH rarer than people who lean more to one side or another -- enough that it's not really necessary for you to mention percentages of attraction. Calling myself bisexual is enough for me.

I think this preoccupation with labels and how to be the right kind of gay is extremely common when someone's figuring out how to come out. Once you just live it for awhile you may get to a point where you just shrug and date whoever you want. ;]
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:06 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I hate labels with a burning firey passion but I still think you should ignore some of the more toxic and unpleasant responses in this thread and do what seems right to you. You are perfectly within your rights to refer to yourself as bi or queer or anything similar, yes, even if you have never actually dated or had sex with a woman. I would personally hold off on claiming "gay" as an identifier, though. I have dated exclusively women for about 4 years now and I still wouldn't call myself that, mostly because many people who knew that I had ever dated men before would find that usage offensive.

Whatever you do, expect the same level of pushback and approval on FB as you got here, plus probably the same one or two ignorant and obnoxious answers.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:10 AM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's tough for people who identify somewhere between gay and straight. I once had similar reservations as you about calling myself bi. I personally would probably use "queer" to describe myself in your shoes.

You are seeing in this post a lot of people questioning identities and definitions. That will not go away. I'm not saying it's "deserved", I'm just saying if this post is making you feel defensive and upset, you will likely also feel defensive and upset at some people's reactions when you come out.

I know it's frustrating. Try to remember that people bring a lot of cultural baggage to these kinds of conversations. You may feel frustrated that people are questioning your authenticity. Lesbians or bi women dating women may be frustrated because we are in a culture where lesbian attraction is often trivialized as a phase or something that's fun, but when it comes time for a "real" relationship ladies want MEN. These are, frankly, tools of the patriarchy. People's frustrations are less with individual people and more with the cultural "lived experience" of gayness, IMO.

(Full disclosure: I am a lesbian and my immediate reaction to this post was defensive. But having thought about it more, I do indeed feel that my reaction has more to do with the broader ways that lesbian sexuality is belittled, culturally.)

So be what you want, tell who you want, and try to be mindful that if people are jerks about it, they are fighting their own fights with marginalization too. Acceptance is a long journey for everybody.
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:26 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I re-read your question and I actually think you should definitly not come out in the way you describe, and it would be read as offensive by me and perhaps your queer friends. Here are the key points for me:

I am pretty sure I want a husband, not a wife...I am generally not romantically attracted to women... I am also not often interested in even having an actual physical sexual relationship with a woman...Basically I really like girls but I sort of want to just admire them from afar and not necessarily up close.

Um, in what way are you gay? You do not want to marry a woman. You do not want to have sex with a woman.

You think women are attractive. So what? Everyone who is not a total homophobe can admire people of their own genders. I think it would be quite offensive for you to "come out" as someone who is gay but has no interest in acting on that "gayness".

It's absolutely fine to be curious. To notice that you are having attraction to women. To be honest and "out" about that with your community. It would be super weird for you to "come out" as gay to people based on that.
posted by latkes at 7:30 AM on September 30, 2014 [18 favorites]

I internally self-identify as lesbian, since I have exclusively dated and had relationships with women, and that community was my community throughout my 20s.
However. I have slept with men (lost my gold star!), so if I have to "come out" to people I usually use queer. It's just very flexible.

Ultimately if you want to come out, by all means do so. By video or otherwise. It's your choice, your life, and your identity. I do have to echo others regarding your terminology. I would not say you are gay. You should come out as bisexual if you do come out. Gay implies 100% homosexual and will really rattle the cages/piss off some people, and confuse others (including totally accepting, supportive friends).

Good luck.
posted by aclevername at 7:38 AM on September 30, 2014

First off, definitely don't tell people you're gay. You're no more gay than you are straight.

Ok, now then:

I am pretty sure I want a husband, not a wife, and while I am definitely attracted to some women in a significant way (for me, anyway) and am open to dating women, I am generally not romantically attracted to women for reasons I can't explain. I am also not often interested in even having an actual physical sexual relationship with a woman even though I am sexually attracted to women.

You know, I felt like this for a very long time. I knew I 'liked women,' but it was all very abstract, whereas I knew from experience that I could enjoy sex and love with men. So I figured, well, I can just enjoy thinking about women and leave it at that.

And then, as I gradually became more open to myself and others about my feelings, I realized that, hey, maybe I actually COULD see myself having sex with a woman. Maybe I COULD actually date a woman. Maybe I could even imagine winding up with a wife.

I am not saying this will definitely happen to you. What I am saying is, there is no reaon to assume that your current level of attraction to women is totally immutable. For that reason, I would not recommend making a video saying "here is the exact percentage of bi that I am." Just tell people you are attracted to women as well as men, and then go from there. There's no need to obsessively quantify things you're just beginning to explore.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:39 AM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

You think women are attractive. So what? Everyone who is not a total homophobe can admire people of their own genders. I think it would be quite offensive for you to "come out" as someone who is gay but has no interest in acting on that "gayness".

Accepting and processing bisexuality can be especially hard, in part because of the stigma that exists around bisexual women even within the queer community--the idea that they're just straight drunken bar sluts, that they can't be trusted, that they'll use women and then marry men. I know that for me, owning the label of bisexual was the beginning of the process of owning those parts of myself. In my late teens and early twenties, I would have likely made a big deal about how I never would have actually dated a woman. But I also wouldn't have called myself bi, despite those undeniable internal urges. Accepting the label--despite social stigma from both straight and gay people--meant accepting those urges, and the possibility that someday, love with a woman could really be in the cards. Which isn't to deny Hermione's lived experience and feelings about her sexuality. But I would be reluctant to read too much into her nascent feelings about where her ultimate sexuality might lead. She's just starting to open doors and accept and love parts of herself. That can change the entire trajectory of one's life.

HG, one thing you might want to look into is notions of biphobia and bierasure and discussions of those two topics. Delving into the academic aspects of the label really helped me to feel it was doubly important to take ownership. If nothing else, treat yourself with love. You deserve it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:39 AM on September 30, 2014 [9 favorites]

I think the video in particular is rubbing me the wrong way because presumably it will be seen by people who are primarily in queer relationships, or primarily have queer sex or whatnot, and it may feel strange to see something so BIG about being GAY or BI from someone with much less experience in a lived queer experience.

A different take, as someone who has been out as a dyke for 25 or so years: I would not, if we were friends IRL, and do not, as a random queer on the internet, feel that this is strange or appropriative or that you're somehow not allowed to do a video until you have X years of experience.

It might be yes a little odd to tell people you're gay when you are bisexual. But do that if it somehow feels right - just be prepared to do a lot more explaining!
posted by rtha at 7:42 AM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

I identify as lesbian, and I support your choice to use the language that feels right to you to identify yourself. We can all decide how to self-identify, and it doesn't have to line up 100% with our desires, and certainly not with our lived experience. Whither the baby dyke, if coming out is about experience? Some of us know how we want to identify before ever having sexual experience with anyone of any gender.

The main point I want to make, though, is this: Don't worry too much about the language right now. Coming out once using one term is not a lifetime sentence. Go with what feels good to you now (bisexual), and if later your feelings change, you can change the word, too.

Personally, I came out as bisexual in my very early 20s. I had only had experience with men, and I thought I was about 60-women/40-men percentage wise. Over the next few years my interest in women increased and my interest in men decreased, and lesbian started to feel like a better word than bi. I didn't do the whole Coming Out rounds again, I just changed my language. I'm still not technically a perfect Textbook Lesbian. I still find the occasional man attractive, and if I were single I would probably sleep with a man here or there (they're just so much more convenient). But the word "lesbian" feels right to me, so that's what I use. I do identify best with and participate in lesbian culture, I do see myself having relationships only with women going forward, I am primarily attracted to women these days, but that's not why it's the right word for me. It's right because it feels right.

I won't hesitate to change words if that feeling changes, and I don't think you should worry too much about your word, either. If bisexual feels right now, go with that. You can always change it later.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:19 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

The kind of orientation you describe is so common among my friends that it's pretty much how I assume women under 30 are by default. I don't think it really requires coming out or even identifying as such. I'm not even exaggerating. I am trying to picture a single female friend on my facebook list who that wouldn't apply to and am coming up short. Just change your okcupid profile to 'bisexual' and be done with it.
posted by empath at 8:37 AM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

I started identifying as bisexual when I was a teenager and I've toyed around with other labels...I've tried to use queer, and recently I've even been putting myself in the asexual spectrum. And then I just said fuck it...I'm done with the concept of sexual orientation, and I announced this on social media. You like who you like, in the way you like, and that's it. There's no need to label it. I always found it stressful to maintain the bisexual label because I was constantly trying to monitor my own sexuality to make sure I was sufficiently attracted to both men and women and that's kind of a drag.

Go ahead and make the announcement, but just say that even though you still like men, you also like women. You don't have to announce a sexual orientation to boot.
posted by cosmicbeast at 8:57 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I often use the term "OmniSexual" for myself.
posted by jbenben at 9:12 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you are overthinking the whole "do i qualify as bi or gay?!" thing. Everybody is on a (rainbow!) spectrum, so very few people are firmly and squarely on teh opposing ends (100% homo / 100% hetero) or smack in the middle.

I think you could get your point across to friends in normal conversation, but if you want to do some grand coming out gesture, I wouldn't do an internet video, especially if you work at a homophobic place. the internet doesn't need to know you're attracted to whatever, or that i can juggle ben wa balls or anything else related to anyones bedroom because it can be dug up and used in a negative way later because...well i don't know why, but I think erring on the side of your own privacy on the internet is better. This is with anything, not just because you're bi and not because bi is bad or something.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:44 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am pretty sure I want a husband, not a wife, and while I am definitely attracted to some women in a significant way (for me, anyway) and am open to dating women, I am generally not romantically attracted to women for reasons I can't explain. I am also not often interested in even having an actual physical sexual relationship with a woman even though I am sexually attracted to women. I was actually sexually attracted to women before I was attracted to men and have had crushes on women for a while ... Basically I really like girls but I sort of want to just admire them from afar and not necessarily up close.

Oh, I think I see what threw people and why some people have reacted pretty poorly.

Taken at face value, this reads a bit like "I like women but not very much, I would never date one or even sleep with one but I want to identify as bisexual", which I think is rubbing some people the wrong way.

But I have certainly heard plenty of similar statements from other people about being attracted to same gender folks but not willing to act on it early in the coming out process, and I think it's a pretty common way to break coming out into pieces so you can process it all. Hell, I know gay people who have said similar things that they were into the same gender exclusively, but were never going to act on their attractions and be asexual forever.

So when I read this paragraph, my first thought was "sounds like she is pretty into women but isn't quite there in terms of processing it and shedding some heteronormative societal crap. That will solve itself through the coming out process", and I responded accordingly upthread.

Given all the pushback you've gotten since I said something, I just want to reiterate that you are 100% in the right if you want to come out, that you can use any terms you like or none at all if you prefer, and that you can do it in any way you find helpful.

Additionally, I would say that even if you never change your mind and never ever even so much as kiss another woman, you are 100% entitled to consider yourself bi or queer or any other term you like and screw anybody who doesn't get it. Facebook video is a pretty common way to come out to distant family and acquaintances, but not all that common for close friends or family, but it's YOUR coming out and you get to do it however you like.
posted by zug at 10:44 AM on September 30, 2014

Use whatever label you wish to use to identify yourself. If people don't like it, and some of them won't, tough. People have their own labels for what you are already, and they have their own definitions for given labels. They'll look at you, find that what they perceive you to be doesn't match up to their expectations and be assholes to you for it. That's totally on them, though. It's not about you at all, it's about their prejudices.

That said, if you present as a woman and call yourself a lesbian, then people will assume that you're a woman who is exclusively attracted to women. If you present as a man and call yourself a lesbian, people will likely look askance at you. It's a tired cis-het joke. The term "lesbian" means "woman who finds women (exclusively) sexually attractive" to a lot of people. If you're a woman who calls herself a lesbian but actually have relations with men, then people will raise their eyebrows at you. You can identify as whatever you wish to identify, but beware other people's interpretations of your identity.

I am DMAB, and I'm attracted to what society says is a man. I also am a tiny little bit attracted to what society says is a woman. Like 2% little. But it's there. I identify as pansexual. I do this because I find myself attracted to all kinds of people, such as men, women, genderqueer individuals, agender individuals, etc. I don't know whether or not I want to ever actually have sexual relations with these individuals, but most people identify as what they identify as before they have sex with someone they find attractive. I used to call myself gay because I was attracted only to individuals who present as men. I knew I was gay loooong before I ever actually did something with another man. You don't have to prove what you are by getting your card stamped. You prove it by simply being it.

Does generally preferring one gender but still being open and mostly attracted to another make my claim to bisexuality less valid?

I don't think so. If "bi" is taken to mean "two", and you're attracted to two genders, then it's accurate. A penny farthing is still a bicycle.

If you're bi, how do you explain it to people?

I sometimes tell people I'm bi because people have heard of it and I don't have several hours to explain that cis and het are not the only options. I've often gone into Kinsey's work on a sexuality spectrum and called myself a Kinsey 5. "I'm predominantly attracted to men, but I'm also attracted to some women, occasionally". I've even used food as a metaphor - "I really like to eat apples, but sometimes I like to eat an orange. Or a banana." It's not 100% perfect, but it can help get the point across. Opening the conversation with something along the lines of "there are not just 2 kinds of fruit" can sometimes help.

I also have a somewhat left-field option: tumblr. There are some pretty excellent tumblrs out there that discuss various aspects of gender identity and sexual orientation/identity. I perused a load before settling on Pan as a descriptor for Me. I would suggest looking for "bisexuality" rather than "bisexual", or you'll end up with a lot of porn.
posted by A Puppet made from a Sock at 11:05 AM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

The kind of orientation you describe is so common among my friends that it's pretty much how I assume women under 30 are by default.

My favorite acronym always used to be UBIQUITOUS - Uppity BI Queers United In Their Overtly Unconventional Sexuality. In other words, aren't we all a little bi in some way? It took me a long time to accept that some gay men (especially) are seriously Kinsey 6s. But in any case, at least there's individuality and uniqueness to each person's expression of attraction and love. Polysexual is also a favorite among people I know. But Bisexual is a decent way to get across the idea that you're not committed to one gender. To call yourself gay is obviously your purview, but it will nonetheless primarily miscommunicate rather than share information.
posted by mdn at 12:09 PM on September 30, 2014

This project is for your friends -- people you know, people who like and love you. Make the film with that in mind. You haven't settled on categories and terminology -- all that is part of your experience. I suggest you reference this aspect in the video: here's what I know about myself; I'm not sure how other people would label it, nor what labels I'll decide on, if any.

Your video can lead to discussion of the question you're asking here, and the people discussing it will actually be thinking of you instead of some theoretical person who's mostly this and a little of that.
posted by wryly at 12:36 PM on September 30, 2014

If you're bi, how do you explain it to people? Are you specific and does that confuse anybody?

I don't identify as bisexual; I identify as lesbian. But I did I was when I was younger -- 20+ years ago when I first came out. I explained it like this...with guys it's like a warm bath, but with women it's like a super jacuzzi. (No gold star over here.) I don't think it confused people.

Are you specific and does that confuse anybody?

I was more specific then (the bath analogy and all) but I am not specific now. If I had to say -- but I don't -- I am about a 4.5 or a 5 on the Kinsey scale.

I don't really mention the warm baths of my past when I say I am gay, but they are a fact of my history and certainly don't deny them -- or the happy and loving (if not super-jacuzzi-like) relationships with the two fellows I was involved with in my teens and 20s.

I decided to call myself gay/lesbian (I use both) because that works for me and that's how I choose to identify. You can call yourself gay if you want to -- absolutely -- but I do think it might confuse people. But it's a process and you're just starting off on your journey. My best to you!
posted by Lescha at 2:17 PM on September 30, 2014

Your description fits me pretty much perfectly. For me, what feels most accurate is "mostly straight" "straightish" or "I'd sleep with her, but I'm really only interested in dating men" or "1 or 2 on the kinsey scale", if they know what that is...but most often, not mentioning it at all unless it's the direct topic of conversation, which is rare in my friend group. I briefly identified as bi but decided that it didn't feel right to me unless I was at the point of dating or at least regularly sleeping with women, and I'm not quite at that level right now, although I have thought about it a lot.

It sounds like you'd prefer to be more explicit about your preferences, and that's also fine. It is still technically bi, you aren't lying - I just tend to avoid the term because people tend to interpret it as considerably closer to 50-50 than I am, and I don't want to confuse people or go into detailed explanations of my dating preferences. But you're not doing anything wrong by calling yourself bi, if that's the term you prefer.
posted by randomnity at 2:26 PM on September 30, 2014

Oh and there's also "heteroflexible" as an option!
posted by aclevername at 4:01 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've identified as bisexual my entire adult life, and I "come out" about it on a regular basis, and I don't go into specifics unless someone I'm very close to or going to be in a relationship with wants/needs to know. Lots of other people ask for specifics--especially since I currently most visibly date men--but unless I feel comfortable going into it, I don't. I'm proudly and openly attracted to other genders besides the one people generally assume I'm attracted to, and it's important to me that people know that about me, but that's about as much as most people need to know.

(For various reasons I'm actually more comfortable identifying as queer these days, and I live in a part of the country and work/socialize in circles where that's a term understood to have many complex meanings. But since my friends and family on Facebook immediately think "lesbian" when a woman says she's queer, I stick with bi because it's a more familiar and readily-understandable term.)

I wish you the best of luck! Happy National Coming Out Day in advance. :)
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:24 PM on September 30, 2014

(I also wanted to add, I found a long time ago that when I am specific about it, people tend to be very quick to jump to dismissing my bi-ness or otherwise deciding to try to define my identity for me--much the same way some commenters here are doing to you. So that's another reason I choose not to be specific beyond, "Hey y'all, I'm bi!")
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:26 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think bisexual is a fairly accurate descriptor for you and from what you have revealed of your preferences. Don't overthink it though. The 'Bisexual' label quickly tells people you have interest in both men and women. There's no need to elaborate. No one needs to know if you have a stronger preference for one over the other. The term 'Bisexual' will tell people precisely what you want to convey: you are attracted to both men and women and as such they may see you showing interest in/being with people of the same gender.

How others respond to that, however, isn't up to you - no matter how much you try to choose the most accurate label or preemptively explain your preferences. Some people simply cannot wrap their heads around the notion that a person is attracted to both men and women and latch onto the slight bias towards one gender (that a lot of bisexual people tend to have) in order to assign 'gay' or 'straight' labels - which are far less ambiguous. This means that despite your explaining, people will still challenge your being 'bisexual' and likely still view you as straight, gay, confused, greedy, etc. This is more to do with their lack of understanding about bisexuality (or having a narrow definition of it) and can be headed off by reiterating that your attraction and preferences apply to both men and women. I would also be prepared to explain how bisexuality does not necessarily equal a poly relationship (ie: dating a man and woman at the same time) or promiscuity in general, as both are common assumptions.

FWIW, I'm male and refer to myself as bisexual, though I have never dated (or had sex with) women. I could refer to myself as gay, as that is how I'm likely viewed by others (having a boyfriend and all), but it wouldn't be accurate to how I view myself. I am definitely attracted to men, women and transgendered individuals as it pertains to physical and romantic interactions. I guess 'queer' would be more accurate of a label as a result, but since it often needs hefty explanation I tell people I'm bisexual, and if pressed, that my attraction is on a case-by-case basis that has nothing to do with the kind of equipment someone has to play with below the belt and everything to do with who they are and what makes them tick. Or, to be more short about it: It's all good.
posted by stubbehtail at 5:10 PM on September 30, 2014

I wish so much that more people in your position would come out, so I think it's awesome that you want to be out. I'm going to roundly disagree with all the folks who are like "oh it doesn't matter" or "I'm an ally now because I'm with a man" or whatever. Having more people be visible makes life easier for all of us who don't fit in with heteropatriarchal expectations and whatnot. I honestly think that bi folks who are primarily opposite-sex oriented or who have opposite-sex partners are in a great position to make serious change because straight society already perceives them as "normal" and becoming visible poses challenges to what "normal" is.

It's totally accurate to come out as bi. Almost no one is 50/50, and lots of bi folks are monogamously inclined. Having a preference or being in an exclusive relationship doesn't mean you're not bi anymore - you get to determine who you are.

If you want to make a video, rock on.

How I explain it to people is like this: I am a high-kinsey queer woman and generally just identify as lesbian because I want women to take me seriously and men to leave me alone, but in situations where I feel more like a nuanced discussion is possible I'll talk about things in more detail. I'm comfortable identifying as queer because for me it's about occupying a space other that the one I was told I would inhabit: queer, as in not who you told me to be and also not your business. Whatever you're comfortable with is cool: part of the point of coming out is to create space to be yourself.

I'd add that people who are going to be weird about it or act shocked are the ones who are making this awkward - you're going about your business as a human, and the only reason you haven't had room to just define yourself gradually is because our culture is messed up and tries to put everyone into a box.

I wrote a short piece on suggestions for coming out bi at work that I will happily send you a link to if you want to MeMail me (I am cautious about self-linking), because I get asked a lot about coming out bi by women who are married to men.

Congratulations on coming out!
posted by bile and syntax at 6:26 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

I used to identify as straight. Then I identified as bi and monogamous. Then bi and poly, with a male primary partner. Then I got very confused on pretty much everything for a while. Then lesbian and monogamous. These days I'm pretty much happiest with the label queer, but I don't really talk about myself in terms of labels. I'll talk about an ex-girlfriend, or a woman I'm not sure if I'm dating, or something. I'm not really into the idea of dating men or sleeping with men anymore, but I am aware from past experience that this is the kind of thing that can change. Besides, sex is really a totally theoretical thing for me these days, so it matters less right now.

When I first started claiming the label bi, it was very important to me to claim it and tell people. I just told them I was bi or bisexual, and didn't bring Kinsey numbers or percentages into it unless they were interested and receptive, and preferably had some knowledge of these things themselves. It's tedious having to explain the same things over and over again, so the less you put out there, the less you have to explain. I did have people think that bisexuality simply couldn't be a thing because if you were a woman with a man you were straight and if you were a woman with a woman you were a lesbian. (Or gay. Since gay usually means homosexual, not non-straight.) And I had a lot of guys think this was Totally Hot (I was at uni at the time) and make predictable comments about threesomes etc. At the time that I came out, I hadn't even kissed another girl so it was very much in the realms of theory, but it was still an important thing for me to be clear about. It took me a while to warm to "bisexual" as a term, but the more I read about it, the more it seemed like it fit better than anything else. It sounds like this is similar for you. I say go for it!

I went through quite a long period of being a bi-activist and the token bisexual on various queer/lesbian conference panels etc, despite being in a relationship with a man. This wasn't a problem. I went through a phase of getting very annoyed by people who just didn't want to be labelled, thinking that they lacked courage or self-awareness or something. (I think differently now, but this is to illustrate how important the labels can be sometimes.) I wrote papers about it. I lobbied the publisher of the gay and lesbian paper where I worked to add "bi" to the list, and eventually succeeded. I published a bi issue of that paper, specifically looking at bisexuality, bi-invisibility, biphobia, etc. All while in a relationship with a man. So yeah, bugger it, you don't need to be 50/50 or with a woman.

Something which helped me think about the whole sexuality thing which may be helpful for you was to think of it not so much as a linear scale between gay and straight, like the Kinsey scale; but rather a dimensional thing which has different characteristics and also changes over time. So one dimension is desire (who you are attracted to); the second is behaviour (who you have sex with); the third is identity (how you conceptualise your sexuality to yourself and others). Someone high on desire but low on behaviour is inexperienced. Someone high on desire and behaviour but low on identity might be described as in the closet, or a man who has sex with men but is definitely not gay, or something. Someone high on identity but low on desire and/or behaviour might be someone who is queer for political or idealistic reasons. Right now you sound like you're high on identity, low on desire and close to 0 (guessing) on behaviour. But this isn't a permanent state of affairs. It all changes throughout your life.

This doesn't help you with what to say when you come out, but I thought it might give you another way to think about it which is less of an X/not-X split. I definitely don't recommend explaining to people that "I have a strong bisexual identity but little practical experience" unless you want them to offer to help with that! :)
posted by Athanassiel at 12:06 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Google "Genderbread Person" for more info on what Athanasiel is referring to. You might find it a helpful way to explain yourself.
posted by SyraCarol at 4:29 PM on October 1, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you for your input. I will be taking some time to think about everything that's been said, and I really appreciate the votes of support that have been offered.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:00 AM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: So far I have come out to a few people in private, including my mother and sort of to my dad. Thanks for all the advice given. It feels better to be out to at least some people, even if now I feel very shy about it.
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:45 PM on October 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

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