Chatting With Bi People Who Are In the Closet
Sometimes it’s difficult to talk openly about your bisexuality because it isn’t often something, if ever something, that you do. Being able to talk openly about it can be freeing. It allows you to tell these wonderful things about yourself that you’ve kept secret for the bulk of your romp through this world, this world that seems to be against you, this world that seems to be confused by your very existence. Through being interviewed while in the closet, the avenue for sharing your truth has been made clear. After that initial deep breath before the questions start, you begin to feel yourself start to breathe normally again, perhaps better than you had before, despite there still being a small sense of reluctance to spill the beans to someone you have never met.
I’ve been interviewing people who are in the closet for a few months now and on my side, I feel nothing but excitement being able to hear the unique stories from each and every one of these individuals who identify as bi. They all have their reasons for staying in the closet: religion, family, community, career, public opinion, safety, self-hate, and self-control.
For any given phone interview for this ‘closet project’ (as I call it) it starts out like this: First I thank them for participating and then I tell them to take a deep breath, stay calm, speak clearly, that there will be ten questions, and that the interview should last about twenty to thirty minutes. I can sense their nervousness. There’s always a big sigh and then a single word or a short sentence. If I sense they don’t know what else to say, I ask if they will elaborate on what they’ve just said, but most times people keep talking for a good while. I can then sense the excitement they feel about getting to talk about something that has seemed like they would never get to speak these words, and the metaphorical giant boulder tied to their back finally crumbles away.
I start the questions with fear and limits, and I end on joy and comfort. That first question I want them to answer spontaneously and from the heart. For the last question I want them to reach deep within their souls and think on the answer awhile, because sometimes while living a life in fear you forget what truly makes you feel comfortable. I like to think this helps them by ending on that note. I like to think every one of them is smiling as we say our goodbyes and they hang up their phones. I’m probably right.
It’s been a thrill compiling these people’s stories for the world. There’s different degrees to how far back in the closet each of them are, and I’m always amazed at how bravely some of them have stepped out at times throughout the years, if even with a single toe outside that door. I think the majority of the world (and this is definitely changing) grows up identifying as straight, even though people often know themselves to be otherwise from a young age. So hearing people say aloud that they are bi, especially after identifying as straight for so many years, does something to both them and me. We get to feel the clarity within us as this connection is made that there are others just like us. They aren’t limited in their attractions because they are attracted to many genders, just like us. A sense of nirvana fills the mind; peace and completeness and enlightenment. I’m not alone. You’re not alone. It can be even more complicated for those who identified as straight, then lesbian or gay, and then bi. I can’t imagine having had to hole up in two different closets at two different points in one’s life. The bravery of our community, even in the closet, is extraordinary.
But our reluctance to be ourselves, as bi folk, is equally astonishing. But, I get it. I remember being in the closet. I remember how terrified I was to tell a single soul my satisfying secret of sexual longing. I forget how sad and destructive in my mind I was back then, the thoughts of just wanting to waste away or forgo existence, hoping that would bring some semblance of peace to a perpetually locked up heart, until I read some of my old journal entries that reminded me of how low one can get when you feel you don’t have the world on your side. I get it. I’ve been there. I’m in my fifth year of being completely out as a bi man and I have to say, it’s hard to think of why I was in the closet in the first place because things aren’t as bad as I thought they would be. It helped that when I turned forty I magically stopped caring about what people thought concerning my sexuality. I’m not so completely naive though, I recognize that my experiences after coming out may not be the same for everyone around the world, in societies and spaces so different from the ones I’ve lived through.
I am grateful. What if we all shared how grateful we are that we are bi? What if we talked about how enriching it is to us? What if, through our stories, the rest of the world can realize we are perfect the way we are as bi people. What I’m saying is: by talking openly about being bi (in this case in an anonymous setting as an incognito interviewee in an article read by people around the world), folks around the globe and generation after generation of those who come after us have no misconceptions about us, place no stigma on us, and ultimately accept us.
That’s what I hope happens because of these interviews. I hope people read about our fears and excitements. It’s fun to hear, for me. I imagine it’s also fun for bi folk reading these articles. We’ll never know if it’s fun for everyone else unless we start telling our tales as bi people, if even from a cell phone in a closet.
If you’d like to tell your tale because you’re still in the closet, email me at [email protected] and bi.org will gladly get that online for you. Your story is important. You are important.