Meet Doreen. Doreen is in the Closet.
Meet Doreen. Doreen is bi. Doreen is in the closet.
She once lived the stereotypical American Christian life: came from a large extended family, happily married with children, owns a house, actively attends church, participates in her community.
She told me about the night she and her husband sat poolside, half naked, as their children slept safely inside their house. They talked about intimate things and shared secrets. One of those secrets was that her husband is gay. He had decided several years earlier that he is and that night was the night he would tell her they would no longer be intimate. Doreen’s initial reaction to his confession was excitement. She was happy for him living his truth, but when he made the decision alone to cut off intimacy with her she was hurt because she wanted to share in that intimacy with him. “Why couldn’t I be a part of that?” she confided. She was heartbroken but supportive and now her husband lives in New York.
She was also a bit confused about his use of the word ‘gay’ to describe his sexuality. She would think he would use the word ‘bi’ since he was married to her for more than a decade and they always had an amazing sex life. But it didn’t make her question his love for her and she was ecstatic that he could fully embrace the queerness in himself. Her excitement about her husband’s sexuality was most likely an extension of her own excitement about her own bisexuality, or as she prefers: polysexuality. But it wasn’t easy for her to confess this to him. “I always envisioned eroticism with anyone when I was married to my (gay) husband. I was mortified to share the desire to be with women, or with any other man; with anyone,” she revealed.
When asked about whether she had fully come to terms with her bisexuality, she said, “Not really. I am afraid of the impermanence of it, and I’m afraid of the non-standardness of it. I can’t handle what my religious family members would think, and I don’t think anyone would want to be with me who could really be a match for me—and then, how can I ever be satisfied anyway if that person doesn’t understand it or accept it?” Besides having a longing towards people of other genders, Doreen also longs to be in relationships with multiple people. What we call ‘polyamory.’ She wanted this for her and her husband, but that wasn’t in the stars for them.
Feelings of loneliness and abandonment creeped into her life, but she continued on alone in her secret to the world. I asked her if she was aware of, and if she participated with, the large bi community online, which is always a great source when one wants to feel a sense of solidarity and togetherness. She replied, “No, I’m not aware and I don’t participate. It sounds like it could be a nice source of (hopefully, at least) kind of ‘like-thinking’ friends.” Bi communities where you can meet up in real life with other bi people within the United States, Mexico, Canada, South Africa, Europe, Israel, Australia, and all over the globe are a search engine away, for anyone looking. And bi cyberworld communities are even easier to find. You never have to be alone.
Sometimes our own personal prejudices prevent us from coming out and those opinions we have can stem from our perception of how the world views us as bi people. Doreen explained her fear of coming out in one sentence, “It doesn’t match what the world does.” But her fears are even more complex than that one statement and she bases those fears on things she said she hears from family and friends, or rather, what she assumes they are thinking and so she thinks this herself. “The relative idea that bi/poly people are prostitutes,” she explained, is what keeps her from making that great step forward out of the closet. “I haven’t officially heard that from anyone. It’s really what I think inside my head and what I think.”
Besides having a gay husband, Doreen also has a closeted gay father, who is still married to her mother, as well as one other relative who is also gay. The rich tradition of their religion prevents them from ever living their truth: out and proud. She said she believes her father’s sexuality takes a toll on her mother, but her mother has accepted it. When asked about whether or not this would make it easier for Doreen to come out to her mother, she sharply said no, and explained how controlling and manipulative her mother is, despite choosing to remain with Doreen’s gay father and live his lie. As long as he doesn’t act on his same-gender attraction through sexual experiences, in her mother’s mind, their marriage is valid and honorable to their god. This is frustrating to Doreen, as it almost mirrors her relationship with her own gay husband, except that she has allowed herself to let go of him so they both can live their own personal truths. Despite remaining in the closet, Doreen has experienced sexual relations with others, and she has had sexual experiences with women.
But her feelings for her husband aren’t completely happy. I asked whether Doreen ever attends LGBT functions, bars, etc. She responded, “Yes, I have. Not for me though. For my gay husband and support for him coming out. I have no desire to go for myself right now. I feel too hurt by him and I’m having a hard time not grouping people who put that label on themselves as people who are all just like him.”
When would that day come when Doreen could go to Pride events for herself as an openly bi person? Doreen said she would come out “only to a partner who could accept me for that and love me amidst it. If I felt that supported, I could possibly come out in private to others, or it might not ever be important I only come out to people with whom I have intimate relations, or who are friends I can trust not to judge me.”
Although she’s no longer with her husband and she’s no longer active in her church, that doesn’t discourage her and she’s better because of it. There’s still a certain sunnyness to being bi, even when one cannot experience it freely every day. “I’m not stuck, and I’m not imprisoned to only be one way to please one person” is Doreen’s description for what brings her the most joy and comfort about being a person who experiences bi thoughts and behavior. “I have a net of people who love me in a deeper way; who comprehend me and I comprehend them.”
That is Doreen’s story.
52% of LGB persons surveyed are bi, according to recent statistic analyses. This ranges from gay and lesbian identified people who also have attractions to other genders, straight identified people who are also attracted to many genders, asexual identified people who sometimes have sexual attraction to men, women, and non-binary folk, and the average person who gives no hint of their sexuality but is generally perceived by others to be straight. This suggests numbers may be higher among the non-LGBT demographics. What can you do to encourage bi people to come out? Do you help facilitate a safe environment for bi people to feel comfortable coming out to you? Do you see the importance of people living as their true selves, to be able to talk openly about the relationships they are in regardless of gender?
In an effort to bring to the public the fears and discouragement of why many bi people choose to remain in the closet, I will be doing this series of interviews with those I call “damp bi” folk. Though just as fluid in their sexuality as any openly bi person, a damp bi is someone who cannot fully embrace their fluidity in their sexuality safely or surely, and therefore are only “slightly wet.” I hope to give readers a sense of encouragement and hope, for those in the closet, and a sense of awareness and insight to those non-bi folks who want to encourage bi people to live their lives openly and proud.