Meet Heber

12/1/2018

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Meet Heber. Heber is in the closet.

I’m afraid of having to prove myself constantly, on top of being a disappointment to people.

Heber stated when asked to describe in one sentence his fear of coming out bi.

Does Heber feel that the straight, gay, lesbian, and ace communities have his back concerning him being bi? Heber replied,

Honestly, no. Maybe exclusionists are a minority but online, they seem to be everywhere. It’s easy to defend and reassure our multisexual spectrum siblings but the insecurities are always there deep down. Am I queer enough? Will people judge me because my relationship is perceived as ‘straight’? There are certainly days in which I struggle with feeling like an outsider, an intruder of the queer community, a pretender.

I’ve only realized I was bi very recently, and a lot of people in the LGBTQIA+ share experiences of having always known, of having been born a certain way, and that’s just not my case. I had to dig deep within me to realize there was more to my identity than society had led me to believe by trying to fit me in the normative boxes of gender and sexuality. However, I don’t think exclusionists should represent what the LGBTQIA+ community stands for in general. There’s also very supportive, inclusive queers that support questioning people, that support ‘baby queers,’ that support exploring your identity and not always being sure about who you are. And I think that’s what the community really stands for and I try to surround myself with those type of people….

Other than that, I feel very invalidated and marginalized when LGBTQIA+ folks engage in respectability politics and slut-shaming, and that happens so much. Homosexual folks in particular often stand up for themselves by marginalizing people who do not fit normative respectability narratives of romantic monogamy, often intertwined as well with the ‘born this way’ narratives. And I think these are points of severe divergence with bisexual experiences, because we sometimes take much longer to figure it out, we are particularly exposed as a target to slut-shaming when we are sexually more fluid and open and promiscuous, and I swear I fucking hate it when sexually open queer people are shamed and erased from both within and without the queer community.

Labels. Labels. Labels. The bi community is full of them. What words does Heber use to describe himself with the bi spectrum of labels?

I tend to use bi to describe my sexuality because I think I like that label, but if I wanted to be more precise I’d probably use a more generic label like queer more often. Because I think that we have to move towards an understanding of attraction and sexuality that isn’t defined by gender to begin with, because that’s what leads to so much confusion and infighting even within the m-spec community [‘multi-gender attracted or multisexual spectrum’. All bi, pan, poly, etc. people, whether that ends in -sexual or -romantic]. But I like the community and the shared experiences that come with the label ‘bisexuality.’ I’m aromantic, so I like that bisexuality doesn’t have as big of a romantic connotation as other labels such as pan. I also made sure, when I first started exploring the labels I would use to describe my experiences, that bisexuality wasn’t exclusive of trans and non-binary identities, since I’m non-binary myself. Ultimately, labels are a powerful tool when they allow us to talk about ourselves and build community around common experiences, other than that it’s completely irrelevant to find the one best universal label….

Heber went on to tell me about when he first realized he was bi. First he started questioning assumptions about gender binaries and exploring online queer spaces.

I started realizing I found all kinds of people attractive, regardless of gender (which I often didn’t even know). After these initial hints that maybe I wasn’t straight, I started unpacking internalized homophobia that was deeply planted in me.

I think bi people perhaps might not realize earlier that they’re not straight because when you’re also attracted to the people that society expects you to, you don’t think much of any sort of attraction you feel towards other genders. In my case, I grew up constantly exposed to heavy (although often subtle) homophobia within the circles of people with my assigned gender. So not only was I conditioned to be disgusted by attraction to that gender, I also ended up not finding very attractive the people that tend to be the most homophobic and transphobic.

Has Heber accepted his bisexuality fully himself? He confessed,

I’m not sure I’ve entirely come to terms with my bisexuality. I think online I feel very confident because I can surround myself with people that are supportive and that have similar experiences. But offline, it’s much more complicated. There’s just not much visibility and widespread acceptance of non-straight identities and experiences, and you end up feeling like the odd one out, you feel like maybe you’re not really bi… It’s very complicated to navigate all this. Also, I’ve only ever been in a ‘straight relationship,’ so that makes me even more hesitant to assume my identity because that would give people fuel to question and invalidate me even more.

One thing in particular that makes me hesitant is that I’m not as attracted to cis men as I am to everyone else. Of course that’s something that I think bisexuality deals with better than other labels like ‘pansexuality’ – I think bisexuality doesn’t necessarily presume you’re equally attracted to all genders.

Discouragement to come out can often be tied to things we’ve heard friends or family say about bi people; things that make bi people out to be some sort of enemy of humankind; something to not be. I asked Heber to remember any of the negative things that may have influenced his decision not to come out.

From family, I’m discouraged by the fact that they’re very religious and that they were upset at me for even being a supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community, when I once went to a fundraiser party for the local Pride weeks ago. If they were mad and disappointed at the thought that I’m an ally, what would be their reaction to knowing I’m all kinds of queer? I don’t think I’ll ever come out as bisexual before I absolutely need to, like when I have a partner that’s not a cis woman.

He went on to say,

In general, all the stereotypes that marginalize, erase, or invalidate bi identities obviously contribute, as well, to me feeling discouraged from coming out. That bi people are ‘just confused,’ that ‘it’s a phase,’ that we’re ‘neither straight enough nor queer enough’… As someone who’s only recently started to question their sexuality, it’s really tough to hear these things because it makes you think, ‘Am I really just confused? What if I end up changing my mind later on, will that make me a fake or a terrible person?’.

Heber told me that he does in fact know about the large bi community online and does participate. He said,

I follow many bi pages and content like bi.org, or several inclusive bi meme pages which make me feel very safe, very much like I belong and like there are other people like me out there. As someone who’s only recently started questioning a bunch of stuff about their gender and orientation, online communities have certainly been absolutely essential and a life-saving safe space for me to explore my identity by surrounding myself with people and content with similar experiences, who’ve gone through the same questioning or are also exploring now… If it wasn’t for these online communities, I probably still wouldn’t have figured myself out and my experiences would be completely misunderstood and erased.

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Does Heber attend Pride events, parades, go to LGBT or LGBT-friendly bars, clubs, and such?

I’ve been trying to gather up the courage to try to get more involved offline as I am involved online. I’ve been to an LGBTQIA+ party once with a friend who has been involved way longer in the community as an ally but is now also questioning as a bisexual. Having the support and company of this friend made me feel safer and much more motivated to reach out and attend this party and meet some new people. And it went great, I did feel like that place, that party, those people, were exactly where I belonged. I’ve also recently been to a meeting of an LGBTQI organization, and I plan to attend local Pride this Saturday. I’m attending with my cis girlfriend, which makes me a bit anxious about carrying a bi flag while appearing to be in a ‘straight relationship,’ but deep down I know I’m valid and feel strengthened by the support of my partner and my friend who are also gonna be there….

I’m trying, I really am trying to find a solid community offline and the support of my friends and partner are absolutely essential to motivate me and to reassure me that everything will be okay and that interacting socially will be good for me. Until I do have a solid community offline, I think the opportunities for community online have been really great to make me feel included and to surround myself with people who I can relate to, and it’s a safer and more comfortable place anxiety-wise.

Will Heber ever come out? Is it important to him? What would facilitate him completely coming out as bi to the world at large?

I have a very specific stance on coming out. I think coming out is a very unfair thing that LGBTQIA+ people are forced to go through because society insists in normatively expecting people to be straight and cis. A cis and straight person doesn’t have to talk to their parents and say ‘Hey, I have to tell you something… I’m straight.’ So why do I have to make an announcement about just being myself?

That said, I don’t know if I’ll ever come out. Part of me thinks I should come out because I feel like my family could maybe be shocked at first but they’d accept me eventually. They’ve found out before about me being polyamorous and they told me they accept me as I am even though they were disappointed and they just wish I trusted them to share things instead of waiting for them to find out. But even though they said that, I still don’t feel safe or willing to come out…. I just feel like it’s really unfair and frustrating to be expected of me to educate people on top of having to lay it all out for them about my identity and who I am. Especially because I’m a very reserved person and I don’t share a lot with pretty much anyone, so the thought of having to explicitly put myself out there like that is very frustrating.

Heber, although closeted to most of the world, isn’t closeted to everyone.

Coming out to really close friends was relatively easy, as I knew they are fairly educated on LGBTQIA+ issues and they accepted me easily. But regarding my family I really don’t know at this point what would make me feel safe and motivated towards coming out, because at this point I already know how they feel about LGBTQIA+ people and I just don’t see any scenario in which they would magically be supportive of my identity.

In conclusion, I wanted to know what about being bi makes Heber feel the most joy and comfort.

I like how being bi was part of a long process of self-discovery and self-acceptance. I dared to question the labels and categories that were imposed on me and assuming the bi label was an intentional act of radical self-acceptance and self-love and of resistance towards cisheteronormativity. In other words, for someone who is usually very reserved and was never used to doing much introspection about myself, it was a time of change in which I made the effort to know myself better and to be myself without restraints.

That is Heber’s story.

In an effort to bring to the public the fears and discouragement of why many bi people choose to remain in the closet, I present to you a 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”. This series hopes to instill in the reader 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.

52% of LGB persons surveyed are bi, according to most recent statistical analyses. Many bi people remain slightly wet. 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?

Greg Ward
Gregory Ward was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona where he resides today. He spends his time bringing awareness to the local scene and helping bi folk. He loves movies, astronomy, and the Irish language. He founded Fluid Arizona which is an active bi+ community that can be found on Facebook and Twitter, and is a big proponent of the #stillbisexual campaign.