Photo by A L L E F . V I N I C I U S Δ on Unsplash
Meet Knute. Knute is in the closet.
The point of these articles is to give a voice to bi people in the closet. To present the struggles of coming out bi in our society today. Especially the “Why don’t bi people come out as much as their gay and lesbian counterparts?”
I asked Knute to paint a picture using one sentence to describe his fear of coming out bi to the world at large. He replied, “I am afraid of being judged and losing support from my immediate family.”
That’s the central theme running through all these interviews that I’ve done for almost two years: fear of hatred and abandonment. Fear of being hated for who you are and fear of being abandoned by the ones who have always loved you. So, it’s a scary and almost crippling thing to have to confess something that may seem embarrassing, but really isn’t at all. These articles are meant to normalize the bi person within this world. We’re here. We’re bi. And being bi is normal.
Statistics show greater support for LGBT people and the praise for specifically bi people; coming out has been more and more positive. But it hasn’t always been so. I asked Knute whether he felt the various sexual and asexual communities also show support to us bi people. Knute said, “Yes and no. I feel like some people are accepting, and some people aren’t, both from homophobes and those in the LGBT community that don’t realize that everyone isn’t unisexual.”
Unisexual. Monosexual. These are words to describe people who are only attracted to one gender. For those who are attracted to more than one gender we have a slew of words, with bi being the most widely used and most recognizable one. Does Knute use any other labels for himself when describing his bisexuality? He confessed, “Of course bisexual. I also say simply “not straight” and “not gay,” as it’s not either one of those.”
Before one identifies as bi, one must come to the realization that one is indeed bi. I wanted to know when Knute first realized that he was bi. He stated,
It was definitely a strange time. It gradually happened over a period of six months in late 2011 and early 2012, when I was in 6th grade. Finally, in March 2012, when I was on a trip with my parents to Atlanta, it became clear to me when we had some down time. I was wasting time by watching YouTube videos and came across a video of the German soccer player Mario Gómez walking around shirtless. Just the icon turned me on and I watched it in interest over and over again.
As I had been taught in church that homosexuality was sinful, I felt weird as I felt like I was doing something that I was taught was wrong yet I felt like it was a natural part of me. It took me nearly four years to sort this out and did not accept myself for it until January 2016, halfway through my sophomore year of high school. I initially had reservations because of issues that have faced bisexual and gay men such as AIDS (something that claimed the lives of two of my cousins in the 2000s), but as I have realized that straight people can get AIDS as well, it no longer worries me severely.
Sometimes we hear negative things from people we love about bi people or queer people in general. Hearing these things from loved ones can be crippling and prevent us from even wanting to come out to them or to anyone.
While I am out to a few family members, it is just a handful of them and the ones I have told are more accepting of LGBT [people]. My parents are pretty homophobic. My dad has said many times that being bisexual makes you more likely to have premarital sex. He and my mom are very conservative Christians who believe premarital sex, and homosexuality as well, is sinful.
My mom has also said that bisexuality is even worse than homosexuality because it makes someone likely to cheat on someone of the opposite sex with someone of the same sex (which, again, she sees homosexuality as a sin). My mom’s view of LGBT [people] and of her family in general is worsened by the fact that two first cousins of my grandma on her side had bisexual husbands who cheated on them with men, and they also have had sons who were bisexual and gay, two of whom died of AIDS and another who is still alive, but does suffer from AIDS.
The words said by my parents, especially by my mother, have discouraged me from coming out to them.
When we can’t find that respect at home or among friends we need to seek it out elsewhere. The best place is on the internet. There is an abundance of resources online for bi people. Does Knute he seek them out?
I am aware and sort of participate. I follow the groups for bisexual people on Twitter, that’s honestly about it. However, there are threads and groups for LGBT people on some video game forum sites I use, which helps as well. These have definitely helped give me a sense of belonging.
Then we have LGBT Pride events and parades and bars where we can meet others similar to us and celebrate our queerness. I wondered if Knute had attended such places to find a kinship with others.
No, I have not. Honestly, a big reason I have not is because I go to a Christian college, and while it has seemingly become more lax on having LGBT students over the years, the school does expect us to live what they consider to be a Christian way of life and it is a Southern Baptist school that in its rules, is against homosexuality. I’ve been afraid that if I had taken part in these things, someone from my college might find out and report it.
I wondered what perfect storm of things would facilitate Knute coming out completely?
As aforementioned, I have come out to a handful of my family members already, as well as practically all of my friends. However, being at a Christian school makes me hard-pressed to come out to many people, and I definitely do not plan on coming out to homophobic people I know anytime soon, although I have planned on coming out to my parents within a year.
I want to remind people here that if you do not feel safe coming out, then do not come out until it is safe to do so. Be mindful of the warning signs of danger, and if you are in danger, find a way to remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible. The world has presented safer spaces for us to come out, of course, but it isn’t always so everywhere.
Being from such a strict Christian background makes it difficult to date someone of a same or similar gender to oneself. The people I interview in the closet, despite their backgrounds, have actually dated within those groups, but I wanted to know if Knute had. He answered, “No, I actually have not. I actually haven’t been in any type of relationship, same-sex or opposite-sex.”
I always ask what brings bi people the most joy and comfort when reminiscing about their own bisexuality? What about being bi to them is the ‘bee’s knees,’ so to speak.
I think it’s that I can be attracted to either sex and it’s not a big deal. Since I was in a period of major conflict from when I was twelve until just a few weeks before my sixteenth birthday about how I felt like I needed to identify as straight to honor my family and religion but deep down in my heart I knew that wasn’t the case, it’s like that tumultuous time has ended and I can be who I am. That, not just factoring in my sexuality, was a great struggle of mine during my childhood and early teenage years: trying to be someone who I wasn’t just to please my family, particularly my father.
It’s quite cathartic to be able to conclude that you are indeed normal and it’s quite okay to be the you that you are. To be the ‘true bi you’.
At the end of the day, I may not have a sexual orientation most people have, but if we were all straight, this world would be boring. Our differences are what make us an interesting and obviously diverse group of people, and I take pride in that!
That is Knute’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?