Meet Nelda. Nelda Is In The Closet.
Meet Nelda. Nelda is Bi. Nelda is in the closet.
When asked about her fear of coming out fully to everyone as bi, Nelda responded, “I guess probably just the fear that I might change other people’s visions of me or just not accepting me for my preferences.” It can be a nightmare at times having that thought that someone who you love so dearly might look differently at you once you come out to them about your sexuality. Nelda says that some people do know about her bisexuality. She also stated, “I’m not completely out. It’s not that I wouldn’t be comfortable telling people ‘cos I just don’t feel I need to go tell people, but I guess not everybody that I know knows about me.”
Nelda feels most communities surrounding ours do have a positive outlook towards us, but not to a certain generation of folk. She explained, “I think now it’s more accepted. Like, the younger… I know, like, being in college, like, I don’t think anybody if I told them they would really care or think too much about it. It’s mainly, like, older people, that I, y’know, ‘cos I work with people who are much older than me and stuff like that and I don’t talk about my sexuality just because I feel like they would be less accepting but I think everybody today is much more accepting. No matter what community they’re in, I think they’re all pretty accepting.”
When asked about the labels she uses to identify with her sexuality, Nelda doesn’t only identify with the word bi. She said, “I’d say either just bi, or like, that I don’t really have a preference. I kind of just say that I’m just open to anything or I don’t really judge people based on whether they’re male or female, just kind of their personality or something like that. Not really wanting to put a label on things.” In my community work, I’ve come across several people who use the label ‘open.’ I’ve heard people in our community identify as pansexual, polysexual, omnisexual, non-monosexual queer, fluid, ambisexual, sexually fluid, homoflexible, heteroflexible, prosexual, humasexual, people who prefer not to label their sexuality, and even people who just say that they’re sexual in general. Each label has their own distinct definition that makes that definition unique and helps explain better for the people using them just exactly how their sexuality works. Some of these labels used to have the same definition as some of the others, and some of these definitions have changed drastically over the years, where now the definitions would be unrecognizable by those who created them. We have a fascinating, imaginative, and colorful community under the bi umbrella.
I asked Nelda about her first time realizing that she was bi and about her journey to self-acceptance of her sexuality. She responded, “I think being younger I always kind of knew that, y’know, men were what I was supposed to like, but being younger I just kind of had a feeling that I was just into girls as well. And so, I don’t know, throughout high school, I went on dates with guys and, y’know, I have good experiences with boys and I had one girlfriend who I was with for a couple years and so… that was good, as well. I always kind of knew. When I first actually wanted to admit it to myself was much later, probably after the girlfriend… when I kind of just decided that I… Yeah, ‘cos, even with the girlfriend we didn’t really call each other our girlfriends. We just kind of knew and to other people we were just close friends.” Nelda laughed. “I called the boyfriends ‘my boyfriend’,” she clarified. “But, I mean, it was much later in life where I actually… I mean, it’s fairly just recently when I actually started telling people and was okay with telling people. I actually was okay with it myself.”
Sometimes we hear remarks from family members and friends about bi people and our queerness in general (our ability to like people who are the same gender as us), that discourage us from coming out to them. Nelda explained that sometimes certain words people said had become frustrating to her. She elaborated, “People use ‘gay’ or whatever, as a negative term all the time. I think younger people don’t really realize. They say it as it’s supposed to be funny. I don’t think they really know what an impact… ‘y’know, if there’s somebody who’s actually gay or bisexual in the room, like, how it actually affects them. They don’t really think about it. But them using it as a negative term kind of that… that does something to me. I don’t think that that’s their intentions. I hear that a lot. Especially, like, at school and stuff. With kids my age. From my family, we don’t… they don’t say anything that I don’t like. I think really because they’re already very accepting of me and [my brother, who is gay].”
Nelda is well aware of the large community of bi folk online and has found an outlet for expressing herself on a particular website, where she’s actually been able to help other people. She explained, “I’m on… I recently joined… um, I made a gay friend, okay, she’s on Tumblr. So, I recently joined. It’s just like this social… another social network site, or whatever. I recently joined that and I actually got a ton of followers and I’ve only been on there for like three months and I have close to like 4000 followers already, and, I mean, and I really like it. I feel like everybody on there kind of belongs because… I mean, I have other sites, the straight sites, or whatever, to Tumblr, but there’s so many gay people, bisexual people, lesbians, all sorts of communities on there, and I feel it’s a really good resource for anybody. A lot of people meet on there. Like, I’ve seen… there’s so many couples on there, even like long distance relationships that are actually working out, which I think is very impressive. There’s actually a lot of gay people and bisexual people on there, that I’ve… a lot of people talk to me, reach out to me. So, I think that’s kind of a cool resource. There are people on there that haven’t come out, too. There’s a feature on there where you can be anonymous to communicate to other people, so I have had several people who will message me anonymously and, y’know, ask for advice ‘cos they’re still in the closet and they’re not sure how other people will accept them or what they’ll think, and so, it’s kind of cool that they can just reach out to anybody that they want and still feel safe, and, y’know, get advice and get help. So far that’s the best resource that I’ve found.”
Has Nelda participated in her local LGBT Pride event or attended any LGBT bars or organizations near her? She said, “I have. So, I went to my first Pride this last [year]. I haven’t been to any bars or anything. [Pride] was a lot of fun. It was interesting to see, y’know, everybody out there all happy and having a good time, feeling 100% okay to be 100% themselves, so I think that was the coolest thing. Yeah, it was a lot of fun.”
Nelda told me about what would facilitate her fully coming out to everyone. “I’m sure I will fully, probably,” she giggled, and then continued, “when I am in a relationship with somebody is when it’s going to be the actual reveal. Just because I’m making someone a part of my life so that’s just how it’s going to be. So, when that happens, I’m sure it will be the time that I’m fully out, and it’s something that I… y’know, if it happened tomorrow I would be… y’know, since I’m more comfortable with myself now, so I would be totally fine with telling everybody, it’s just, like… right now, not being in a relationship I just don’t feel it’s something that I need to just go out and tell people, but if I was in a relationship, that’s when I probably would be out to everybody and I’d be more than okay with that.”
Lastly, what about being bi brings Nelda the most joy and comfort? She confessed, “I like just the openness of it. I don’t like to put labels on myself but I just felt like, if I have to, bi would be what I call myself, just because I am open to both genders and I don’t really base people off of what gender they are. I’m more into personality and I just like to be able to, y’know, not force myself to just only like girls or to just only like guys. It just makes me like knowing that I’m free to choose and whatever happens happens. But, I think that’s pretty much my reasoning.”
That is Nelda’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?