Meet Uma. Uma is in the Closet.

12/6/2017

Meet Uma. Uma is bi. Uma is in the closet.

I asked Uma to describe in one sentence her greatest fear about coming out bi to the world. She answered, “I’m afraid of making myself so vulnerable to the judgments of others and don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable around me.” What a big fear to have, that by being true to yourself by admitting your sexuality to your friends and family, to everyone, that you feel they would become uncomfortable in your very presence. This fear is quite common among people in the closet, and it also happens sometimes when you come out.

But you don’t have to be out to feel you make others uncomfortable or to feel rejected or unwanted yourself. Uma told me that online she has received some stigmatization from her peers on the web. She relayed, “I have not engaged with LGBTQ communities outside of Facebook, and one Facebook group didn’t permit my entry because I apparently don’t know enough about bisexuality (they had a questionnaire, and I guess my lack of knowledge caused them to reject me). I have only really come out to my Facebook friends, and I did receive an outpouring of love and support from all of them, at least.” I asked her whether or not she felt that other groups such as gay, lesbian, straight, and ace folks ‘have her back’, so to speak, when it comes to being bi. It’s apparent that some people in those very groups don’t.

There are a lot of different labels that we use in the bi+ community. I asked Uma if she also uses other words to describe her sexuality, other than bi. She replied, “I don’t know enough about pansexuality to know if that is a better defining term for my sexuality. Bisexuality seems to sum mine up.”

“I came to terms with my sexuality a little while before the Orlando shooting,” Uma noted. I asked her to tell me about the very first instance of realizing that she was attracted to more than one gender and whether or not she had come to terms with her bisexuality. She continued, “It was actually very politically-related, too. I eventually realized that ‘I am one of these people; their cause is my cause.’ I guess I just eventually got more in touch with my authentic self. One difficult thing about my coming to terms with my sexuality is that part of my sexuality probably occurs because of childhood sexual abuse.”

I didn’t go to school to study the psychological results of childhood trauma, but it would seem to me that if one is coming to terms with their bisexuality, that it is an innate thing separate from what many of us have gone through as children. It’s not wrong to have these doubts about our sexuality. I had them growing up, but mine stemmed from trying to keep in line with my Christian upbringing. I, too, kept thinking there may have been something in my formative years that made me this way, except that I have vivid memories of my childhood, all the way back to when I was two years old. I remember the first time I was attracted to a boy in my class and the first time I was attracted to a girl from my church.

People who deny bisexuality, and even deny queer folk in general exist, love to hear about these doubts we have and try to use these doubts against us. They love to hear about the abuse queer people have gone through and try to use that to explain away our sexuality as if it’s some sort of deviancy. Well, it’s not. We know it’s not. It’s the best thing to ever happen to us, our bisexuality. The reality is, we are bi despite what happened growing up and we know this because we all have different experiences from growing up, and very few of those experiences are the same, and yet we all turned out bi.

I wondered what things Uma had heard from family and friends that has kept her from coming out to them. She responded, “Knowing that someone is probably homophobic keeps me from coming out in certain relationships.” Homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia, transphobia. We’ve heard the terms. Discrimination, prejudice, attitudes of intolerance, and abuse towards LGBT peoples are forms of, what many are now calling, queerphobia. The dictionary defines a phobia as ‘an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something’. I remember when the term homophobia started being used more widely in the late ’90s/early ’00s. Some of my friends would mention in a mocking tone that they weren’t afraid of gay people, so why is it called homophobia? It’s because when someone has an irrational aversion to a person because of their sexuality, that is what the definition of a phobia is. It’s extreme. It’s irrational. And it’s harmful to human beings who all they want to do is love another human being who loves them back. I get the fear of not wanting to come out to someone who you suspect is queerphobic.

Does Uma know about our huge online bi community and does being involved with others like her make her feel like she belongs? She stated, “I just recently started reaching out to the online bi community, and, yes, I do feel a sense of belonging at long last.” If you haven’t found our online communities, get to it! We’re all over the ‘net.

Has Uma found our communities in real life? This is a little more difficult, as we are a hugely closeted community, as you well know. Uma confessed, “I have not reached out to the local LGBTQ community because I guess I am just anxious about doing so…I wouldn’t be looking for romance or sex with people, and I’m afraid that the other people will define me in some way by my sexuality rather than consider everything else about me. But I also know that some gay people don’t even believe that bisexuality is a valid sexuality, so I wouldn’t want to be inappropriately judged. I guess I just have some self-confidence and social anxiety that also holds me back on this. And I stay away from events because I fear for my personal safety. Especially after the Orlando shooting.”

Uma brought up some key fears in light of recent events that may mean many of us are staying in the closet for good. I asked her what would facilitate her completely coming out of the closet. She said, “I don’t know if I will ever come all the way out, as that sounds like a dangerous place to put myself. I mean, some people believe that people like me deserve violence. I may stay in the closet somewhat as a way of taking care of myself. However, if the conditions are right in the future, I may very well come completely out.” If it’s not safe for you to come out of the closet, do not come out. I hate to have to write those words, but I’d rather you be alive somewhat enjoying your live rather than be dead not able to enjoy it at all.

I inquired as to whether Uma had ever been in a same gender relationship? She admitted, “No. I have never had a relationship with a woman, and I don’t know if I want to. I have already met the man I want to marry, and I hope to have him as a life partner in a monogamous relationship.” That’s exciting news!

But what about being bi brings Uma the most joy and comfort to herself? Uma replied, “The only thing about being bi that make me feel joy is being sexually attracted to my own body. I guess it really doesn’t necessarily make me feel joy or comfort. Rather, it feels like a huge vulnerability.”

That is Uma’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.