My Life Changed – For the Better – When I Became Obnoxiously Bi

12/7/2018

istock/izusek

“Hi. I’m Jennie. I’m bi.”

“Um, miss, I just needed to take your coffee order.”

Okay, okay. I’m not that obnoxious about my sexual orientation. But I am no shrinking violet where my bi-ness is concerned. And I am miles away from the girl who was so shy to admit she was attracted to multiple genders she barely whispered more than a sentence about it for a decade.

Coming out of the closet is rarely an easy road – it really took me about fifteen years to become vociferous about being bi. It was a long, winding road of tiny steps towards a new sense of self. But now I am about as out as I can get without carrying a bullhorn with me wherever I go.

I’m not here to tell anyone how to come out of the closet and get comfortable in the sunlight. What worked for getting me to become more open – social groups, support from stories in media, bi-focused Meetups, checking “bi” on OKCupid – may not work for everyone. But what I can offer to those who are hesitating at turning the closet’s doorknob is discuss how my life drastically improved once I embraced the pink, purple, and blue.

My work has grown and expanded in ways I could never have imagined. I work as an actress, screenwriter, and writer, and each of these pursuits became enhanced the more “out” I was. I no longer shy away from being labeled as a bi actor as I had in the past. I no longer flinch at the idea of someone wondering about my orientation if I audition for a same-sex-loving character (though most of the roles on offer are gay, not bi). And super-outing myself has led to new work opportunities – writing here for bi.org, as well as other queer publications.

Even when I work in different offices – be they TV production break rooms, corporate coffee spaces or workshop circles – I don’t back off from sounding off. It’s gotten to the point that most people know better than to make a biphobic comment while I’m in the room – or face a withering comeback.  I just don’t have time anymore to duck my head just to keep from making waves in the places I spend the most time.

My creativity skyrocketed. Owning my bi-ness really brought new dimensions to my work. Where could I add more layers to my characters, both performed and written? What other parts of my paintings could use shades I was afraid to use before? Hell, I wrote my first novel once I really started thinking about what bi stories weren’t out there I wanted to see! I don’t think I would have spurred another novel out of myself if I hadn’t come to fully accept – and love – who I am.

Family was there for me. When I first came out to my immediate family half a lifetime ago, I received a variety of reactions. Everyone expressed love – but I don’t think most of them understood what I was trying to say. Some expressed fear that not choosing a man for a straight-passing partner would make my life more difficult; others downplayed my attraction to women in a variety of ways. Some joked I was gay. But since I’ve become more vocally out in the past few years and stood my ground, they have all come around to support me. It’s even to the sweet point where if I mention I may bring home a guy some day, they’ll correct me and note, “- or woman.” They no longer assume gender when they ask if I’m seeing anyone. It touches my heart just to think about the emotional progression.

Friends changed the way they think of me – in the very best way.  I’m a big believer in the power of tribes, even though mine have changed drastically over the course of a decade. Once I became vocal about being bi, friends from all my difference circles started thinking of me first when any LGBTQIA opportunities cropped up. My circle of friends expanded to social networks of specifically bi places like AmBi, where I didn’t have to explain or defend who I am and could just be my badass bi self. And everyone started sending me bi news that goes through the news cycle – a vast improvement from when I once had a punny boyfriend and got sent every pun under the sun.

My dating confidence has taken on a different, better shape. I don’t beat around the bush anymore about being bi. I don’t hold onto that information for weeks into relationships, in fear of scaring people off. Usually I mention it in the first date, honestly – it’s almost a litmus test that weeds out the biphobes. That doesn’t mean I don’t have bouts of shyness. And I’ll still run into those demonstrating the androcentric desire hypothesis (explained in length here). But the key difference is I don’t let that slow me down anymore. I’m comfortable enough in my skin and my bi identity that I am cool with moving on if potential lovers flinch at my orientation. Their loss, truly.

“Both and” has taken up permanent lodging in my brain. What I mean by this is not that I have greater tolerance for cognitive dissonance, but I am far less black-and-white in my perspective of the world, and in how I work through conflict resolution. If I can reject the binary of attraction the world forces upon me, surely I can acknowledge gray areas in the rest of this human condition. And so my empathy and listening skills have expanded with that revelation.

Finally, I can hold space for those who need it. I cannot tell you how often people have come up to me and come out about being queer – many whom I had no idea were struggling with their sexual orientation. And I’m so grateful that they trust me with this information – that my out-ness showed them I am a safe person to help them work through their identity, their feelings and doubts. This may be the greatest gift of all from my loudmouth dealings.

Now I am the first to admit I am exercising privileges with being so brazenly out – I work and live in Los Angeles, which is its own kind of queer bubble. I do not have to exist under the constant threat of retribution many do in other parts of this country (and the world) by being myself on purpose. But thankfully that mentality is starting to change. This is definitely one of those instances where “your mileage may vary” applies hard.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying – even in more subtle ways than I carried it out.

And honestly, I just want to show others there is so much more out there – not just when they’re out of the closet, but being very publicly seen. It makes it easier for those who come after us to look for an example – and from which to draw courage. It’s not a part of me I always wanted to see or get discussed, but I came to it in my own time. I hope others will join me.


I’ll have the bullhorns ready.

 

Jennie Roberson
Jennie Roberson is a comedic actress and screenwriter currently living in Los Angeles. She just finished her first novel (a bi coming-of-age tale, naturally) and hopes to share it with the world soon. When she's not busy binging on Star Trek or dreaming of her future cat army, you can find her occasional thoughts between mountains of re-tweets at her Twitter handle, @JennieRoberson.