I didn’t know I was bisexual or queer until later in my life. Like many girls my age, I harbored intense crushes on boys at school. I spent my entire waking moments thinking about them, creating fantasies and scenarios in my head to mimic the movies and books I was obsessed with. It wasn’t until college that I looked back at my life and realized everything I’d done that clearly suggested I was attracted to more than one gender from an early age: how I would hold girls’ hands, sit in their laps even at family parties, wonder what it would be like to kiss them, think about how pretty they were, get unreasonably jealous when they went off to hang out with their boyfriends. Nonbinary people were also a source of subtle, if confusing, attraction for me because at the time I didn’t know how they could fit into how I thought about my sexuality, if at all. But unlike how I thought about boys, these were fleeting thoughts, so it was easy for me to write it off and chalk it up to being just a “girl thing” or “protective best friend thing.” It was easy to let myself be quiet.
The truth is, so many people in the community don’t have someone to turn to, a support system to help them live their true, authentic selves even if they have friends or family. So many of us are forced to live and move in silence, to explore our sexualities in secret out of fear of rejection, judgment, harassment, or acts of violence. Which is why National Coming Out Day, celebrated on October 11th since 1988, is so important so we can acknowledge all kinds of coming out journeys. Some people come out as pre-teens. Others as adults and there are also those who choose never to come out at all, and every choice is a valid one.
To this day, I’m lucky to have so many friends who are also queer to validate me, which is exactly what I needed in 2020 when I told my then-best friends, who are also all queer, about how confused, uncertain, and lost I was feeling. I let out everything I’d ever thought, felt, and wished ever since I was old enough to have a crush on anyone. Seeing the looks on their faces as I voiced my thoughts out loud was like having a mirror put up to my face. Right then, I realized that it wasn’t that complicated at all: I was bisexual.
What was complicated for me was figuring out how to move forward and come out to other people in my life like my family. Anyone who knows me knows I have a tight relationship with my immediate family. When we live within reasonable driving distance of each other, call each other multiple times a day, and go out together a few times a month, it’s hard to keep secrets. The only people I felt comfortable immediately coming out to were my cousins, not only because they’re around my age and therefore less likely to be confused or close-minded, but also because several of them happen to be queer as well. I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t the first one of us to feel this way, which made me feel safe in their company. When I came out to them, they saw me, understood me, and accepted me without question. I learned then and there that they were the ones I could count on.
Even now, it’s the older generation of our family that scares me. My parents, my aunts and uncles, some of my other cousins who are closer to my parents’ age than me. Many of them still have outdated ideas about what it means to be gay or queer, and no understanding at all of what it means to be bisexual. Although we’re definitely seen progressive strides in several Latin American countries to better the lives of their LGBTQIA+ citizens, including Mexico where my family is from, those old cultural attitudes still remain and make it hard to be open and honest about identities that have nothing to do with heterosexuality.
It doesn’t mean I haven’t tried. Over the past three years, I’ve made it my goal to normalize it in the household in subtle ways, like saying I think a female actress in the movie we’re watching is “hot” or that there’s nothing wrong if we happen to see a queer relationship on-screen, or just taking a second to repost a queer-related post on my Instagram story, which I know they watch. I take any moment to educate my family from an unaffected third-party point of view instead of a personal one so it doesn’t get too heated or emotional. My purpose is to control those conversations, not letting them blow up into arguments, so that their ways of thinking change without them even thinking about it. It’s slow, hard work but if it means my cousins can live safely while being their full, complete selves someday, I’m more than willing to do it.
Even so, it doesn’t mean that my relationship with my sexuality hasn’t been without its own complications. For the past year and a half, I’ve been in the best relationship of my life but it was hard for me at first to accept that it was with a man. In some way, I’m sure it was a relief for my family as a confirmation that I was indeed attracted to men. But as many in the community know, bi women who date men are often ostracized by other queer people, especially online. Besides all the usual rhetoric we hear about us being slutty or wild or experimental, we’re also subjected to accusations of “faking” our queerness, of identifying as bi just to be able to say we’ve felt some sort of oppression, that we’re not really who we say we are or don’t have as much to contribute to the movement. I agree that it’s a privilege to be in a straight-passing relationship in a world that only relies on appearance as confirmation of a person’s sexuality. But it took a toll on me, wondering if they were right and that I was only “pretending” to be bisexual to tide me over until a man came along and roped me back into the heterosexual world.
The thing is, I’ve long since learned that it doesn’t matter what other people think of me. It doesn’t even matter if people know the truth about me, whether within the community or outside of it. I still haven’t formally come out to my family three years after I came out to my friends but I also don’t feel like I need to. I know who I am and the limitless possibilities in my love for others, and I alone know the long journey it took for me to get here. Maybe I’ll come out again in a year or ten or tomorrow. But maybe I won’t. And you know what? That’s just as good too.