Growing up, I was taught that there were gay and lesbian people in the world and that that was okay. My parents had gay and lesbian friends. My Sunday School teacher appeared in the church directory with his boyfriend. A large amount of my male high school friends came out to me (some even did this while in relationships with each other). From personal, cultural, religious, and social standpoints, there was nothing wrong with being gay. People were who they were.
Well, most people, anyway. Turns out, I wasn’t even close to being who I am.
In elementary school, I was very frustrated that I couldn’t give my teacher a valentine the way boys could give valentines. In high school, I wondered why I wanted so many girls to be my “best friend” even though I barely knew them. It wasn’t until college that I finally came out as bisexual and suddenly everything in my past made sense to me. It wasn’t that I was actively suppressing my feelings or anything like that; it just hadn’t occurred to me what these things could mean.
I had grown up in a gay friendly environment. Homosexuality was talked about and, in many cases, celebrated. How, then, could I have gone for so long not knowing my own sexuality?
Simply put: no one ever told me I could be bisexual.
I knew I was attracted to boys and had had crushes on them since I was six. Bisexual people existed in the world, but I didn’t know any (that I knew of) and folks didn’t talk about it. It was just a concept to me, abstract and foreign. What was familiar to me was people being attracted to the same sex or the opposite sex (I didn’t know much about fighting binaries then, either). I was attracted to guys, so I was straight. That was what it meant to for women to be attracted to men.
Had someone told me, my life would’ve been different.
I would’ve recognized my own feelings at a much younger age. I would’ve talked to those LGBT individuals older than me about their experiences and found solidarity and role models in them. I would’ve joined the Gay-Straight Alliance at my high school because it wouldn’t have felt “weird” for me to be there for some reason. I would’ve experienced love the way I do now—the love of family, of romantic partners, of God—much earlier in my life. I would’ve been happier with myself earlier.
While my story is not the story of every bisexual person, I know so many people who have one like it. Most of my bisexual friends never hid their sexuality or were ashamed of it; they just didn’t know they could be something besides gay or straight. It is for this reason that we have to talk about bisexuality at home, in public, and especially in churches. If we believe in a God that has searched us and knows us, then it is important for us to search and know ourselves as well. Children and youth can’t do this if they aren’t aware of the many possibilities of who they can be. I have had several youth come out to me as bisexual because we talked about bisexuality in church. Visibility matters.
Today, September 23rd, is Bi Visibility Day. As we work with our youth, may we remember and talk about bisexuality on this day and on those to come. I was a kid who didn’t know my sexual orientation was possible. No one else should have to go through that.