Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Coming Out

Photo from Peter Salanki from Flickr  Some rights reserved
I am bisexual.

Typing out that sentence, those three simple words, makes my palms sweat. The idea of posting this makes my heart hammer against my rib cage. It's weird seeing it typed out. It's scary. By 28 years old, I thought I had a decent understanding of who I was.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not ashamed of who I am. But flatly stating it, coming to terms with this new dimension of myself--or rather, embracing the part of me I've been pointedly ignoring--is dizzying. It's like realizing you have an extra appendage nobody ever bothered mentioning. All you can do is stare at it and wonder, "how the fuck did I not see this before?"

Looking back, there were guys in school that I was...er...very interested in. But, of course, I told myself that didn't mean anything. I'd had girlfriends. I was attracted to those girls. So there was no way I could be gay. I just found some guys very interesting, that's all. He's just really nice, or really cool, or really confident. Just a healthy admiration of a fellow guy. Totally not a crush, though.

In high school and college, I found myself low key seeking out portrayals of queerness, especially gay men. Rent; The Bermudez Triangle; Rocky Horror Picture Show; Spring Awakening; Will Grayson, Will Grayson; Boy Meets Boy--these were all stories I sought out and consumed greedily if bashfully. Sometimes, I wondered why those narratives seemed to strike such a chord with me, to speak to me so directly. I wasn't gay, so why was I so affected by these portrayals? I decided I was just especially empathetic. More woke than the average straight man. That's all.

Except for living vicariously through movies and books, I pushed that part of me as far away as possible. I had a handful of semi-romantic, kinda girlfriends and more than a few one-sided crushes. Then, I met the woman who would become my wife. She was funny. She was smart. She had a quick, sharp wit like no one I had ever met. She rocked my world. We dated for about a year before we got married. After that, I figured whatever feelings I had was a moot point. After all, I certainly wasn't going to be seeking out other romantic encounters.

Still, those feelings never went away. Sometimes that made me feel really guilty, like I'd somehow tricked my wife into marrying me by lying. I would catch myself staring at Chris Evans and Idris Elba, but I told myself I was just very comfortable with my heterosexuality and that's why I could appreciate--objectively--another man's handsomeness.

I couldn't tell you what specifically made me start to put a finer point on things. I mean, watching Chris Evans rip a log in half in Avengers: Age of Ultron certainly made things harder to ignore, but I was too afraid to put a label on those feelings, even just for myself. I started testing the waters, talking about male attractiveness a little more openly to see how my friends and family would react. I always kept a shrug and a wry smile at the ready to easily deflect in case I met any pushback. "Hey. Objectively, Hugh Jackman is a handsome son of a bitch. You can't argue with that. That's just facts."

Gif from Jeanette Grey's Tumblr
If anyone suspected anything, they never said, but I doubt it was even noticeable. Still, it felt like I was taking this huge risk by putting myself out there even just that little bit.

Once I did admit things to myself, I thought that might be enough. But it still felt like I was lying--to myself, to my wife, to my friends. It took me a week of failed starts and stops to finally come out to my wife. I wasn't sure how to bring it up. Do I mention it off-handedly? Do I sit her down so she can ask any follow-up questions she might have? Maybe I should write her a note and leave it on her pillow so I could get a decent head start in case she decided she wanted nothing more to do with me. Every time I would start to bring it up, my heart would start pounding, my breath would grow short, and I would chicken out.

Finally confessing to my wife that I was attracted to women and men was one of the scariest moments of my life. A thousand worries rushed through my mind. How would this change our relationship? How would it change how she looks at me? Would she still find me attractive? Would she become jealous or suspicious every time I talked to another guy? Would she dismiss me, tell me it was just a phase or that I was just watching too much Rantasmo on YouTube?

I shouldn't have been worried. This is, after all, the person I married, the person I love more than anyone in the world. She was completely supportive of the news and has since been helping me look for pride merch and portrayals of bi and gay men so that I can better understand myself and what this all means.

In a way, it's like looking at the world through new eyes. I saw a post on my Facebook Timehop recently from the day gay marriage was legalized in the United States and Arkansas. When I read that post now, I know the B in LGBT+ stands for me. It feels good to finally be able to say it:

I am bisexual.