to come out or not to come out, THAT is the question

Continuing in the “asking the B questions” line of writing, I offer the following question posed by a friend. He is one of the most wonderful people I have met in the blog-o-sphere, ever. If I ever question why I should continue to write (so few blog readers, when do I have the time, etc.) its meeting people like this.

My friend writes something like this (full disclosure: this is totally paraphrased for anonymity):

“In my life, I have always identified as straight. However, this is not the only way I could identify. I’ve had exactly two sexual partners in my life:  one male, and one female.

I am definitely turned on by the idea of sex with guys; I fantasize about it sometimes. However, there’s no doubt that the vast majority of people I find physically attractive are women. Add to that the fact that I’m married, so the only person I’m actually going to be physically intimate with happens to be my wife. I’ve always identified as straight, even though it would be reasonable for me to identify as bisexual. One reason I’ve never identified as bisexual is that I don’t feel as if I’ve earned it, or would ever have to earn it.  I’ve been happily married for a long time [17+ years]. I’ve never had to suffer any social consequences for my bisexuality, and at this point it seems a little like ‘so what?’ As you know I am a strong and vocal “A”, but I wonder: Do you think it would be helpful for me to identify as bi?”

I think it depends. It depends on what you mean by helpful. It depends on what coming out would mean to you, to your spouse, to your life, community of friends and family. And helpful: to whom? Not to point out the obvious, but YOU matter most. Would YOU find it helpful to YOU?

The other piece in discerning your identity and whether or not to come out that I find interesting is about the prospect of actual intimacy (being in an opposite gender marriage and all),  and how your fantasy and past experience might fit in. What is the role or meaning of same gender fantasy in discerning how one would identify? Does choosing lifelong monogamy—which allows you to pass as straight—devalue or change your identity (if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck—but sometimes it is a swan)? How much—if at all—does our past experience determine our sexual identity? 

For me, identity is wrapped up in my past sexual and emotional relationships; I couldn’t ever turn my back on what has been. My first lover was a man, but my first kiss was a woman. My past—though not a definition of who I am—helps me to remember where I have been, what lessons I have learned, what to lean into and what to avoid. God willing I will have and hold Sweetie till death do we part, but this does not make me a lesbian though I sure could pass as one.

I find it “helpful” to be out because it is just as much a part of my identity as anything else. I am out because it is important for ME to be out. It’s helpful because I don’t like playing the pronoun game when referring to my spouse. I want to give light to what it might look like to be a faithful, monogamous bisexual (that is not to say that monogamy is the “right” way to be in relationship, it is just the right way for my partner and I). I am out so that I can be a friend and resource to those who aren’t out.

Coming out is not an easy or pretty process. Because of the state of our world, it is still a huge risk; financially, emotionally, socially, spiritually. If you were to consider it, I’d only advise to tread lightly, with support from loved ones. You would of course have my unwavering support, for what its worth.

Coming out is one of the most important things I have ever done. The long and short is that yes, if you think you are able to come out, I think you should. The more people who can step in the fray, not as allies but as queer, the better our community is. We are more whole when we are out, honest, together.

  … to be continued

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