As a 28-year-old bisexual female, I felt I was long overdue to participate in Pride month events. Last night, I attended my first Pride kick-off party. In order to understand the significance of this act, I have to give you a little background information about myself. For a long time, I was closeted to my extended family, my coworkers, basically anyone but my immediate family and closest friends. This was in part due to my Catholic upbringing and fear that I would be treated differently by my family once they knew that I was bisexual. I suppose it was easier for me to hide this part of myself than it would have been if I were a lesbian, as being closeted didn’t inhibit my ability to date men (who happened to be the only people I was meeting for a long time anyways.) However, living only a half truth still weighed on my emotional and mental health and felt more like a lie to me with each passing year. I was honest with the people I dated about my orientation, and had mixed reactions from the cis, straight men who I would meet. Some were perfectly fine and accepting of my orientation, for which I was grateful. Others treated me like a novelty, as if it somehow elevated their own status to be dating a bisexual woman and they would ask me lewd questions about my interest in women. This always offends me and turns me off. Most men wouldn’t be turned on to hear me talk about my interest in other men, so why get excited just because I find women attractive as well? I don’t know if it’s the fault of our culture or simply a fault of some of the men who I’ve dated that lesbian relations are viewed as strictly sexual, fleeting, and nonthreatening to heteronormativity. It demeans me as a person to be treated like this and shows a lack of understanding about monogamous bisexuals like myself.
Eventually, I came out to my extended family and the greater world through, of all things, a Facebook post. It wasn’t exactly how I had planned to tell them, but as I have discovered so often in my life, it is far easier for me to talk about difficult issues through my writing. I had agonized over how I would tell everyone for years, and sometimes it felt safer and easier to just avoid broaching the subject with my extended family altogether. It had already taken years for my Catholic mother to accept the fact that I was bisexual, and I didn’t imagine it going any better with my extended family. I knew they would still love me, in their way, as my mom always reminded me through the difficult years of our relationship after I first came out to her. She didn’t believe or accept who I was for a long time, calling me “confused” and thinking I was just going along with the popular trend, since I had so many gay friends in high school and college. Yet she said she would always love me, something she thought I would take comfort in. I did, to an extent, but I often wondered, who was it that she really loved? Did she love me, as I truly was, or the straight daughter she wanted me to be? My mom has always worried for my safety as a bisexual woman and how I would be treated by the world, especially in the months following the most recent presidential election. After Trump’s first day in office, I told my mom that his administration had taken down the LGBTQ page on the White House website, along with so many other important pages. This stirred up her fears once again and at the time she asked me, “Wouldn’t it be safer to hide who you are?” I knew she had the same images forming in her mind, of pink triangles like the ones homosexuals were forced to wear during the Holocaust.
Something I’ve had to remind my mom and myself about this past year is that, when the world threatens the safety and civil liberties of minorities, it becomes that much more important to stand up for what is right. For me, this means owning who I am and setting an example for others still living in fear and darkness. My mom, unknowingly, had taught me this all important lesson and we have surprisingly grown closer since the election. As terrible as things may seem these days when we watch the news together, we’re also reminded of what is really important, what we want to save and protect. Last night, at our citywide kick-off party for Pride month, I was surrounded by others like myself striving to be true to who they are, to express their unique and shared experiences in a safe and nurturing space, trying to foster a sense of community that will hopefully last for generations to come. There are times when it seems like this world is falling apart, but last night, surrounded by so much love and strength, I felt like I could finally breathe.