How to Deal With Coming Out as Bisexual in College

I remember being a kid and hoping I was not attracted to women because I did not want to be gay. I don’t even know why I had these thoughts, probably because of internalized homophobia. I went to a theater school in San Francisco and cannot think of a stereotypically gayer upbringing. Everyone I knew was incredibly supportive of the queer community, but I was terrified of identifying as one of its members.

Which is why I was incredibly relieved when I hit puberty and realized I genuinely like boys. I like the way they look, I like the way they move, I like the way they smell (although not all the time). The realization of my attraction to men validated my straightness and put me in a state of denial for several years. There had been a few moments over the years when I questioned if I might be attracted to women, but I always shut the idea down and reminded myself how much I liked men.

When I finally reached college I ended up becoming friends with many people in the queer community. I was deeply ingrained in the community, much like I had been my whole life, but I still had a lot of hesitancy to identify as queer. My denial about my sexuality was aided by the fact that I was now surrounded by men, after four years at an all girls high school. Being surrounded by men for the first time in years lead me to explore my sexuality with them, which was a period of exploration that I still find rewarding. However, while this had many benefits, it also kept me in the closet.

My friends throughout college have also been extremely accepting of the queer community (usually because they are part of it), but there have been a few outliers that made coming out my personal nightmare. For example, I have had a couple friends who have tried to force me out of the closet. They continuously tried to tell me I was bisexual and I should just accept it. Their rhetoric inevitably pushed me further into denial; like an angsty teenager. The more they told me what to be, the harder I pushed to be something else. Some friends were more extreme than others. There are still a few people I have not (and will not) come out to because I know there instant reactions will be to say “I told you so.” Their reactions to thinking I was queer made me feel so much shame about being closeted, that it only pushed me deeper into the closet.

One person in particular, who I am no longer friends with, told me that if I made out with a girl while I was drunk I have to say I am bisexual. While she was correct about me, her argument about sexuality was ridiculous. Whenever someone told me I was bisexual my go to reaction was to say that sexuality is a spectrum, and I can be curious about women and still identify as straight. Though this was my way of staying in denial, I still think that that is a valid argument and we should stop forcing anyone who has been bicurious into a box of bisexuality.

These factors kept me in the closet for a while, but eventually I ended my denial. It happened over summer after I finished studying abroad in London. I decided to spend a few weeks traveling; my first (and favorite) stop being Edinburgh. Through the month of August Edinburgh hosts the Fringe Festival, which is a gigantic arts festival that includes plays, dance, music, comedy, street performers etc.. There are 3,000 shows that encompass almost all of the arts world.

I had been there a few days when I went to see a free comedy show a few blocks away from the main strip. There were two girls, one of whom was a lesbian comedian named Riss Obolensky. I remember watching her set and thinking that I was sooooo attracted to her. Then my next thought was Am I gay? I took some time to mull it over in my mind.

With some hesitancy I texted many of my bisexual friends to say that I thought I might be bisexual as well. I thought about it over the next couple days and realized I was definitely bisexual. But even after I rationally accepted it, it still took me months to emotionally accept my sexuality.

There were many moments in the months after my sexual awakening when I debated if that was just one moment of attraction that would never happen again. But after I opened the door to the possibility of me liking women, I realized how true it was. One of the odd factors in helping me accept my sexuality was my phone listening to me all the time. As soon as I started telling people I might be queer, I kept finding memes about coming out as bisexual, and how bisexuality is itself a spectrum, and if you like x as a child you are gay now (those always applied to me).

I started looking back of many of the close female friendships I have had and wondered if I thought of those girls as more than friends. I realize now that I was definitely attracted to some of the female friends I had before, but I was too deep in denial to accept it either rationally or emotionally. There were so many women in my past who I was attracted to or had crushes on, but my deep unexplainable shame stopped me from accepting those feelings.

Once I finally acknowledged by sexuality I changed my tinder and bumble settings to women. I have been on a limited number of dates with women at this point, but opening myself up had helped me confirm my feelings. The first date I went on was a coffee date with this girl from tinder and we just talked for a really long time. There was not anything between us, which at first caused me to doubt myself, but I didn’t let it stop me from continuing to pursue my interest in women.

I realized after that date that I had a lot of anxiety about actually being with women. Saying I liked women and rationally accepting it was one thing, but actually having to act upon those feelings was terrifying. Acting on my feelings for women was like being back in high school where I was filled with constant anxiety about human interaction. It took me a while to get adjusted to flirting with men, and now I had to start all over again getting comfortable with women.

Something that has been helping to reassure me in my interest with women without having to actually talk to them is porn. My first time watching lesbian porn I instantly thought Yep, I’m gay. Knowing I have a sexual interest in women through porn has helped me be more comfortable in talking about my sexuality, while I am still taking baby steps to perform my sexuality. When it comes to being with a woman in real life I still need time to slowly edge myself into the world of bisexuality. But watching lesbian porn has reassured me about my sexuality without forcing my outside of my current comfort zone.

My path is not the same path that all bisexual women will take. Many of my bisexual friends came out in high school. Some of them knew for a long time they were queer, some of them thought they were straight for a long time. My path of slowly creeping out of the closet for 21 years worked for me, even though for others that may seem like a long time in the closet.