LAURA: When I was a kid, my grandparents lived in a house with a closet that had stairs and a hidden cubby inside. It captured my imagination (imagine! secrets in a closet!), and I loved to play in there. Now, of course, I’ve grown too big to fit inside, and even my very best imaginations can’t make me believe that a closet really is another world. I miss that sometimes–being able to make my real world disappear and let my play one be real for a while.
I remember the first time someone suggested I was not straight–actually, the only time someone suggested to me I might not be straight. I was 19, and I shut it down so fast and so hard that I wonder now if it only confirmed what they believed.
A year later, I came out to my now-husband. At the time, I didn’t have words for it beyond that I was not gay and that I was also interested in women. It would take me moving away from my small town in the Intermountain West to be exposed to the word “bisexual.” It took my church banning the children of same-sex couples for me to quit burying that part of me and believe it matters.
The exclusion policy didn’t break my shelf; that was already broken. It was the moment, though, that I realized the church only wanted me as long as I looked like I belonged. They wanted me, and they wanted my kids, but only if I was willing to pretend to be straight. My family is only welcome because I confirm the church narrative.
That gutted me. Honestly, every time someone (straight) says they struggled with the policy but have made peace with it, I wonder what gives them that right.
I don’t know how to reconcile myself to a church that literally believes people are somehow more worthy when they live below, or outside of, their potential. Nor do I know how to feel belonging in a space that teaches that God loves me less because of how I was created.
I can’t imagine feeling that way toward my own kids. And yet… I wonder if that’s how my earthly parents will feel if I tell them I’m bisexual.
I have to wonder, because while nearly everyone else in my life knows and accepts me, I’m not out to my family. I have been incredibly lucky in coming out. I’ve never had to hustle for my worthiness or explain why being open about being bi matters. I’m not sure the same will be true if I tell my family.
When I consider coming out to my family, I fear being rejected. I think this is a universal fear in the LGBTQIA community and one for which straight people don’t have an equivalent. Considering how rigidly committed to fundamentalism my parents and other family members are, this risk is real. Do I want to confirm that they only love me if I make myself small for them?
I am also afraid of undoing the healing and the understanding we’ve tried to foster in the last year. I fear they will assume we’ve “left the church” because I was sinning or “struggling” with same-sex attraction. I’ve worked hard to demonstrate that inactivity ≠ apostasy. I fear this will solidify that false belief in them. I don’t know if they will even hear me out, or, if they do, whether they will believe me when I say that is not the case.
I worry about how this will complicate our relationship in the future. Will they wait for me to leave my husband and break my family? My marriage is complicated with mental health issues and I currently won’t say we will never divorce. We are working to prevent it, but will they understand that? How long would they wait for the other shoe to drop, and how quickly will they blame me? Will they view every future struggle I have and every misstep I make through the lens of my sexual orientation?
If I am not rejected, how much of our interaction will be tainted with judgment? Will I have to establish boundaries that have the same results as rejection? Will they deny my children family relationships because of my choice to come out?
Beyond the interpersonal cost, I wrestle with what coming out might do to my family’s worldview. Will they see me as a gay person who has chosen to be straight? If they see that, will they assume the same is true for all LGT people? I can’t bear confirming their bias like that. That feels like an irresponsible use of my voice.
Despite how heavy these fears are, I have a bigger one. Far scarier than being rejected is the fear that my family won’t believe this matters, and that I won’t be able to help them understand.
I can’t articulate a reason they should care or a “real” reason to tell them. Coming out won’t come with a divorce announcement or an identity change as it might if I were LGT. Nor will it come with a grand explanation of value. As it is, I can barely explain how being bisexual impacts my worldview to people who are understanding. I doubt I can do it under scrutiny.
The only reason I can come up with to tell my family is because I want to. I want to be honest. I want to quit being afraid of letting something slip. I want to be able to be open, both face to face and in my online commenting (and I don’t want them to find out on Facebook!). I want this. Me.
I think they’d rather not know.
And yet, how do you love someone you don’t know? How do I keep living in fear when my default mode is fearlessness? How do I keep silencing myself over and over and over again when I’m not a quiet person?
The truth is, there are many people who are wrestling with similar feelings. I would bet money that every ward has a couple bisexual members who exist in this space where they pass as straight and are told by the LGT community that it’s privilege to disappear.
I’m ready to be seen, but I wonder if I will be. The closet is too small, and the world inside is pretend. By coming out, though, I’m choosing to never let my pretend world exist again, with no guarantees of what I’ll find in the real world. I’m not sure I’m ready for that. I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready.
And yet… I’m not sure that, even if I’m not ready, I can stay in a space I’ve outgrown.