James W. Hicks, M.D.

Coming Out as Bisexual

In Flexercises on October 12, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Coming to terms with ones sexual orientation and coming out to ones friends and family are viewed as markers of a successful adjustment for gays and lesbians, but does the same developmental process apply to those with flexible sexual interests?

How do you come out when your identity is defined by flexibility, experimentation, and open-mindedness rather than labels and categories? Many give up on finding a label. Even some gays and lesbians have surprised themselves (and their friends and family) by coming out a second time as bisexual after discovering that their potential for affection and desire was broader than they had realized.

A Zen-like attitude may be more useful for those who have flexible sexual desires. You do not need to fit into a box. You certainly do not need to define yourself as gay, straight, or bi. Be mindful and accepting of your potential for affection and desire for both sexes, and see where those interests lead you. Recognize that your sexual flexibility is natural and not a shameful and solitary affliction. You should find someone with whom you can speak honestly about these feelings, whether within a friendship, a chat room, or a local club or support group, because it is difficult to keep such feelings completely secret, and you may need someone’s encouragement or advice. But you do not need to tell everyone; if you do, be prepared to explain over and over that no, you are not really gay. Even parents may prefer to think you are gay than to be left in limbo, uncertain with whom you will form your next relationship. (“Alright, Mom, I’m gay. Yes, I’ll go on a date with the nice [boy/girl] you met at church. Give [him/her] my number.”)

If you are in a relationship, should you come out to your partner? It may be easier to reveal your bisexual feelings than to lobby for a threesome, but even talking about your attractions in the abstract carries some risk if your partner holds misconceptions. You might want to approach the topic this way: “Of course I find both women and men attractive. Everyone does to some extent. Men and women aren’t that different from each other.” If asked about your past experiences, you can refer to the high rates of same-sex experiences that even straight men and women have, with reference to the research. Flexible sexual feelings and behaviors cannot be abnormal if they are so universal.

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