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About a month ago on Twitter I decided to affirm myself publicly for the first time ever. I don’t even remember what triggered it at this point, but I do know that it was nerve-wracking. I know it gave me anxiety. I know it took me at least seven minutes to hit send. Screw it, I figured, it’s long overdue. With it being Pride month and all, I decided to finally correct the label “lesbian” that I’d let people identify me as for the last 15 years (and what I even called myself publicly). I finally rejected the label for its false portrayal and it felt great! It was empowering. All of my negative thoughts about “coming out” again were nowhere but in my own head. In the moment, I did it for me and no one else but as the day went on and messages started to slip into my DM box, I realized that there were a number of women who felt the same burden—the burden of being in a second closet: bisexuality.

Women were feeling pressure to not identify with whom they really are because of the negative stereotypes associated with being bisexual. These women didn’t want lesbians looking at them differently, didn’t want friends and family questioning the strength of their relationships, and didn’t want random men thinking they had a shot. (We are not attracted to every human we see—let me point that out for those who don’t get it.) It was at that moment I began thinking about writing something a little more formal than tweets. I wanted to do it for the women like me who, for whatever personal reason, chose to hide their true identity and suffered in silence because of their decision.

Let’s be clear, bisexuality is real. It is not a phase and it is not greed. It is real.

There have been so many times I’ve sat at a dinner or lunch and silently let people bemoan their distrust of bisexual people. Too many times I’ve had no pride and dialed back my words and let such hurtful dialogue pass because I didn’t want to out myself. Over the last couple of years, I began to speak up more but not from a place of one who is bi, just an understanding lesbian. It was a step. But sometime last fall after a speaking engagement, I could feel another conversation veering in the direction of “Why can’t they just make up their minds?” and it was at that moment I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t not be the in-person example of a bisexual woman who doesn’t personify rampant stereotypes. I finally came out. Again. At 35. To people I’d just met that morning. It was weirdly emotional because I felt like I was too old and established in married life to do this but it had to be done. You see, it’s the feelings we don’t voice that weigh us down the most and this had been weighing me down for years.

Of course my wife has always known about my identity and we’ve had countless conversations about it over the years. Those talks weren’t so easy in the beginning, but there came a point at which she has wiped warm, and salty tears from my eyes and said “just be yourself, whoever that is.” Between my being bi and see-sawing gender expression I was a bit of a mess. Suppression was eating away at me. Depression was draining me. Constant denial of who you really are takes a toll on you—hadn’t I learned this already when it came to admitting I wasn’t straight? Of course, but back then it was one challenge at a time. Straight people had a hard time accepting gay people and everyone, including gay people had a hard understanding bi people. There was no need to bring that part up, I’d thought. What did it matter once I got married? I’d wondered. But it matters. I could not erase a part of myself and still expect to live a full and actualized life.

For far too long bisexual people have been stigmatized. We’ve been incorrectly labeled as confused individuals who want the best of both worlds and are incapable of committing to anyone. These are lies. We’re not straight and experimenting. We’re not gay and in denial. We’re bisexual, period. So please, do not push your insecurities on us. Do not push your fears onto us. Do not push your confusion on us. We know who we are, it’s you who’s confused if you can’t grasp that there are more than two sexual orientations and it’s not a threat to yours.

To those who are in the shoes I just stepped out of. It’s okay to be yourself. It’s okay to say it early in a relationship—if you scare the other person off then oh well. She or he probably wasn’t the right person for you anyway. At the end of the day, owning one’s sexuality is not so much about announcing it to other people as it is about affirming one’s existence and personal identity. It’s not allowing social norms to erase you out of existence because that’s what is most comfortable for other people. We have enough problems in the world and don’t need to put unnecessary strain on our mental health in an effort to please people who cling to stereotypes.

If you’re in a new relationship, there will come a time when you have to stand up for yourself and say, “If you’re going to love me, love all of me. Accept all of me. Don’t be threatened by my existence. My promise to you remains and all I ask of you is to let me be me. I’m not going to hurt you.”

To those who are partners or spouses of bisexual people and feel nervous about your future. Relax. Whether your relationship lasts or not has nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with character and compatibility. Bisexuality is not an excuse for infidelity. And as we all should know by now, love is something you do, not something you float in. Regardless of what your sexual orientation is, love is doing things you know will strengthen your relationship not damage it. It means being honest all the time and admitting if something needs to be tweaked so you can feel whole. That goes for both people because the truth is there is bound to be some part of either one of you that’s a little extra to the marriage. Roll with it and use it to find ways to make you both stronger, loving and accepting people.

Bisexual people don’t want to feel guilty just because we find someone of the opposite sex attractive (imagine that). There’s no need to feel insecure. We don’t want to feel guilty for acknowledging our attractions—if home isn’t a safe place for that kind of self-actualization then nowhere is. So yes, bisexuality is real. You can be bi, be married to someone of the same sex and not be confused, not want the best of both worlds and not be a dormant boomerang waiting to be flung back across the rainbow fence.

There is a quote that I would like to leave with anyone reading this. I don’t know who originally said it, but I think it’s important to share in this time where too many people are quick to define their #relationshipgoals by cute photos of random couples. The quote is: “Be careful of admiring other people, quite often, they’re admiring someone else.” I repeat it just as a reminder that what’s most important in life is to be the best version of you that you can be. Be yourself. Be fulfilled. Be happy.

There is someone out there who needs to hear this right now. There is a marginalized group of people within a larger group of marginalized people who need to know the world will not end if they step into their truth. Someone reading this right now needs a sit-down with her partner and to have the talk about how she’s really feeling. Someone needs to practice saying aloud who she is so she can begin adding back the color of her existence. And to that someone, no one can force you out, but I know that personally I’m no longer comfortable in that second closet. It’s too dark with unfounded fears, too damp with decades-old tears and too crowded with the imaginary judgement from others. It’s unnecessary so I’ve stepped out and locked the door behind me. Today is the day I am saying as loud as I can: I’m bisexual and I am proud.

Cheril N. Clarke is the author of five novels, several e-books, and three plays. She is one of the most popular writers of fiction that features, but is not limited to, African-American lesbian characters. In addition to creative writing, Clarke is also a business owner and speechwriter. She has written for C-Suite executives in Philadelphia as well as local politicians in Southern New Jersey. Clarke lives with her wife and business partner for publishing LGBT children’s books, Monica Bey-Clarke, in southern New Jersey.

8 Responses

  1. Claudia Moss

    Greetings Cheril,

    I am ever proud of you and your fearlessness to live your best life, while embracing vulnerability and becoming the stronger because of it. A closet is an ill fit for anyone. When people witness you unhinge the door, they discover that they can do the same.

    As for me, in prior years, I have heard others in the community denounce bisexual people, and I, too, listened in silence, but there comes a time when one says no more! I’ve a mind of my own, and there is no better time to use it than in the present moment. Thus, when the ‘denounce bi people’ harangue begins, I dive into the conversation. The last several times was with my girlfriend, me inviting her to listen to the logic of what she was saying. Listen to blanket judgement. Fear. A desire not to want to understand. Then I stand strong for the volcanic reaction. I hold to my truth. Bisexual people are wrongfully persecuted daily for lack of understanding.

    Although I identify as lesbian, I feel your angst. I revel in your victory. I champion your position. Bisexual people are the same as me, her and everybody else. We deserve love, understanding, trust, respect. We love who we love. No one should be discounted because she can be attracted to a female and a male. Why don’t bisexual soothsayers ever say that bi people have the potential to know the best of both worlds?

    Oh, I have a long-time friend who is bisexual, and she is happily married to a man, un-closeted and richly fulfilled in her life!

    Wishing you and Monica peace, love and continued joy!

    Claudia

    Reply
  2. Ty

    Hi Cheril,

    Thanks for sharing your story. Question.. How does your wife deal with your bisexuality? How do you deal with it? Do you act on it? If these questions are too much, I totally understand. My wife recently left me because she said she never gave herself a chance to fall in love with a man. So it’s been a difficult road for me. I’m trying to see different perspectives, although I know it’s something I may never understand.

    Reply
    • Cheril

      Well, it’s been about 16 years but I have been in a long term relationship with a man before so I don’t feel as though I missed out on anything. I loved him, but it wasn’t meant to be. We were too young. And I hadn’t fully gotten comfortable with myself yet so it was better for both of us to part ways with no hard feelings, which we did.

      I’m sorry to read about your breakup and understand how hard that has to be for you. Every couple, even straight ones have to find what individually works for them when it comes to navigating long-term love; so what works for us may not work for you and vice versa. This is where trust, imagination, creativity and willingness to discuss hard topics/explore different solutions come into play because there’s no “right” way to handle it–just different ones based on your (and your partner’s) comfort level.

      I hope that helps.

      Reply
  3. Ellen

    Dear Cheril,
    All the way from Europe I wish to thank you for writing this piece. As a 30+ woman, married to a man, and mother of two young children, it was not easy to realise that I am bisexual. This realisation came two years ago when I had a major crush on a woman. Before that I have been very interested in women for a long time, but I never (wanted to) realise(d) that I am bisexual. In the past two years I have been questioning and struggling with my sexuality, not knowing what to do with this realisation at this (rather late!) moment in my life. The last few months I have come to accepting it and being at peace with it. But now comes the hardest part: coming out… I feel I want people to know “the full me”, as everybody around me off course assumes I am a straight woman and I am not. Also, in recent months I have come to realise it is important to come out because of the many misconceptions and prejudices about bisexuality, and the many bisexuals remaining in the closet because of it. However, until now, I have only dared to tell my husband and my closest friend – both very good experiences. Reading your story helps me to find the extra courage I need to tell others. I recognise much in how you describe the years before coming out and the doubts and fears you had. Thanks you for sharing your story, and thank you for encouraging me to start to be fully and openly myself, and to start to be proud of being my bisexual me.

    Reply
  4. Julie

    Ms. Clarke, I get it, and I appreciate your bravery and the level of candor that is incident to this “coming out”. Your wife is also impacted by how those in your circle receive your revelation. Kudos to her too. In my words, conduct and presence I see it is essential to speak and model acceptance and to be non judgmental. I regret being a silent party to some of those hateful conversations that you described.

    Reply
    • Cheril

      Thanks for reading and responding. This definitely affects her too and is one of the reasons it took me so long. I was thinking about her—her feelings, how she’d be perceived, how us as a unit would be perceived when after all these years we’ve been known as this long-standing “lesbian couple,” etc. (She read and approved my blog before I submitted it, btw.) lol. It was just another one of those honest conversations that are necessary if you want to thrive as a unit and individuals.

      “Why do you need to do this?”
      “Because I’m tired of living a lie. I’m sorry, I know it impacts you too, but I’m tired.”
      “Okay, go for it…but let me read it first.” LOL

      LOL. That’s it, nothing crazy. As far as family and friends I didn’t want it to be a “big thing” but for those women and men who felt like I felt in that dark silence, I did/do want it to be a loud voice. The stereotypes have long been old, trite and just accepted as-is because not too many people publicly defied them. It’s time. Thanks again for reading.

      Reply
      • Cheril

        Ellen,

        Thanks for reading and responding. I really am happy you found value in this piece and encourage you to live out your full existence! :)

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