Written by Lynus Macharia Wednesday, 18 July 2012 00:00
Understanding my sexuality was a really long process. After having been brought up with a very conservative background, I was very reluctant to think that I was anything but straight. At school, I had relationships with women but people used to call me gay. I used to ask people why they thought that, but I was often dissatisfied with the answers. For a long time, I used to rationalise being attracted to men to myself by claiming that I was "admiring their style" or their clothes - however, I later realised that in many circumstances I was just plain attracted to them.
It wasn't until I got to university that I gained the confidence to really take an independent look at myself and work out who I was. At this point, I was cautious of the thought of being seen in a gay bar, sofirst of all I explored the topic alone. I got to understand my sexuality through doing online and paper research on sexuality and gender theory. I know it sounds boring, but it really helped me and solved many of my curiosities. I treated my research like a problem or puzzle. After a relatively long period of time - including being literally dragged into a gay club! - I began to think that I must not be straight. I knew that I was always attracted sexually to women, but it took time to accept that I was sexually attracted to men as well. It felt like I was discovering new territory and at times it was very difficult. I was lucky to have some very supportive friends who gave me enough space to figure it out for myself.
I came out over a period of about a year and a half. The more people I told, the easier it became. I started by telling my closest friends at university in person. Many found out during my first relationship with a man, although I felt with some people I still had to cover up my sexuality - in some company I referred to him as "Emily", and this caused some problems. I came out to the remainder of my university friends and school friends via a secret group on Facebook. It was a very emotionally taxing thing to do: it took ages for everyone to reply, but it meant that I could tell everyone in one go without some hearing the news by rumour - I much preferred the idea of telling everyone personally rather than letting the whispers run riot.
I left the hardest people to come out to until last: my family. I was very concerned that they would react badly, and that I would be disowned or rejected. I decided to come out to both my brother and my parents by separate letters, sent six months apart. The letters were five-to-seven pages long and explained all my fears, as well as answering any questions I thought they would have.
When I came out as bisexual, I thought that it would be easier on the basis that it is "closer to heterosexuality". Unfortunately, I didn't imagine or prepare forbiphobia and how rife the problem is - both in the hetero and homosexual communities. You frequently hear claims that bisexuals are unfaithful, liars or will lead people on. I personally think it is harder to come out as being bisexual than it is to come out as gay.
You worry about similar concerns - for example, whether family members will think you will change. But there are also additional concerns. Some people will not accept you as bisexual, and assume that you are gay.
It's frustrating to come out to someone as bisexual and for them not to appreciate it. It felt as if I'd made a step in coming out, but had failed to do it in a fashion that let people know exactly who I am. The process of coming out was difficult to go through and felt like it would never end. I now largely get away with "oh and you know that I'm bi, don't you?" these days, which is a real bliss. Now I run Bisexual Butterfly, a national charitable organisation which aims to provide information and support to bisexuals, members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) community, other LGBT organisations and anyone with an interest in bisexual issues. We wish to raise awareness of bisexuality and biphobia, and we're quickly developing a quirky energy within the bisexual community. Now that I am out to everyone I have never felt so happy and comfortable. I can just be myself.
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