On Coming Out and Reaching Out

Other than RTing some tweets and sharing selected Facebook posts, I haven’t reacted much publicly about the massacre in Orlando at Pulse nightclub. My default mode when I get overloaded with emotion is to withdraw and try to process things at my own pace, but the attack has deeply affected me—moreso than even the Boston Marathon bombings, because as a bisexual woman this one hit closer to home.

My bisexuality may actually be news to some family members and friends (though I’ve never made a secret of it), but I consider this post more of a reaching out than a coming out. Because in some ways over the years, I’ve acted more like an ally of the LGBT community than an active member of that community, and with this tragedy comes the impetus to stop minimizing my voice. And to reach out.

While I hadn’t always felt welcomed by the gay community as a bi woman in my 20s (I was once told that bisexual women are only gay when it suits them, and able to “pass” the rest of the time—with the implication that bi people can never understand what it means to be gay), I have been so encouraged by the strides that have been made in civil rights and for all LGBT people.

And especially among writers of YA, I’ve found a sense of belonging both within the pages they’ve written, and their openness about telling their own truths. They’ve helped me to feel more secure in my identity, even though as a woman married to a man, my own bisexuality felt like a less relevant part of my identity for a time.

And no, I haven’t been spared over the years from worries about how I would be perceived as a bisexual or lesbian—I was shocked when my otherwise-progressive Dad and stepmom hid from my younger brother that another family member was transitioning. Why was that so difficult for them to explain, and what did they fear would happen if they did? Speaking for myself, I am so heartened by my niece’s courage to live and love as she sees fit—but also heartbroken for her every time she gets harassed on a train or passed up for jobs.

And the water aerobics class that I attend with about 15 other (older) women, who have been so supportive through all my health challenges—will they feel differently about sharing a locker room with me as a bisexual? In spite of the fact that we’ve shared a locker room for over ten years and I’ve never hit on anyone?

Places like Pulse are havens for LGBT people to be themselves, and to not feel like an “other.” They will only become more important in the days to come, as all of us—all of us Americans—try to wrap our heads around the events in Orlando, and whether they will eventually yield positive changes for tolerance.

I’m still processing a lot of the heartbreak myself, but did manage to catch a guest on Capital Public Radio from Equality Florida, and he mentioned that his group has started a Go Fund Me for the families of the victims, to cover funerals and other expenses. If you’d like to contribute, it’s at https://www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund