One bi person’s journey through self-doubt into self-acceptance
It took me a long time to realize that I liked girls. I had liked boys and had crushes on them since kindergarten, but I didn’t like girls the same way until I started puberty. At first, I thought it was some form of envy: I wish my boobs looked like that. Then I started to brush it off as normal: everyone likes boobs, it doesn’t mean I’m not straight if I do, too. It was easy to dismiss these thoughts because I also still liked boys. So I just kept right on dating the boys in my school and ignored any feelings I had about other girls.
I continued thinking I was straight until one day, around my sophomore year of high school, I mentioned something to one of my friends about noticing that other girls were attractive. She looked at me a little quizzically and said that she didn’t do that. That was the first time that I really paused and considered it: what if I’m different? I didn’t have the language at the time to articulate what that might mean for me. The word “bisexual” wasn’t really in my lexicon at the time. I pushed the thought away again.
During my freshman year of college, I met the first woman on whom I ever had a mutual crush. That was when I truly started to register that it wasn’t just about thinking boobs were cool. I liked this girl. Up until then, I had always thought my “crushes” on girls were just admiration or a desire for a deeper friendship. It took me meeting someone who reciprocated my feelings for me to finally register those feelings as romantic. She identified as bisexual, and when I learned that, I suddenly had my identity: I’m bisexual.
I never ended up dating her, though we are friends to this day. A few months after I met her, I started dating the man who would eventually be my husband, I thought: if I can be this happy with someone of a different gender, can I really be bi? Once again, I pushed it down.
It would be years later, in my mid-20s, before it became undeniable. I was on a trip to the beach with some of my friends. My oldest friend and I ended up alone in the hotel for a couple of hours while everyone else scattered and did their own thing. I realized that I wanted to cuddle with her, kiss her, sleep next to her in the bed. It hit me that I might even love her. I was once again convinced, I actually am bi.
At that point, I came out to my husband as bi, and we agreed to open our relationship to be polyamorous – we would date other people with agreed-upon boundaries. I started dating other women and eventually entered into a relationship with my oldest friend, and I also came out publicly. Then life happened and I stopped dating altogether, so the only romantic relationship in my life was once again my marriage to someone of a different gender, and again crept in the doubt: if I’m not dating women, am I still bi?
Fortunately, in my early 30s, I was able to overcome that doubt and fight against the queer imposter syndrome that is so familiar to so many bi+ people. I claimed my true identity as bi and came out again, this time getting involved in queer culture and volunteering with Rainbow Mobile.
Then I noticed something else happening recently: I was feeling less often attracted to women and non-binary folx, and more often attracted to cisgender men (although I am still attracted to women and non-binary folx). While sexual fluidity is normal and many bi+ people go through cycles of attraction to different genders, the imposter syndrome hit me hard. Do I belong in these queer spaces where I feel so comfortable, or am I invading someone else’s space? Do I have a right to be volunteering with Rainbow Mobile? What if I’m actually straight?!
I am grateful for friends, online resources, and my own internal determination to be myself for reminding me: your identity is not determined by the gender identity of your current partner, or your past partners, or your lack of a partner. It is not defined by your changing pattern of attractions. Your identity is yours, and being your true self is the best gift you can give yourself.
After all the confusion and internal struggle, after all the imposter syndrome, I can proudly say: I am bi.