I met her at a party and the connection was instant.
I’m an introvert so parties usually stress me out and I don’t go. But this one was a 15-minute walk from my house at a good friend’s so I knew I could go home at any time.
I don’t remember exactly how we ended up sitting on the couch together but soon we were in an intense conversation about my job working with vulnerable youth, her studies in midwifery and what we were both learning about grief. Everyone else fell away and it was like the two of us were alone together.
We probably talked for over an hour, although it’s hard to say exactly how long, and then she had to leave. We exchanged numbers and said we’d go rock climbing sometime. I left the party feeling good. I hadn’t had a connection like that in a long time and was excited.
We kept in touch over text and we were both pretty busy but eventually found time to meet up and go climbing at an indoor gym nearby. It was fun and we promised to do it again.
If she was a he, it would have been a clear-cut crush. But somehow because she was (and is) a she, it felt more complicated. My secret is that even though I’ve dated a lot of men and often present as a straight person, I’m attracted to women too.
I felt nervous. She seemed open and comfortable with her queerness. I didn’t know how to bring it up. I didn’t know if she liked me or realized I was queer. I felt like a teenager again, not sure of the protocol.
Being attracted to women is something that I’ve known about and have been exploring for nearly a decade but have always kept a little bit undercover. In 2011, I was involved in the Gender Equity Centre at the university where I was studying, and I started to be comfortable with my queerness. I told some family members and friends that I was queer or bi-sexual when they asked specifically, “What does queer mean?” and even dated a female friend. And I thought I was done. My secret was out.
But shortly afterwards I had a conversation with a queer person who’d had multiple serious relationships with women. She was annoyed at all the “queerious” girls like me who’d never slept with a woman but went around saying they were queer. I felt ashamed. My face turned red. I thought she was right. I’d never slept with a woman so how could I really know? And what right did I have to declare it when I’d never faced any of the challenges that real LGBTQ folks have experienced? I went back underground. So when attractions to women came up I’d notice them. Sometimes I’d pursue them a little bit, but never wholeheartedly. I was scared that they’d find out that I’d never had a long-term relationship with a woman and laugh at me.
I was scared to be honest about who I really was and whom I was attracted to. But the more I learn about secrets, the more I realized it’s time to come out of this particular kind of closet I’ve been keeping myself in.
According to this article in Forbes, when you keep a secret it can lead to a surge in the production of stress hormones. This can negatively impact your memory, your sleep, your digestion and your blood pressure. I don’t want any of those things so I’m going to let it out.
Here’s my secret: I’m attracted to men and I’m attracted to women. I’m 31 years old and I’ve still never slept with a woman. And every time I meet a woman I like, I’m scared to really pursue it because I don’t want to have to tell her I’m a girl-virgin.
One of the things I’m realizing is that being bisexual has its specific set of challenges when it comes to coming out of the closet. After I came out to some of my family and friends in my early twenties, I thought I was done. But since then I’ve dated many men, so when I meet new friends they often assume I’m straight. And so in some ways, I have to come out again and again and again.
I also struggle with feeling like a legitimate queer person when I’m in a heterosexual relationship. Somehow I feel like okay, for now I’m straight and then when I’m single again—then I’ll be able to be queer. A part of me feels like I don’t have the right to claim my queerness when I’m dating a man. How can I identify as LGBTQ when I’m enjoying all the privileges of being a straight person?
But the answer is this: life doesn’t work like that. Just because I’m dating a man doesn’t mean my attractions to women suddenly stop. That part of me doesn’t turn off. And I don’t want to keep pretending, even though in some ways it’s easier.
It’s hard, when many people assume I’m one thing to stand up and say I’m something else. But when I hide my queerness to make straight folks more comfortable, I hide a part of who I am. I want to be myself fully at all times. I want to stop molding myself to fit in. I want to be all of me.
So I’m starting to practice. Starting to take baby steps in that direction of being all of myself. I’m starting to have conversations with those who I know will not judge me about my queerness. I’m practicing changing the way that I talk. And it’s difficult. After years and years of keeping this part of my sexuality under wraps, it takes time to change the old habits of the way that I describe myself. And it’s also hard to face the fears that I’ll be judged by others.
It’s difficult and it’s scary and it’s sometimes uncomfortable.
But the reward is too great to pass up on. Avoiding all the health issues that come when you hold a secret is just the beginning.
The real reward is getting to be myself.
About Bryn Bamber
Career Burnout and Intuitive Business Coach Bryn Bamber helps sensitive souls like you build a business or a career that’s aligned with your purpose. Her Burnout to Brilliance program teaches you how to make small shifts that will free up energy for the things you really love. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.
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