coming out as bi-curious

Reader W.S. says:

I recently told a friend of mine that I was bi-curious, i.e. I think I’m interested in girls, but I don’t think I’m necessarily a lesbian. Ever since I told her that, she’s been acting really strangely: she cringes away if I touch her in a friendly way, and she’s kind of standoffish. I think I need to confront her, but I’m not sure what to do.

Dear W.S.:

pool time!

Just 'cause I think you look hot in a bathing suit doesn't mean I want to sleep with you. Image: ahmet guler / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Congratulations on being honest with your friend about your sexuality! I think it is often very hard for bisexuals to “come out” in our society, because certain groups have couched the whole gay-straight thing as a battle. It’s as if you have to “choose a side”: if you’re gay, be gay; if you’re straight, be straight. The existence of bisexuals points to a sort of middle ground that can make some people very uncomfortable. According to several studies, it’s actually rather normal for a woman to be attracted to both sexes, at least on a physical level. And you’re totally not alone — several famous starlets have come out as bi recently, including Anna Paquin and Vanessa Carlton.

Still, having science and Hollywood telling you you’re probably okay does not mean that your nearest and dearest are going to agree. However, I don’t necessarily think your friend believes you’re weird or crazy for being bi-curious. In fact, I don’t even necessarily think she’s homophobic or biphobic. She may not realize that she’s been acting differently.

I am guessing she doesn’t think that you have a crush on her or are trying to seduce her by telling her about your sexual orientation. If she does, she’s way immature and probably a bit narcissistic, and there’s no way you can fix that.

But she may be concerned that you don’t know what you want. She may believe you are creating a very hard road for yourself and not want to see you suffer. She may think you need space to figure yourself out. She may think that she’s being a good and helpful friend.

I definitely think you should talk to her about her reaction in a non-confrontational way. Couch your statements in “I feel” terms, and make sure you’re not saying things like “I feel you are homophobic”. Say instead, “I feel that things have changed in our relationship since I told you I was bi-curious.” Tell her you feel that she’s been backing away and you’re afraid you’re making her uncomfortable. Ask her to tell you how she feels about it.

If she does tell you she’s uncomfortable because she thinks you’re going to start hitting on her, I’d recommend telling her that’s not the case, but be aware there’s not much you can do to convince her otherwise. If she’s already got the idea in her head that you’re attracted to her, any friendly thing you do is just going to reaffirm that idea in her head. You may have to lay low in the friendship for a while.

You may have to educate her on what your sexual orientation actually means to you. Bisexuality is not the same orientation as homosexuality, and there are different rules that play out. Things are even more complicated when you admit you’re bi-curious and not even definitely bisexual. Keep that in mind — you are presenting her with some cloudy labels that she may not know how to parse.

I personally believe every person’s individual sexual orientation has its own rules, and labels can be very detrimental, but we use them in our society, and that’ not going to stop any time soon, so you’ve got to learn how to use them to your advantage. Your friend may not know all of the nuances regarding bisexuality versus homosexuality or heterosexuality, or even what bicuriosity entails. Be ready to explain what you think your bicuriosity is about. But remember that you can’t force an understanding of your feelings or convictions on someone else, particularly someone who isn’t willing to listen or learn. If your friend already has a lot of prejudices against bisexuals (or, more likely, homosexuals), it’s going to be a long, hard road.

If your friend is really worth being friends with, she’ll be willing to talk to you about how she feels, and she’ll be willing to hear your side of things. Mature, sane people don’t dump their friends based on sexual orientation, and if she’s still talking to you at all, that’s probably a good sign that she’s one of those sane, mature people who’s willing to learn your point of view.


1 Response to “coming out as bi-curious”

  1. 1 Richard
    June 25, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    But will the bi-curious lady be willing to hear her friend’s side of things? Perhaps something like “I am not attracted to you, maybe a different woman, but not you.”

    The poor thing likely figures that W.S. -IS- hitting on her. What other reason was there to make the big revelation? Regarding those friendly touches, would W.S. make them to a man she isn’t attracted too? How would she feel if an unattractive man touched her in the same manner?

    As for the intervention type scene – what’s the point? To focus attention on W.S.? There are lots of subtler ways to let someone know they are purely in the friend category. For example, ask for advice, info, or an introduction to someone else. That should let the friend know that she’s not on the menu.

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