The media tells us that coming out is one big event. That you sit on the couch across from your parents, take a deep breath, and expose something deeper than your innermost organs. Or, you sit at your computer and write a paragraph or two, delete, rewrite, take a deep breath, then hit “post”. But coming out isn’t one deep breath. It’s constant breaths, a steadying of the nerves as you question whether this person is safe, whether this is the right time, the right place. It’s taking a breath for the rest of your life, until there’s nothing more left in your lungs. Until the end.
I was fourteen when I took my first breath. I’d just moved to a new school, had managed to get in with a new friend group of creatives. Music lovers, artists, even a dancer or two. I’d spent two years working through my identity, ever since I got a crush on my best friend in year six. One of my new friends approached me, a girl from the same group that I didn’t know too well in tow, to ask me a question. “How would you feel if someone in our group was gay?” The question was easy for me. I didn’t have a problem with it. Why would I have a problem with it? “I’m bi myself, so…” Was my response. So natural, like I’d said the words a million times.
I got home that afternoon and wrote up a text. The words are lost to time, and a mobile buried in landfill somewhere, but my message sticks in my head. “Guess what? I’m bi. I’d love your support, but if not, too bad. It’s who I am.” I sent the message to some of my old friends, from my old school, and that was that.
Until, over the next year of school, I found myself mentioning my bi-ness to my new friends. Until, two years later, I finally worked up the courage to tell my mum at the end of a two hour road trip. Until, every time I started a new course, a new workplace, met a new group of friends. Until… That’s the thing, isn’t it? I’ll always be meeting new people, interacting with the world. And every time, I’ll ask myself the questions. Is it safe? Is this the right time? And then, new questions, ones that formed as I discovered more about myself. Should I tell them I’m trans, too? Polyamorous? Maybe I should just settle for “queer”.
It’s like when I chose to change my name. At what point in the process did this count as me “coming out”? Was it when I first questioned my gender out loud, in a quiet bedroom at a party, while in a deep conversation with a friend late at night? Was it when I first told my partners that I wanted to try a different name, different pronouns? Or was it the terrified conversation on the phone with my mum, then my dad? Maybe it was when I settled on a name that fit, or when I started using it in my day-to-day life, introducing myself with that name. To some people, I didn’t come out until I held the piece of paper in my hands confirming that this was now, legally, my name. But I’d been out for years. Just, only to the right people.
There’s a continuous theme, in media, in society, of coming out stories. The increase in representation, while slow, is happening, and I still find myself giddy with excitement when a character in something I’m enjoying “comes out”. But I wish it was more than that. I want to see more characters casually mentioning their sexuality, more characters just getting into relationships with people that they’re into, without the bells and whistles. More variation. The cis gay guys and cis lesbians are wonderful, but where are the bi characters? The pan characters? Omni, ace, aro? Where are the trans characters? Non-binary, demi-boys, demi-girls, the agender kids, the gender fluid adults?
And why, in these stories, can they not just be? The coming out stories can be beautiful. Some are realistically heart wrenching, some are full of sunshine and hope. Coming out is exhausting, it is a video game level you can’t pass, the same cutscene playing over and over until you know every word, every inflection. But it’s not all we are.
Despite the exhaustion, there are positives, and I would be remiss if I were to ignore them. Sometimes, when I’m feeling smothered, I think about that first time I came out. The solace that I could provide that scared girl hiding behind my friend. “It’s okay, I’m one of you.” I think about the people that I’ve come out to, only to have them come out right back. The sense of community, spirit, pride. The perseverance. The absolute blessing that it’s been to find myself part of a community that’s formed on nothing more than the most pure of love.
Stepping into a space that’s for community- whether it takes the form of a club, a get-together, an information centre, even a bookshop- feels like an entirely different kind of breath. It’s a soft exhale, muscle tension easing, heart rate level. It’s a sigh of relief. I know that if I were to find myself in an unfamiliar city, alone, I would be okay if I could just find one of these spaces. Being out may be hard work, it may feel exhausting and infinite, but to be able to be free in who I love, and to know that I have so many others just like me at my back, it feels worth it. It feels phenomenal.
Check out some of our awesome Bisexual t-shirt ranges here.