Written by Charmee Taylor.
Art by Casey Jong.
Picture this: I am shaking and my hands are visibly sweaty. There is a knot in the depths of my stomach. My heartbeat is quick and heavy, pulsating through my hands and feet. I know that something has to be done, and I know exactly what that something is. I call my friend, panicked, my voice shaking. “I…uhhh…think I need to come out,” I say hesitantly. She takes the moment in, along with a deep breath. “Why don’t you write down everything you’re feeling in an email and decide whether you want to send it to family later?” she replies.
Cut to me in my kitchen with the completed email. I outline my love of both women and men, and the fact that I have known of it since I was a kid but just recently got the strength and language to say aloud, “I’m bisexual.” My index finger dangles over the send button, retracting and inching closer, retracting and inching closer, again. I hit send…
I knew I was attracted to both men and women since I was about eight years old. I had so many girl friends that I wanted to spend so much time with. Maybe a little too much time. I could never quite distinguish if that was because I loved them as friends or if it was simply a crush that I couldn’t yet put language or a voice to.
I found both the language and voice—like the queer, black Little Mermaid that I am—recently. The opportunity to do so earlier was stolen from me by growing up very religious; in fact, I attended a high school that was founded by a couple who made it their mission to help teens “save themselves until marriage.” We were told that God wanted us to wait. This was not that huge of an ask, since I had feelings for a girl that I went to youth group with; I didn’t want to have sex with any man. “This is going to be super easy,” I thought as I stared longingly across the pew at the redhead I wanted to kiss. I stuffed all the queer inklings away when my pastor yelled, “God hates faggots” in a hot room full of sweaty Christians clapping and waving their fans in agreement. I was okay with being half Christian and half bisexual, until I realized that I could be so much less anxious if I let my intersecting identities merge together freely.
After I posted my official coming-out post on Instagram, family reached out and consoled me. Most of it consisted of, “I support you no matter what. If anyone messes with you, let me know and I’ll take care of it,” which made me feel like I was a part of some gay Illuminati/Mafia setup. (Somehow, that was both eerie and comforting.) I hit the jackpot with coming out. It was all going well—until I felt this grey cloud over my head that I could not wrap my head around.
No one talks about the fact that the coming out process is not this singular, glorious moment, but in fact a continual, re-traumatizing experience.
I should be happy, I thought. I wasn’t thrown out on the streets. I wasn’t beaten with a bible or told that I was going to hell, excommunicated from my church and never heard from again. But something didn’t sit right with how I was feeling. To be perfectly honest, I felt like I had disappointed God. The high of the first week of being out couldn’t sustain the depression that washed over me when I shut my bedroom door and crawled under my sheets.
After coming out, a weight should’ve lifted off my shoulders. That pit that was in the bottom of my stomach was supposed to have dissipated. Yet, somehow I felt like I was climbing up a huge mountain, panting, trying to catch my breath. I was waiting for the queer angels to sew my wings back on and lift me from the ashes, giving me a voice; envisioning this is what got me through the hard days in the closet—the naked crying fits, the moments that I had to take a step back and reevaluate being bi, femme and black, and how these dueling identities coincide. However, the vision was just that: a figment of my queer imagination. It got me through some hard moments, but it was fake.
No one talks about the fact that the coming out process is not this singular, glorious moment, but in fact a continual, re-traumatizing experience. Case in point: A coworker at lunch asked me if I have a boyfriend. I had a few choices: either say “no,” which is the truth, or pull something from my classic pocketbook of distorted truths. Something like, “I haven’t been single for a long time, I’m just… ya know, enjoying that right now.” Or the truth, which is, “I am bisexual and I have never given myself the permission to be in a serious relationship with a woman, bringing up complex thoughts of wanting to be accepted by my community.” Probably too much for a bunch of straight white people to digest over kale salad.
No one talks about the rejection from within the queer community either, like the time one queer coworker yelled, “You are finally accepting who you are!” in response to my coming-out post, in an office full of googly-eyed strangers. She could not contain her excitement, but ended up outing me at work without my consent. Then there was the time a queer friend said, “Oh, I get it. So, you are trying a bunch of things out right now to see what sticks.” What I wanted to respond was, “No, I am bisexual so that sticks, bitch.” Instead, I just internalized all these experiences, reaffirming my belief that these identities are in conflict with one another.
I had to methodically unlearn what I had been strategically taught growing up. The fact that, on top of all of this, I kept putting pressure on myself to be happy made these feelings all the more complex. I came to realize that my happiness, however layered it may be, should never have been put in the hands of those who had no ownership over me to begin with.
The only contract that I have is with myself—to be safe, and practice self-care and compassion towards me and me only—so it is not my job to coax people into accepting me.
There is a myth perpetuated within mainstream media that coming out is the pinnacle of the queer journey, the ending to a neatly wrapped narrative. Possibly, this happens because the people at the hands of this are, in fact, imposters to queer stories. Regardless, I had created an image in my mind and sunk into a deep depression because I craved the space given to cis gay white men and their narratives. I wanted a neatly packaged coming out story. I could not keep my intersecting identities compartmentalized in the way that had worked out so well for me when I was in the closet.
I realize now that I had internalized God’s hate and the need for validation, and it was tearing me up inside and holding me back from self-acceptance. I used to think of this coming out process in black and white: Those who were out were more virtuous than closeted folks; somehow, the relationship that you have to your privilege and identities creates a space where you can come out and be free. This myth is echoed in pop culture. But the queer community has to claw our way out of these untruthful webs.
What I learned by the five-millionth time of coming out to close friends and strangers alike is that coming out is complex; a pure act of rebellious vulnerability and resilience. It’s not my responsibility to give people within the LGBTQ community or otherwise a play-by-play to validate my bisexuality. I don’t owe anyone. The only contract that I have is with myself—to be safe, and practice self-care and compassion towards me and me only—so it is not my job to coax people into accepting me. I have the right to sew on my own wings, in whatever form they may take, and that is both terrifying and thrilling. But I get to own both of those feelings and make space for me, something I am learning and relearning every time that I come out.
About the Author
Charmee is an actor, activist, world traveler living in Los Angeles, CA. She is from a small town in Pennsylvania and went to Pennsylvania State University. She enjoys dancing in the mirror by herself while playing Megan Thee Stallion and hopes that her Hot Girl Summer turns into a Hot Girl Fall and Winter.