Every Pride, I choose invisibility

A crowd of people walks beneath a rainbow flag at Pride.
Photo by Mercedes Mehling on Unsplash.

I’m out. I’m a bisexual woman, and I have been my whole life. Obviously.

Over the last six years, I’ve gone through the process most people in the LGBTQIA+ community go through. Coming out isn’t just a moment.

You come out to yourself first, which took me about 20 years despite all the signs from my pubescent years, like being equally attracted to Spinner from Degrassi as I was to Manny.

Then you start talking about sexuality with some friends, testing the waters of what it’d be like to be out and proud. “Everyone’s a little gay,” I would say.

Eventually, you meet someone new, and you say it confidently and casually: “Yeah, I’m bi.” They’ll never know it’s the first time you’ve said that out loud, even though your face is bright red.

For me, the years following were when I really started to embrace my identity. I made more LGBTQIA+ friends than I ever had, I stopped pretending to be straight, and I had important conversations with my partner about my sexuality.

Last year, I finally came out to my parents. With my dad, it essentially slipped out. I complimented some woman celebrity and my dad said, “Are you into girls?” and I said, “Sometimes.” He accepted it, and that was that.

With my mom, it was an emotional outburst, and I got the cathartic queer sob that everyone deserves. She asked questions, and I answered them. I told her about all the girls I secretly liked in high school, and how being bisexual is really hard when you have no examples of what it looks like.

I grew up in the time when Megan Fox was eviscerated for being a bi woman (and for being hot, let’s face it — we hated her because she’s hotter than all of us, forever). The general consensus was that bi girls are just closeted lesbians or hypersexual teenagers, and that bi men don’t exist.

When I told my high school boyfriend that I thought I might be bi at 16, he was furious. He told me I was promiscuous, and that I had lied to him for our whole relationship.

So you can imagine why I’m conflicted when, each June, the rainbows pop up all over town. Straight people seem to have no problem celebrating all month, but for me and my bisexual friends, it’s an extremely isolating time where we’re reminded how much we don’t fit.

I’ve mostly dated men throughout my life. I’ve had flings with friends and hooked up with women, but my serious relationships — including the one I’m in now and have been in for six years — have been with cis men.

Most of the bi community, especially women with similar dating histories to mine, struggle with the feeling of not being gay enough. Why should I perform my sexuality to commemorate Stonewall when I’ve never faced discrimination? How can I feel entitled to Pride when I’ve never been called a slur or accused of ruining the sanctity of marriage?

Moreover, where do I and my straight boyfriend fit at Pride?

Despite embracing my sexuality in most facets of my life by this point, every Pride, I still choose invisibility. It’s like I’m waiting for an invitation from someone gayer than me, or at least someone who’s experienced more gay suffering than I have.

But this year, I’m done waiting. And the reason is because I see closeted young me everywhere.

I still often don’t feel queer enough to deserve a place at Pride, and I hope I move past that someday. But when I see a young person questioning their sexuality and think about how much I needed a bi adult in my life at that age, I feel more pride than I ever have.

It’s those thoughts that remind me that I do, in fact, have lived queer experience. I’ve hidden part of myself for too long to not be damaged by it, and I’ve internalized hordes of biphobic bullshit for years (and as recently as yesterday).

But I have to remind myself of what Pride is in moments like that. Pride isn’t a parade to show off your badges of discrimination and suffering. It’s a celebration of the exact opposite — a commemoration of the trans Black women who rioted so we can all be visible and proud of it.

My privilege as a cis, straight-passing white woman will always inform what I have and haven’t experienced as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. I won’t ever pretend to know what it was like to be out in high school, because I chose invisibility then, too. I won’t act like I understand systemic discrimination on the basis of my sexuality.

What I do understand is the healing nature of being seen — the way my heart flutters when my partner affirms my sexuality, the lightning that runs through my veins when a gay friend acknowledges me as part of the community.

So as I move forward into the rest of 2021 post-Pride, I’m working to let go of the fear of being seen — not just for who I am, a bisexual woman, but for who we are, a community of bisexual people and everyone we choose to be with. This community has been taught to hide and stay fractured, because if we band together it must be on the basis of some mutual identifier, and we’re afraid to say that out loud, at least in unison.

To embrace my place at Pride, I need to also embrace the unique nature of bisexuality, this identity that loves to love people of many genders, the one that is such a force of individuality that it scares those less enlightened folks.

I can’t choose to be straight, no matter how much I wanted that as a young person (and to that young person, I say that I love you, and it will get better, and you don’t have to be afraid of being seen). Maybe I’ve remained in this half state of invisibility for so long in case I ever decide I need to go back — just in case I ever want to hide again.

But this year, and for every year ahead, I’m choosing to be seen. I’m choosing to take up space at this parade that commemorates me and my community. I’m choosing to show the young me what a bi adult can look like — happy, in love, proud, joyful — and to show other bi folks in relationships with straight people that they are enough.

I’m choosing to leave fear behind and embrace love — the special type of love I give as a bisexual. The kind that makes me a compassionate partner, an empathetic friend, and a strong advocate for what is right.

Because at the end of the day, to be a real member of the queer community, I don’t need to meet some criteria of dating history or hang a rainbow flag on my wall. The only thing I need to do is be me — an out, proud, bisexual woman who is no longer choosing invisibility.

Zoë Hannah is a freelance writer and editor specializing in personal essay, travel, and opinions.