I first realized I was romantically interested in girls when I met my then-best-friend in middle school. She was kind and into the same things I was, like drawing, writing, and video games. We hit it off right away, and from then, our friendship grew.
But I’d ask myself: Why did my throat constrict each time I looked at her beaming smile, and why did I feel so weird when she sat next to me?
I tried to ignore these feelings. But the more I tried to play it off as just really, really strong friendship, the more my curious heart yearned to explore that abyss of uncertainty. Soon, I was crushing hard on her, and it scared me.
My whole life, I’d been attracted to boys. I grew up in a household that believed girls liked boys and boys liked girls. That pairing felt right. But she felt right, too.
While homophobia is rampant in many places in the world, it is especially present in Black and Latinx communities. My family is both. Talking about sexuality with your parents is awkward enough, but how could I go to them with the possibility that I might be attracted to both sexes? I might as well just save them the time and kick myself out, I thought.
Plus, I wasn’t sure if I really was bisexual or if my friend was just an exception. Either way, I kept it a secret. I was already bullied at school for being shy and a bit of a geek, and I couldn’t run the risk of ruining my relationship with my parents.
Are You, Like, Not Straight?
One night, my friend and I were lying on the floor after we’d been wrestling around. We were out of breath and laughing so hard our stomachs hurt. My heart was racing, but not just from exertion. I could still feel my skin tingling from where she’d grabbed my arms. It was like numbing static, warm and fuzzy but sickening too. My cheeks felt flushed when we turned to face each other.
“Mortal Kombat?” she suggested as she sat up.
“Yeah,” I said weakly, lifting myself off the floor and following her to the dark living room. As she started up the console, I sat cross-legged on the couch, scrolling through my phone. I was reading a post on social media about a gay couple that had just gotten married, and I defensively hid my phone behind my back.
“What?” she teased, hitting my thigh. I told her it was nothing, but she persisted. I showed her what I’d been looking at. I was scared of how she’d react. But she just shrugged her shoulders. “That’s not such a big deal.”
I blurted out, “Do you ever think you’re, like, not straight?”
Silence followed. The lime green glow of the TV illuminated the room, casting shadows on our faces. I internally facepalmed, trying to come up with a way to undo what I’d just said. But before I could, she answered with a laugh and a firm, “Nah, I don’t think so. I’ve always liked just boys. You?”
“Yeah, of course,” I smiled faintly. “I think I’m just straight, too.”
Hiding My True Feelings
Although my feelings for my friend weren’t reciprocated, my attraction to her helped me realize I didn’t like just her, but other girls too. My doubts about being bisexual gradually disappeared. But the sense that I had to hide this side of me didn’t.
To compensate, I’d exaggerate to my friends how straight I supposedly was. If I saw a cute boy on the street, I’d go out of my way to point him out. “Isn’t he so attractive?” I’d gush.
Still, it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to keep this important aspect of me from both of my parents. I was more worried about telling my mom than my dad because sometimes she says insensitive things about the LGBTQ+ community. Like when she was reading about a gay rights protest: “They have all the rights they need, why can’t they just be happy with what they have?” What if she directed these mean comments at me? What if our already-tense relationship became further strained?
Out to Mom
A few weeks later, my mom and I were cuddled under a blanket on the couch watching TV and sharing a bowl of chips.
A commercial for Macy’s came on showing a happy family: two moms and their two kids jumping around on soft bed sheets. I noticed the look of quiet disapproval in my mom’s eyes.
Swallowing hard, I looked at her, then at the screen, and then back to her. “What?” I asked.
She shrugged. I turned my gaze back to the screen. The commercial ended, and then an uncomfortable silence followed. Then she said, “It feels like they’re everywhere nowadays.”
Ironic, I thought. One of “them” is sitting right next to you. Things can get heated quickly with my mom, and I hated arguing with her, but I couldn’t sit silent.
“What if someone you loved was gay?” I asked. She looked at me, surprised. The cheesy dialogue of the sitcom became white noise to my ears.
“Well, that’s their choice,” she said, her eyes never leaving the TV screen. She went quiet again for a moment. “I don’t support it, but I would love them regardless.”
“Well, what if I was gay? Would you support me?”
“Of course I’d support you,” she insisted. “But, you’re not—?”
“I am,” I cut her off. The plastic bowl in my hands threatened to break with how hard I held it, like a lifeline. “I’m bi, Mom.”
We watched TV for a few more minutes. I scooted to the farthest end of the couch as if to disappear into the cushions. Then my mom got up and went into her room. With a sour taste in my mouth and a dreadful feeling in my throat, I did the same. At least she didn’t put me out, I thought as I pulled my blankets over my head and willed myself not to cry.
The next day, my mom hardly spoke to me. I got dressed, pulled on my coat, and called out a quick “Love you!” while slamming the front door behind me. I was gone before I could hear if she replied back.
I thought I’d feel like crap all day, so I was surprised that I didn’t feel any different. When I got home neither of us brought up what had happened and after a couple of days, my mom and I were back to joking around like usual. I was thankful. I was so worried my bisexuality would create a wedge between us.
One Down, One To Go
After coming out to my mom, I felt more comfortable telling my friends, and by my junior year, most of my family also knew from my posts on social media. Only my dad was still in the dark, or so I thought.
One evening, I was over at his house. We were joking around as usual as we made homemade pizza. The TV boomed, filling the small apartment with droning news reports. Distractedly, I reached out a hand, saying, “Pass the cheese.”
“Are you really bi?” The question hit me like a blow to the stomach. Did my mom tell him? I blinked, swallowed, and nodded. “Uh, yeah.”
My anxiety shot through the roof. My dad didn’t hate gay people—at least, as far as I knew. But what if his open-mindedness didn’t extend to his own daughter?
He looked me up and down, and then, with a barely contained laugh, he said, “Good, now I can tease you about that like I do everything else. And how are you single? If I were you, I’d have a girlfriend and a boyfriend!”
At the end of the night, he pulled me into his arms, gave me a hug, and told me he loved me. In bed that night, I cried tears of joy and relief.
Go Ask Her Out!
A few weeks ago, on a chilly night, my dad and I were waiting for the bus. We’d just grabbed a quick bite, and we were heading home. A bus pulled up, and as people flooded through the front doors, my dad nudged my arm and said, “Look at that girl.”
She had walked to the opposite end of the stop and was leaning against a construction pole. Her short, curly hair was dyed magenta at the ends, and I thought the few piercings around her eyes were cute. “What about her?”
“She’s your type, isn’t she?” he joked, elbowing my stomach. “No, shut up,” I lied, but the grin on my face gave me away. The girl in question turned her head toward us and smiled briefly. I swatted my dad’s arm, hissing at him to be quiet.
“Look, she’s looking,” he said. “Go over there and ask her out!”
My dad often joked around like this, but usually it was about me and boys. This was the first time he’d playfully urged me to ask a girl out. “Stop it!” I whined, peeking back to see if she was still looking.
“Man, you’re a scaredy cat,” he scowled, shaking his head. “If I were you, I’d have marched right up to her and given her my number!”
The bus pulled up and I clambered up the steps while my dad laughed. I couldn’t help but laugh, too. As hard as it was, I’m glad I told my parents.
I’ve had brief relationships with people of both genders, but my love life has remained pretty uneventful. Still, I appreciate that my parents give me the freedom to date whomever I please, even if it means taking a bit of teasing from time to time.