I am bisexual. If you have followed me on Snapchat, Facebook, or Instagram, this probably does not come as a surprise. And yes, that beautiful guy from the Philippines and Italy you may have seen on my social media is my boyfriend Jhay. There it is for you, on this prideful National Coming Out Day and prior to this weekend’s Atlanta Pride Festival, because apparently “coming out” is required if you are not normal (I mean straight). Now, please do not get my tone wrong, I am an extremely proud and in my opinion, already out, man. I am proud to be myself. But being bisexual is just one of the thousands of things that make me, well… Me. I am also proud to be my obnoxiously extroverted, happy, excited, passionate, loving, slightly confused with where I am headed, sometimes hipster, sometimes anxious, obsessed with adventure and travel, millennial self.
I have known for a long time – I have experienced crushes and love for both men and women from when I was a kid, into my teenage years, and on from there. However, it was not until late in my time at Michigan State, during my time living in New York City and Atlanta, during my travels abroad, and during my enrollment in an extremely accepting and diverse program at Georgia Tech that I truly began to accept this part of me that so often becomes too much of a defining trait. I was born this way (thanks Lady Gaga), but I am thankful for the experiences throughout my life that have taken me to this point of accepting myself and knowing that I matter in this huge world the same, whether I am straight, gay, bisexual, sexually fluid, or anywhere in between. Accepting oneself is the first challenge. The second challenge is coming out to others.
My coming out “story” is a bit long and dense, so there may be a second post to follow. But first I want to talk about why I am making this post in the first place… Ya see, I have felt like I have been “out” for several years now, and it wasn’t until last December and throughout this year that I realized that I was not. That in reality, my “news” was still burdening some people – my parents, my best friends, my sister – not because they are uncomfortable with who I am but because they were unsure if it is appropriate for them to share it. After thinking about it, I realized that there are some seriously important people to me that should probably not be blind-sided by this, to me, minuscule fact. My grandparents, my extended family, some more distant friends, and some family of close friends… shit, none of them know. But this has been my own journey, and there have been some frustrating things that I have had to deal with.. I think there are some things that older generations and even my own Millennials may need to learn about to more properly engage with the people they care about who are just beginning to publicly enter the LGBTQ community. So, here are my Seven Lessons Of Engaging With The LGBTQ Community:
If a person opens up about there sexuality to others before you, that does not mean they respect you less or that you are less important to them.
This is a tough one for me still because there are some people who I have come out to more recently that were offended I had not told them years ago simply because they would have been ok with it. Aside from a few very important people, like my best friend, who I was legitimately just afraid to tell, the timing thing was never on my mind. I always just took the natural route to telling people, whether it was because they were asking me about any current relationships or if it was in response to an invite to a wedding that I wanted to bring Jhay to. Also, because I had a very long “string of coming out” to friends in 2016, it almost exhausted me and became such a minor deal to me that I just moved on from it, not considering that there were so many out there I had not yet spoken to. That really is the point of this post. To finally put it completely out there for all to read. I am proud. And I love all of you!
Whether you are family, friend, or a friend of the family, a person’s sexuality is none of your business until they let it be your business.
Even before I had come out to my parents, family and friends of theirs would ask them, “Is Brent (Robert) dating anyone? Do you think he might be gay?” When they would tell me about these questions, I would always say out of frustration, just tell them yes because it is none of their business and I don’t give a shit what they think. Well that was not completely true, but it is a very frustrating thing for those of us learning and exploring our sexuality. And I imagine it is even more frustrating for the parents who do not know how to directly deal with the question and who are still attempting to be comfortable with the fact in the first place. Whether you are family, friends of mine, or friends of my family, it is none of your damn business what my sexuality is until it is my choice to tell you. If you are so lacking of excitement or drama in your life, or if you simply just like to gossip even about your family members that you love, maybe you need to watch a soap opera (or three)! Take this into account the next time there is someone you suspect may be questioning their sexuality, have some respect. Either way, I love you family and friends!
If a person is LGBTQ, their relationship should not be treated differently from a straight person’s relationship.
The most recent time I was home, some of my family told me that I should go talk to my grandparents about my sexuality and tell them about Jhay, but that I shouldn’t bring Jhay with me the first time even though he was in town too. While I understood where they were coming from given how much I love my grandparents and how much they love and support me, I felt that it was a very uncomfortable situation all around. I initially said yes, but did not make the move as quick as I maybe should have. Later that week, I explained to them why that might be uncomfortable and I asked the question, “If this was about me having a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend, would you be asking me to do this?” The response was exactly what I had hoped for.. a certain level of understanding and realization that asking me to do that was unfair to both me and Jhay. Instead, we came to a mutual agreement for how to handle the situation. Love you Grandma, Grandpa, and family!
If you are a parent, ask questions and try to understand.
This is something I have battled since I first talked to my parents about my sexuality.. I had to balance my understanding that they needed time to swallow the news and my desire to say more to them. Last December, I saw the movie Call Me By Your Name and yes, it made me emotional because it reminded me of my own situation with my now boyfriend in Italy and because of a beautiful, slightly unrealistic monologue given by the extremely liberal father in the movie. I made a post about it on Instagram and my Mom asked me if it was my “coming out” post.. I laughed and said no, it was just a post about a beautiful love story. She chuckled back and said a straight guy normally wouldn’t be so open about their emotions (which I find sad and a problem with our society), and I just said that I have always been open about my emotions and that people could think what they want. From there, I told her she needed to ask more questions and she asked a very important one, “what do I tell people when they ask?” Well again, they shouldn’t be asking, but if they do I told her she could say whatever made her comfortable because I did not care who knew at that point. That answer satisfied her and I believe has since helped her in these sometimes awkward situations. Another more recent moment that this came about was when I saw my parents for the first time in 4 months in Ireland in August.. There were moments of awkward silence until I took it upon myself to open up about my upcoming six months in Japan in 2019 and that my now boyfriend was coming to visit the US in September and into October. Sometimes I wish that the pressure could come off me and the conversation could develop more naturally. Love you Mom and Dad!
If a person is “straight-acting” and do not fit the stereotypes that have been developed over time, that does not mean they are not LGBTQ.
Over this journey, I have had to learn, maneuver, and accept that it can take the really important people around you some time to fully understand and accept the “new” you, especially when it is your parents. I have had to learn to be patient because just as they cannot fully understand how I am feeling, I cannot understand how they are feeling either, outside of knowing that they still love me very much. One time out of a bit of an intense discussion between my Mom and I, she said to me, “you never gave us any warning.. you played sports in high school and were good at them.. sure you did some acting and drama courses and plays.. but you dated girls. I walked in on you making out, and probably doing other things (truth hahah), with your girlfriend at the time.” I could not help but laugh at this.. Yes Mom, I played sports and still do cause I like sports. Yes Mom, I also enjoyed improv and being the center of attention on stage at times (maybe that was my gay coming out.. just kidding). And yes Mom, I have been and still in the future will find some women attractive. But all of those things never said that I did not also find some men attractive before high school, in high school, and beyond. Stereotypes are just oversimplified images or ideas of a person – it is not always that simple. Love you Mom!
If a person comes out to you, they are still the same person that they were before they came out.
This lesson actually comes from a humorous personal story of mine.. I was attending a Michigan State football game and sitting a couple of people away from a guy that I consider to be my little brother, Nicholas. He saw a drunk guy (the sociopathic one some of you know) grabbing my hand and leaning on me during the game, so he asked my friend Alexa about it. Before the game had begun, I had told Alexa that I didn’t care anymore who knew if anyone asked. Even though I had said that, she respectfully still asked me about it and I said to tell him in the car on the way back to Metro Detroit. Apparently, my little brother assumed the other guy was gay and I was too nice to tell him to stop. He said, “Binder is always lovey-dovey when he is drunk, but that other guy has to be gay..” Obviously, Alexa burst out laughing and said something like, “No.. Binder is bisexual. He told me I could tell you.” For about an hour of the drive, he sat in silence and then expressed a bunch of questions about how it could be and how could he have not known and all of those typical things. Alexa finished the conversation with, “Binder is still your big brother, the same big brother he has always been, because he has always been this. Don’t worry.” The light-switch turned on from there for him. Love you Nicholas and Alexa!
Being closed-off towards others’ sexuality causes more problems than good.
Let’s get over ourselves and realize that these things could be way more comfortable if you we would just talk about them some more.. if we could just get outside our own heads, ask and inquire, and accept others for who they are, not who we think they are, things could be easier for everyone. For myself, I have found over the years of being less open that being uncomfortable with myself led me to make stupid decisions that could have ended up worse than they did. Secrets and lies leave less room for solid, intelligent judgement. If we could just talk about sexuality more (even outside of LGBTQ), maybe we would have less HIV cases and more people taking pre-exposure medication (PrEP) like I have in the past, or maybe we would have less STIs/STDs spreading at alarming rates, or maybe even, we would have less teen pregnancy.
If you have taken the time to read these lessons, I really appreciate it. And now that you have read these things, feel free to reach out with me if you have any questions. This journey has been rough at times, but when I look back, it has been entirely worth it and fills me with pride in myself and my community. I have been so lucky to have nearly everyone around me support me through this. I am extremely lucky to have a loving family and circle of friends who support me. And I am extremely lucky to have found myself in a wild life situation last summer and now that led me to meet an amazing, intelligent, kind, beautiful guy who is as adventurous and excited about the opportunities and challenges in life as I am. I cannot wait to continue exploring life and the world with him. Love is love, ya’ll!