The Internet Helped Me Come Out But Made Me Terrified of Lesbians
It was 3 am on a Friday night my sophomore year of college. I was lying in bed next to one of my friends, she snuggled closer to me, the perpetual blanket thief, and I looked at her and realized consciously for the first time that these feelings I was having weren’t just friendship, that when I kissed her I wasn’t just joking around.
As a strong, independent twenty-first woman who grew up in the queer friendly Bay Area, I handled this realization with considerable maturity and aplomb. I jest. Instead I joined an elite club of people whose grade point average rose simultaneously with their alcohol consumption. I poured myself into studying all week, and drank away my weekend nights, anything to avoid thinking about or dealing with my feelings. Despite having a strong support system and caring friends, I didn’t talk to anybody. I thought I was going through a phase, or that I was overreacting and everyone felt this way occasionally. I told myself it was because I hadn’t dated anyone in awhile, it was just misplaced hormones. I was terrified that people would think I was doing it for male attention, or to be trendy. The small voice in the back of my mind told me that’s exactly why I felt this way, that I was trying to prove to myself after years of growing up in a extremely conservative church that I wasn’t a bigot, that I was hip to gays. So I kept cultivating a taste for whiskey and using severe lack of sleep to answer the newly present question, “is everything okay, you seem a little down?”.
But now matter how I tried, I couldn’t shut my brain off. So finally one night, I took to the internet. I couldn’t say the word bisexual, but I could google it. Wikipedia told me about the Kinsey scale, showed me a picture of the bi pride flag, and informed me that Angelina Jolie was a bisexual, three things that were news to me. It also told me that bisexuals were often discriminated against in the LGBTQ community, and that media portrayals of bisexuality tended to be focused on a)cheating b) murder c) both. I shut my computer down, but the spark had been lit.
A few days later, someone shared a one of those “Sh*t Girls Say” videos on my facebook feed. That led me to the video “Shit Bicurious Girls Say” which, unfortunately led me to the video “What Lesbians Really Think of Bisexuals”. Spoiler alert, it’s not positive. The video was trying, rather misguidedly, to make a point about about biphobia in lesbian culture, and boy was it made. I felt like an idiot. Despite growing up in the SF Bay Area, I hadn’t interacted with the queer community much other than a few gay theatre instructors; I had just assumed that once you fit into the queer alphabet, you were in, and everyone sang gay campfire songs and ate s’mores together at weekly meetings while plotting for world dominance. Clearly this was not the case.
That settled it, according to my less than a week old knowledge Wikipedia knowledge, I decided I was a one and a half on the kinsey scale which basically meant straight. So straight I was. Gay people didn’t have a choice, but I did, and I chose not to break my parents heart, deal with prejudice and rude comments for an identity I didn’t want that was basically meaningless since gay girls would think I was gross and I’d just end up with a guy anyway.
I moved on with my life. I dated a little bit, had fun, and caught a terrible case of mono. As I recovered I started watching the newest season of Pretty Little Liars, and searched for recaps to remind me of what had occurred previously, and from that search I found out the simple truth, the sapphic community is alive and well on the internet, and it loves television almost as much as I do. Rationalization was an easy step, I wasn’t reading queer themed content because I was queer, but rather because these women were eloquent and humorous writers who I enjoyed regardless of their sexual orientation. I made a different twitter account to live tweet shows with them and their readers, not because I was embarrassed of the gay punny hashtags, but because I didn’t want to bore my friends on twitter who didn’t watch the same shows I did. If I happened to go from the recaps and read some the articles on the websites, that was because I wanted to broaden my horizons. It was interesting, nothing more.
Orange is the New Black dropped. My inability to blink while Poussey was onscreen was dismissed as merely appreciating aesthetic beauty. I read every recap religiously, soaking up all the same sex positivity I was desperate to avoid admitting that I needed in the guise of discussing television. Slowly, without admitting it to myself, I started to feel less defensive as I learned about bi erasure, internalized homophobia, and that there were lots of pretty girls who found other girls pretty in the world. Without me realizing it, these internet gay havens became my safe space, as other people articulated thoughtfully and humorously what I could not.
Eleven months after this story started, I stood in my apartment kitchen and cried into my sausages and eggs on a Saturday morning because I had turned and looked at my friend, the girl I used to care about, and realized I didn’t love her anymore, instead I hated her.I hated her because liking her alone in silence made me ashamed of myself, both for liking her and for being unable to admit it. I hated that I was crying five feet away from her and she didn’t even notice. And most of all, I hated that I was pretty sure that deep down she hated me too. So I sat there, crying with my back to a girl going through the same thing, both of us filled with too much self hate and fear to honestly talk with each other, and I realized that wasn’t the person I wanted to be. I didn’t get to wallow in self pity anymore, I knew what I needed to do, I’d spent a year researching, but fear and hate, two things antithetical to everything I believed in, were stopping me. At 12:07 am, February fifteenth, mere hours after Ellen Page stole my thunder, I told two friends on the way back from Wingstop that I liked girls too.
I’m a fairly goal oriented person. So once I decided to come out, I followed a logical set of steps. I told my family and friends, I wrote an angsty poem at two in the morning, I told several gossipy acquaintances in my major so they would tell everyone for me, I got a tumblr, signed up for an account on a queer website, went to my ten free univesity therapy sessions and admitted to a friend that I thought the only good ending for Game of Thrones was Sansa and Margaery getting together and co-ruling as queens.. I was mostly adjusted, and assumed I was in for a life semi filled with sapphic love, but then I made a critical mistake, I started reading the comments section of these websites that had helped me come to terms with myself.
At first it was it was all great, like a beautiful, unicorn hug, until I started to notice small little digs whenever the topic of bisexuality came up. When a reader expressed her frustration about an author praising a show for including fluid characters by stating that fluid female characters was a negative not a positive addition to a show for gay women, I responded that this website wasn’t just for lesbians but all queer women. As the downvotes rose, I realized that I was wrong. Bisexuals make up approximately half the LGBT female population, but you’d think from the amount of representation they get from inside the female queer internet community that they were 1/30th. The authors, the content, and the goals were primarily lesbian with the occasional special interest bisexual piece. From the comments section I learned that 9/10 bisexuals end up with a man, but the mythical 1/10 must clearly be single because no one had ever heard of a relationship between a bisexual and another woman working out. I also learned that it was totally not prejudicial to say you won’t date a bisexual because that’s just like a sexual preference when you find that icky.
As I started to seek out specifically bisexual content the story stayed the same. Bi girl after bi girl expressed frustration that no gay women wanted to date them, that the only way to get a girl to dance at a club was to lie and say you were lesbian. I was shocked at the number of women who had come out as lesbian at first, and then realized they were bisexual only to be mercilessly teased, doubted, or abandoned by their lesbian friends. Suddenly my firm plans to be proactive and go meet girls started melting. “I’m busy”, I told myself, but even after the summer and early graduation rolled around somehow I never found the time.
Then the first season finale of the first season of Faking It happened, and my computer screen was hit with a wave of seething rage. I understand why people were upset at a character that had previously been I.D. as a lesbian by her actress sleeping with a man, and a particularly douchey specimen of male at that. I thought it was a terrible choice, and an especially horrible note to end the season on, but the discussion that followed quickly devolved into sexuality policing in a way I hadn’t experienced since high school, but this time from the side that was supposed to be the enlightened liberals. There was so much real anger that I hadn’t realized was being hidden under the attitude of “ penises gross me out, so clearly I could never date a bisexual since she touches them sometimes”. Suddenly all the little rude comments, the snarky microaggressions I read under other articles were too much to take. Slowly but surely I started withdrawing from the places that I used to love because I realized they weren’t really for me, they only wanted a single part of me. The part of me that loved Willow and Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was fine, but not the part of me that missed the deadpan Oz. The lesbians writers who taught me what bi erasure was didn’t seem to be reaching much of their regular audience, and even they called Willow a lesbian.
I wish I had a better story to close with, I wish I went to a bar and met a beautiful girl and she laughed my fears away. Or that I stood triumphant in the face of adversity, starting my own website that changed a thousand lives for the better, but she didn’t and I haven’t.
Instead I attended a writing group in Berkeley and two women near me started talking about being gay women in the Bay Area, and I thought about joining in, but instead I just left to go get another coffee and a plate of fries.
But hey, at least it wasn’t whiskey.