By Carley Crain
I always knew that I was interested in women, but never felt like I could openly say, “I am bisexual.” I didn’t think I met all the necessary stereotypical qualifications that are associated with being a queer woman, because I do like men, and I’ve only dated men. I don’t fall under the portrait some think of for someone who is part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
To some, I may appear straight. But I am here to tell you that I am not straight, and I finally feel comfortable telling my story for this year’s National Coming Out Day.
Growing up in a religious family, I never thought twice about my sexuality. I thought that being with a man was the “right” thing to do. I’ve had several boyfriends throughout my college years – some of those relationships were bad, some great. But after my last relationship ended, I knew I wanted to explore the other side of myself that I’ve been actively suppressing.
“Bisexual” was like this dirty word that I couldn’t say out loud.
Last winter I was at the grocery store with my friend Sam, and I finally built up the courage to tell him that I was bisexual. He was the first person I told, besides myself, that I was interested in women.
The words slipped off my tongue while my entire body was shaking with nerves.
It felt weird to place a label on myself that wasn’t straight, but after I did, telling others became much easier. The more I said I was bisexual, the more I felt comfortable being my true self.
My friends knew me more than I knew myself – and when I told them I was bisexual, most of their responses were, “Oh yeah – we already knew that, Carley.”
I knew that telling my friends would come with positive responses, but my family was a whole different ball game. The first person I told in my family was my older sister, Tracey, and her husband, Tim. Over the past few years, Tracey and I have become very close, and I knew she would be happy for me.
Her response might have been my favorite so far. Her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, and the first thing she said was, “I am proud of you, Carley.”
When she said that, I finally let myself be proud of who I have become.
My mom and brother were next, and while both were a little surprised, they were nothing but supportive. Other family members were harder to please, and I didn’t share my sexuality with them until recently.
A light-bulb moment happened for me last spring, during the newspaper editors’ trip to the Associated Collegiate Press in California. I vividly remember a conversation with Irene Rotondo, former Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Springfield Student and one of my mentors. She told me that she could see me being happy in a relationship with a woman. I then realized that she might be right.
Throughout my coming-out journey, I’ve had some big, elaborate responses and then some more relaxed reactions. While I love all the support I have received, it has made me wonder: Why do people who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community have to actively share their sexuality to others?
Think about it from the other perspective: we don’t celebrate when someone is straight. Instead, we expect it.
Studies show that when people know someone who is LGBTQ+, they are far more likely to support equality under the law. So coming out as LGBTQ+ is still important and still matters.
Coming out and writing this column would not have been possible without the people I have in my corner – especially my friends Irene, Sam, Mary, Emily W., and Emily S., as well as my therapist, Gary, and older sister, Tracey. Thank you for always believing in me.
Photo: Carley Crain