Don’t let the headline fool you: Coming to terms with any sexuality (other than the heterosexual type) is not easy. I should know. In my teen years I “came out” as gay, then straight again, then gay again, then — well, you get the drift. But that was just a young me filled with bisexual confusion that I didn’t really understand.
At 27, I’m totally secure in my sexual orientation. But still, on many occasions I find myself replying to the annoying question “Are you straight or gay?” with a simple “gay.”
The first battle was an internalized debate of gay vs. straight
Growing up in suburban New Jersey, I had a fairly more progressive upbringing than most kids: Liberal friends, pretty liberal parents, New York City just a quick bus ride away. That being said, I also went to school with the entire cast of The Jersey Shore.
There were more orange dudes dropping the word “faggot” than there currently are in the White House. Luckily for me, I wasn’t one of them, and I rarely needed to interact with them — though I did have frosted tips and spiked hair.
At that age, there was never a question of whether or not I was attracted to both men and women. I knew that at an early age. You know, feeling that pre-pubescent spark of electricity rush through your body — the one that centralizes in one sticky location — which would happen when I was holding hands with a middle school girlfriend, and also while wrestling a guy friend to the floor. It really should have given it away easily.
But while I was sure of my attraction to both sexes, in my mind it felt like a state of questioning. A question that would eventually be resolved. An internalized debate of “are you gay?” or “are you straight?” Maybe it was my nihilistic teen urge to be different.
Maybe it was a more immediate attraction to men at the time. Or just maybe it was the constant lack of bi visibility in any form, in any media, whatsoever.
But by the time my spiked hair became emo bangs, I convinced myself I had an answer. Well, that and my first time actually sleeping with some dude named Todd for about a week at “Boys State,” a combination model congress and sleepaway camp with a suggestively gay-pornish name.
The summer before college, I thought I had my sexuality figured out. I was in one final high school musical theater production of Les Misérables before leaving.
Something hit me then like a ton of bricks. My first actual crush. A real first crush. One that consumed me, like it did any teenage infatuation, and it was a girl.
Yep, it was a girl.
Finally being asked
While it was fun, the crush didn’t really lead anywhere. We were both going to college far away from each other. And as much as the infatuation lingered, the thought of living in New York City distracted me well enough from thinking about her. But it didn’t distract me from an “I must be straight” mentality. I was happier and more confused than ever.
Then, on day one of living in my dorm in Downtown Manhattan, I was finally asked the question I had internalized for so long.
A fairly obnoxious girl from Massachusetts — let’s call her Ashley Billiams — charged into a room full of about 10 of us, and pointed to each person one by one and asked, “So, are you gay or straight”?
Each person answered with such confidence that as her stubby finger got closer to me, I was at a complete loss for words. Of course, the option of being bisexual … wasn’t one.
When she finally got to me, I blurted out “gay” loudly. I was still at a point where an in-between didn’t exist. I later convinced myself — I must have been studying Freud — that the outburst was some sort of psychological dig.
My first year of college was pretty damn gay.
No questions, just assumptions
Fast-forward to the end of freshman year. I had made some new friends. People who weren’t in the room the day Ashley was on her quest to understand campus sexuality. People who didn’t really know any of the guys I’d slept with. More importantly, people I really connected with.
We were all hanging out, 40s of Budweiser in-hand, and I vividly remember hearing two girls arguing about my sexuality, laughing and giggling how they both thought I was gay.
Now, 27-year-old Danny would have heard that as a compliment and thanked them. But 19-year-old Danny did not. Mind you, one of these girls is still a very close friend, but that moment tore me apart.
I was hurt, but I didn’t know why I was hurt. I had already told myself I was gay. But it riled me up that people only a few feet away from me, who had only met me a few times, could decide my sexuality for me.
Looking back it shouldn’t have mattered, but this put a strain on my already anxiety-ridden brain. Someone else apparently figured out my sexuality — but from what?
So I continued to play the game of bouncing sexualities.
The next few years were full of debauchery, heavy drinking and casual, meaningless sex. Sex is a great way to keep yourself distracted. Granted, I still drink a lot and partake in casual sex, but the meaningless part was what direly needed to change.
Looking back, the sex wasn’t about pleasure for me, it was about solving an unanswerable puzzle.
In the end, it did help me figure out a few things.
Even though the sex then wasn’t like how it is today, I was (almost) always attracted to the person. I thought I was lying to myself by not ‘picking a side,’ but eventually I figured out the only lie was forcing myself into that train of thought.
By my senior year of college I had finally come to the realization that sexuality was indeed a spectrum, and I didn’t need to be on both sides. I started telling friends. I unabashedly discussed my attraction to both men and women around people. I even let my mom know — a woman who has on repeat occasions fallen into the trope of saying things like “Bisexuals are just greedy.”
And even though she still tells most people I’m gay, it felt great to get it out there.
Continuing a new lie for the sake of laziness
Newly out and devoid of bisexual confusion, there were still many people who didn’t “believe” me.
It was like living through a listicle of “Things Bisexuals Are Tired of Hearing.” It became tiresome, trying time after time to defend my sexuality, or the idea of bisexuality in general.
“When was the last time you had sex with a boy/girl?” “But you have to like one sex more?” “Who you end up with will decide your sexuality?” And like thousands have said before, the judgments came from both outside and within the LGBT community.
Questions like these had made it annoying for me to discuss my sexuality. I wasn’t confused anymore. I was just tired of answering the same stupid questions.
It finally led me to a point where I just started telling people I was gay. It was easier than having straight people look at my sexuality as some sort of wild and crazy fetish. It was easier than having gay men look down on me and tell me I wasn’t queer enough. And it was easier than constantly correcting people who assumed I was gay because of my presence and mannerisms alone.
Nobody needed to know my previous sexual exploits or current romantic pursuits.
But there’s something incredibly problematic with that. Something I only recently realized. I’ve become the lack of visibility that led a younger me into a state of bisexual confusion.
I need to be more vocal. I need to make my bi presence known. And I guess I need to answer those same tired questions, over and over, until the day I die.
Bisexual Awareness Week and Bi Visibility Day came to an end yesterday, which is when the majority of publications would present a piece like this. But I thought it was important to wait and publish this today, after all the big events had ended.
Because a bisexual presence needs to exist year round, not just for one week.
Bisexual visibility needs to exist, for the sake of all confused bisexual boys and girls.
It needs to exist because we exist.
Photo by Marco_Piunti via iStock