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Not long ago, we published my article “10 Things You May Think Sound Supportive Of Bisexuals But Aren’t.” The article received a lot of wonderful feedback, but many people expressed a desire to know what people could say that would be supportive of bisexuals.
Admittedly, the only positive piece of advice that I offered in that earlier article was, “accept us for who we are because, well, that’s who we are, and bully for us not trying to be someone we aren’t.”
While this is perhaps the most important thing you need to know about how to react when someone tells you they’re bisexual, I agree it’s a great idea to explain explicitly what that actually can look like in real world situations.
Here are ten suggested reactions for conveying unconditional acceptance and support when a person comes out to you as bisexual.
What an awesome way to get across unequivocal reassurance that it’s all good. The occasion of someone coming out to you as bisexual is a perfect opportunity to reiterate your love. Isn’t that something we all wish we’d do more of anyway?
Not so close to the person coming out? Go directly to the hug. This simple non-verbal gesture says so much without all the bumbling of searching for the right words. Getting a hug reassures us of your continued fondness and conveys your comfort in maintaining a level of friendly intimacy with us. A hug also says, “I’m here for you.”
Not even that close? A kind smile and something along the lines of, “Thank you for sharing that with me,” is all you need. With one simple phrase you manage to communicate that you have no issues with bisexuality while simultaneously expressing appreciation for the fact that we opened up to you. Wow! You just showed us tact, intelligence, and a refreshing level of suave sophistication.
A thousand bonus points for not dragging us through the mud with a dozen probing, insulting, none-of-your-business-anyway, questions!
This is an especially good response if you’re one of the first people we’ve come out to.
Yes, it’s quite the compliment that we’ve chosen you as a safe place to start our journey from the closet out into the world beyond. Expressing your understanding of that is helpful, reassuring, and will deepen your bond with us.
Stating this also reaffirms that we were right to put our trust in your hands — groovy good-feelings all around.
This is a great way to react if it’s likely the person who has come out to you was apprehensive about how you might take their revelation.
As I wrote in the what NOT to say article, it’s better to stay away from saying things like, “It’s okay with me that you’re bisexual,” because such statements carry an implication that there’s some question about whether bisexuality is okay, or that bisexuals need outside assurance that it’s okay for us to be ourselves.
The truth may be that many of us do need reassurance because we’ve been told the contrary so many times in so many places, but it’s better to use language that doesn’t reinforce the notion that bisexuality’s okayness is questionable. Instead, stick to wording that focuses on reassuring us that our sexual identity will not change how you relate to us.
“I know that you might get some negative reactions from others and I want you to know I will be here for you.”
Yes! Offering to be someone to talk to, or a shoulder to cry on, or to do something fun to get our mind off our stresses and worries is so very helpful!
It communicates not only that you have no problem accepting who we are, but also that you care about us, and want to help ease our way through a sometimes-hostile world. Bisexuals have higher rates than not only heterosexuals, but also gays and lesbians, of depression, anxiety, drug abuse, and self-harm. Having emotional support definitely helps us navigate all that.
There are so many destructive stereotypes about bisexuality, that it’s understandable that many monosexuals don’t really know anything about our truths or experiences.
It will be much easier for you to be a good friend/family member/love-interest/dorm-mate/whatever if you actually know what bisexuality is, and what issues affect us.
It can be incredibly stressful for us to have stand up for ourselves and other bisexuals over and over again. Knowing you will back us up is a great relief.
When people who are not bisexual speak up, these acts of bravery and kindness help get across the message I often tweet — as @BisexualBatman on Twitter — “Open season for bashing bisexuals is over!”
Hear someone repeating that bisexuals are always cheaters? Tell them this is not okay.
Hear someone referring to a bisexual celebrity as gay? Call them out on it.
Friend telling a joke that reinforces the stereotype of all bisexuals as hypersexual? Tell them to stop!
Acquaintance mindlessly retweeting that there’s no such thing as a bisexual man? Ask them to delete it.
Bisexuals being shut out of supposedly LGBT spaces? Speak up! Remember, a community that stands together is much stronger than one divided by internal conflict.
Being an active ally will not only offer a much welcome level of support to the bisexual(s) in your life, but also will make you feel better knowing you are part of the solution.
This is a great way to convey your understanding that the person coming out to you is just standing up for their right to be their authentic self. You’ll also be letting them know that you recognize how hard this can be in the face of so much prejudice and bigotry.
Remember, bisexuals get the double whammy of not only homophobic backlash from straight people, but also biphobic reactions from some gays and gay allies.
“Let’s go make cookies to celebrate your coming out.”
Yay! For bisexuals, getting to a space where we’re comfortable with ourselves (despite hatred to the left of us, and erasure to the right), is often a long hard fought battle. It takes even more to garner the courage to stand up for ourselves, knowing we’ll face mockery, skepticism, and worse. So yeah, achieving all this is totally cause to celebrate.
Help us feel good and proud of our audacity to decide to do what’s best for ourselves and the bisexual community.
Whatever it is you and the bisexual-who’s-just-come-out-to-you like doing together — whether it’s karaoke, rock climbing, competitive Ping-Pong, slam-poetry, dancing at drum circles, or anything else — offer a few hours of rejoicing and revelry.
It’s nice to know that you want to be stopped if you’re unintentionally offending us. It shows us your support, concern, and humbleness in the face of something outside your realm of knowledge. What a great example of how to be an awesome human being!
Remember too, if you’re called out for saying the wrong thing, open your ears, your mind, and your heart instead of being defensive. You’ve just been given a chance to grow and learn, embrace that. Apologize if needed, and thank the person for taking the time to correct you.
If you figured out a while ago that the person coming out to you is bisexual, it’s wonderful to hear that. It’s awesome to realize that something so fundamental to our being is not as invisible to everyone as it often seems.
Frequently, pre-coming out, bisexuals will drop hints along the way, take baby steps in coming out, and you win big points for being perceptive enough, and caring enough to have picked up on these.
It’s also so very sweet to know you have been accepting of us all along, and that furthermore you respected that it was our decision to decide when to open our sexual orientation up for discussion.
So many of us have never even made any attempt to be closeted, we just are by virtue of the fact that when you are bisexual others are so quick to assume you are either gay or straight. If you’re someone who saw us authentically all along, this response is going feel like rain to a drought-brown garden.
Previously published May 8, 2015.