Coming to Terms with Who I Am: Walt Whitman and My Sexuality

Coming out is such a complicated process. Once you’ve figured out that what you are feeling is valid, you have to muster up the courage to tell someone, who you have already decided you can trust, all the while worrying they will not accept you and you will be left alone. But it should not be that scary, because you are who you are and that should be enough.

In my senior year of high school, I came out as bi. For so long I could not figure out why I felt the way I did. But I decided on a cold March day that I was going to be proud of who I am and tell people that I am bi. However, since I was afraid that my family would find out, I chose to only tell two of my close friends (A and B). First one and then the other, I brought them into our high school theater and before I could say anything, burst into tears. My sobs echoed in the empty space as I dropped the act I had been playing for so long. They both comforted me, telling me that I was valid and that they would respect my wish to keep this on the down-low. And they did, or I thought they did until several weeks later. As I was leaving rehearsal, I received a text notification from another friend (for the sake of this story we will call them C).

C: Hey, random question are you bi?
Me: Um why do you ask?
C: Oh B was talking about it with our group, and I thought ‘There’s no way that’s true.’
Me (now slightly panicked): Um yeah I am.

Immediately, I was blocked. I felt as though my world was caving in. I called A, who began to help me calm down and reassured me. They told me that I am who I am, that being bi is just a part of who I am, and if people cannot respect that, then it is better that they are not in my life.

A’s pep talk after that night came to mind when reading Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” when he states:

“I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content” (Section 20)

He reminds us that we exist as we are and that, regardless of what others may think, we should be content with that. And with how society is moving and changing, this is becoming the norm. Of course, not everyone is necessarily on board and changing their thinking with the times. It is hard when someone you valued invalidates you, especially as someone who constantly worries about what people think of them all the time. But at the end of the day, there is a choice to make. Do I let this one person drag me down and invalidate everything I am and feel? Or do I choose to live my life happy and open, with one less toxic person in it? While I still have a long way to go, I know that by living by the latter, the future is bright.

2 thoughts on “Coming to Terms with Who I Am: Walt Whitman and My Sexuality”

  1. I’m really sorry you had to deal with this biphobia from your own friends. I’m also bi and I’ve only come out to my closest friends. Coming out is such a difficult thing to do and it takes a lot of bravery to tell your truth to people, even those you’re closest with because there will always be that fear of rejection. I’m still afraid to come out to most other people in my life because I don’t want them to see me differently or think less of me. The thought of losing friendships over such an integral part of my identity terrifies me. I’m sorry for your negative coming out experience and I hope it becomes easier and that people are more accepting in the future!

  2. Hi there,
    I am so sorry you had to experience C’s biphobia and hatred. While keeping in mind everyone’s experience is different, I sort of relate to your story. I came out as bi as a sophomore here at Dickinson, and to be blunt- people were not as supportive as I thought they would be. It was really difficult to cope with actively losing privilege, actively losing friends, actively losing sorority sisters. These are certainly not easy things to cope with, but I do agree with your excerpt from Whitman’s poem. If you can’t find closure in support from a cruel few, you must find closure in your freedom to exist! And just for the record- you are supported, you are recognized, and you are incredibly valid <3

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