In the first part of a series where we explore the coming out experiences of ‘real people’, rather than those in the limelight, our first guest writer Laura Henares Vinaches, from Spain, gives us her very personal account of her coming out experience and discusses issues around biphobia and invisibility.
So when did you come out ?
“When people asked me: “when did you come out as bisexual?”, I would hesitate before giving my response. Officially, I would say I came out at 24. That’s when I declared to my family and close friends that I was bisexual and when I started to speak about it in my social networks. But still, whenever I gave the answer, I felt strangely uncomfortable. I couldn’t help but think something wasn’t correct or true about it. At the same time, I couldn’t deny the truth, about the time I went public with my sexual orientation, so I couldn’t understand what felt wrong about my story and why I felt like an imposter. Little did I know then about all the feelings, memories and preconceived assumptions I would need to explore and unpack to understand exactly why it didn’t feel right. I couldn’t fully understand why I felt I knew before then. To begin with this unpacking journey, I’d have to go back to my childhood, when everything felt fine, but it was purely surface level.”
What was it like, growing up in Spain and realising your sexuality?
“The first time I realised I had feelings for other girls was when I was ten years old. I used to attend a ballet school and there I fell in love with a classmate three years older than me. At that time I didn’t know I was in love, I think I didn’t even know what falling in love really was. I only knew I had feelings before for a few boys and everybody assumed I was in love with them.
I caught myself wanting desperately to spend time with her. Always trying to be near her just to have more chances to get partnered with her in class. Whenever I saw her I had butterflies in my stomach. Up to that point it seemed very clear my feelings were real. There was no doubting that I probably was bisexual.“
What were your first experiences of biphobia ?
“Life was showing me another reality which shaped my experience and self-image. This reality led me to years of questioning, confusion and self-gaslighting: the parameters applied whenever I talked about my feelings for a boy weren’t applied when I talked about a girl. It was like an invisible and unspoken consensus everybody was aware of but me. And I couldn’t understand anything about it.”
Were you able to talk to anyone about it ?
“When I was a kid and a teen I used to be very private about my emotions, so I only discussed my feelings towards girls a very few times with my mother and a couple of very close friends. However, I was always given the same answers, which I kept listening and listening to in the years that were coming: “you don’t like her, you only want to be like her”, “it’s normal to admire older classmates, don’t overthink it”, “it’s normal for girls to develop closer friendships that the ones developed between boys but it doesn’t mean you’re in love with them”, “feeling confused during teenage years it’s normal, hormones… this shall pass too”, “being indecisive now it’s normal, you’ll overcome this confusing phase and will be able to decide”… Those double standards distorted my way of perceiving my own attractions. They also hindered me from identifying my true feelings and be able to put a name on them. Besides the assumption that having feelings for more than one gender wasn’t an option made me to stop exploring my attractions in depth and left me thinking that maybe there was something wrong with me. This was the first time I let mono-sexist expectations of society shape my reality, although I didn’t even know that word yet.”
Were there more obvious examples of biphobia you experienced growing up ?
“The ideas set by the real world around me was still there, so I couldn’t escape from the casual but brutal biphobia around me: “I could never date a bisexual guy, double probabilities on cheating!”, “ugh, I don’t know if I could sleep with a guy who touched another penis before”, “she’s bisexual? What a whore”, “bisexuality doesn’t really exist, that’s a phase before stopping in Gaytown”, “she’s just bisexual when she’s drunk and horny”… I didn’t identify myself with those stereotypes and I didn’t want to be seen that way. So I denied and suppressed the parts of my personality I associated with being bisexual.”
What was university like for you ?
“At 20, being at university and having more freedom to investigate the Internet was great. I started to read feminist books and essays. I began to question all I knew about gender roles, relationships, sex and the way women are socialized to be attracted to certain things, certain activities and, of course, certain people (of certain gender, of course). That led me to queer essays and literature and then… a whole world was open to me. I felt so seen and reflected with the bi+ content I found that I even cried after reading the first piece. I realized I didn’t know why I was crying. Then I started my journey to dig out all my memories of my teenage years and challenging my mono-sexist and bi-phobic upbringing. Until this moment I didn’t realize how deeply hurting it was to be suppressing and trying to forget those parts of myself and how important was for me that missing piece of my story. Finally I came to terms with my bisexuality and I started coming out to my loved ones. I was 24 then. And the journey to know my true self isn’t even close to being finished.”
And what’s it like now ?
“Now I’m 30 and I’m able to understand why I didn’t come out sooner. I needed years of living my identity, self reflection and bi+ self education to understand a very important fact: mono-sexism, invisibility and biphobia have a lot of power in shaping the way young LGTBQ+ people identify and understand their attractions. Definitely they had a lot of power in shaping mine. Challenging those binary and limiting assumptions, letting kids and teens embrace all the possibilities and becoming the visible role models we needed when we were younger may also shape their futures for the better.”
Laura Henares Vinaches
If you’d like your personal story to feature in The Queerness let us know.