Life in Bi: Pride, Passing, and Coming Out Forever
I didn’t plan on talking gay stuff this week. I figured a #TBT story on social media from last year’s blog post would suffice for pride content. But then something happened that made me think more about it. An interaction with a coworker that stopped me in my tracks and made me question whether I have been living authentically enough.
So, here we are, another year, another Pride month. And we’re getting into it.
While waiting at the airport Starbucks for my mobile order on Monday, I ran into a coworker I hadn’t seen in a while. One I love working with, who I’d consider a friend if we ever hung out outside of work. We follow each other on social media and sometimes leave comments. I met his mother-in-law after a flight once and we have each other’s phone numbers saved in our respective phones. It feels like we know each other.
It is always a delight running into coworkers you like in the airport. We hugged and said hi, and he said “I was just talking about you with someone.”
“Something you posted—your Pride post,” he said.
He was referring to last year’s Pride post called Pride in the Back Galley: The ‘Other’ Gay Flight Attendant., which I recently posted as a throwback on Instagram in honor of Pride Month.
It is always very flattering when a coworker mentions my blog. I imagined him talking with another coworker, a mutual friend. “Did you see Toni’s post about Pride?”
“Yeah,” the mystery friend would have said. “She’s a really good writer.”
But apparently the topic of conversation went beyond my phrasing and choice of word. I know because of what he said next.
“I didn’t know you came out.”
Y’all, I wish I could insert a pause and a blank stare here to make you feel reading this how I felt hearing it.
This stunned me.
I came out when I was 18.
I was still in high school.
I came out for the second time when I was 25.
In other words, I have been doing this—this gay stuff—for a long time.
(If you want to understand why I had to come out twice, know that sexual orientation can be a confusing thing. You can check out the post linked above for the back story.)
This is the bisexual flag, in case anyone was wondering. <3
Not only was it a long ass time ago that I came out, but I live pretty openly in my bisexuality. I write blog posts about it for the world to see. I share queer Instagram content. If you scroll back, I have years’ worth of photos of my previous lesbian relationships. I ask my straight friends for tips on queer dating. (Always super effective.) And still, nearly two decades later, here is someone who I think knows me—not intimately, but well enough—having no idea.
Beyond the maybe-a-little-narcissistic part of me that feels let down that my reputation (as a beautiful bisexual sky goddess) hadn’t quite preceded me enough, I just felt really surprised. Maybe even a little defensive.
It is ironic because much of that post was about the idea of “passing”. Passing means moving about in society and being able to ‘pass’ for “normal” or the default. This can take many shapes and forms. In media like The Vanishing Half, a novel by Britt Bennet and the new Netflix series ‘Passing’, black characters ‘pass’ as white. In the context of my bisexuality, and in this post, we’re talking about being able to ‘pass’ as straight, or heterosexual.
For feminine queer women and for masculine-presenting queer men, ‘passing’ is par for the course. People can’t see your queerness on the outside, so they automatically assume you’re straight. There are benefits that come with this. Since no one knows you’re “other”, no one treats you that way. For a long time, I used passing to my advantage. I could fit into straight worlds and gay worlds and never be uncomfortable about other people’s reactions to me. You don’t feel the sting of others’ closed-mindedness or bigotry so acutely. They don’t aim it at you. They reserve it for the obvious, the vulnerable. Passing is like being able to put on your invisible glasses and fly under the radar. It is decidedly easier.
For a long time I liked passing. Maybe I even needed it.
I’ve moved on from my need to feel welcomed in all circles. Today, rather than passing, I’d prefer to be seen for who I am. For all of me.
But though my days of trying to “pass” are over, there is still some part of it that feels out of my control. As a more feminine presenting woman, I will ask my friends hopefully “Does this make me look gayer?” It’s like trying to slip a costume on, place emphasis on the part of me that no one seems to see.
I’ll Tell you What I want (What I really, Really want)
This interaction with my coworker surprised me, but maybe it shouldn’t have.
I’ve realized through writing this post that it isn’t just my family and friends I had to come out to. It isn’t just a couple blog posts in my thirties. It isn’t just a coworker who didn’t get the memo. As a bisexual woman, I am coming out ALL THE TIME. Every time I go on a date with a man, I have to come out to him. If I date a woman, I have to tell her, too, that I’m bi and not fully gay. When someone I meet talks to me as if I’m straight and I have to kindly correct them—“Well, I might marry a woman, so in that case…” When I make a new friend. When someone at work asks who I’m dating.
It is a constant occurrence. A daily practice. Of having to tell people who and what I am.
This interaction with my coworker just proves what I already knew—there are more of us than you think.
If you move in liberal circles, your queer friends are probably out. You probably know of them. But maybe you don’t. And if you move in more conservative, traditional crowds, you may not realize which of your friends and family are queer.
But I will tell you this: Some of them are.
Not maybe. Not possibly.
Whether they’re an L, a G, a B, a T, or something else in the spectrum, someone close to you is queer. If no one has said it to you, they might be afraid to.
I’m not saying this to be controversial, but because it’s true. And if you love your family members, and if you truly care for your friends, you should be very careful how you talk about strangers in front of them. Your kids are listening. They can hear whether you will be a safe space for them or not. They act accordingly.
If it is important to you that your loved ones know you love and support them no matter what, you should tell them. And you should probably start showing up for the rest of the world in that way, too, so they believe you.
I'm lucky to have my friends, people who love and support me.
I long for a day when kids and adults don’t have to come out. When it is not asked of little boys “So, do you have a girlfriend?” When it is not assumed little girls will become wives and mothers. When toys are not categorized in pink or blue and kids’ movies do not revolve around heterosexual love stories. When straight is not the default. When there is no default. When people can express their inner selves on the outside without feeling like weirdos. A world where queer people don’t need invisible glasses or have the desire to pass.
Until then, I guess I’ll just have to keep trying on backwards hats and screaming from the rooftops that “I’m gay-ish, too!”
I celebrate pride now in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Pride for me used to be a time to party. Any excuse to celebrate was a good excuse as far as I was concerned. I would put on my rainbow gear and rage. But despite my status, as a member of the LGBTQ community, I often felt more like an ally. Standing up for the rights of others more at risk—more obvious than myself.
I always want to stand up for marginalized communities, to speak up for those who need it most. But now I am trying hard to enjoy Pride on a more personal level. This is for me, too.
I attended Rhode Island Pride for the first time this year, in Providence, RI, and got to feel like I was simultaneously immersing myself in my LGBTQ identity and in my local community. Rhode Island Pride is unique in that it holds its parade at night, after the daytime festival has wrapped. It is more risqué and more raucous than its northern neighbor-capitol Boston’s parade was, but still has the family feel that makes all Pride celebrations vital and so much fun. If you are going to find yourself in tiny Rhode Island next summer, I highly recommend you time your visit to overlap with Pride. You can find more information here: Rhode Island Pride (prideri.org)
Next, I’m hoping to attend Pride in San Diego, the only place who holds their celebrations in July. It’s pretty genius, actually—they don’t have to compete with other cities’ Pride celebrations. It also affirms to all of us gays that we still matter, even after Corporate America has tossed their rainbow flags in the trash on July 1st. If years past are any indication, this one should be wild, crazy, and a blast. If you’ll be in SD this July, try to catch some Pride celebrating. More info here: San Diego Pride | Welcome Home (sdpride.org)
My friend Ann, who happens to be straight, made the hour-plus and full-of-traffic drive down from Boston to spend the day with me at Pride in Providence a couple weeks ago. She knew I wanted to go and that I don’t have many friends in the area (yet!)
I am lucky to have friends—gay, straight, bi and otherwise, who support me and people like me. I am lucky to work in an industry so diverse and accepting of differences. And I feel very lucky to be living in this time. Standing on the foundation built by the queer activists of yesterday—especially the black trans activists who fought for our very existence—and staring forward in wild wonder at what the next generation might do.
Rhode Island Pride Parade, Providence RI
This generation was born with rights their queer grandparents could only have dreamt of. They value themselves and see the humanity in their peers beyond what any label could show. They have come of age with more equity and civil rights than LGBT people have ever had, and they do not intend to cede those rights without a fight.
They see elected leaders—grown adults—taking extreme measures to ostracize, closet, and diminish LGBTQ children. Sacrificing these kids in quest for power, tossing tasty snacks to feed an increasingly extremist conservative base.
It is my opinion and hope that Gen Z is not going to stand for it. For any of it. The dinosaurs of yesteryear, the zealots, and the bigots will be dying off. And while they age and decay, the youth of this nation will continue to fight harder for themselves and others, for a more just future.
I may be confused by them bringing back the worst fashion trends of my adolescence, and by all the TikTok dances, but there is something about this next gen that makes me feel hope. Sometimes, it is overwhelming.
And though it’s a heavy burden to shoulder—to literally save our society—I really think they’ve got it.
I hope everyone—age 2 to 102—got to celebrate Pride in the way that makes them happiest. I hope every queer person out there has friends like mine, a network of people who love and support them. And those of you who don’t yet, I hope you’ll hang in there. You will find your people eventually. I promise.
To the friend who didn’t know I was bi—no hard feelings. We can do queer stuff together on our next layover.
Thanks as usual for stopping by.
Happy Thursday, and happy Pride.
Hey you. Yes, you! Thanks for stopping bi. (Had to.)
I’m Toni, and I run the show here at A Wheel in the Sky. Here we talk all things travel, flight attendant life, and borderline-too-vulnerable anecdotes. I hope you enjoyed reading this post about coming out a million times and what Pride means to me as a bisexual woman. If any of this resonated with my fellow LGBTQ folk, I’m so glad and would love to hear from you in the comments below or on Insta! If you’re new here, feel free to check out some of my other content. I’ve linked some good ones below.
If you like what I’m doing here and want to support the blog, there are two things you can do. Please consider subscribing, to get all the latest—FIRST and straight to your inbox. You can also buy me a coffee if you’d like at buymeacoffe.com/awheelinthesky. This blog runs on caffeine and long flight times, a gift is never expected and always so, so appreciated.
Thanks again for coming, hope to have you back real soon!
More gay stuff:
Pride in the Back Galley: The ‘Other’ Gay Flight Attendant
Rainbows, Stares &…Stoning? Traveling while LGBT
Flight Attendant Content:
The 6 Best and Worst Things About Being A Flight Attendant
More than Coke & Pretzels: 8 Real Jobs Flight Attendants Are Trained To Do
Why Are Flight Attendants So Cranky? Here are 40 Good Reasons.
Traveling with Dietary Restrictions
6 Best Travel tips I’ve learned along the way
The Personal (and maybe relatable):