I’m not going to lie, when an article popped up in my twitter feed saying Demi Lovato had a girlfriend, I shrieked with joy. I mean, I ran circles around my one-bedroom apartment and celebrated the news as if I’d just found out my student loan debt had magically disappeared.
I attended the GLAAD awards in 2016 and was honored to witness Demi accept the Vanguard award… but as I sat in the audience listening to her speak, I couldn’t help but feel like she was speaking directly to me.
She said –
“I always want people to know, my fans, everything, that you
should always love yourself for who you are, the skin that
you’re in, whether you identify with it and are afraid to tell
people, just go for it, you can do it. Have no fear. You can do it.”
I was a closeted bisexual. I was also a grieving daughter: my transgender parent had died almost exactly one year prior due to unknown causes. I had been working up the courage to come out since I was 15 years old, which is when I first realized I was not like the other cishet girls in my friends group, but not
exactly like my lesbian friends either.
I began to realize that I was bisexual.
However, I also realized that if I wanted to experiment or come out, that the bullying I was already facing from my peers (for my personality, my body, and my ethnicity) would only get worse. But there I was years later: 22 years old, still closeted, and listening to Demi Lovato tell a room filled with queer people, like me, to have no fear.
Her words resonated deep within my soul. There I was, sitting at a table with Jenny Boylan, Nick Adams, Lilly Wachowski and Jenn Richards… closeted. What in the hell was I afraid of?
I remember freshman year of high school when several girls came out as bisexual around the same time as each other. They were all judged and bullied by straight and gay, boys and girls alike. “She’s just promiscuous and would fuck anything with a pulse” or, “We all know she likes to suck dick so she’s faking it”, or the classic, “She’s just gay and doesn’t realize it yet.”
Those girls were ostracized from events with peers, given nasty nicknames, and bullied on a regular basis. They may as well have been forced to wear red B’s on their shirts because their bisexuality is all any one would see when they looked at them. Never mind the bisexual boys who also had to face those same biphobic bullies. They were simply labeled as gay (bold red F’s for them) and could wish any chance of being accepted by straight male friends goodbye.
The majority of my straight peers had come to the conclusion that being bisexual was another high school fad and that the bisexuals who came out were just doing it for attention. Anyone who came out as bisexual from that point on would join the ranks of all the other bisexuals who were being bullied. I have a clear memory of male bullies calling my bisexual guy friend “a faggot who hadn’t gotten the right pussy yet.”
I have other memories of a bisexual girl crying in a bathroom stall and sipping vodka from a plastic water bottle. She was scared to walk to class because bullies would follow her, taunting her and calling her a cruel nickname. These bullies inflicted pain and psychological torture on many. I knew that too because I was also being made fun of on a daily basis. I was cyber-bullied often, regularly receiving messages telling me to kill myself. One message said “Why don’t you and all other annoying people go on an island together so the rest of us don’t have to deal with you?”
Boys would ask me out on malicious dares from their friends and then publicly humiliate me by saying nevermind. One time someone threw pennies at my shins in the hallways as his friends looked on laughing and he taunted, “Dance for the pennies, Jew. Pick them up: you know you want to” in a sing song voice…
Then when I developed postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, people would spread rumors about why I was missing so much school, and they were straight up ridiculous. One time in the gym locker room sophomore year, a girl kept badgering me, “Are you anorexic? Are you bulimic? Why are you so skinny? Why are you so pale?” Over the years because of all of the bullying I have privately battled with suicidal ideation. I wasn’t going to come out as bisexual and give anyone one more reason to tear me apart. I truly didn’t want the extra attention when I was already being tormented. I couldn’t take anymore bullying. The similar ode… High school sucked.
Then I met my high school sweetheart and I fell in love… with him. I told him that I thought I was bisexual and he was unphased. My teenage self breathed a sigh of relief, “Phew, now there is no need to come out to everyone!” Years passed. I was unbothered by my closeted sexuality. Then something changed… and my anxiety began to grow. I felt like a hypocrite every time I said I was an “ally” to my own community. I felt like a coward. I felt like a fraud.
When my parent came out to me and told me she was a woman, I thought, Ok, this will be her time to shine now. Let’s see how this goes for her, and maybe in a couple years I will come out. What she’s going through is far more important.
But by February 2015, my anxiety still growing exponentially inside my belly, I came out to my best friend hysterically over the phone. “Lyndsay, that’s it? You stop crying right now! I love you for you. So you’re bisexual! Okay? You think I’m going to stop being your best friend? I’m not going anywhere.” I was floored. All those years keeping that secret… and I could’ve told her at anytime. I felt silly. I told her that I wanted to come out to more people. She told me she would support me every step of the way.
I began to come out to my friends one by one. I left little bisexual breadcrumbs everywhere I went, you could say. Clues for my loved ones to figure out that usually went unnoticed. I asked another one of my best friends, who is gay, if I should come out. He said: “Well, you don’t really need to because you have a boyfriend”. I sighed and sadly replied, “Yeah, I guess you are right.” What I have realized, and what many bisexuals have realized, is that there is a lot of biphobia in lesbian and gay communities. There is the widely spread idea that bisexuals in heterosexual relationships “don’t need” to come out or are really heterosexual, and that bisexuals in gay relationships are really gay.
This is a big problem. Bisexual people are bisexual. Whether we’re in straight or gay or queer relationships, monogamous or polyamorous, our bisexuality does not ever change. For me, being told by a gay man that I didn’t need to come out solidified my fears that I would not be welcomed or accepted by the gay community: I was not queer enough.
I grappled with both of my friends’ advice. Did I need to come out? Would I be supported? Would people write me off? I was afraid. I felt fear. I knew one thing for sure. I wanted to come out to my dad (she preferred my brother and I call her dad). If she had had the courage to come out to me as trans, I needed conjure up the courage to come out to her as bisexual. I drove to her apartment and we hung out for a while. We were just talking about life. But by the time I left her place, I still had not told her that I was bisexual. I hugged her goodbye and told her I loved her. I promised myself that I would come out to her the next time I saw her. She died the next night. I never got the chance to tell her.
So there I was at the GLAAD awards in 2016, closeted and surrounded by some of the most amazing queer people in the world. And Demi said “Just go for it”… echoing a late mentor of mine who would say without hesitation, “Just Nike that bitch!” At the after party for the awards, a girl came up to me and began to flirt with me. I could feel my cheeks turning red when she asked, “Are you a part of the LGBTQ community?” I took a big breath and answered, “Yes, yes I am. I’m the B- I, uh- I’m bisexual”. We spoke for awhile, at which point I told her about my partner, but the conversation itself was so liberating. I felt accepted for who I was in a public space with strangers for the first time… and it was fucking awesome.
Later that night, I saw Ruby Rose and even told her I was bisexual in what I swear was an out of body experience. I may have word vomited because I have a huge crush on Ruby, but she still took a photo with me. I was elated. I had said it to two people in one night: “I’m bisexual.” I felt victorious. I was ready to come out.
After the GLAAD awards, I began to tell everyone in my life that did not know yet that I was bisexual. I told my mom and brother, and neither of them could have been more accepting. I began to speak openly about bisexual issues on social media, as well as my ethnicity, my disability, and the sudden loss of my trans parent. It was nerve-wracking yet affirming to tiptoe out of the closet. It was exhilarating to be myself. Then as the election began to rev up, I began to receive my first openly biphobic, anti-semitic, and transphobic hate messages from strangers (trump supporters):
For some reason, even though these hate-filled messages thoroughly nauseated me… it only lit a fire in me. So at the women’s march, the day after Trump was inaugurated, I publicly came out as bisexual. I posted two photos on Facebook, telling virtually everyone I knew. As I hit “enter” to post the photo, my heart raced. I began to pace and hyperventilate. I burst into tears as my partner held me. But I did it. I came out as bisexual.
Coming out was hard. Coming to terms with who I am… was hard! And coming out publicly was even harder. But attending the GLAAD awards and being surrounded by unabashedly proud queer people, hearing Demi speak, and living in my truth for one glorious night gave me the strength to step out of the closet forever.
And so hopefully I am clear as day when I say this: every queer person should come out on their own terms and at their own pace. No one else gets to dictate these terms or the pace. If a person doesn’t want labels, then that is their choice and no one else’s. If a person doesn’t want to come out, then that is their choice and no one else’s. If a person wants to come out, then that is their choice and no one else’s. This goes for everyone… including celebrities like Demi Lovato.
This obsession with Demi’s sexuality is nothing more than an invasion of her privacy. It’s disrespectful to Demi to police her own choices as an individual. As Demi has tweeted, you can find out more about her sexuality in her documentary or in her music. She doesn’t have to come out because she wanted to hold her girlfriend (or friend’s) hand in public that day. She doesn’t have to come out for any other reason than her wanting to come out.
Would the queer community rejoice if Demi came out? Of course! Will the queer community welcome her with open arms when and if she comes out? You bet. Would some people in the straight and gay community alike spew biphobia all over social media if Demi came out as bisexual or pansexual or queer or lesbian or whatever? Damn right they would. So is it really a question as to why Demi might want to keep that aspect of her life private for now?
Demi is an extremely hard working, inspiring, wildly-talented mental health advocate and body positive millennial icon. She has always been outspoken about her support of the LGBTQPIA community. She has helped many queer people, like myself, accept ourselves for who we truly are. I won’t stand for anyone implying Demi is taking advantage of the queer community by choosing to keep her sexuality private. Please… keep your opinion pieces about why it is wrong for her not to come out to yourself. She isn’t wrong for not coming out. She can’t be wrong about something that is her own business and decision. It isn’t anyone else’s choice but hers to make. As a bisexual woman who is now publicly out, in part because of Demi’s inspiring words when accepting the Vanguard award… please worry about yourself and your own inherent biases if you are so concerned with her choice to remain unlabeled. Demi can make her own decisions.
We all go at our own speed. Labeled or unlabeled, Demi Lovato is important to queer people everywhere and we will not stand for anyone (straight or gay) to tell her otherwise. You cannot forcibly out Demi Lovato. Let her live her life on her own terms. And go check out her music because she can sing her ass off.