Story By: Shibanshu Mukopadhyay
I was 12, browsing through images on my computer when I first saw a photo of 2 men kissing. It confused me, why were they kissing? I shared it with my friend to which she laughed and said, “dude that’s what gay means”. That single image led me to the path of one of the hardest journeys of my self-discovery.
In the days to come, I continued to excitedly browse through many more such images and videos online but I never questioned my sexuality. Throughout school life, I developed varying degrees of crushes on girls. Of course, I was straight.
At 17, when I reached college, I was suddenly confronted by people who were openly bisexual. It perplexed me. Why would anybody be openly bisexual when they could easily hide their attraction by just dating the opposite sex? Still, I didn’t confront my own sexuality, because these questions got drowned amidst the friends I made. I found myself surrounded by the most open-minded and accepting people I could have never even imagined. I felt like I was finally home. I did not have to think about who I was, because none of that mattered to them at all.
At 18, I got into my first relationship with an amazing woman and it was incredible. I was naive and immature back then. At 19 I was mourning the loss of my first love. I decided to focus the rest of my time in college on my education.
It is commonly known, life doesn’t go as planned. Soon, I stumbled upon a video of someone on YouTube coming out to his parents. The video was really positive and I continued to watch them. Inquisitive as ever, I wondered why I was watching these. I questioned myself - why did these videos make me so happy? Gradually, I realized that I could identify myself with these people, which is why they brought me joy. Suddenly, I was grasping the truth of my own sexuality. After years of subconsciously brushing it aside, I had to consciously face it - I wasn’t attracted to just girls. So, I did the next logical thing I could - I started reading up and watching more videos. After almost a year of scouring through online resources on sexuality, I finally understood and accepted that I’m bisexual.
I had a crippling realization. I would never get to experience intimacy with another man. Not unless I came out. I was so upset. I panicked at the thought of telling anybody else. After all, I had only accepted myself after years of shunning myself, how could I expect anybody else to accept me? I knew that my closest friends would be totally okay with it, but I needed to be prepared before I could talk to them. So, I debated with myself until I felt like I had all the answers to any question that could be thrown my way.
I finally decided to tell people, starting with my brother. Saying it out loud was far more difficult than I could have imagined. With the first handful of people, I would just say “Hey, I need to tell you something. I’m…” and then stalled for long until I had no choice but to say out the words “I’m bisexual”. To my extreme disappointment, people replied with either a very accepting “Okay” or “Are you sure? You’re so...straight”. I hadn’t prepared for either of those responses at all!
Over time, I learned how to explain sexuality to people who found me “straight”. With generations of queer men being represented by the effeminate stereotype on mainstream media, it made sense to me that people correlated male queerness to femininity. So, I made it a point to clear whatever misconceptions I could.
Surprisingly, the discrimination I faced has been almost exclusively from gay men - from “just pick a side” to “all bi men are pigs”. It saddens me but again, I understand where they are coming from. The way society has repressed queerness, especially bisexuality, and the way toxic masculinity has created oppressive notions of manhood, a lot of bi men do mistreat their male partners. There are plenty of examples of married men cheating on their wives with other men, and later ditching them.
As I have grown, I’ve realized that humans are most comfortable classifying everything around us. We like checkboxes. And bisexuality is still an enigmatic checkbox. My struggle with my sexuality is not even close to over. I still have many questions that I don’t have the answers to.