This has been a big year for me. I graduated from law school, took and passed the bar exam, went on backcountry camping trips, got hired as an attorney, and after years finally ran the Boston Marathon. Oh…and I also came out as bisexual.
Law school took three years.
The bar exam took two months to study for.
The Boston Marathon finish line took me over two years to reach.
However, of all of the above things, what took the longest, and was the most stressful and rewarding experience, was coming out and telling people what I kept to myself for so long.
In all reality, I never really thought that I would come out. I certainly never imagined I would come out in such a public way. Primarily it was a struggle between wanting to be more open, but also not wanting the most personal and private aspect of my life to be made so public.
I’ve had great friends and great teammates. I’ve traveled to amazing places and excelled at various levels of athletics and academics. But, there was always something missing. There was always an uncertainty and self-doubt that I felt I could never discuss or relate with any other person about. Ultimately, I don’t want anybody to go through the same conflict as long as I did. My hope is that coming out in such a public fashion can reach at least one kid, athlete, law student, lawyer, or person who thinks they have no one to relate to – because they do.
I struggled throughout the years knowing that I was attracted to men. I denied it. I explained it away. More than anything, I hid it and suppressed it deep.
The real struggle though, came from me knowing that I was also attracted to women. As far as I ever witnessed, this wasn’t a thing. I knew the letters went: L G “B” T, but I never actually knew any bisexuals. I never saw any famous bisexuals, and all I ever heard from people was that bisexuality was a myth, a phase, or some period of experimentation.
With that, I knew the answer. I had to be straight. I didn’t define myself as gay. I had girlfriends and was attracted to women. The only logical solution was to hide the side of my life attracted to men. I’d have a girlfriend and I would be focused on her. Eventually though, and unrelated to my sexual orientation, a relationship wouldn’t work out and I would realize my attraction to men was, naturally, still there.
After years of only ever being physically attracted to men, last year I met a guy that I not only was physically attracted to but was also emotionally attracted to. For the first time in my life I was hanging out with a guy and I wanted to hold his hands, kiss and date. I wanted to be able to walk down the street holding this guy’s hand and not be afraid of someone I knew running into me. I wanted to go on a date with this guy and not worry about being seen in the restaurant.
After years of hiding, it took only two weeks of me hanging out with this guy to realize that it just felt right. I came out to one of my best friends shortly after.
I’ll never forget the conversation.
“Sooo I’ve been seeing someone.”
“Really?! What’s her name, how’d you meet her??”
“Well . . ., um, his name is _____, and he’s a guy. Because I’m bisexual…….”
My friend, surprised, tried to put two and two together. After the longest silence possible, all he could say was “Really?”
For the first time in my life, I told someone what had been playing like a broken record player in my head for years. I knew that I wasn’t straight, and similarly that I wasn’t gay. The only difference now is I don’t care about labeling it anymore. I can enjoy a person individually for who they are, appreciating their own characteristics without having to consider whether I am “supposed” to be with them. I’ve finally become comfortable with such uncertainty.
Despite interactions with people of all sexual orientations, telling me that this is a phase, that I’m just being curious, or that I'll "realize I'm gay" or "stick with women," I know these are just generalizations made due to a misunderstanding of bisexuality. I view peoples’ sexual orientation as a spectrum. On each end of the spectrum are people completely into the opposite sex. However, within that spectrum there are people who enjoy both sexes. The real point is though, that such labels don’t matter.
The truth is, even if I go the rest of my life without being with another woman, I’ll still be bi. Vice versa with men. This dynamic is what people sometimes don't understand, creating skepticism of bisexuality. This skepticism is a large factor as to why it took me so long to come out in public, and also come out to myself, having largely thought that something was wrong with me for so long. This skepticism is a reason I am writing this piece now. If this can help just one person be more comfortable with themselves, and cut down on the time that they are worrying and in hiding, then this will be completely worth it.
I spent excessive time worrying that my teammates would find out about my feelings, and that word would spread like wildfire. Now I realize that my fears were largely unfounded. I was afraid of the unknown. Had I known then how supportive my friends and teammates would be, I likely would’ve felt comfortable with coming out much sooner.
As an attorney, I advocate for individuals who suffer from injuries or lost loved ones due to the actions of others. I also handle many cases involving negligence in the nursing-home setting. One theme I’ve noticed is that when faced with difficult scenarios, having someone to talk to, vent to, or even just hug, can make the world of difference.
Knowing that someone understands what you’re going through ensures that you’re not alone and that there’s support available.
Similar to in my job, I want to provide support for people who may think that they are alone. I remember that feeling. Now, I know that the isolation I felt could’ve been remedied much sooner.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to talk to someone, or you don't think that you have anyone to relate to, know that there are people out there, including myself, to talk to.
Jared Reynolds is on email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also on Facebook and LinkedIn. Reynolds is an attorney at Levin & Perconti in Chicago, practicing medical malpractice and personal injury law, with a focus on nursing home negligence cases. He runs with Chicago’s Fleet Feet Racing Team. His long-term goals include focusing his sights on the 2020 U.S. Olympic Qualifying Trials for the marathon.