Post-out-of-the-closet after-effects of 23 years pretending to be heterosexual

I was told, today, that I give off an “innocent virgin” vibe, and therefore do not give any “vibes” of being bisexual.

I was unsure of whether it was a compliment, or if I need to work on things.

I asked my therapist about flirting. I don’t know how to flirt. She laughed when I asked, because I could barely even say the word, “flirt.” She said, “It’s interesting that you’re so bashful about flirting. Your face is turning red, and you can’t talk about it.” And it was true–I was totally uncomfortable talking about it.

Especially in the case of expressing interest toward cis-gender women I’m attracted to, I’m terrified of making an idiot out of myself. Before I came out, I would do everything in my power to make myself seem heterosexual. So, when I had a crush on a woman, I would shut down my feelings.

This was because I was conditioned to feel shame for having romantic feelings for women. I grew up in non-affirming Christian churches, I was humiliatetd several times for seeming “gay,” and my emotions were toyed with.

Now that I’m older, and am completely out of the closet, I still feel the effects of the way I’ve been shamed for my feelings toward women. It is to the point where I will not admit to myself that a woman is hitting on me unless she explicitly tells me. Even when I know a woman is not heterosexual, I am unable to flirt because I am so terrified of appearing anything but heterosexual.

When I say “terrified,” I mean I have a fight-or-flight response.

My body trembles.
My palms sweat.
My heart palpitates.
I want to throw up.
I feel like I’m going to die.

And when I get called out on it, I want to deny everything, or say it was just a joke. It’s easier.

Usually, I have some silver lining–some hope to hold onto. I think this might be the one exception.

I don’t even know how to start!

I thought that I would be out of this heteronormative hell-hole once I came out, but it’s following me everywhere. In the town where I live, it isn’t a great place for LGBTQIA people. We don’t exactly have meetings, nor do we have the words “I’M NOT STRAIGHT” written across our foreheads.

My therapist says I have two options: to reframe things, or to just do it until the fear goes away.

Here’s a better option: let’s make a world in which non-straight people aren’t shamed for expressing interest in members of the same sex. Maybe then, people like me might not have this problem.

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5 thoughts on “Post-out-of-the-closet after-effects of 23 years pretending to be heterosexual

  1. I just came out as bisexual last year at 46. I have no idea how to flirt with a woman. I had a lesbian online flirting with me. I had no idea how to respond, even though I wanted to. I wouldn’t even know who to approach. (It doesn’t help that I’m a shy introvert with a mild case of social anxiety)

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    1. Hi Ellen,
      First of all, I commend you for coming out. Second, it seems like the longer we wait to come out, the more shame we internalize. It paralyzes us in situations like you described.

      Thanks for sharing,
      Stephanie

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      1. It wasn’t like I waited to come out. I honestly did not know that the feelings I had all my life meant I was bisexual. It seems weird, but it’s true. And it’s so easy to ignore the bi side when you have a hetero partner.

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  2. I have so much respect for you Stephanie, I am always here for you, if you ever feel alone, sad, happy, whatever the case may be, pick up the phone…we are family, I will be there for you in a red hot second!

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