So your friend just came out to you as bisexual? Congratulations! That must mean you are a great friend because your friend trusts you enough to share something so deeply personal and they want to include you in their journey. But there are some things you can do to show your friend that you support them – rather than make them regret they ever told you. Here are 7 tips to being the best friend you can be when your friend comes out:
1. Don’t immediately ask them if they want to have sex with your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse. Oy. This one is pretty common and it’s pretty insulting. Just because they shared their sexual orientation with you doesn’t automatically mean they are down for a three-way or a four-way or some other sexual escapade with anyone who’s up for it. Most of the time it just means they want to share something deeply personal about themselves with you. If they do want something more, they’ll make it clear. But the moment of coming out is definitely not the time to ask them to have sex with your significant other. What if they aren’t attracted to you SO? Or your SO isn’t down for that? Oy..
2. Understand that being bisexual does not mean they want to have sex with everyone, it just means they find both sexes attractive. Bisexual people are actually just as picky (or not) as anyone else and it does not automatically mean they are sexually promiscuous or can’t be happy without multiple partners. Just like everyone else, bisexual people represent a wide range of sexual appetites and personal preferences. They are absolutely, 100% capable of monogamy and often end up in long term relationships, predominantly with members of the opposite sex. A huge LGBT survey by Pew Research in 2013 found that 84% of self-identified bisexuals in committed relationships have a partner of the opposite sex, and only 9% are in same sex relationships. Interesting, right? It’s important to understand that just because they are bisexual doesn’t make them any less likely to commit or any more likely to cheat than someone who’s heterosexual.
3. Coming out as bisexual does not mean they are just confused or still figuring out whether they’re gay or straight. Some people have a relentless need to polarize, label and classify people as 100% this or that. Black or white. Chocolate or vanilla. They push their bisexual friends to choose, pick a team, figure it out. And it can get ugly even within the LGBTQ community; some gay friends accuse bisexuals of not fully committing to the LGBTQ plight or trying to have it both ways. Gosh, wouldn’t it be great if we could all support one another, especially among those in marginalized groups? Rest assured that before someone comes out as bi, they’ve typically done a tremendous amount of self-reflection. And sure, it may be just a transition phase on the way to figuring out they are gay, or going through a period of sexual fluidity, but this is by far more of the exception than the rule. The bottom line is: if they say they identify as bisexual, then they are bisexual. Bisexuality really is a thing, even if it’s not your thing. Pushing them or arguing with them about how they identify means you are questioning a big part of who they are, which is not cool, and good friends don’t do that.
4. They may not be equally attracted to men and women. Again, this goes back to people wanting to classify and quantify and make assumptions that bisexuals represent an even 50/50% attraction split toward men and women. But this isn’t always the case. While some bisexuals may actually be 50/50, many have a stronger preference for one gender over the other, or even split further among multiple genders. But the mere fact that they are attracted to both genders, albeit not always equally, still makes them bisexual.
5. Beware of biphobia – don’t treat them like a leper, assuming that from that point on they are harboring a deep attraction to you, and can’t be trusted to spend time alone with you, touch you, etc. This also goes with someone coming out as gay or any other sexual identity. Of course there’s always the possibility they may find you attractive, but unless you flirt with them, tease them, or otherwise show signs that you’re interested, chances are they won’t engage in pursuing a sexual relationship with you, they can keep their desires in check and put the friendship first. If there is any doubt, communicate with them! Whatever you do, don’t halt all signs of affection in the friendship, such as hugging, telling them you love and appreciate them or anything else – just do what you’ve been doing all along. Along the same lines, if they complement your shoes or your new haircut that does not automatically mean they want to have sex with you.
6. Don’t question the validity of their sexual identity. This relates back to #3. Often, people will probe this issue by flat out asking if they’ve ever had sex with a man/woman (which is an extremely personal thing to ask). If they say “no,” then the friend will ask how they can possibly know they’re bisexual if they’ve never had sex with someone of the same gender. The obvious answer to this question is that they know what they are attracted to and what turns them on. Could you imagine asking a 13 year-old straight boy how he could possibly know he’s attracted to girls when he’s never actually kissed one? The question is just as absurd for bisexuals. And no one should ever feel compelled to answer such probing questions if it makes them uncomfortable.
7. What’s the best way to respond to your friend who just came out to you as bisexual? Thank them for trusting you enough to share with them and ask if there is anything you can do to support them. Assure them that you’ll stay by their side and be the same good friend to them that you’ve always been. Be there for them to talk through their struggles and share their joys. Know that if you respond in this way, your friendship will likely grow and be stronger – and you can pat yourself on the back for being a good friend.