Hi, Bi Guy: Coming Out to Your Friends

When you’re growing up a bisexual⁠ guy, how can you talk to your friends about your sexuality? While biphobia⁠ and homophobia⁠ are still all too prevalent today, young people are generally accepting of their LGBTQ⁠ + peers. You might even find that coming out⁠ to your friends is totally fine, whether you casually drop into conversation that you’re bi, or you come out in a more formal manner.

I could have kept quiet about my sexuality when I was younger. I was and always have been attracted to women, so part of me thought about keeping my attraction to men quiet. After all, I had my first girlfriend when I was 15: I could have just pretended I was straight.

I didn’t want to do that, though – I wouldn’t judge anyone else for it, as we all have different ways of handling things, but staying mum just wasn’t right for me. I came out as pansexual⁠ , the way I identified at the time, a year or so after I got into my first relationship⁠ – before this, I would say I was straight.

No matter the context, the act of coming out isn’t ever necessarily wrapped up into one neat moment. You might come out to a particularly close friend first, then your parents, then more of your friends, and then another relative or two, at different times. I don’t remember one singular ‘coming out’, but I can remember speaking about my sexuality with friends as a teenager.

The idea of coming out multiple times is something that many queer⁠ people can relate to. You might come out more than once to the same person, or group of people, as your identities shift. For example, I’d later come out as bisexual to many of the same people I’d previously come out as pansexual to. And, you might come out to more people as you enter into new relationships, whether romantic⁠ ones or otherwise, or as new people come into your life.

When you’re a bi guy coming out to male friends, there are some complex feelings that might come to the fore, and you might have anxieties before you come out to them, too. Maybe your friends have made homophobic or biphobic jokes in the past so you’re not sure how they’ll react to you being bi.

Maybe you’re concerned that your friends will think you’re attracted to them when you’re not, or perhaps you do have a crush on your friend, but you’re worried about making things awkward. These are all very real concerns, whether or not your friends will actually react badly in the end.

Unfortunately, we can’t control the reactions of others to what we say. There are people from all walks of life who hold homophobic or biphobic views, perhaps influenced by their parents or other relatives, or even public figures. 

If you decide to come out to a friend, and they don’t take the news well, it’s not your fault. And at the same time, if you’d rather not come out to your friends, that’s okay. It all comes down to what you’re comfortable with. Having said that, this can be difficult. If you don’t feel like you can come out to a friend, will your friendship be as deep, as close, or as ‘real’? Do you even want to keep people you don’t feel able to come out to as friends?

If you’re worried about coming out to a friend – particularly in terms of safety – it might be a good idea to come out to them in a public setting where there are other people around. Where coming out is concerned, your safety should be paramount. If you do feel scared or concerned about your safety, talk to someone you trust. 

In all honesty, you might not want to come out to these friends at all. You might also check in with yourself to be sure these friends are even safe for you to stay friends with, period⁠ , and consider starting to distance yourself from them, if not.

Maybe with some friends you’ll want to wait to come out until further down the line, when you’re already out to other people and have more sources of support. These might include family members, a support group, or just other friends who are actually supportive. LGBTQ+ charities and organizations, as well as Scarleteen, of course, can be great sources of help and support too.

Coming out can be quite a big thing for some people, so if it’s something you’re feeling nervous about it might be a good idea to leave it for a day when you don’t have any other large stresses, like a test or exam. When you do come out, it might be worth considering about how you word things. Something like, “I want to tell you about my sexual orientation⁠ in the context of being my friend” is clear without being blunt, for example.

Friendships can and do end – it’s a part of life. However, bullying is never okay. If you’re getting bullied or harassed by friends or peers after coming out to them, it’s important to tell a trusted adult. If you’re getting harassed online, you can report it too, and for that reasons it’s a good idea to keep a diary which can be used as evidence if you do report the harassmentr. If you’re worried about a friend breaching your privacy and outing⁠ you to somebody you’d rather not be out to – like your family, for example – you may want to make a safety plan, just in case. This safety planning resource might be useful.

Something else that can be tricky to maneuver when you're a bi guy who has come out are things like locker rooms or sleepovers. You might worry that friends or teammates might not want to get changed alongside you, or that your same- gender⁠ friend’s parents wouldn’t want you sleeping at their house. Or even that they wouldn’t want to spend time with you one-on-one.

These fears are rooted in stereotypes about bi guys – that we’re more promiscuous, less faithful, and hypersexual. I was fortunate enough that my friends were accepting of me not being straight as a teenager, but even I got ‘jokey’ comments along the lines of, “I don’t care if you’re pan or bi as long as you don’t come onto me,” when the idea hadn’t as much as even crossed my mind. And by the time I’d been asked if I was sexually attracted to pans the third or fourth time, it was quickly getting old.

According to research from Stonewall, an LGBTQ+ rights charity in the United Kingdom, only 36% of bi people are ‘out’ to their friends, compared to 74% of our gay⁠ counterparts. This is quite a huge difference – and it might be surprising – but I think it speaks to just how ingrained biphobia is in our thinking. People can even face biphobia when coming out to their queer friends – it’s not exclusively the preserve of straight people. 

To be honest, most of my close friends over the years have been women. I find it easier, by and large, to talk to women and non- binary⁠ people than I do men. I feel more at ease and more relaxed, and less like I’m being judged if I veer away from a few selected masculine⁠ topics

If you do come out to your friends, remember: you’re the same person you were before you came out to them. Hopefully, your friends will be totally cool with it, and they’ll understand that, too. They might ask some questions that could sound silly or obvious to you, and of course, it’s up to you whether you answer them or not. It’s not your responsibility to educate others, but if they genuinely want to learn more you may be able to help them.  They might have questions that come from a place of genuine curiosity, much like they might if you’d recently gotten into a new movie or games franchise that they don’t know much about, or if you practiced a religion they’re unfamiliar with.

It might not be that they want you to do the work for them, but that they’d like to get to know you more as a person, and feel closer to you. 

But if your friends aren’t okay with you being bisexual, that’s their problem. You can’t force anyone to be friends with you, but you can decide who to remain friends with. If somebody doesn’t accept you for who you are, do you really want to be friends with them anyway? For this reason, I do often think it can be best to tell them, but again it all depends on your own comfort – and your safety, of course. In an ideal world, all of us would be free to be ‘out’ to everyone in our lives, but real life isn’t always that plain sailing.

If you’d like more advice, or want to find others in the same boat, you may want to take a look at other Scarleteen resources, including the forums, or head to the r/Bisexual subreddit, which has over half a million users.