“Oh no…That is not good.” That was what went through my head the moment I realized that my feelings for a fellow female classmate were beyond friendship. I realized I was attracted to her, and my first feeling was fear...fear of what this meant. Could someone like boys and girls? I knew there were lesbians and gay men, but the term “bisexual” was nowhere in my vocabulary yet. From the local culture to national politics, being queer was not something the world embraced. So, I shoved that feeling down and pretended it wasn’t there. I hid who I really was and only allowed the parts of me that society expected to shine throughout high school and college. After graduating from college, I started a job in the beer industry as a front-line manager. I managed men, was mostly managed by men, and felt I had to fit into male expectations. At the same time, I was lucky enough to work for one of the first female brewmasters in company history. What an achievement for her and for all the women working for the company! But as the announcement of her promotion spread around the company, I heard whispers of “Well, you know she is a lesbian right?” among others. Hearing comments like this made my heart sink. She wasn’t queer, but because of her achievements she was assumed to be. Seeing this confirmed the same thought I had about being a female athlete most of my life…we are lesser women if we are not straight women, and if we are not straight women then we blemish the achievements of all women. As a woman who wanted to see women shine, I continued suppressing who I was, so that others could see my achievements in a male dominated workforce as achievements for all women. Achieve I did. I became an assistant brewmaster; then switched companies to run the whole brewing department! I continued to pretend that there was not a part of me that was different. I knew that once I acknowledged that part of myself, I wouldn’t be able to shove it away anymore, and I wasn’t ready.
I came out as bisexual less than 2 years ago. I came out after a year of working with a therapist to release the power of other’s expectations on my life and I realized that there was a huge part of myself that I was missing by hiding it away. Once I came out, I realized all the weight I had been carrying for 20 years. I felt free, I felt whole, and I felt like I was unstoppable. Since coming out, I have also come to realized that my achievements in life are not lesser because I am bisexual, if anything they are bigger and empowering for others. I look forward to a day when there is no “coming out” because everyone is accepted and there is not just one version of love. A day where someone’s rights aren’t restricted because of how they identify, who they love, or how they show up in the world. Currently there are 164 bills that are restricting transgender people with about half centered on the segregation of transgender youth. There are another 50-80 that segregate gay, lesbian, and queer people in employment, spousal benefits, housing, and a host of other discriminatory ways. The Equality Act is a start to stopping the discrimination and allowing people equality because of who they are.