I came out as bisexual earlier this year after a long time struggling both with acknowledging my own sexuality, and then building up the courage to come out to others. As I’ve been thinking about being thankful for various things this year, it keeps coming back into my head that I owe an immense debt to other people who have paved the way for my coming out to be possible.
The first group of people who come to mind are the martyrs. The countless gays, lesbians, and other queer folk who found themselves living at the wrong point in history, and paid the price for just existing. Even only considering recent history, this includes millions of people trapped in Nazi Germany, people persecuted in the UK and America under discriminatory laws, and others around the world who were victims of lawfully enshrined prejudice. This especially includes Alan Turing, one of my personal heroes, whose heroism during WWII, and later epochal contributions to computer science didn’t prevent his government from persecuting him, and likely driving him to suicide. This also includes martyrs to private hatred, like Matthew Shepard, who was murdered by private citizens in a gruesome case of homophobia. While tragic, I am thankful that the stories of these people helped to awaken our society to the injustices being done to queer people.
The second group of people who come to mind are the crusaders. From those who protested in the Stonewall riots at the start of the modern gay rights movement, through to the people who still march at pride parades, protest against unfair laws, and speak out for equal rights for the LGBT community at large. But for these people, I would have been in legal jeopardy if I decided to come out, and, being bi in a straight marriage, I almost certainly wouldn’t have. I’m thankful that they have changed my society into a place which acknowledges and respects queer people, and that—by their struggles—my rights are protected regardless of my sexual orientation.
The third group which comes to mind are the scientists and educators. There’s been a long road which leads up to our current understanding of sexuality as a complex set of variables in which people fall into a myriad different categories describing sexual and gender expression. In particular, Alfred Kinsey comes to mind as one of the earliest of modern researchers to seriously study the subject and start to move away from homosexuality as a disease to homosexuality as being part of the normal spectrum of human behavior. In this group, I also include more modern scientists and doctors like Lindsey Doe who promotes positive sex education: including non-hetero orientations. Without their work, both I and the society I live in would still be trapped in antiquated and prejudicial views about sexuality. I am thankful to live an a time enlightened by their research and teaching.
The final group I think of are my own friends and family. The largest portion of this group is made up of all those people who said such kind and supportive things when I actually did come out. But, this group most especially includes my friends Duane and Blake, both of whom spent hours talking and exchanging emails with me while I worked through whether to come out, how to come out, and why I should want to do such a thing. That I could be so articulate in explaining myself, and, as Duane put it so well, “tremblingly determined” to make myself understood, is through their friendship and advice. I am thankful to have such thoughtful and wise people in my life to help me when I’m struggling and uncertain.
But, most of all, I think of my wife, Rachel. I could have never understood my own sexuality without our long talks, and she was always there to talk, or just listen to me talk. It was also immeasurably easier to accept myself with the certain knowledge that she would accept me, too. And she did, and does. It would also have been so much harder to muster the courage to come out without her love and support. I am thankful to have such a caring, thoughtful, and loving person as a partner who constantly urges me to be the best and truest version of myself.