Wednesday, January 2, 2013

If Dear Abby had Come Out....

Just reading this morning's Dear Abby, and pondering her advice to one letter writer.

The writer is a happily married woman who has been struggling with her sexuality and has come to realize that she's bisexual.  She wants to be able to tell people but isn't certain how to do so.  Or even whether to do so.

Abby's suggestion is to stay in the closet, but if she is going to tell anyone, to start with her husband.

A second part of her question, though, is confirming, gosh, if I haven't done anything, but I am physically attracted to women, could I be bisexual?  Abby confirms that yes, indeed, she could be. 

The writer poses some very interesting questions, and so does Abby's answer. 

On the one hand, having witnessed several married women recognize their attractions for women, I would agree with Abby's cautionary advice in that disclosing such a piece of information might stir up unnecessary and unwanted trouble.  I respect that caution, but it is also biting on me that the advice, nonetheless, is to hide something she doesn't want to hide anymore.  (And not the good kind of biting, either).

If someone were to approach me with this dilemma I would do two things.  The first is I'd ask her why she wanted to share and what she hopes to accomplish.  To help her understand and clarify why coming out might be important to her.  And the second is that I would direct the reader to an online forum a friend of mine found, and a book by its founder about married women awakening to the realization of their attraction to other women.  There she will find a community of people who will understand what she is going through and who can advise her better about the risks and the rewards of any next steps she might take.  Plus, it might give her a safe forum to express what she's been working on. 

I am appreciative of Abby's accepting acknowledgment of this woman's sexuality; but hesitant about her advice and her ability to have the perspective necessary to offer this advice.  Not that the only people qualified to give "coming out" advice are those who have come out - but unless you have gone through such awakening yourself, it is harder to understand the potential compulsion to share this aspect of your being with others.  There is unquestionably risk involved - particularly given her existing monogamous relationship - and I don't disagree with Abby's caution, entirely.  I just think it's more complex than that.  (Of course her signature line that she's in the Deep South, certainly does suggest - perhaps unfairly - that she should consider caution!)

What do you think?

The letter and its response are below:

DEAR ABBY: After years of denial I have come to realize that I am bisexual. I'm happily married to a straight man, and we have a great marriage I wouldn't change for the world. He is my soul mate, and we plan to be together for many years to come. I just happen to be physically attracted to women, too.

Some people say I can't be bisexual if I've never been with a woman; I say they're wrong. Am I correct?

How do I deal with this in social situations? I'm afraid to put it on my social media profile for fear of a backlash from my family. I'd like my friends to know, but it doesn't feel proper to just come out and say, "I'm bi."

I was hoping some of your readers might be able to give me some input.  How does one "come out" without overdoing it or coming across the wrong way? Is there a right way? Should I continue keeping it a secret?

I'm not sure what to do with my revelation. I have pondered it for some time now, and felt I could trust you to give me tactful, unbiased advice. -- BI IN THE DEEP SOUTH

DEAR B.I.T.D.S.: Bisexuality is having an attraction to people of both sexes, and yes, it is possible to be bisexual without having acted upon it.

However, being married means you are (happily) involved in a monogamous relationship. To announce that you are bisexual and/or put it on the Internet would be a mistake, in my opinion, not only because it would shock your family, but also because it might seem like you were advertising that you are "available." Unless you are promiscuous, you are not available. Most married people agree to be committed to their spouses regardless of whether they are straight, gay or bi.

If you choose to confide your diverse sexual orientation to your close friends, that is your business. But if you do, please remember that once two people know something, there's a strong likelihood of the news spreading faster than the flu.

P.S. If you do decide to divulge, be sure to tell your husband first.


  1. I am not at all certain why this lady suddenly feels the need to tell anyone anything. I could understand if her relationship was falling apart and she was starting over. But otherwise? Why bother? Kinda of a "why rock the boat" mentality I guess. But why?

    1. Apparently my response was too wordy for the comment section. See the next post for my response! :)

  2. I am thinking Dear Abby was probably thinking about all of the other people involved and how this news might impact them. She probably wonders if it would be worth shaking all of those lives up. On the other hand maybe the women needs to come up out in order to live an authentic life. It is a complex situation for sure. I would hesitate to give anyone "advice" on this. I would have likely told the woman to seek out a qualified counselor to help her come to a decision that works best for her and her family. This is certainly a decision the individual would have to make. She would need to be prepared for the reactions that may come. What if her husband feels betrayed or lied to? How would they work through that as a couple? It could be very risky to come out, but also very risky not to. Relationships are hard!

    1. No question that those are important questions that need to be addressed. And that's why Abby was clear that the first person she should discuss it with would be her husband. The forum I mentioned above is run by a licensed counselor, who also runs workshops and provides one-on-one therapy not only in person, but by phone.

      It is hard for any of us to put ourselves into this woman's shoes and understand what she is going through and thinking about and therefore what advice might be best. Tough situation all around. :/ And yes, relationships CAN be hard...