Coming to understand your sexual orientation and gender identity, can be seen as a gradual process or journey. Typically, this realisation can be coined as “Coming out”. We will use “Coming out” as an umbrella term on this page, but you do not need to name the process for yourself if you don’t want to. You may find this glossary of terms helpful in familiarising yourself with some of the language that is used within this resource and other LGBT+ resources.
Many people experience attraction to more than one gender. Often called bisexual, others choose labels such as pansexual, fluid or queer. Some people may choose more than one label. In this guide, we use the umbrella term” bisexual+” or “bi+” to encompass all these non-monosexual identities.
Bisexuality+ doesn’t always look the same for everyone, and bi+ people may experience varying degrees of sexual and/or romantic attraction to different genders. We acknowledge this and though we use terms under the “bi+” umbrella this does not mean that we think all people who identify with one of these more specific terms will see themselves as being ‘bisexual+’ or ‘bi+’.
If you identify with one or more label(s), you are not stuck with that label(s) forever. As we grow our understanding of ourselves grows and develops too, and we may find that a certain label(s) doesn’t fit us as they used to.
Regardless of how you identify your sexuality, Student Services are here to support you. Statistically the largest population in the LGBT+ community identify as bisexual+. Research shows that people who identify as bisexual+ are the least likely to seek support. Student Services would encourage ALL students to approach us for support, whatever your concern.
Coming out is different for every person. For bisexual+ people, coming out can present some unique challenges. Though similar in experience of telling friends and family about your identity, there are differences between coming out as lesbian and gay and coming out as bi+. This webpage aims to support individuals who are considering coming out as bi+, however you may also want to refer to our guide on coming out for further support.
Coming out/talking about your gender identity
For bi+ people, coming out can be challenging due to scepticism and stereotypes about their sexuality. Bi+ people can face biphobia and/or bi erasure both from heterosexual and cisgender people, as well as from people in the LGBTQ+ community, and can be invisible even within their own community.
Although bi+ people make up a majority of the LGBTQ+ community, it can be difficult to share their identity. People can make assumptions or try to assign labels to bi+ people based on the gender of their past or current partner(s), and often bi+ people find themselves in the position of repeatedly coming out to correct those assumptions.
There is no right way to come out
Whilst at university, you may have space to explore your own sexual orientation and gender identity, which can be positive. However, you may also worry about how your friends, family and university may respond. Telling people about your sexual orientation or gender identity can feel daunting.
Don't feel under pressure to come out, take your time with it
When considering sharing your sexual orientation and gender identity, do it in your own time and only when you are ready. Some people have groups of friends that know and others that don’t. It is really important to do what feels right for you. You don’t have to come out to people if you don’t want to. You might choose to only come out to yourself or talk about it with a support service and not tell anyone else.
You may have already told someone about your sexual orientation and gender identity or be in a relationship and are questioning your thoughts and feelings around this. It is okay if you do not know how to define yourself or your identity. For some people, sexuality is fluid and may change over time or switch back and forth as you progress on your journey. Don’t feel rushed into choosing a description that you are not comfortable with. Allow yourself time to explore and find the sexual orientation and gender identity that feels right for you.
Seeking support and telling someone
People may vary in their knowledge of bi+ people, even those in the LGBTQ+ community who are not bi+. Some people may already know a lot about bi+ identities, some may have misconceptions, and others may not know what those words mean. It can be helpful to provide some resources to help family and friends understand and learn.
Sometimes telling people about your gender identity is not necessarily a onetime thing and you may need support at various points of your journey. If this is the case, please do approach the supportive groups listed below.
Maybe you have come to terms with your gender identity, or you’re still thinking about it. Either way, it can helpful to talk to someone rather than coping on your own. If you do decide to come out, but are unsure how others might react, making contact with a LGBTQ+ student group or trans group at university or another local supportive group might be helpful.
- the SU LGBT+ student group
- Off The Record which is local to Bath
- the GIRES website has supportive information
- the SU advice team
- Doctoral students are able to join the staff LGBT+ group Kaleidoscope
The Wellbeing Service offer confidential appointments. This can be a safe space to talk about your feelings, explore your orientation or identity in the knowledge that the advisor will not pass any of the information on to your tutors, lecturers, parents etc.
Many people worry about how their friends will react when they come out. Friends might be surprised, have lots of questions, not know how to react, and some may have even guessed already. It can be a good idea to choose one friend who you think will be supportive and who you trust to confide in. Before you have the conversation try to think about some questions your friend might have and how you might answer them.
If a friend doesn’t react how you would wish them to, they might just need some time to process what you’ve told them. It may not be how they feel overall in the long run. The chances are, if you choose a friend you trust and know well, they’ll be happy you chose to confide and were able to share something personal with them.
As with your friends there is no one way to tell your family. Being away at university can provide you time to consider your options and think about how you would like to them. You might choose to tell them face to face. Another option could be to write a letter or to email them. As with your friends it can take time for them to take in the information, so their first reaction may not be how they feel forever. This can be a particularly emotional time even when family respond positively. Talking to supportive services/groups about how you are feeling about telling family members can be really helpful.
Many families will be highly supportive of you. If this is not the case for you, please come and talk to us. In some cases, a formal estrangement might be in place and this could entitle you to additional support and funding.
One reason that bi+ people may not disclose being bi+ is the fear of how partner(s) will react. Realising you are bi+ might happen when you have a partner who has always known you as monosexual. Before disclosing to a partner, it’s important to remember that they may need time to process how they are feeling. Your partner(s) may have concerns if they are “enough” for you after you come out as bi+ or might not understand that your sexuality can still include them. Some people may believe that bisexual+ monogamy is not possible, and that's not the case. Being Bisexual+ does not necessarily mean a change in your approach to monogamy or your commitment to you partner. You can reassure your partner that this does not change the nature of your relationship.
It is important to remember that in some cases relationships may end after you come out. This does not mean anything is wrong with you or your sexuality. Although this can be a difficult situation to deal with, your sexual orientation will always be valid.
Discrimination and harassment
Sadly, we know that some people can experience discrimination as a result of coming out. If this does happen, please know that you can talk to the Wellbeing Service. We will listen and you will be believed.
You can also report hate crime and harassment via our Support and Report tool.
Being from a BAME community can sometimes make it more complicated to come out. Here are a few resources that might be helpful:
Faith and sexuality
For some people of faith exploring your sexuality or gender identity may be difficult. Here are some resources and places where you can talk in confidence:
- University Chaplaincy
- Support for Gender, Sexuality and Islam
- “I’m Muslim and I might not be straight”
- Muslims for Progressive Values
- LGBT friendly church in Bath
The Wellbeing Service can listen and support you to find specific help.
Student Services also welcomes suggestions for other support agencies that we might not be aware of.
Other supportive services:
- careers advice for LGBT+ students
- therapy through our Therapeutic Services and Mental Health service
A word about Conversion therapy: In the UK, all major counselling and psychotherapy bodies, as well as the NHS, concluded that conversion therapy is dangerous and have condemned it by signing a Memorandum of Understanding to say that they will not provide it. University of Bath therapists are registered to professional bodies that adhere to this.
Key things to remember:
- your partner(s) do not define your sexuality
- remember that your dating history does not invalidate your sexuality
- take your time
- people’s experiences differ
- there is no right way
- remember you can talk to supportive services – who are confidential and non-judgemental
5 Bisexual People Explain What "Bisexual" Means To Them (video)