Becoming a mother motivated me to come out

A writer shares how motherhood inspired her to open up about being bisexual. (Illustration by Aisha Yousaf)
A writer shares how motherhood inspired her to open up about being bisexual. (Illustration by Aisha Yousaf)

When my daughter was a toddler, right before the pandemic, I’d take her to all the nearby library storytimes. It was already clear she was an extrovert, and there was only so much socializing I, an inward-facing person, could provide. She’d bobble around, holding hands with children she’d just met, patting them on the head while I sat cross-legged in the back, observing the other adults. Many of them were nannies, but I could spot my fellow new mothers by their haggard ponytails, the smears on their ill-fitting jeans. Once, there was a queer couple, leaning together, fingers interlaced as they cooed over their child. They reminded me, just for a moment, of who I once was. I looked away and paid closer attention to the story being read, with its saccharine message to "just be yourself." I thought I was being myself, embracing my goofiness and gamut of weaknesses for my daughter’s benefit. But suddenly I wasn’t so sure.

I’d entered my 30s having achieved many of the goals I’d set for myself. I’d traveled extensively after college, I’d pursued a creative career, I’d married a kind and passionate person and now I’d had a baby. I thought I’d achieved it all. But a part of myself that’d long been buried, that was supposed to be obsolete, was only growing louder.

As a kid, I’d known I was different. I often found Disney princesses as alluring as their counterparts and I fantasized about both Jack and Rose after viewing Titanic. But I grew up in a Christian household that quietly yet firmly disapproved. My parents weren’t overt in their objection, but the message was still clear. Heteronormative relationships and beliefs were centered. Through socialization, I learned to keep that part of myself carefully shrouded.

In college, I became a little more brazen, though I still didn’t refer to myself as bisexual. The only celebrity I knew of who claimed the title at the time was Lady Gaga, and I didn’t relate to a woman draping herself in raw meat. I quietly dated a couple of women like me: closeted and lacking the vocabulary to understand our feelings. Each experience left me confused and ashamed.

By the time I graduated and worked abroad, I encountered an exuberant, highly communicative man with whom I joyfully fell in love with and assumed, with relief, that the woman-loving part of my life had been a fluke. I thought it was over, and for a long time it was. But then I had a baby.

I was determined to raise my daughter in an open-minded environment, where curiosity and mistakes were met with support rather than judgment. Unlike my childhood experience, I wanted her to know she could explore identities, that she can take her time figuring out who she really is, and that when she does, she’ll be met with the same love as before. Together, we read picture books that encouraged her to embrace her differences, insisting she can be anything she wanted, and these messages seeped into my psyche. I began to realize my hypocrisy: I was pushing my daughter to live out loud in a way I never had. I couldn’t expect her to live authentically if I wasn’t doing the same.

As a married 34-year-old mother, I finally came out as queer.

The pandemic was raging, so I was able to take the easy way out, and accomplish the deed swiftly over social media. I posted a photo of myself, arms splayed above my head, with the text: “Hi! I'm bi! It's just another cool part of who I am!” Doing so wasn’t easy, and it strained relationships with several extended family members. But immediately, I encountered peace I’d never experienced, and felt renewed confidence as I navigated the world. I brought a new resilience and acuity to my parenting partnership with my husband, and felt fully comfortable in my role as mother, like a pair of perfect jeans that were finally worn in.

My daughter is in kindergarten now, and still makes friends with ease, navigating a room like a talk show host. I’m discovering I’m not so different, after all. It turns out I’m not such an introvert after embracing my full self. It’s much simpler to be who I am when I’m not carefully guarding an integral component. When my daughter encounters instances of bullying or prejudice at school, I come armed not just with books, though they help of course, but with personal experience in navigating a world in which I wasn’t sure I belonged.

Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life's newsletter. Sign up here.