Sharing Makeup Brushes: On Coming Out as Bi and Femme

This month's columnist explores coming out as bi and femme to their high school sweetheart

Feature by Stephen Butchard | 12 Feb 2019
  • Clubbing Highlights

We never intended to become sickly high school sweethearts. It just sort of happened. I asked her out after her birthday party, where we’d spent all night talking about Sigur Rós and our favourite books. That summer was made up of study sessions cut in half by make-out sessions, late night films – “you’ve never seen Lost in Translation?!” – also cut in half by make-out sessions. The next year was made up of constant train journeys between the Highlands and Glasgow. I’d just moved to university. Lindsey had a year of school to go. We had decided to just see how it goes, not put any pressure on us as long distance. But nothing changed. We never argued. It just worked. 

Five years later, we’re still best friends, and we share everything with each other. She told me about the cunts that made her early school years hell. I came out as bi to her two weeks in. She was the first person I talked to about gender dysphoria. She told me it was OK to be non-binary. Now, she helps me with my makeup and holds me when I’m having a bad day. We’re as stable as ever. If it were just us, my queerness wouldn’t be a worry.

Being visibly queer is more complicated than that. It tempts family, friends, colleagues and strangers to weigh in on the legitimacy of your love, to ask prying questions, some of which don’t come from a caring place.  We had experienced this in miniature when I came out as bi casually to a few work friends, and I was hit with a bunch of ugly responses. “Does Lindsey not mind that?” “So are you sure you’re not gay?” I’ll leave the slurs out of this piece.

Presenting as femme has put even more pressure on how people view us. Before, with the safety of being a straight, cis-passing couple, we were the boring long-term couple, and that fit us just fine. Ruining that for us is something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. Life will likely be just that little bit harder in the spotlight. 

So why be visible? In short, it’s because it’s me, the me that Lindsey sees behind closed doors, and not expressing that is more draining than the alternative. And over time, family are beginning to understand, to see us again as the sickly high school sweethearts, sharing everything, including our makeup brushes.