My story: Being a bisexual black man

Terrence Tlali* (28) shares his experience of being a bisexual black man in modern South Africa

I’ve always known that I was attracted to guys, but I never acted on it. So I spent most of my life dating women exclusively.

That yearning for guys was always there, but I could never pursue it, until I went through a very bad break-up with a girlfriend I was seeing at the time. This made me realise that perhaps it was time I explored that side of myself.

One of the biggest reasons I was afraid to act on my feelings towards guys was because I was scared of what my family would say and do. I come from a very traditional family and I have a twin brother who’s straight. I felt I’d always be compared to him – I didn’t want people to wonder what went wrong with me.

I’ve come out partially: the only people in my family who know are my twin brother and my mother. I’ve also come out to most of my friends. I didn’t plan to come out, but one day I woke up and felt so sick of hiding, of having to lie to my friends, having to lie to my family – especially my mother and my brother.

The hardest thing I had to face after coming out was the number of friends I lost. I lost friends who I’d gone to university with, even people I grew up with – they literally stopped talking to me for the sole reason that I was no longer “straight” in their eyes.

But I have no regrets, because the relief of having been able to explore the other side of my bisexuality, and being able to be open about it, far outweighed the pain of yearning for something but never being able to explore it just because of what people would say.

When I came out to my mother, I was shocked that she wasn’t as surprised as I’d expected her to be. She told me that at the end of the day this was my life and she wasn’t going to dictate how I live it, as long as I was happy and being true to myself. My twin brother told me he’d always known but that he’d been waiting for me to tell him – he’s been very supportive in this journey.

It’s been two years since I started dating guys and I’m still trying to discover exactly who I am within this bisexual space. There are times when I’m so attracted to women; then there are times when I’m equally attracted to guys. So I won’t lie: everyday is a conflict of trying to know where I fall, but that’s why I think “bisexual” is such an apt term, because that’s exactly what it is.

People are often negative about someone who identifies as bisexual. We’re often told to just “pick one”. But being bisexual doesn’t imply that when I’m in a relationship with a man, I’m nurturing another with a woman at the same time – I can and do remain faithful to one person. But if I come out of that relationship, I don’t know whether my next one will be with a man or woman because I’m attracted to both. But I won’t cheat on one gender with the other just because “I want the best of both worlds” as many people like to put it.

Having said this, I admit that people’s views can sometimes be heartbreaking.

I haven’t regretted coming out as bisexual and beginning the journey of living my truth. I feel I did the right thing; I’m happy with my decision and I’m taking each day as it comes.

*Name has been changed