We were introduced by our parents, and as happens with all such introductions, it was awkward and we didn't really get on. Fast forward eight years however, and I can't think of another person who understands me quite like she does. We've had very similar lives - Muslim Bangladeshi parents, the back and forth between home and the other homes, the perennially dynamic existence.
It didn't take me long to figure out that she wouldn't have a problem with my sexuality, whatever it turned out to be. When we were younger, she'd bring up random bi or gay guys she was friends with. I used to wonder if this was a hint, now I'm sure it was! Occasionally she'd actually ask me if I was straight, and justify her questions by saying I didn't act like most straight guys. But just sometimes, this would also be accompanied by some light-hearted teasing. This was without malice of course, but at the time it was enough for me to clamp up completely about my sexuality.
Over the years, the reasons for my silence changed. We both moved to Bangladesh, and re-adjusting to our lives there became the priority. First and foremost, I was wary of discussing my sexuality at all back home - what if someone overheard? And with college during the day and extra tuition after hours, we spent most of our A level years stressed-out and overworked. I didn't have enough time to clear my own mind, let alone come out to someone and deal with the situation. I knew she was in a similarly hectic situation, and I just didn't think she could be there to support me even if she wanted to. Topping it all off was that while I knew she would care, she wasn't the caring, nurturing type. I worried that she would get all awkward trying to fit that persona and I'd rather leave things as they were rather than make the situation worse.
College ended and we went our separate ways for university. She moved to the States while I came to England. We grew up, spread our wings and so on. University, despite its newness, brought back some stability to my life. I started dealing with my issues, as I've written about extensively in my old posts. I dithered about telling her, however, simply because I'd hidden it from her for so long. We were long past the point where I was justified in thinking my sexuality would create any problems within our friendship. Honestly, I just didn't want to face her questions of why I hadn't told her earlier. And, ridiculous as this may sound, a small part of me just didn't want to give her the satisfaction of being even partially right!
Obviously, I did tell her in the end. Unlike the more dramatic conversations I've had with some friends and family, this was more of a "let's get this over with and move on" kind of situation. I told her over Facebook, she got angry that I had hidden it from her for so long. And then we did, in fact, move on. Our friendship hasn't really changed since then. We don't talk about religion quite so much, but we never did because we have different beliefs. Relationship talk now includes guys as well as girls, and sometimes we talk about this blog and the practicality of being openly bi in my situation. And that's about it. But that really is all I need, and what anyone else needs I would have thought: friends who will still just be your friends whatever your sexuality.
When my best friend told me that he was bisexual, I was furious. My outrage was not directed at his sexuality — I have never had a problem with other sexualities and had suspected all this time that he was gay. My response was based on our friendship, which I thought meant that we could trust each other with our insecurities as soon as we began experiencing them. For a good hour or so, I remained hurt and insulted. Then I realized that this really wasn’t about me.
In retrospect, I am glad that he waited to tell me. Between the years that I started teasing him about not being straight and he finally confirmed that he was not, I had grown into a more understanding person. I cringe when I think back to an incident when I loudly demanded to know the truth behind his feelings for one of our mutual male friends in front of the said friend. I had asked in jest and he had taken in good stride, only showing a hint of annoyance, but that doesn’t excuse the reality of how grossly insensitive I had been. Back then, I never quite understood how difficult it is for people of other sexualities to live in a world that mostly considers them to be unnatural because in my eyes they were perfectly normal.
My perspective gradually began to change after I made a close friend in college who was struggling with his homosexuality. I listened to his fears about the future—career prospects, familial pressure and the dreadful feeling that he would never find the right person—and realized that while essentially at the core they were the same as my own, there was an additional dimension to his problems as a result of his sexuality. I finally watched the prejudice he purported to experience come into play when he told my mother, a South Asian woman with minimal exposure to homosexuality, about himself and answered her questions on whether he had a choice and could be cured. Such exposures helped me appreciate that it is a big deal for my best friend to be bisexual even though to me he is still the same person, so it is okay that he needed his own space to figure it out. I do think, however, that he should not have completely sprung his bisexuality out of the blue (although he would disagree because I always had my suspicions after all) but I suspect the distance between us after we moved away for university was understandably somewhat of a factor.
While our best friendship has not changed, I feel like it would have evolved more if we lived in the same country. We would have questioned and challenged each other in a manner that cannot be replicated over slow connection Skype and Facebook chat. For instance, when he visited a few months after telling me he was bisexual, he asked if I would ever date a bisexual guy. I responded with an instant yes without considering the cons until my best friend offered one: wouldn’t I feel more threatened because there was the possibility of my boyfriend wandering off into the arms of another man or woman? Suddenly, I was not so sure anymore. I want to have more difficult conversations like this and I hope that we try to have them to whatever extent possible with the physical distance between us.