Wednesday, August 02, 2017
A Coming Out Post
Let me just give it to you straight: I'm bisexual. I am interested in both men and women sexually and romantically.
And it took me 33 long years to figure that out about myself. I'm 35 now and I worked it out last year and I have told some people in my life. But I'd never really considered shouting about it publicly like this. Only I started to think ... why did it take me so long to realise this aspect of my identity? And I also thought perhaps there are other people like me? I don't want to make a big thing of it, not really. But I also just wanted to be a little bit more open on this blog and on spaces where I feel comfortable to acknowledge this. To celebrate it even.
I can't remember when it was. But sometime on Twitter ages ago a friend of mine tweeted something along the lines of realising as an adult that they were bisexual. I sent a DM to acknowledge the tweet and to say Hey! Me too! but then didn't really think much of it until recently. (Except I did think then, as I've often thought, other people are so much more braver than I am about speaking loudly and proudly about themselves and their experiences.)
In some ways I feel like kicking myself. For being oblivious for so long, for not figuring it out even though all the signs pointed in the same direction. But it's hard, you know?
When I think back on my life and about all the reasons I might not have realised until I was in my 30s, I came across two important things. The first is that my dad was a major influence in my life. He had some amazing qualities and attributes. But he also didn't. One of the more negative aspects of my dad and the way he raised me is that he was homophobic. He'd make lots of comments growing up relating these homophobic views and what I've realised now is that I'd internalised his homophobia. Without even being aware of it. His comments and general attitude towards the LGBT community made me bury my feelings and even experiences for a very long time.
My first sexual experience was with another girl as a teenager. It's not something that I think I've ever spoken about to anybody except the girl it happened with and not even that much with her. I'd always just forgotten that it had happened or didn't count it, not even in my own head. I also look back now and with this new perspective realise that some (but not all!) of those intense female friendships I had growing up were so intense, on my part at least, partially because feelings were involved. The one that sticks in my head is the female friendship that ended because I was acting like a jealous, needy girlfriend without actually being her girlfriend and then emotionally falling apart like we'd broken up afterwards.
I remember working in a bookstore when Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan was first published and a friend and colleague being really excited about it and me being very much not as excited. That's such a hard thing to admit. I judge myself for that. It was a turning point though. Because I realised at that point how close-minded I was, how I shouldn't have had the reaction that I did towards this book or towards the idea of more LGBT story lines in books. I realised then that I didn't want to be someone who hated others for their sexuality. I ended up reading Boy Meets Boy specifically in order to prove a point to myself. And it's an adorable book. I won't tell you that things changed overnight, of course they didn't. But I can tell you wholeheartedly that my own views have changed drastically since the publication of Boy Meets Boy. I didn't realise then that what I really hated was this aspect of my own self.
As time went on, I became more supportive of LGBT issues. It was a gradual process. Nobody's perfect, right? And I was working against decades of ingrained hatred. Which is why it took so long to get to where I am today.
But another issue, for sure, is that there was a huge lack of bisexual role models in my life (not to mention gay role models, lesbian role models, trans role models, asexual role models etc. But I'm going to focus on bisexual role models for the rest of this post). As a child, as a teenager, as an adult. I can only think of a small handful of characters in TV programmes or movies. A smaller number of bisexual characters in the books I'd read. I remember the first time a bisexual character actually had an impact on me personally. And that's when I read Far From You by Tess Sharpe. I read that book and raved about it. I still rave about it. In hindsight I can see that it was really the first book that got to me. Far From You was the first book I read where I really identified with the main character's bisexuality (even if I wasn't actually ready then to identify with it). Another turning point. That book was published what? three years ago? And here I am just getting to that point where I'm ready.
But I often think ... what if someone like Sophie came to me earlier in life? What if I'd met her when I was 14 right after my same-sex sexual experience? What if I had people in my life that said 'It's okay to be you, it's okay to be bisexual' ? What if I'd had that representation I so desperately would have wanted or needed? How different would my life be? I guess it doesn't matter. I can't change the way things happened in my own life. But I hope desperately that it can be different in other people's lives. That young people now can experience acceptance, can experience celebration of all sexualities and can really see themselves, however they are, represented in in all forms of entertainment. Let it be so.