For the first 20 or so years of my life I didn’t realise I was bisexual. I’m not one of those people who knew exactly what they were from when they were children/teenagers onwards but I wasn’t scared or confused by my feelings, I essentially didn’t know that there even a term for who I was/how I felt. I’d spent all my years assuming that how I felt was how everyone felt. Hell, I even spent ages 14 – 21 thinking that being attracted to men as well as women was just a phase. The raging hormones of a sexually frustrated teenage boy! But when I passed 21 and then 22 and then 23 I logically had to stop and think “This clearly isn’t a phase.”
I’d been brought up (by both a family with conservative views and the media) to believe that there was only ever a binary in terms of sexuality. I was either straight or I was gay. That was all you could be. I wasn’t gay, I was attracted to women therefore I could not be gay. Simple. I was also brought up to think that being anything other than heterosexual was wrong. More so with the media and school life. Being a teenage boy in a comprehensive school in the Welsh Valley’s in the late 90’s was pretty much a masculinity contest (with girls being nothing but sex objects) and “gay” being the worst insult you could imagine. Homophobia and violence was shockingly rampant, so no-one wanted to be tarred with that brush.
Many factors didn’t make me question the sexuality binary. I had no friends, relatives, neighbours or family friends that identified as anything other than heterosexual. I grew up in predominantly white, working class areas of Wales and a few RAF bases in England. There was *nothing* around me that made me question the norm that I was presented with, nothing made me consider that I could be anything other than in all the default categories. I was a working class, white, heterosexual male. In the RPG of life I was totally playing life on easy with a default character.
So up until my mid 20’s (I really can’t remember when, most of my 20’s is a blur) if you’d asked me I’d have completely identified as heterosexual. I was in a long term relationship with a heterosexual woman so I didn’t think anything different. I was having all my emotional needs met with this other person, I wasn’t feeling unfulfilled in any way so this whole “also being attracted to men” thing must just be a phase. But as I became less and less obnoxious and opinionated and started listening and questioning things I’d always assumed must be true (as it was in the papers and I’d heard people say them out loud), I was online reading an article about sex and sexuality when I saw the word ‘bisexual’. Not the first time I’d seen or heard it, but the first time I’d actually paid attention and looked at the meaning of the word and what it meant to people. I read it and I realised “Oh hey, I’m bisexual. Now it all makes sense! It’s not a phase, it’s not weird and it perfectly describes how I feel and how I’ve been attracted to people throughout the years. Cool.” And that was it – no hand wringing, no deeper thought, no tremendous weight lifted off my shoulders, just the realisation that I was a bisexual male and always had been. Maybe with better education in school or representation in the media I’d have worked it out sooner.
So now I needed to come out, yeah? People had always been nice and friendly towards me, why would they be any different? Then I began to think about that a bit more. As the world saw me right then I was a straight, white, employed, educated male. Of *course* people didn’t attack me. I was in the safety net of default. I wasn’t in any minorities. I wasn’t different. And you know what was terrifying? Realising that coming out meant I wasn’t in the safety net of ‘default’ anymore. I can’t begin to explain the panic and anxiety that set in when I realised that being out meant I was no longer ‘safe’ from verbal and physical harm. As someone who was once attacked in public by a man literally just because I was stood where I was stood (and then spending several years having anxiety issues about being outside, in crowds and near drunk people) I really didn’t fancy exposing myself to that. I didn’t want to tell my family, friends or work colleagues because I wasn’t 100% sure how they’d react. The way I saw it at the time I was in a relationship with a woman so I just decided to leave it and not tell anyone. It wasn’t a shameful secret, it just didn’t seem relevant or necessary to expose myself like that. It was just easier to leave it the way it was. I didn’t even tell the person I was seeing at the time.
It’s taken a few years but I’m gradually becoming more confident with speaking out and being open about who I am. I’m now in a long term relationship with an openly bisexual woman (with whom I’m very much in love with) and most of my friends know I’m bisexual either through being expressly told or just working it out. So yes, I’m going to do it, I’m going to just write a simple tweet publicly telling everyone and get on with my life. So, being the IT technician I painfully am, I decided to look into coming out online and what being bisexual meant to others. Cue 2 hours of reading blog posts, clicking links and suddenly having an existential crisis about the whole thing. Was I bisexual? Or was I actually pansexual? By saying I’m bisexual am I inherently endorsing transphobia or negating genderqueer people? By saying I’m pansexual am I doing a disservice to other bisexual people? By saying I’m bisexual am I reclaiming the word from the medical community who used it to label people? Does the ‘bi’ come from 2 and enforce gender binary or does it mean ‘more than one’? By changing how I identify to pansexual from bisexual am I performing bisexual erasure?
My brain hurt at this point.
(ed. Note: the word “bisexual” is not transphobic and does not negate nonbinary or genderqueer people, though some falsely believe this to be true – keep an eye out for our pansexuality/bisexuality myth-busting blog post soon! – CE)
It was also upsetting to see that a lot of people have problems with bisexual peopleI could see that people believed all the harmful myths, stereotypes and false assumptions about bisexuals. I won’t list them off here, there’s probably all manner of websites with articles titled “15 myths about bisexuals!” or similar people can find. If I was going to expose myself to abuse from heterosexual people and there was a chance even some queer people might attack me, what the hell should I do? Growing up as I did totally hasn’t prepared me for this. I’ve always been in a majority and had people agree with me but now being in a minority and what seems like being lower in an unspoken sexuality hierarchy as well?! Ugh.
But, if you’re reading this it means I’ve come out. It means I’ve decided that actually, I am bisexual. I need to speak out and be honest about who I am. Rather than having my sexuality exist as a ‘lie by omission’ this is who I am. Rather than be frightened to have people disagree with my identity I’ll accept that it could and probably will happen. I’m changing my life’s difficulty level. If people who know me aren’t cool with it then I’m not cool with them anymore.
I see bisexual erasure happen too often and I don’t like it (Seeing someone in an article be described as “almost straight” is upsetting. Seeing a character be changed from canon bisexual to canon lesbian made my heart sink a bit. And where are the bisexual male characters?). I want it to stop and if I can’t even bring myself to admit publicly that I’m a bisexual male then maybe I’m part of the problem.
I just want to clarify that I completely understand why people don’t come out – I have no problem with that. I’m not saying that everyone should/has to come out. There are countless situations where it’s not safe for someone to do so. I openly recognise I’m in a position of privilege that I can do so, I honestly consider myself quite lucky to be where I am and I feel that I can come out.
LGBT+ Staff Network member
Alys Einion October 16th, 2015
Posted In: Uncategorized
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