This is the first time I have spoken (or rather written) publicly about my sexual orientation. In the grand scheme of things I am fairly early on in my (coming out) journey, but on the other hand, I feel like it has also been a long time coming!
For most of my life I have identified as straight, and have only dated and been in relationships with men. The first time I realised I was attracted to women, it took me by surprise. It was about two years ago. I was on a night out with friends, and I found myself really attracted to a woman who was out that I hadn’t met before. The attraction I felt was the same attraction I had previously only really experienced for men – the kind you feel when you really fancy someone. I remember feeling excited by it, and the next day phoning one of my best friends to tell her about it.
This was the start of my journey! After a year of more of these realisations, but not really knowing what to do with it, and continuing to date men, I plucked up the courage to start dating women at the end of last year.
As the fate of modern dating goes, I switched my Tinder settings to ‘men and women’ and started swiping for both genders. And with that I started navigating my way in to ‘lady dating’ and exploring a side of myself I hadn’t explored before. I found the experience nerve wracking, liberating, and helpful all at the same time. At that stage I hadn’t made it on any dates – but the conversations I was having helped me better figure out what it all meant for me. At that point I identified as bi-curious. Only a few friends knew how I was thinking and feeling at that time.
I then met a guy that I started dating, and had a short relationship with. During this relationship, my attraction to women didn’t go anywhere. When this relationship ended, I knew I wanted, and in many ways needed to further explore my interest in women.
I switched the ridiculous app that is Tinder back on, and changed my settings to women only.
After a few months of dating women, but more importantly chatting to friends, colleagues (I have an unusually supportive bunch of colleagues, given where I work!) and family, I feel confident and happy expressing my full identity and sexual orientation. I actually feel more complete in myself than I’ve ever felt before.
Coming out to friends and family was actually a very scary experience, as in a way it’s part of fully coming out to yourself. I am surprised at how difficult I found it, as I am a very confident, and otherwise self assured person, with a very supportive network of people around me. I feared that (some) friends and family would see me differently, wouldn’t accept me, would question my orientation, and that it might change my relationships. To my relief everyone has been great.
You might be thinking, so how come you don’t identify as lesbian, given you’re only dating women? Well, for me I identify as bisexual as my attraction to others is about people, rather than about gender. I feel that both gender and sexual orientation are far more fluid than the binary (only two options) representations of ‘male’, ‘female’, or ‘straight’, ‘gay’ allow us to express or experience.
At this point in my life I am definitely more interested in relationships with and attracted to women. I am still attracted to men, and I feel that there may well be times when I am more interested in men. Who knows what the future ever really holds?
I understand this can be difficult for people to get their heads around, as we try to understand and define life in very binary and fixed ways. I think an easy way to get your head around it is a phrase a good friend of mine often says – ‘you fancy who you fancy’. For me, that’s it. You fancy who you fancy, and you love who you love. It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.
As my experiences are all relatively fresh (only recently coming out), and I am lucky enough (though it shouldn’t depend on luck!) to have very lovely and accepting people around me in all of the various parts of my life, I don’t have many experiences of bi-phobia.
I have had a friend question me about my bisexuality though, suggesting it somehow isn’t ‘real’, and asking why I felt the need to be public with it, which I found oppressive, and it hurt a little. I’ve also been aware of homophobic attitudes from members of the public when on a date with a woman. For the first time in my life I felt that I might not be safe to show affection in public, which unfortunately is still the stark reality for many LGBT people and young people in Scotland.
I feel its important to speak publicly about my bisexual orientation in the hope that it raises awareness of the wider issues, but most importantly that it inspires other young people to be themselves and express their identity proudly. Unfortunately there is a severe lack of bisexual role models and bisexual identities visible in the media and in public life. Most of the higher profile celebrity role models are often depicted as going through a ‘phase’. This media narrative makes it difficult for people to be accepted as bisexual.
Chatting with a friend the other day, she asked ‘what is the actual beef with bisexuals?’. We laughed, and I said I didn’t know what the beef with bisexuals is, but there definitely is ‘beef’ with bisexuals, and I want to better understand it. I feel that it partly maybe comes back to our need to define and categorise in very binary terms. So, people can deal with ‘gay’ people, and they can deal with ‘straight’ people, but they can’t accept people who would appear by their terms neither gay nor straight. If I am in a relationship with a woman people would likely assume that I’m lesbian. And vice versa, if I’m in a relationship with a man, people would likely assume I’m ‘straight’.
This is a challenge for bisexual identity as it means we are not visible in the main stream, and lost in other lesbian and gay identities. I think in a strange way bisexuality might make it easier for some to accept our sexual orientation, as people can find some strange comfort thinking that you’re not ‘fully’ gay or lesbian. On the other hand, because you’re not seen as ‘fully’ gay, the lesbian and gay community may not accept you as genuine either.
Looking to the future and being part of a society that embraces and accepts diverse sexual orientations and identities as part of life, I think an important step is to move beyond labels. A world where the norm is that we all accept that everyone is different and don’t put pre-supposed judgements or expectations on people’s identities, based on normative experiences.
I saw a great comedy show at the fringe this year, by a bisexual female comedian called Mae Martin (check her out!). Whilst talking about the fluid nature of her sexual orientation she said: rather than use dividing notions of ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’, imagine a future where we are all just ‘humansexual’ and fluid sexual orientations and gender identities are embraced as part of life. I’ll leave you with another thing she said that really stuck with me: ‘You don’t have to be gay, to be gay’.
[This piece was originally written for lgbtyouth.org.uk/bi-vis-stories for Bi-Visibility Day 2015.]