PRIDE began with a protest. A celebration of acts of courage.
With it being PRIDE month and the Stonewall Riot’s 50th Anniversary, I thought I would deploy my own little act of bravery. It’s thanks to heroines such as Marsha ‘Pay it No Mind’ Johnson (you’ll find awesome documentaries about her on You Tube – she is the absolute salt and glitter of the earth) that we even have something to celebrate.
These days, you know it’s time to celebrate PRIDE when supermarkets and products don rainbow logos and proclaim themselves in support of the LGBTQA+ community. It’s easy to forget that PRIDE started as a protest. In the 1960s and 70s, homosexuals were ‘scheduled for non-existence’.
This wasn’t so long ago; in my mother’s lifetime. And we know that some people still hold these views. They want LGBT people to cease to exist or to keep their proclivities to themselves and not ‘rub people’s noses’ in it.
Because of deeply ingrained social attitudes like this, I too used to subscribe to this notion of not being ‘too obvious’. I feared the risk of being defined by my sexuality – and, of course, it’s nobody else’s business. If I’m honest (and if you can’t be honest with strangers on the internet, then who can you be honest with?) I was – and still am – afraid.
I’ve been afraid that people would judge me. Be disgusted. Think that my bisexuality is a fad, or that I’m trying to ‘edgy’ or ‘cool’. I even had reservations about writing this blog. I don’t worry so much about people thinking I’m a closeted lesbian now, because I think my lifestyle speaks for itself. But I am deathly afraid of people judging my partner or my family.
What no-one tells you is you don’t just come out once. That there’s this big moment, the violin’s swell (or whatever violins do) of “mum…dad…I have something to tell you…” and then BOOM. You are out! In a world of rainbows and self-acceptance!
It’s not exactly like that. Because you have to come out again and again and again, possibly for the rest of your life, every time you meet new people. And you often get asked the same questions. So I thought I’d answer them here for you:-
When did you first know you were bisexual?
That’s a kind of complicated question. It can be hard to discern between teenage curiosity and deep-rooted feelings.
There was a time in the early noughties where a lot of girls described themselves as bi. They were almost all part of the mosher/goth scene (which I lingered on the fringes of, not being cool enough to go any further). As Maya Angelou says, if someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. It must have felt wonderful and freeing, and no doubt must have taken a lot of courage, for all those girls to openly speak of being bi. In contrast, I have literally heard male bisexuality – which was much less open in my circles at that time – described in very rare and discrete circumstances, often with the aid of Dutch courage, as “I’m gay and I haven’t dealt with it yet”, which is remarkably unfair.
My parents had also told me there was no such thing as bisexuality. You were either gay or straight and that was it. But I knew I was attracted to girls, so I must be lesbian, right? I thought I was for a bit and even came out as one as few times. But it never quite sat right, much like the goth clothes. Isn’t puberty fun?
I flip flopped for a while. Subsequently a few of my mums’ friends have come out as bisexual in recent years. She has a good handle on it now that it’s more prevalent in her life experience, and has been nothing but supportive. Which leads me to my next question.
How did your parents take it?
In my late teens I described myself as ‘straight with a twist’. It wasn’t until my early to mid-twenties that I went to gay bars. They weren’t seductively lit clubs filled with women who looked like models (wah! The L Word lied to me!). But they are so much fun and even today I would rather have a night out in a gay bar than a ‘straight’ one.
I started dating girls, instead of having a few drunken kisses. Being close to my mum, I kept her informed about these developments. Including when I had a date with a guy and a girl in the same week; she was perplexed. But, always in my corner, when she went on holiday to Spain, she brought me back a rainbow top and necklace she’d got in a PRIDE shop with the help of “a nice man in leather trousers”.
However, when I informed her of my lesbian relationship, she said “I’m not telling your gran”. We are a close family and to say that I was scared to tell my grandparents would be an understatement; I was literally having nightmares. My grandparents are very liberal, particularly for being in their 80’s and living in a small Scottish village for most of their lives. I did not want to seem ashamed of my relationship, but my fear won out.
One Sunday I was sitting at my grandparents’ dinner table having our weekly dinner. We were discussing a family wedding and my gran said; “your aunt says if you want to bring a boyfriend – or a girlfriend – you are more than welcome”. I was surprised at the openness and acceptance of it and checked with my mum, and she had indeed told my gran and aunt. And that was it. I thanked my gran for being so cool with it and she just said ‘as long as I was happy’. And both her and my grampa welcomed my (now) ex with open arms.
My dad was surprisingly unsurprised. He said he’d suspected it, as “you are a very attractive woman and there weren’t as many men around as I thought there would be”. And that was that.
Do you prefer guys or girls?
Ah, the classic question. I get this a lot. Mostly from other women. I am just speaking for myself, but I say there is no preference. For me it’s mainly about personality and I find the same qualities attractive in a man as I do in a woman.
One thing that annoys me about a popular view of bisexuality can be clearly illustrated with these two quotes.
The first is from Andre Aciman’s novel (amazing read by the way!) Call Me by Your Name in which the male protagonist has sex with his girlfriend and then his male lover in the same day. He does not feel guilty about this, saying ‘one can’t compare butchers to bakers’.
The next quote is from Glee when a cheerleader is justifying her affair with another cheerleader: “It’s not cheating because the plumbing is different”.
I think this somewhat degrades homosexual relationships. It’s intimating that if people are the same gender, it doesn’t count. It feeds into the archaic paradigm that homosexual relationships aren’t as worthy or pure as heterosexual relationships. Lesbians don’t have ‘real sex’, two men having sex is ‘dirty’… that kind of thing. I would never want anyone I was with to feel like my dirty little secret.
This is just my experience, though. Maybe other bisexual people do have a preference.
Have you ever encountered homo/bi phobia?
Nothing serious or abusive, thank goodness. Mostly men thinking that it automatically means I want a threesome or wanting to ‘watch’ or asking very personal questions. People saying but you are so pretty/thin? Why? You’d have no problem finding a man! Heard through friends about other friends saying they didn’t think there is such a thing as bisexuality. Which is fine, I’m kind of past caring about that now. If you don’t believe in bisexuality, fine. It doesn’t really affect me. It’s funny how some people still treat bisexuality as this new ‘fad’ when it is has been around for literally thousands of years and there are so, so many famous historical bisexuals (Virginia Woolf, Frida Kahlo, Oscar Wilde and Lord Byron).
There is also much controversy about bisexuals being treated like outcasts in the gay community, or referred to as ‘dabblers’. I have never personally experienced this.
You must have had a lot of sexual partners?
The classic image of the bisexual is ‘oversexed’, going for anything that moves. For me? Not even a little bit! I have heard a few people say they couldn’t be with a bisexual partner because you’d never feel secure. I think if someone is going to cheat on you they are going to cheat on you – it doesn’t matter whether they are bisexual or not. I have never cheated on a partner.
I really hope I have the courage to post this. I want to honour the patron saints of Stonewall and LGBTQA+ people of centuries gone by who fought for us to life our lives openly without shame. In my small way I want to say I am proud.