Reflections on my time as a visible bisexual

Happy Bisexual Visibility Day! Sorry to bring down the mood, but here’s a slightly melancholy blog looking back at my time as a visible bisexual. I wanted to reflect on how as I’ve become more visibly queer, it feels less and less safe to be so.

There’s a lot of things about my experience as a bisexual I haven’t gone into here; positive things, negative things, complicated things… But why write it all in one blog when I’m sure I have many more Bi Visibility Days ahead of me.

Me sitting on the floor wrapped in a bi pride flag

Coming out

I started coming out as Bisexual when I was about 16 by casually dropping it into conversations with friends. As the number of men on my list of celebrity crushes dwindled and my crush on a girl at school hit the year-long mark it had finally hit me what was going on. At the time it was easy, most of the people I spent time with were incredibly chill and I would guess maybe half of them might even identify as queer now. My boyfriend at the time acted a bit strange about it, but was, in fact, terrible in many regards so this was nothing new. It barely touched my life at all for the rest of high school.

Selfie of me with pink hair in a bun and a bisexual flag painted on my face
I wish I had more pictures of me being super bi from high school, but there are none, so here’s me from the end of Pride this year

University

I arrived at University out and proud. I also arrived at University single, and this made a huge difference to how comfortable I felt in my sexuality. I hadn’t realised it before but I HAD been holding back. I was a queer girl in what appeared to be a heterosexual relationship. Maybe during those last couple of years of high school, the only reason my sexuality had been so entirely inconsequential was that no one ever had to see it. It was all inside of me. Maybe even then some people thought it wasn’t real.

Two things happened at University (Well no, many things happened at University but there are two I want to talk about here). 

Firstly; straight girls started making out with me. For fun, for giggles. I thought I was into it – I wanted to kiss girls so badly that I took every opportunity. It has taken me years to fully unpick what I felt then. I don’t know if those girls thought I didn’t mind because I went around kissing so many people that surely my feelings were never in it anyway? But I hadn’t kissed girls at high school, and the straight girls that played with me at University didn’t know it, but they were chipping away at me bit by bit.

The second thing that happened is people actually saw me as queer. I assume it was the dungarees that did it? I remember when I first kissed a guy I had been into for some time. He said he hadn’t known if I was into guys, or only girls. Suddenly, the victory of making out with this person I had been crushing on so hard was overtaken by the glee I felt at being recognised as queer. I kissed them harder. I remember the first time I was called ‘dyke’. I bubbled with anger but then, relief? This was hate speech. I felt attacked but… they knew! They saw that I was queer. I was in danger because of it, but it was finally being recognised.

Me holding a giant bisexual flag up. I'm wearing a black tank top with rainbows, a pink transparent skirt, sequinned fanny pack, and a rainbow flower crown
Edinburgh Pride 2019

Now

I am increasingly discovering how to be truly comfortable with myself. Many of the changes I make mean I am more visibly queer. I have never been so afraid. When I am out alone or with queer friends I have begun to feel scared again in a way I’m not even sure I ever did. I’m scared of what will happen at pride. I’m scared when I wear my gay t-shirts that someone will verbally or even physically attack me. I still have a vivid memory of the terror that gripped me when I boarded my bus the day after the news about the attack on two women on a bus in London.

I face conflict every day as a bisexual person. I face internal conflict about labels, visibility, and how my evolving gender fits in with my sexuality. I face conflict with people who still think I fake it to be interesting. I face conflict with people who believe that because my current partner is a man I’ve somehow lost my queer identity. All of these things are fucking hard. 

But nothing has ever been so hard as trying to exist visibly in a world that often wants to see me and my queer community gone. We’re supposed to be moving forward. I feel certain now that we are not.

I am proud of my identity. I am proud of every single bisexual person who celebrates their visibility today. But I also understand every single one of us who doesn’t want to celebrate, doesn’t want to stand out and proud right now.

 

The world should be safe for queer people, and yet…

An absolutely remarkable thing

Hank Green has been in my life since I was about 12 years old. Typing that out has just made me realise that is 10 YEARS of my life which I’ll react properly to some other time. I have complex feelings about the Green brothers at this time in my life, but the fact remains that I care about the things Hank Green creates.

I was especially interested in this book. I truly had no idea if Hank Green would be able to write something I would enjoy, regardless of his ability to create content I enjoy in other media. I’ve never thought of him as a fiction writer, he was the ‘science’ brother and I think that’s why he was my favourite Vlogbrother for so long – I fell more on the science geek side of things.

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The book had endless positive feedback from everyone I followed online with an advanced copy. I still didn’t entirely feel I could trust them (I know I would struggle to criticise Hank) and I wasn’t entirely convinced when the book arrived. I had, of course, pre-ordered it despite all this doubt – like I said, Hank Green has held such a long-term place in my life, I care.

I wasn’t even entirely convinced after one or two chapters. It took me a little while longer to get into the story than I expected. I had recently read the miseducation of Cameron Post (blog coming soon?) and I had barely been able to put that down once I got it.

By the end of an absolutely remarkable thing I had teared up and had a little swell of joy in my chest as I read the acknowledgments. So in the end, I liked it. I did actually really like it – I’ll admit books with a bisexual lead get an immediate bonus 50 points from me (I’m biased as heck), but it wasn’t the only thing that I loved.

I do think the story was great, it was interesting and thoughtful. Eventually, I did hit a point where I did not put the book down again until I had finished. Hank names a lot of people in the acknowledgments who helped him write the story of someone who had different life experiences to him – and it showed. I was so pleasantly surprised by how he wrote a bisexual woman, and how he tried to make sure there was some diversity explicitly included. It’s still a book by a white, well-off, dude – but it helps a little.

Something which Hank is likely unique positioned to write about, which I found interesting in a way almost unrelated to the story, was the tale of becoming popular online running alongside the events in the book. It feels like it’s getting popular at the moment to have stories featuring vloggers and influencers – an absolutely remarkable thing felt like a more legitimate version of this story than some of the others I’ve encountered. I wonder how many of the comments about April’s relationship with her viewers and her celebrity status stemmed directly from Hank’s experience. Even as someone without a following I recognised the desire for attention April regularly admits to.

Ultimately, I liked this book, it’s not right at the top of my ‘favourites’ list, but it made me really happy. It snuck in ideas about the human condition without being too aggressive about it, and honestly, the story was just really fun – you want to know what happens, you want to solve the mystery that is Carl. I’ll definitely read the sequel – I’m dying to know more.

 

 

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Next blog coming soon!

Allie

 

Is it blasphemy to dog-ear your books?

I might be about to alienate quite a large number of my fellow book lovers.

I like dog-earing books.

Now quickly, before you all yell at me, I’m not always doing it. I like having nice bookmarks, with stunning images or lovely book quotes. But sometimes you don’t have one at hand, and folding down the corner is just…not that bad. Like, obviously I’m not going to do it to a library book, or a borrowed book. But with my own books? I enjoy giving them some character.

Recently an event called ‘BookTube-A-Thon’ happened, I wasn’t too involved (because I’m working full time and was in a different time zone and it’s all too complicated) but I liked keeping an eye on what was going on. One of the polls they posted to their twitter was about marginalia. Did we approve of it? Or must books be left untouched? I was surprised at the proportion of responses that opposed it. I don’t write in my books often, but I find my heart lifts a little when a book I pick up from a second hand store has a message inside. No, it wasn’t put there for me to read, but it’s entered my life anyway, and it gives me just a hint of a look into the life that had this book before me.

To me, a book in its original state is far less charming than those with marks and creases throughout their pages. I see my copy of ‘Time Stops for no mouse’ and I see the ratty corner, where I accidentally let it dip into the bath while I was reading. I see the extraordinarily creased cover, and ridiculous number of folded corners in ‘Un Lun Dun’ and consider every moment it has got me through, and how I love it still. Those books of mine that sit perfectly, as though they were untouched since purchase, give me little joy in comparison. I’m sure I loved them, when I read them, but there is nothing to that book that lights a spark in my memory. Without a dog eared page, or a note to google something, the place of that book in my life is not so easily remembered.

And I see why people like to keep their books pristine. For one thing, explaining your book is messed up because you dropped it in a bath is not the best way to impress people. Also picking up a fresh, new book can have its own sense of satisfaction in it. Maybe it has a beautiful cover you want to preserve, or it’s a special edition. I wouldn’t want to cast judgement on how someone else looks after their books, because we all show love in a different way. But to me, a well-loved book shows it has been loved.

It’s like my blanket as a child (named Mussy, because it was made of muslin). By the time I grew out of mussy (far later than I should have) he was a mere few scraps of muslin sewed into a newer piece. I had cuddled that blanket almost every night for ears and years of my life. Of course it fell apart. That blanket dealt with a lot of my emotional turmoil. Books are the same to me. They’ve always been there for me, even when people in the real world couldn’t be. I like to remember that when I look at them. And I like to think when I pass my books on to someone else (not that I’m very good at letting go) they will see a folded page, a scribbled note, a wee message from my grandma, and they will know that this book was something special to someone.

Oh and I also bend the spine back too far a lot… it’s just more comfortable to read it that way!
Let me know if you like writing in your books, or leaving a trace of yourself in it’s pages, I’d love to hear other opinions and why you feel that way…
Allie