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…

5 years in Scotland: 5 things I’ve learned

In 2014 I moved from New Zealand to Scotland, aged 18. The goal of this move was to be as far away from my high school as I could possibly manage for AT LEAST the next 4 years of my life. I truly believed that this adventure would make me an undeniably fascinating and enigmatic individual both to my friends at home and the new friends waiting for me in Scotland. It has now been five years since I made the move, so here are five things I have learned:

You will always be learning (and that is brilliant!)

When high school wrapped up I already thought I was the most in the know anyone ever could be. Something about surviving high school really makes people cocky little shits for a while. 

In an academic sense, the reality of learning hit hard and fast. I should have known a course called ‘Molecules, Genes, and Cells’ would break me. That was Year 1.

Beyond academia, I was reminded of why my love of learning is central to who I am. I would be devastated if I ever stopped. I firmly believe you could be the world’s leading expert in a topic, and there would still be something new around the corner. It would be boring if things were any other way.

Sunset over bruntsfield links

Keeping people in your life who make you unhappy does more damage than being alone

University in a new country plunged me into the deep end when it came to forming my first new relationships as an adult. I have been all too willing to prostrate myself and accept my role as a doormat. Welcome! Abuse my empathy! I would do so for the meekest of offerings of affection or attention, often swiftly followed with backhanded compliments, rude comments, and abandonment for a ‘cooler’ crowd.

I wasted years on people who never cared. I cared deeply. 

As I grew, I learned where to look for friends who would share my values. I learned to surround myself with people who made me feel safe. I still never felt truly equal in any of my friendships at University, but I felt more whole.

It took 4 of my 5 years, but in August last year, I finally made connections that felt important. I have now met people I will happily pour my heart out to, and I will let them pour their hearts out to me. We would still be okay and I would still feel whole.

Loneliness is hard, but those first friendships were harder.

Princes Street Gardens in sunshine

You don’t have to prove yourself to people who think your taste in music is bad (a.k.a ‘fuck it, listen to one direction’)

It literally doesn’t matter. This person is probably worse than you if they feel the need to voice their opinion about it every. damn. time.

You’re greatest efforts will not always be recognised unless you take time to recognise them yourself

I am still learning not to rely on external validation; I’m beginning to suspect it’s a lifelong struggle. Praise and recognition are delicious. When I begin something new it is usually out of passion, but when I reach a goal, when I achieve something that feels significant, I find myself searching for praise.

It’s natural to want to be noticed when you’ve poured yourself into something. It’s natural to be frustrated if every ounce of effort you had doesn’t produce the result you wanted. But often, people won’t see all that work that went on behind the scenes. People aren’t looking out for what everyone else is up to. People will miss the wonder that is you.

I constantly fail to allow myself to be proud without someone else signing off on it first. Turns out, achievements are valid no matter who is validating it, so why not let yourself be that person.

 

Edinburgh castle in background, fountain and yellow flowers in foreground

Take every opportunity to put positivity out into the universe

Look, I know it’s all going to shit. I would love to say it’s just here in the UK but I keep a close eye on New Zealand Twitter and I have some concerns. I’m definitely not discouraging anyone from calling out the shit; I do it every single day. I am terrified, but ultimately, filled with hope.

We’re dealing with a lot of negativity on a global scale right now, and people are dealing with a lot in their own lives on top of that. I find joy when I bring joy to the table. I tell my friends when I’m proud of them, when my anxiety is okay I offer strangers a helping hand, I share any pictures of puppies I happen to acquire, and I share so many kickstarters on social media (please don’t unfollow me). I don’t manage this all the time, but when I do the impact is often instantaneous. Make a bigger deal out of some of the good things, and maybe it will leave a little less room for the bad.

sunset near george square