Letters Page: January 2000
Bis Coming Out In Later Life
The mainstream increasingly accepts alternative sexualities, especially in the major conurbations, although there is still a long way to go. This has affected mostly the young who now have growing freedom to say it’s ok to be gay, lesbian or bi. Witness the gay scene in cities which appears to be populated totally by under- 30’s.
But what of those who are older? It is easy to forget that not everyone is aged 18 to 26. There are a plethora of resources available for those in that age group. LGBT (though few specifically bisexual) youth groups abound in cities like London, Manchester and Edinburgh, as well as elsewhere.
Whilst applauding the growth of organisations for those coming to terms with their sexuality at a vulnerable early point in their lives, we must not forget those for whom these services are not appropriate because of age, circumstances or both.
The London Bisexual Helpline has noticed a sharp rise in people contacting the line in their 30’s to 60’s who are surprised and disturbed that their sexual orientation seems to be changing from straight to bi or from gay to bi. This evidence has been corroborated by information from other Lesbian and Gay helplines throughout the country, who have also noticed a steep increase in older callers in this situation.
Because of the sea change in society’s attitudes and the increase in positive images of gay and lesbian people, especially in the media, many more older people are beginning to question their own sexuality. Older people may have grown up in a time when even the mention of sex and sexuality was taboo.
Many of those who seek solace from the helplines are in agony over their situation. Many of those who identify as heterosexual are in long term relationships and have family ties and social networks which the revelation that they were bisexual would irrevocably change. They did what society expected of them, they married, raised families and worked hard.
As they grow older they have matured as people and find that although they love and feel sexually attracted to their opposite sex partners, this nagging doubt about their sexuality – which they probably repressed when they were younger – will not go away but gets stronger. They become tormented by the sexual lifestyle they would like to have and the lifestyle that society and their conditioning expects them to have – heterosexual monogamy within marriage. Some people find it impossible to reconcile the two and resort to sexual, emotional and moral infidelities which can torment them with guilt.
This is only a general view. In some specific situations couples may renegotiate their relationships to take account of the bisexuality of one or both of the partners, though anecdotal evidence shows that this appears to be rarer. Because of many people’s ages and upbringing, glossing over their problems and telling them to be out and proud about their bisexuality is in many cases not an option. 45-year-olds being honest about their sexuality may lose partners, children, employment and social networks.
Older bi people may have to think long and hard about their options in relation to their sexuality. Every action they take may have negative consequences for themselves or their families. We as a community cannot say to older bi people “do this” or “do that” in respect of their situations as we could end up advising people to do something that would not suit their own lifestyle.
It takes older people a lot of courage to contact the bisexual community. In many cases the idea of contacting a local bisexual group is terrifying. Fears of being seen and outed as bisexual keep a lot of them away from the bisexual community at first. However, once they finally do make contact with us they find a supportive environment and in the majority of cases make friends which helps them to come to terms with their sexuality.
Wonderful though it is that older bi’s have found a welcome within the community, this has contributed to there being a post-26 age bias within the bisexual community which has caused a problem of perception amongst younger bisexuals that all bisexuals are “old.”
This particular problem will be reduced if local bi groups and national organisations, either working alone or in partnership with other LGB service providers and groups, don’t lump all bisexuals together. Each age group has diverse pressures upon them.
As a community we must make heroic efforts to make sure that we inform ourselves of the varying needs of different age groups and work to facilitate services appropriate for each age group as well as the community as a whole.
London Bi Group
Life after BCN…
Season’s Greetings to the BCN team and the whole community. Having come across a link to the web site and noticed that you’re still going strong, and with my bisexuality ‘being a theme’ for me again over the New Year, I was prompted drop a line to say that I’m doing well and pleased to see you are too! I’m now living half my time in an intentional community of 70 people in Germany where polyamoury is very much in practice. The community’s focus is peacework on a day-today level – on a relationship level. The basis is an observation that military conflicts between nations are directly related to our inability to live peacefully with other people in our day-to-day lives. The people who live or visit this community are living an experiment known to many who live out a responsible non-monogamous lifestyle – how can we rid ourselves of the fear of losing our lover because they also have love towards another. When we live without this fear, then we have removed a lot of the cause of conflict between us and other people. When we have removed this conflict from our lives, then this reduces the need for fear and aggression between the larger bodies of which we are part (tribe, state, nation…). This might sound a little idealistic (it is) but it is very easy to see practical results in terms of the way that the open relationships here work. And then there are ‘even more practical’ examples such as the related project which led to me first visiting here – Balkan Sunflowers. This is a charity founded, among others, by a couple of people here, and organises for international volunteers to go to Kosovo/a and surrounding countries to take part in psychosocial, cultural, artistic and communitybuilding activities – all part of a wider peacebuilding vision. Thus I spend the other half of my time in Albania. (There is no active bisexual movement there! – but I did have a wonderful time dancing with both men and women at an Albanian wedding in a huge – 20 000 people – illegal settlement there …) So, that’s a little update for all the old friends with whom this nomad has too easily lost contact! Once again – all the best for the time ahead
Editor’s note: Krayg was one of the original collective who started BCN. For more information on the projects mentioned above, visit: www.zegg.de or www.balkansunflowers.org
In 1776 the United States of America was formed; in 1976 they celebrated their bicentenary. I was living in the States then and the bicentennial fun extended to yearlong fireworks, or so it seemed to a kid. So what I want to know is, why is this year 2000 hype being called the millennium? It should be the bi-millennium and we should take it over!
Bisexuality and Health
Hi everyone! I’m a medical student doing a small piece of research into the ways being bisexual can affect health and am looking for ideas and volunteers. My plan so far is to speak with members of the bisexual community to find out how things could be improved for them. I’m also going to talk with various health workers, hopefully including lots of doctors, to find out about their views and preconceptions. The aim is to come up with some teaching ideas to go into the undergraduate curriculum and also some information to help doctors and other health workers provide a better service where sexuality is concerned. I am based in Newcastle but am planning trips to Manchester and London. If anyone has anything to offer, please contact me by email on [defunct email address deleted – site admin] or write c/o BCN.