“Here’s the thing…”
So, I am bisexual.
The social framework I grew up in didn’t allow for this. So despite both men and women featuring in my fantasies for as long as I have been sexually active, I began convincing myself early on that I was only really attracted to women. “Oh it’s not the same as being bi, because I’ve never been attracted to another man”, I would say to myself.
When I think back to my early to mid teens I can recall night-time infatuations with guys my age that in reality weren’t anymore perplexing than the ones I was discovering about members of the opposite sex. I wrote these off as a novelty, as a secret thing that only I would know – though I did share elements with partners at times, albeit weighed down with protective caveats.
The more I enjoyed these alternative inner experiences, the more I felt shame in the stark light of day. The more baggage I began to carry around with me. I knew I felt guilty about my sexual attraction to other men, but I detached this from my conscious thought processes. The anxiety and at times depression made themselves real, but I wasn’t gay, so conscious me made my sexual complexities personally unimportant.
On reflection, I began attracted to both men and women. I want to say that my preference leant towards women and I think that’s likely, but I’m sad that I can never be sure. As a teenager, in my social circles, to be gay was negative. Homosexuality was funny or something to be thrown at others as an insult. I didn’t, but I also didn’t like having it thrown at me. I’ve always been overly sensitive, but the questioning of my sexuality persistently provoked one of the biggest reactions. As a grown man in his thirties I think I now know why. These days I shudder to think about the frequency with which we used the word ‘gay’ as a negative marker.
What do you think of ‘Babylon 5’? “Well gay!”
Friend won’t let you borrow their pencil sharpener in class? “Mate, don’t be gay!”
Buffy’s cancelled tonight for coverage of the snooker? “That’s so gay!”
Being gay was a bad thing. No wonder I felt (and sometimes still do) like a fraud. Being attracted to men and the accompanying denial that went with it was privately taking up a solid portion of my waking (and sleeping) life and my experiences were teaching me that this was not okay.
In the last year, I have come out to two close friends as bisexual. My wife already knew, but she has witnessed my emotional growth surrounding the matter beginning before we even started dating. The term “bisexual” didn’t use to apply to me. “Coming out” didn’t use to apply to me. “Pride”, “LGBT”, “community”, none of these things used to apply to me.
So what’s changed? On the outside, not much. On the inside? I’ve got more responsibilities in my life now. I’ve got a life partner, we’ve got two intelligent, energetic children who deserve better than to be raised by a father perpetuating the circumstances that have led to his own pain, possibly influencing theirs. I’ve had therapy. For my depression and anxiety. It really worked for me. I didn’t talk about my sexuality (I was too scared), but I realised the importance of being truthful and rational with one’s own self. I’ve started trying to be more honest with myself. I often couldn’t look at myself in the mirror (sometimes still can’t).
I have regrets. I have parts of myself that I have loathed in the past. I don’t want that, For myself or for those around me. I want the world to be a better, more equal, fair-minded place. I can’t make that happen if I’m a hypocrite.
I have LGBT+ friends. Many of them. We are close. Yet they don’t know who I really am. If they found themselves facing down hate speech and prejudice would I protect them? You bet your proverbial! Would I stand alongside them and say, “I’m with these guys”? “I’m bi and proud!”? I’m trying to find the courage to say yes. I value honesty above almost all other traits.
I’ve spent a lifetime lying to myself and hiding something important about myself from others. Bi is beautiful. LGBT+ and straight are beautiful. Being human is beautiful. I love being bi. It’s taken me twenty-odd years out of my thirty-four to begin to accept and embrace it. Onwards and outwards. I wouldn’t change it for the world.