I suppose it took me a long time to realise what my genuine sexual orientation was and for me to be comfortable with that. From being a very young kid, I always remembered role playing with dolls and teddies of your stereotypical childhood fantasies of being rescued by royalty at the top of a high tower or imagining who I’d marry and have a family with when I grew up. You know, the norm of what you would be expected/or conditioned to think about from that age? But my thoughts were slightly more open than the messages I was receiving from my morning TV routine of Playdays or Rainbow as I never stuck to the opposite gender of who I imagined rescuing me from a tower or marrying me when I was older. In my head, they were just people or characters that I wanted to fall in love with, their gender was never considered by me at that age. However, some of the heterosexual bias fed to me by children’s media and my immediate surroundings at the time may have begun to trickle down or filter through, as part of me felt wary of telling adults or my playmates about imagining marrying or being rescued by other girls. This was something I only did when playing on my own.
I think a huge part of my awareness of possible rejection growing up had a lot to do with the cultural I was surrounded by. I was born in 1987 and grew up in Ireland until my early twenties when I moved to Scotland. Ireland was then, and still is highly governed by the Catholic Church and ‘acts of homosexuality’ were only decriminalised in Ireland in 1994. Ireland has come on a huge amount in the coming years but as I was growing up there was little to no awareness of LGBT issues and a lot of censorship. There was a huge fear to talk about same sex attraction in schools, within families etcetera. So much so that, as I was growing up, I completely blocked out any inkling that I may also be attracted to people of the same sex from my mind. My brain was giving me messages that I was attracted to people of the opposite sex just before I started secondary school so, at that point, my sexual orientation never came into question.
It wasn’t until I hit my late teens that I maybe began to properly question what my sexual orientation might be.
It wasn’t until I hit my late teens that I maybe began to properly question what my sexual orientation might be. Due to there being a huge lack of out bisexual people in media at the time or even now, I really struggled to define myself under a label as I only saw gay or straight as an option. I didn’t properly feel like either but felt I had to choose a side. This confusion caused me to really isolate myself and not talk to my friends or family about my sexual orientation or who I may actually be attracted to at the time. It also caused me to miss out on potentially great relationships in my teens as I was conflicted with my own personal feelings of attraction and how constricted I defined sexual orientation in my mind. I would regularly break it off with guys in the early stages of seeing them as I thought my brain mightn’t actually want this and I was actually gay and vice versa.
When I did begin to understand more about the LGBT community and look into the possibility of being able to identify as bisexual, it felt like a huge relief. I finally felt like I could be part of the LGBT community – to feel like I belonged or was accepted for my sexual orientation. This wasn’t necessarily the case. As I began to browse LGBT forums online I received re-occurring messages by LGBT people that bisexual women were ‘greedy’, they ‘didn’t actually exist’, women ‘only labelled themselves to tantalise men’, they were ‘too afraid to come out as gay’, they were ‘tainted’, they ‘had heterosexual privilege’, etcetera. All these negative messages further caused me to question my orientation and keep myself in the closet. I never felt safe to engage with or socialise in LGBT spaces because of all this.
For a number of years, I went through phases of both closeting and venturing out with courage to tell people I was attracted to about my sexual orientation. I felt it was important to be honest with partners and let them know where I stood. This either resulted in being rejected purely on the basis of being bisexual or my identity being majorly over-sexualised with many presumptions made that I would be up for polyamorous relationships or that threesomes would definitely be on the cards. I felt like there were huge presumptions made about my sexual activity or preferences made by both potential partners and medical professionals based on identifying under the bisexual label. I always felt completely misunderstood in relationships. My orientation was more about being attracted to how someone was as a person with their gender being of little importance. Although I am good a multi-tasking, this wasn’t something I wanted to bring to my relationships.
*Spoiler Alert* I genuinely felt like Bruce Willis from the Sixth Sense as although I felt like I existed as a person, I felt completely invisible to those around me and only existed to certain people if they thought I could live up to fantasies they had about being with a bisexual person. It was really difficult to finally feel ready, comfortable and proud of my sexual orientation when other people I was close to or wanted to be with weren’t ready to be accepting of how I identify.
I still feel that bisexuality isn’t properly understood or discussed by the LGBT community.
I still sometimes feel slight anxiety about potentially coming out to people, particularly others within the LGBT community when I first meet them due to their potentially negative reaction. I still feel that bisexuality isn’t properly understood or discussed by the LGBT community. The impact of the prejudice LGBT individuals face in general society sometimes seems to have a domino effect within the LGBT community due to huge misconceptions made about bisexuals and trans* people. A huge push of awareness needs to happen to show that bisexuality is validated by the LGBT community.
This is why I personally feel motivated to do the work that I do with LGBT young people as an attempt to reduce stigma across all levels for all LGBT people. The opportunities I’ve been given while working for LGBT Youth Scotland have made me feel incredibly proud of all the young people I’ve worked with and these young people have been the people that I’ve learnt the most from.