HIDE ME!

Janice's Story

Janice


I don’t remember exactly when I realised I was attracted to people regardless of their gender; I guess it was always part of me and I just assumed others probably felt the same. I was aware that it was frowned upon for a man to like other men ‘in that way,’ certainly in the small rural community where I grew up, but no one ever talked about women being attracted to other women. As I wasn’t told that this was ‘wrong’ or ‘unacceptable’, I was satisfied that all girls felt the same as me until I started high school.

On my first day, a girl in my class called me a ‘lezzy.’ I knew what she meant, but I was confused why she had said it so aggressively; like it was a negative thing. I tried to ignore what she had said because it made me feel uncomfortable about myself for the first time. Unfortunately, this was not the last I’d hear of the matter from that individual or others; it was just the beginning of five years of homophobic and biphobic bullying I was to experience. It’s strange that even though I experienced worse bullying incidents in school, that first name-calling incident hurt most as it was the moment I realised I was different, and the first time I realised that others thought it wasn’t okay for girls to like other girls.

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Thankfully, I had a great positive influence in my life; my older brother, who happens to be gay. He came out not long after I started high school and I remember being so relieved when Mum sat me down to explain that he was gay and what that meant. She was very supportive of him and explained that even though other people might be negative, there was nothing wrong with being gay. I was so happy and felt confident that I was normal; that it was other people who had the problem and not me. Of course, there was no mention of bisexuality or what that meant, so I just assumed that because I liked girls I must be gay too.

there was no mention of bisexuality or what that meant, so I just assumed that because I liked girls I must be gay too.

The first person I told was my best friend at school. She was subjected to the same bullying as I was at school, and I figured she’d understand. She was very accepting but asked me if I still liked boys too, which took me by surprise. I had been so fixated on the fact I liked girls that I hadn’t really given boys a second glance. I said I wasn’t sure about boys; there were none that I fancied at school and I wasn’t aware that it was possible to like both, so I just accepted I must be gay. There was no visibility of any LGBT identity in the media at that time, so everything I knew about the LGBT community came from my brother and hearing adults talk… none of them ever mentioned bisexuality. Section 28 was in force and there was no internet (showing my age) so I had no way of finding out.

Throughout my early teens, it was mostly homophobic abuse and bullying I experienced. When I was 15, I went to the first ever Pride in Scotland. It was one of the best days of my life. I was confronted by, what felt like, every queer identified person in Scotland; gay, lesbian, transgender, drag artists and of course, bisexual people. I felt like I’d come home. I felt accepted. I felt safe.

Unfortunately, Pride perhaps wasn’t the best place to learn what my developing sexual orientation meant. In hindsight, I learned a few things about being bisexual that were unhealthy and false. I got a lot of attention at Pride being so young. When I told people I was bisexual many made jokes; that I was lucky because I could pass as straight, that I was ‘greedy’ and was expected to want more than one partner at a time and that ‘everyone is bisexual when they come out’ so I was probably ‘going through a phase’. By the end of the day, I was convinced that bisexuality wasn’t real and I decided I was a lesbian.

As I got older, I became more comfortable with being bisexual, but avoided being open about it with others. I found that going out on the scene in Glasgow other women were very negative towards me as a bisexual woman. I was called a ‘disease spreader’, told continually I’d grow out of my phase and I was called ‘half-a-gay’. I hated that most of all, because I didn’t feel like half of anything; I was a whole person. I was rarely open about being bisexual when in mainstream pubs or clubs as I quickly learned this made me a target for creeps who expected me to be sexually available to them and willing to engage in threesomes. I felt, and still feel, less safe in ‘straight bars’ than on the scene as I find that people can be sexually aggressive towards me, especially if they learn that I’m bisexual, but find that the rejection I get on the LGBT scene hurts more; like they should know better than to be prejudiced.

Even friends and family, who were very supportive of my brother being a gay man or other friends who identified as gay or lesbian, were dismissive of my bisexuality. I don’t think that comments people make are intentionally hurtful or have malicious intent. For the most part, they are born out of ignorance. There are too few positive representations of bisexual people in the media and this greatly contributes to the level of stereotyping and prejudice surrounding bisexual people. I honestly can’t think of a single positive bisexual role model. Even when people are open about being bi, the media will refer to their sexuality as being gay or straight depending on the gender of their partner.

I don’t come out to people anymore unless I’m sure they’ll be accepting because I don’t feel safe. People always assume I am heterosexual because I have a male partner and a child and are often shocked if I mention my sexual orientation. I’ve been asked if my partner and I have an open relationship, just because I’m bi and even had a doctor tell me I’m at a higher risk of contracting an STI even though he knows I am in a long term relationship. He obviously assumed that as a bisexual person, I am likely to be sexually promiscuous and engage in sexual risk taking.

People always assume I am hetrosexual.

It’s really difficult to be proud of your bisexual identity when people have such a tainted and narrow view of it. Whether it’s family and friends undermining the legitimacy of it, or people making assumptions about my sexual availability and practices, I often feel like I have to either hide my sexual orientation or fight to prove it. That’s why it’s so important to make sure bisexuality is visible and truly represented both within and outwith the LGBT community.

I think that there needs to be more inclusive LGBT education within schools, with a particular focus on bisexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation. I also feel that there needs to be more done within the LGBT community to challenge biphobia and the stereotypes it creates. If you hear passing comments about bisexual people being ‘greedy’ or people saying it’s ‘just a phase’ or ‘fashionable’, STOP THEM! Challenge false ideas and stereotypes, challenge the erasure of bisexual people and challenge others to stand in solidarity with their bisexual friends, family and community members.

Janice, LGBT Youth Scotland Staff Member