In middle school, I was unhappy in my skin. Around me, friends and enemies started getting boyfriends. Just boyfriends.
Popular girls dated boys from the public school across across the road. The boys thought of these 11-year-old girls as wealthy trophies, despite the fact that our heavily government-funded co-ed school wasn’t as private or posh as it seemed, nor were many of the families wealthy.
I tried what felt like a hundred times to say to one of the few friends I had, “don’t you find it weird that those girls are getting boyfriends? Why doesn’t anyone have a girlfriend?” But I couldn’t; I was scared of the unavoidable social alienation; I said only the first half of the two-part question.
But it hounded me. When I went out with my first boyfriend, it was more innocent than a Judy Blume book - I was terrified to kiss him. My friends were nervous of their maiden crushes too, but I was petrified I was kissing the wrong boy. The wrong person. The wrong gender.
As years went by, I never forgot the question I wanted to ask. And when I finally kissed a woman for the first time, it felt right; I felt strong; I finally shined bright.
I spent most of my early teenage years believing I was a lesbian. Terrified to come out to my family; terrified of being rejected by peers, loved ones, colleagues; terrified of everyone. It was the classic story of privileged white woman experiencing a form of oppression for the first time, and being dumbfounded by it.
Things got worse when I kissed a man, and felt the same feeling. Right. Strong. Bright.
I was so confused that I wished for death; I thought about it nearly daily and attempted it once.
I used the internet to research, and soon realised that the word ‘bisexual’ existed, and it was normal. I finally felt like I’d found the right term. I grew older, and the label sunk into my skin like a tattoo. I became more and more comfortable with my word. I liked my word.
Now of age, I attempted to visit the few gay bars my city had. I never felt at home. Every venue felt exclusive to gay men - they were my friends and my allies, but their place wasn’t quite my place. I felt like the straight gal pal, when all I wanted to find was a home. One night in a smoking area, a stranger called me a ‘f*g hag’. My word and I were still in the wrong place.
I dated another man, then another. I felt like a fraud.
One night, I sat with some people in an unfamiliar living room; some straight, most gay, some I knew, some I didn’t. It was the height of summer, and I’d only brought a cheap bottle of red wine and it was sticky and made me feel heavy. A woman I didn’t know asked if I was gay too. My friend laughed and said “No - she has a boyfriend!”. The woman said she thought so, since I ‘didn’t look like a dyke’.
When I would define my sexuality, I’d end up in a debate.
“Honey, I think you’re just experimenting.”
“But you have a boyfriend… have you even been with a woman?”
“Oh, you decided to swing both ways? You want the best of both worlds!”
My bisexuality would be likened to a stereotypical symptom of nymphomania. The regurgitated sentiment of sexual insatiability made me so uncomfortable, I began to recite it myself, to try and reclaim it. I was wrong to.
Despite having a standard, healthy sex life, I’ve been slut-shamed by many, who devalued not only the sexuality I was born with, but also my validity as a now-adult woman who is comfortable with sex. Sex addiction can be treated by medical professionals - my sexuality can not, and will not.
Sadly, biphobic sentiments exist within the LGBT+ community, too. For years, conversations with gay women and gay men didn’t make me feel at home, like I was part of a community. They made me feel othered. There wasn’t usually intentional anger behind their words, nor were their literal words hateful, but something behind it screamed, 'you’re not gay enough'.
A woman once hit on me at a pub. I’d only had one beer, and was shy. She sat down. Everything was amazing and this woman’s beauty glistened and my throat kept trying to close up because I was so nervous. After a few drinks my tongue loosened, and we thought it hilarious (read: horrifying) to swap ‘coming out’ stories. I went first, and relayed my worst memory of telling a loved one I was bisexual. She stood up, grabbed her beer, and said “Why didn’t you tell me? I don’t waste time on straight chicks”.
After that, I started using the term ‘queer’ - for me, it felt like a safety net. It didn’t elicit arguments from the lesbian and gay community, or heterosexual people. No one asked questions. I could fly under the radar. I was invisible again.
I’m now in my mid-twenties and have finally come to terms with my bisexuality, despite being out of the closet for close to a decade. I finally feel at one with the the LGBTQIA+ community, and I feel comfortable defining my sexuality to straight people too.
I gained the realisation that I can call people out for being biphobic or reductive, and I can firmly correct people on stereotypes they’re perpetuating. I can be mad if someone is rude - I’m allowed to be angry, it’s a normal human emotion.
I realised that my sexuality doesn’t need approval from anyone but myself. If your sexuality is fluid or undefined, that’s fuckin’ awesome! That’s you! You do you. If your sexuality is misunderstood, you can say something if you want to - shout it from the rooftops! Stereotypes can be broken, and only education will do that.
I may not have found solace in LGBTQIA+ communities originally, but my voice guided the way. I created my own community, and there I found a connecting path. I attended my first Mardi Gras last year. I felt like I was finally home.