Charlotte Moore (she/her)
Existential Bi-sis is a monthly column about bisexuality, by a bisexual. Join Charlotte as she tackles taboos and myths, recounts personal experiences and looks to the future.
My very first Pride was typical. I was in my early teens, fresh from downing half a bottle of Cointreau (the only thing available in my best friend’s parents’ wine rack) and as I watched the floats squeal by, my biggest memory was a sort of gnawing. Right in the pit of my stomach.
It’s a feeling that I found impossible to verbalise for years. A strange mix of guilt, shame and jealousy that everyone here got to be themselves and I didn’t. I couldn’t openly walk around telling people I was into more than one gender. And this was despite the fact that I was brought up with a supportive family, queer godparents and for the most part, supportive friends. And yet, for a long time, I wasn’t proud to be LGBTQ.
It feels odd to write that.
As if I’m doing someone, somewhere, most likely myself, a disservice by acknowledging that for a long time, I really didn’t want to be bisexual. It wasn’t that I hadn’t come to terms with it. I was aware that like my crooked nose and big front teeth, while it was something I didn’t like, I couldn’t change it. And it’s a strange feeling to exist with. I dealt with it, mostly, by splitting myself into two people.
The first was the part that everyone saw. The second was out, but existed solely on the internet. The two versions of myself would only ever intersect under a fake name. In fact, I even found an old email that I’d sent under a fake email address created purely just to enquire about attending an LGBTQ group from back in 2007.
By the time I was sixteen, I’d fallen head over heels for another girl. The ‘relationship’ existed in the sort of intersection between requited and impossible. And after we kissed, I remember lying awake at night for weeks, wondering if she’d ever tell anyone. The fear of being outed to my friends terrified me.
“The thing with coming out is that you don’t just do it once. You just get more confident saying it.”
The guilt over simultaneously preaching endlessly about gay rights, firmly as an ally, and knowing that I was hiding this part of myself wreaked havoc with my mental health. As these things do, it tumbled out behind an old Drama classroom to my best friend. She shrugged, both unsurprised and nonplussed and I’ll forever be grateful to her for her reaction.
The thing with coming out is that you don’t just do it once. You just get more confident saying it. And, I picked my battles carefully. Telling only the friends that I knew I could trust enough to keep my secret until I felt ready enough to say it again. Eventually, I did.
I started dating a girl in exactly the same position as me. We both had half a foot out of the closet and a mutual understanding that we would probably never meet each other’s parents or stand hand in hand at a family BBQ. But, what we did have was perfect. I lived between France and the UK and we would pick up where we left off every few months until we finally agreed that whatever this was, it wasn’t going to work unless we were out.
The day we broke up, perched in blistering sunshine on Canal Street, staff began to hang decorations for Pride.
“Nothing outwardly had changed. I was still single and just as useless at dating as I always had been. But, I felt a strange sense of belonging.”
I finally came out to all the important people in my life. But, this time it was different. I wasn’t filled with guilt. It just was what it was.
But, Pride that year was different too. Nothing outwardly had changed. I was still single and just as useless at dating as I always had been. But, I felt a strange sense of belonging. Akin to when you have your first break up and song lyrics just *feel* different once you too have been broken-hearted. Lady Gaga’s Born This Way just made sense now. It was like coming of age all over again.
I watched a drag queen screaming, “I’m gay, bitches!” from the top of a float. And it just made sense. Of course, you’d want to scream it to the world. And, while I wasn’t quite ready to scream my identity from a float, I was feeling powerful in a whole new way.
I started to feel proud.
“When someone asked “if you could change being bisexual, would you?” I felt proud to say that I wouldn’t. It’s a part of me that I love.”
I felt proud when a relative asked for some advice about a family friend who had recently come out. And when my first article with the word ‘bisexual’ in the title hit the internet, I felt proud. I felt proud seeing my queer friends succeed and when a friend teased me about my ‘bi bi bi’ badge, I laughed. The fears that haunted my teenage years have become a source of joy in my twenties.
And when someone asked “if you could change being bisexual, would you?” I felt proud to say that I wouldn’t. It’s a part of me that I love.
We sometimes expect that the journey to pride is a linear one. That we simply realise who we are and celebrate it. But, I had the most supportive friends and family, and still felt trapped in a closet of my own making. Pride is personal and something that can often just take time.
This year, I’ll take my (overpriced) ticket and stand in the sunshine watching the floats. And, maybe after one too many glasses of wine, I’ll shout “I’m bi!” into the crowd. And even if I don’t, I’ll still be proud to be bisexual.
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