It took me a long time to let myself identify as queer. I had known and understood that I had feelings for girls at school since before I could add two double digit numbers, but at the same time, I also understood that I had feelings for boys. I knew what it meant to be gay and what it meant to be straight, but neither of those definitions encompassed everything I was feeling.
It wasn’t until after my first crush on a girl had been and gone that I was introduced to bisexuality. The first time I heard the words to describe my experience was also the first time I was introduced to biphobia. I was taught by my peers that being bisexual was somehow both dangerous and a myth. Before I had time to identify with or explore my sexuality, I had already absorbed the idea that it was wrong and tried to distance myself from it.
For years I swallowed my feelings for anyone other than boys. I still had feelings for girls at school, but I told myself that I just wanted to be like them. I told myself that I just had intense friendships. I started dating a sweet and caring boy in my class. We both had big feelings for each other, and it seemed as if I would never have to think about my sexuality again. Except the more I tried to ignore my sexuality the more it screamed at me. Towards the end of high school, I broke up with my boyfriend because my feelings for a girl at school had become so loud, I thought I must be a lesbian. I had been told bisexuality was a myth so many times that I thought if I had such serious feelings for a girl, I must be gay. But when I broke up with my boyfriend my feelings for him didn’t go away. Instead, this time my feelings for him were screaming at me.
I was confused, but not because I was bi. I was confused because I was taught to reject my bisexuality. Because I was taught that it wasn’t real, but my experiences told me otherwise. I wrote a cringeworthy love letter to the girl I had feelings for (who didn’t like me back) and I spent some time figuring myself out and concentrating on school. After a while my boyfriend and I got back together, but this time I was no longer able to ignore who I was and I knew for sure that my feelings for him were real. Of course, outing myself at school meant that I was met with more judgement, but accepting my identity (even if only to myself) was a big step, and their words could no longer muddy my perceptions of my experience.
It still took me a long time to engage with the queer community and find the support that I really needed. I thought that engaging with the community was only for ‘real gays’ and because I had a boyfriend that I didn’t really deserve to be there. I would sometimes go to queer rights rallies and youth meetings and stand at the back, saying I was only there as an ally. When I was nineteen my little brother came out as bi. He is eight years younger than me and was around the same age I was when I first found out what bisexuality was. He didn’t know I was bi. Things were different for him, and he was different. He came out to my family and was so self-assured. His pride gave me so much strength. Teaching him and standing up for him taught me so much about the ways that I was treating myself. If my brother had a girlfriend, I would never tell him that he wasn’t valid enough to participate in queer communities. I knew that being bi was so much more than that. So why was I excluding myself? I knew what it was like to not have bi role models and I knew that me being there and being proud would be impactful for him.
I started to participate more in queer community and make more queer friends. I felt so comfortable and understood with them. When I spent time with straight friends, I felt like I needed to hide and curate myself, but even just starting to reach out to queer community gave me so much more strength to relax into being myself.
It wasn’t always perfect. I remember one of the first times I had a queer friendship group, one of my friends said they would never date a multi-sexual person because they were liars and would leave you for a man. My stomach twisted at that moment. It was the same thing I had heard when I was young, but this time it was from someone that I trusted to know better. Still, I continued to surround myself with bi-elders and people who respected me. The more I did, the more I felt comfortable in myself and the more I felt I didn’t need to spend my time with people who didn’t support and understand me. I started to let myself claim my bisexuality and not treat it like a little secret I only told my closest friends.
My partner has always been supportive of me on my messy journey with becoming comfortable with my sexuality, and our relationship has always been a safe haven away from judgement or harmful stereotypes. Having a partner that is supportive and respectful of your identity is so important. I was lucky to have found him so young but now I would never settle for less. Our relationship, however, does mean that people often assume that I’m straight or that my sexuality is no longer relevant. But I am a queer person no matter who I am in a relationship with. Our relationship is queer and acts queer, because there are queer people in it.
I was reassured by friends that I didn’t need to have a sexual experience with someone other than a man to be sure I was bi. “If you know, you know and that’s valid enough.” I believed them but still felt as if my first sexual experience with a woman or non-binary person would be transformative in some kind of way – a grand validating experience.
It was fun and exciting, sure, but I didn’t suddenly feel different or as if I’d suddenly earned my bi tick of approval. There was nothing I learned about my sexuality in that experience that I didn’t already know from my first crush on a girl. The work I needed to do to feel valid and confident in my sexuality all came from connecting myself with other people with similar experiences and doing the work to deconstruct the biphobia that I had internalised for so many years.
My journey to becoming confident in my identity and coming out was complicated and as a bi person I am constantly coming out and re-coming out (often to the same people who think I must be straight now). Seeing the same experiences be even a little bit less messy for younger bi people like my brother is exciting. I hope that we can continue to change society’s misconceptions of who we are, in hopes that one day it doesn’t have to be so messy.