The internet is my unpaid therapist, and I will exploit that to the best of my ability. Partly because it feels good to vent – to scream into the void, it sometimes feels like. Partly because I like the idea that my experience is somebody else’s experience, and maybe that somebody else will stumble upon this and relate, or maybe somebody who knows that somebody else will stumble upon this and better understand what they’re going through. Either way, what do I have to lose with honesty?
And I’m not saying that my experience is every bisexual’s experience – that would be an extremely reductive statement to make, and we’re all different people, all dealing with a similar circumstance in our own unique way. But maybe my experience has been felt by other bisexual people before. Or maybe my experience contains echoes of other issues that I’m not aware of, and you can find other ways to relate to it. Who knows what the power of words are?
But my point is, this particular scream into the void is regarding my status as a bisexual woman. I’ve known that I was bisexual ever since I was about ten years old, when I started to become aware of the fact that I noticed girls just as much as I noticed guys. When I first realized it, I thought I was being pretty accepting of the idea. I mean, I didn’t tell anyone, not at the age of ten, but still, from that point forward I lived with that understanding of myself, I didn’t really think about it all that much or question the hows or whys.
In elementary school, I developed little crushes on multiple different people. The boy who struck me as different and maybe a little bit better than the rest. The girl who defended me from bullies. They never really progressed all that far, but still, I had them and I never doubted them.
High school was much the same – I continued developing crushes on people that never really went anywhere, because I was a Strong Independent Woman who had my grades to focus on and a novel that I was working on. Before high school graduation, I only really had two crushes that were seriously note-worthy – one on a male friend, the other on a girl in one of my classes. And although my adolescent years was the time that I started to become bombarded with insecurities, I never really doubted who I was in that regard. I became aware that some people might not be able to love me because they came to my status as bisexual with preconceived notions, sure, but it didn’t matter because that was what I was. I never forgot that.
It was only after high school graduation, when I entered university, that that all changed. Because the thing is, the transition from teenager to young adult was very hard on me. I lost most of my friends, and had difficulties making new ones. I was shipped off to another town, to attend a school that I somehow doubted was the right fit for me. And more and more, I was becoming increasingly aware of the fact that there were certain milestones in a person’s life that I was supposed to reach yet that I just hadn’t. I should have had a serious relationship by now, I should be into drinking and partying, I should have made that one big mistake that fucks up my life for a couple of months but then I get back on the horse and everything’s a-okay. Drowning in a sea of regret and confusion, I became depressed and incredibly, almost cripplingly self-conscious.
Let me try to explain to you how self-conscious I got, because this is a big part of the story: I had difficulties talking to people because I felt like I had nothing to say that was of value. I felt like my life was a waste, and that I had barely lived it at all. I felt like I hadn’t touched anyone or done anything, and nobody would miss me if I just went away for good. My point is, I got low, and when you get that low and you simultaneously have a barrage of media telling you that there’s something else that’s wrong with you, you tend to be kind of susceptible to it.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t the negative stigma regarding being bisexual that I gave into. It wasn’t the idea that we’re all whores (I could combat that opinion with my own lived experience), or that we’re all going to hell (I still don’t even know if I believe in hell), or that we’re undeserving of love (maybe that was true for me, but there were a lot of contributing factors around that). No, the belief system that affected me the most was the simple assertion that we don’t exist. That all bisexual people are wrong and greedy, that we can and should just pick one gender or the other. I felt like I was committing some cosmic violation by being bisexual, so I tried to be something else. There was a period of time where I tried being straight, tried going back to factory settings, but that all fell apart when I came to terms with the fact that I was living a lie. So if I wasn’t straight, then therefore I was a lesbian, right? I talked like a lesbian, thought like a lesbian, even tried to assert that I was a lesbian to a certain extent, but just like pretending to be straight, it always felt like a lie. It felt wrong in a spiritual, gut-level sort of way, different than the way that being bisexual felt wrong. Being bisexual felt wrong because I was told it was. Being straight or a lesbian felt wrong because I was neither.
But I wanted to be one or the other. Being straight looked easier for obvious reasons, but being a lesbian looked easier too because at least I saw them. When I watched movies or TV growing up that included LGBT+ characters, they were always gay or lesbian. Never bisexual. They were whole, they were complete, they didn’t have to worry about being taken seriously as a member of the LGBT+ community because no matter who they ended up with in the end, their partner would always reflect the fact that they didn’t belong in the heterosexual world. And if they ever got married, they wouldn’t have to deal with people saying the sorts of things that bisexual people have to deal with: “So you’re a non-practicing bisexual?” “So you’re straight/lesbian now?” “Do you ever miss being with insert-other-gender-here?”
Now, I’m not saying that being a lesbian is easier than being bisexual – truth be told, I don’t know for sure which experience is easier, as I’ve only lived the one, and at the end of the day, it isn’t a competition. I’m just trying to explain my thoughts and my perspective.
And the strange thing is, when you start trying to tell yourself that you’re one thing, it sort of throws everything into doubt. Sure, I could remember having crushes on boys back before high school graduation, but were those really crushes? Heteronormativity is a bitch, so maybe I was just trying to tell myself that I was bisexual? Yes, being bisexual felt more natural to me, but how much could I trust that really? And besides, after high school graduation, the only crushes and relationships I’ve had have been really unhealthy, distorted and ugly versions wherein I choose who to flirt with based solely off of who’s flirting with me, rather than because I’m actually attracted to them. And therefore, the fact that I haven’t been attracted to the boys I flirt with must be because I’m not attracted to boys, right? It never even crossed my mind that, maybe, it was because I had really low self-esteem, and therefore I only gave the time of day to whoever validated me as an attractive individual, regardless of what I thought about them.
This has been the limbo that I’ve been living in for almost four years now – uncertain, self-conscious, and trying to force myself to fit a narrative that I don’t belong in. But the other day, I went to an event hosted by my school’s LGBT+ club, and while I was there, I was listening to one of my friends joke around with one of the club’s leaders – a girl who I haven’t spoken to very often. They kept referring to this girl’s partner, and after a while, I became aware of the fact that they were using male pronouns to refer to him. That was when it struck me – one of the club’s leaders, a girl who is welcome in this space and taken seriously as a member of the LGBT+ community here, is either a bisexual or pansexual woman. Up until that point, I don’t think it had really occurred to me what I was thinking, but it struck me then how really fucked up it is that I’m trying to make myself one thing when I’m not, and when there’s nothing wrong with who I am. I don’t have to ‘choose’. I just need to start taking myself more seriously.
So here I am: a new arrival on the long, uphill road to self-esteem. I don’t know how difficult it’s gonna be, but I imagine pretty darn difficult. I have a lot that I need to address about myself, and a lot of things that I’ve been saying that I need to start believing. Because I can say, surface-level, that there’s nothing wrong with being bisexual, but that doesn’t mean that I believe it right down to my stubborn, hard, little core. I can say that this is who I am and the world is the one at fault for trying to convince me that that’s wrong, but I am the one who needs to be convinced of that, first and foremost. And I’m ready to make myself.
And if there’s anything that I want you, the reader, to take away from my story, it’s this: there’s nothing wrong with being who you are. Whether you be a fabulous bisexual like me or something else entirely, you’re okay, and you need to tell yourself that you’re okay. You need to believe it. You can read all the inspirational crap on the internet you want, you can try to tell the people in your life that it’s true, but you need it to sink in. Because that’s the only way that you can be settled in this weird little life you’ve been given.