For Bisexual Awareness Week, I have a series of guest posts scheduled every day leading up to Monday the 23rd. Buckle up for some bi visibility! This post by Hannah considers the impact her family had on her bisexual identity journey. (Read all posts in the series here.)
It never occurred to me that when my parents moved us from Canada to the UK, it was to save their relationship. Perhaps it is more likely that it was an unconscious desire to self-destruct. Regardless of their intention, though, the destruction came later that year all the same, in the form of my future step mother.
Amanda was tall; or at least, taller than my mother. She had well-groomed sandy hair, and makeup. My own Mother never wore makeup, so it was surprising to me, to realise that this woman was the parent of my sister’s new best friend. She asked my Mom if my older sister could have a sleepover at her house.
I wonder if my mother fell in love with her right away. I don’t remember there being any build-up – one day I didn’t know Amanda, and the next, I saw her every day. She was soft, and kind, and we liked her, and my Mom liked her even more. I don’t remember if my Dad hated her back then, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he did. My mom’s always been an open book.
My parents’ divorce was messy and complicated. I spent some time living away from my mother, but when I returned, everything was different.
I discovered my mother’s relationship with Amanda through my dad while I was living with him. His family spat ‘lesbian’ like a dirty word – and for a while, I believed that it was. When I returned to live with my mom – and my new step mother – that shame followed me. I hid her identity from my school friends, who somehow found out anyway. I wasn’t teased, but I often thought I’d prefer if I were. Instead, I was whispered about, mocked from under their breaths. I denied the existence of my new family with every ounce of deception I could muster, feeling the shame of it settle into my bones like a parasite.
LGBT identities weren’t really spoken about in my home. Not as a matter of principle, but because there was nothing to talk about – my mom and her girlfriend were together, and in love, and we were happy. There was nothing to discuss. Retrospectively, I think that this was somewhat the detriment of my self-discovery. I had no inkling that something was amiss, or an idea that I was different – because I wasn’t, as far as I was concerned. All the tell-tale signs of a budding sexuality didn’t seem to apply to me. I always knew I wanted to be close to my female friends, that I liked to be physically affectionate with them, and wanted their company. I was often, at that time, ‘accused’ of being bisexual – which I denied vehemently, not knowing why the assumption was so anxiety-inducing for me, or why I felt the need to reject it so strongly.
The answer came to me in a girl I met while I was dating my first boyfriend. He was hard and cruel, with no kindness towards me. She was soft, and kinder than him, at least, and said nice things to me that made my heart swell. The situation, though, was too familiar. I felt an overwhelming feeling that I was just following in my Mother’s footsteps. I was fifteen, and I knew what sexualities were, and all the different ways people could fall in love. The word ‘bisexual’ was loud and clear in my mind, but it would be another 4 years before it would reach my lips.
I never came out to anyone, per se. By the time I’d reached my second year of university and experienced all of the self-discovery that came with being in that environment, my sexuality was decidedly and unabashedly ‘open’ to all who knew me. I don’t think I have ever – even to this day – told my mother outright that I’m bisexual, but rather just began speaking openly about the extent of my attractions to women. The only announcement I ever made was a tongue-in-cheek Facebook post saying something along the lines of ‘I’m not straight, but that’s no surprise’. On the contrary, my father was a little surprised, but not upset.
My mother just commented ‘I’m glad I raised at least one of my kids right.’ I don’t think it’s that she’s more proud of me than she is of my sisters for being bisexual, but that she knows the challenges that queer women can face when they live unapologetically, and that she’s proud of me for being myself despite that.
From my mother, I learned that being a queer woman is something to be celebrated, and can lead to endless happiness, even if that first jump seems impossible. I learned to be unafraid and bold. I’m more than honoured to be in the position where I can now use my knowledge of the community to teach her, too, and help her refine what she understands about other LGBT identities. Having her as my mother has made me a more confident bisexual, and an endlessly proud daughter, and I’m excited for us both to continue our growth journeys in this community together.
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