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 Charli Cox describes the moment of her sexual awakening and how she’s come to terms with it. (Read all posts in the series here.)
Picture this. You’re sixteen years old, it’s 12:30am, you’ve been drinking Smirnoff Ice with added vodka all night, and you’re sat in a circle with all of your mate’s friends. (You don’t know anyone other than the person hosting the party, hence the added vodka). You’re playing truth or dare, and naturally the boys think it would be hilarious to dare the only other girl in the circle to do 10 push-ups over you and kiss you every time she comes down. At first, it’s awkward and hilarious and the boys are positively thrilled with their choice dare, but by the tenth push-up (kiss), you’ve stopped listening to them and you’re suddenly struck by this realisation of “Oh Shit. I think I like girls.”
That guys, gals, and non-binary pals, is the story of how I realised I was bisexual. After a few deep chats with a good friend, a mildly traumatic coming out to my ex-boyfriend (‘so does this mean you’re a lesbian’ ‘no it doesn’t, also, we should probably break-up’), and an uneventful but successful coming out to my now boyfriend, I settled on the label bisexual and confidently came out to all of my friends by the age of eighteen. One friend bought even me a light switch as a coming out gift (which he still is yet to give me – @Jim if you’re reading this it’s been nearly five years mate come on) – but regardless, the light-hearted joke gift made me feel welcome, and comfortable in being open about my sexuality. It seemed that the dread I’d felt at the idea of coming out to everyone having solely dated boys for all my life thus far was replaced by the warm responses I got from all of my friends.
So, the only group of people in my life I still had to come out was my family. Nearly six years on and I’ve still not managed that hurdle. It’s funny how powerful bi-erasure can be even in your own brain. I’ve been with my current boyfriend for nearly five years now and he is wonderful; he’s incredibly accepting of who I am, and I wouldn’t change anything. But, because as a couple we look like your very average white cis-het couple (which I am aware puts us, and me as a queer woman in an incredibly privileged position), I’ve always struggled with what ‘the point’ of coming out to my family would be. James and I are very settled as a couple, we’re probably moving in together next year, and I’ve always thought that it’s more difficulty than it’s worth trying to explain to my quite conservative family ‘oh hey I am very happy with my boyfriend but I do also have the capacity to be in love with a girl lol just something for you all to think about, no questions please.’ (Charli Exits Stage Left).
I think that bi-erasure is a much bigger issue than a lot of people think it is – because people perceive me to be a straight girl (again – very aware of the privilege), I often feel like a whole part of myself is not being acknowledged. The fact that it’s still so strange in society for someone to be attracted to more than one gender means that as a teen I was always phenomenally confused about what my sexuality was – Yes, I liked boys I knew I liked boys ,so how on earth could I possibly like girls as well?! I didn’t even know the word bisexual existed until I was fifteen! I’ll never forget the staunchest bit of biphobia/erasure I experienced from an ex-friend was ‘well, you can be bisexual when you’re single, but if you’re in a relationship you’re either gay or straight’. It’s these terribly wrong perceptions that lead to people looking at me strangely when I come out to them straight after saying I have a boyfriend, and the reason I’ve still not come out to my family.
I hope one day I pluck up the courage to come out at home, but for now, it’s more comfortable and easier to pretend I’m straight. But, out of my home, and into the world, I will not stop screaming about being bisexual until people stop assuming sexuality for good.
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