Friday, 23 September 2016

Short Story: Becoming Myself

In honour of Bi Visibility day this turned into more of a personal essay but I'm still counting it.

Becoming Myself
I had my first crush on a girl when I was still in Primary School, only I didn't really know that at the time. I was young enough that anything to do with boys or kissing was still counted as "icky (despite already having had a number of boyfriends in that "we're going out now and we might hold hands but nothing else" sort of way young kids do). I remember thinking she was pretty. I remember her making my stomach feel funny. I wasn't really old enough to understand what that was. I never said anything, because of course girls fancying girls is Wrong and just doesn't happen. I ended up hating her, and I'll always wonder if that was anything to do with what she was really like or whether that was my way of dealing with feelings I didn't want to understand.

As a teenager I kissed a lot of girls. I've lost count to be honest. I kissed most of my friends as a teen, even though I wasn't going out with them, because when you're fourteen and at a party that's the sort of thing you do. Getting the girls to kiss each other was a great game. It felt daring. Taboo. And of course the boys enjoyed watching, so we did it as much for performance as anything else. (Funny how the boys were always willing to watch the girls kiss but were never willing to kiss each other). I always preferred kissing the girls to the boys. It was softer, and they were generally better at it. I couldn't let on how much I enjoyed it though. But I was always willing to.

I remember my first kiss with someone who had a tongue piercing. That was fun. It was at the beach. And it was with a girl. I don't remember most of my first kisses with boys.

I kept kissing girls even when I had a boyfriend. Because he was okay with it. Because everyone knows that girls kissing girls "doesn't count". My heart didn't know that though. I think I fell in love with a girl while I had a boyfriend. Here I was supposed to be feeling squishy things about a dude and it was on of my friends that got my heart all aflutter. She was always willing to kiss, and she was good at it. She made me feel special. Even the time she threw up after spending the evening making out with me. It was oddly endearing and I jumped to take care of her, which was how I knew it was love.

And yet I still laboured under the illusion I was straight. Because I fancied boys, which is what girls are "supposed" to do. Any attraction I felt for women wasn't valid. It didn't count. I wasn't cheating if I kissed a girl (that was explicitly stated by my boyfriend) because only kisses with boys were real.

I stopped telling people I was straight about seven years ago. I realised that my attraction to women was substantial enough that the word didn't really apply to me. But I didn't really feel not-straight. I still fancied men. I fell in love with men. Whatever I felt for women wasn't real. It didn't count. That's the message I'd gotten my entire life.

I started identifying as bisexual about two years ago. I'd been doing a lot of work on coming to terms with myself, growing into me, doing the damage that mandatory schooling wreaks on most kids. And if I was sorting out my self-image issues and my self-esteem issues I might as well come to terms with my sexuality as well. And when I sat and thought about it, when I treated the feelings I'd had for women as valid too, I realised something important; I have been attracted to men and women for most of my life. And I realised there was a word to describe that and that it's okay to use it.

I am bisexual.

A lot of my friends weren't surprised to be honest. Most of them had worked it out long before I had. They knew me better than I knew myself. And they were supportive when I started using the correct terms to describe myself, which meant the world.

Because bisexuality is so often erased, both by straight people and the LGBT+ community. We're seen as greedy, as slutty, as cheaters who are inherently untrustworthy. We're told it's just a phase, that we're confused and we'll decide which gender we're really attracted to at some point. We're defined by who our current partner is instead of who we're attracted to. We're erased by both communities, each of them trying to lump us in with the other. When bisexual characters are on tv or in movies they're not called bisexuals, they're "people who don't like labels." I internalised these messages for so long, but no more.

Coming to terms with what it means to be queer, and bisexual in particular, has almost been harder than actually admitting to myself that I am bisexual. I forget that, because of who I am attracted to, technically I am part of a minority. I sometimes forget I am bisexual; somehow in my brain, being attracted to men and women and Being Bisexual are two different things and sometimes it's hard to reconcile the two.

It's also been hard reconciling my identity with other parts of my life. There are places where I've felt that I can be myself, unrepentantly, and places where I feel like I have to hide myself. Because people didn't know that about me, because I wasn't sure how they'd react. It's tiring. Listening to people be openly homophobic because they think you're like them and you're not. Feeling like you're essentially two people depending on where you are and who you're with. It's exhausting. I haven't been doing it that long and I'm tired. People who work out who they are much younger, who have to hide so much longer; I have no idea how you do it but you are strong and you are brave and I am so proud of you.

I'm not going to hide any more, keep bits of me under wraps like it's a shameful secret, because it's not. I am not ashamed of who I am, and no one has the right to make me feel ashamed. There is nothing to be ashamed of. And if they people who claim to love me think there is something shameful about who I am then they don't love me half as much as they claim to.

Traditionally stories have beginnings, conflict, endings but there is no ending to this story. This isn't fiction, it's my life, and it's going to carry on. I've not gotten to the ending yet. I am on a continual journey of becoming myself, of learning what that really means. I don't know who I'll be in five, ten year's time, but I'm looking forward to finding out. Maybe I'll have made giant leaps forward, maybe the steps will only be small. It doesn't matter. As long as I keep on trying to be myself, the best person I can be, the only person I can be. That's what's important.

Today, I was brave. I took a big step. Tomorrow; who knows? I can't wait to find out.

If you enjoyed this story feel free to purchase one of my books either here, or here. Or you can buy me a coffee here.

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