“It’s hard to see yourself as real when the rest of the world tells you you’re not”

WORDS BY JESSICA BONNIE, IMAGE BY SAMANTHA GARROTE FOR PEXELS

It took me 27 years to realise my “radical self-acceptance” was hinged on performing my bisexuality for the approval of other people.

“YOLO” was my identity in my younger years. I used it to justify literally everything I did. Going to Pizza Hut with the last £10 of my pay cheque? Sure! Skiving on my promo shift for a trip to the cinema? Duh. Sneaking into a Hyde Park hotel to use the rooftop pool? Definitely, coz YOLO.

Yes, I actually said it out loud. The shame.

This attitude extended to my sexuality. I snogged literally everyone – to the delight and amusement of my peers. I was hilarious! So fun! I just didn’t give a shit! Because, well, YOLO.

I didn’t bother to interrogate why, or what any of it could mean about who I was. I know now that I’m bisexual, with attractions to multiple genders. But I was presenting my sexuality as redundant, the butt of the joke. Underneath, I was scared and insecure – my refusal to look properly inward enabling me to be whatever I thought others wanted.

One minute I was “mmm, who knows”, in this mysterious, enigmatic way because I assumed the word “bisexual” made me unattractive to men (simultaneously, I considered my sexy, non-threatening open-mindedness to be a selling-point they’d appreciate). The next, I was downplaying any heterosexual attraction and/or past experience because I didn’t feel queer enough. I desperately wanted to be liked, so my sexuality became a blank canvas to paint on, something to finesse and curate. Just another social tool.

Doing this was actually very easy. Bisexuality is often seen as performative in itself. The harmful stereotypes that we’re attention-seeking, or just trying on a little bi costume (coming to a Lidl aisle near you) are alive and well.It’s a Little Chef on the M6 between straight and gay. A transient, intangible state. Easily manipulated. I used this perceived ambiguity to my own ends.

Coming out seemed optional and unimportant. A more tangible identity, even an accurate one, meant giving up privileges. The word itself has negative connotations I didn’t want to associate with. I was shirking any potential judgement directed towards me – I wanted all of the good and none of the challenges, and would sacrifice my sense-of-self and responsibility to my community to get it. A selfish and harmful act that frankly, I’m embarrassed by.

But I’m human after all – the toxic ways I’ve treated my sexuality are there for a reason. Society tells me I’m flighty, untrustworthy and sexually experimental. Society tells me I’m fake and looking for attention. These things sink into your skin – I somehow believed them and acted within their parameters. And it hurt. I was left, ultimately, feeling misunderstood and illegitimate, my self-trust obliterated, dooming myself as “unfit for a relationship”. It’s hard to see yourself as solid, and real, when the rest of the world tells you you’re not.

I recently decided to actively come out as bisexual to many of those close to me. I’ve been in a queer relationship for years – and never hidden my dating history – but it was important for me to assert this part of myself, to say the word out loud and to practice dealing with whatever comes with it. Bisexuality is a concrete identity in its own right, and I won’t silence myself out of fear. It’s still scary. But I know it starts with me – and if even I don’t believe that I’m here, and important, then what hope is there for the rest of society?

Opinions expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors of DIVA magazine or its publishers.

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