Fragmentation of Self

I’ve been having a lot of lightbulb moments in the past few months that have really helped me figure out why I feel so disjointed.

I think it started before Christmas. I caught the movie Let it Snow which had queer cast members and a queer storyline. Until then I hadn’t realised that I’d never seen a queer Christmas film. Only the occassional film with a pop up gay best friend or sibling who was promptly put away again. Let it Snow meant so much to me. I really enjoyed the film and its existance made me feel so jubilent. Here was something Christmassy – for me! Finally! In my 30s! And then it clicked that I had always subconsciously filed Christmas away as a straight thing.

Then I realised that was part of a bigger structure for me. I think for many bi+ people, the only way you can get by in the world is by seperating yourself and compartalising. It’s been a survival mechanism your whole life so you don’t even realise that you are in a dozen pieces. That you pull out the piece that is needed in that particular situation and push away the rest. And the result? You never really get to be your whole self anywhere. Unless, perhaps, you spend a long time alone because that allows all of you to slowly float back to the surface. Or you spend time with an emotionally safe person, friend, or partner. Or a cool bi event like BiCon! But the trouble is those good situations never last long. Even after the best evening in the world I can already feel my personality shifting as I walk to the tube the following morning, now that I’ve noticed that is what happens within me.

I think all this makes it hard for me to connect deeply with people in general. People can’t get to know YOU if only a part of you has come to visit. You can’t form close bonds with them if they visit your meterphorical house and you can’t let them see any of the rooms!

I had grasped before that I switch between the straight world (e.g work) or the gay world (going to an event at an LGbt centre, going to an LGBT bookshop – they never have a bi section). But I had never realised that I subconciously classified things as one or the other and fragmentated my personality accordingly. No wonder I always feel like there are at least 3 different people living in my head!

So I sat down with a piece of paper and thought about what else I had classed as ‘straight’ without realising. Here’s my list. Some are a lot more obvious than others.

  • Family & the notion of home – (dad and step-mum not ok with my sexuality, to the point where I can’t even mention I went to a queer event, let alone talk about a same-sex partner. Sister doesn’t understand LGBT+ issues)
  • Christmas – always hetero pairings in film and TV, issues surrounding non-accepting family you are obligied to spend time with.
  • Getting help with mental health
  • Socialising – ‘Do YOu HAve A boYfRiEnd!?’ seems to be the only question people can ask!
  • Being injured or ill and needing medical help – I try to avoid going to the Doctor’s as much as possible for these kinds of reasons.
  • Educational establishments – can’t risk coming out to classmates in case they don’t accept, straight-washed curiculum, etc.
  • Workplaces – can’t risk coming out to colleagues in case of non-acceptance or discrimination
  • Running and sports – I only realised this when I saw that London Pride held a 10k event and boxing training.
  • Reading – still very difficult to find good, queer books that don’t have biphobic content or stereotypical bi characters that lie, cheat etc.
  • Church – I was raised going to church every Sunday, yet still feel like I’m an abonimation when I sit in the congregation even though my denomination is generally accepting.
  • Legal stuff – things like marriage and the ability to name two mothers or two fathers on a birth certificate are still relatively new rights. Subconsciously I’d lumped all legal stuff like making a will into the straight category.

I’ve also written in the past before how I used a different name when going to LGBT events and when running Nottingham BiTopia. Over time this new name felt more ME and I began to use it in more and more areas of my life. However I still have to go by my dead, but legal name with anyone who knew me before the age of 23 or in the workplace, which doesn’t help with my disjointed sense of self. It’s hard to get people to change what they call you when they have known you by one name for 20+ years. And some people didn’t grasp the concept at all and called me “Hannah Oldname” instead of just Hannah which was super weird!

Anyway, I’m curious to hear from other people about this. Have you had a similar experience to me. Do you feel fragmented as you navigate between spaces? Is there anywhere you feel like you can be yourself completely, and unashamedly?

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