You Are Not Alone

When you’re attracted to more than one gender it can be incredibly isolating. Often you’re the only person you know who is like you. You are the sole bisexual at home. You are the only bi in school/the office. You hang out with your straight/gay friends after work. Perhaps you have a gay/straight partner you can spend time with too.

Maybe you have some bi friends and attend several bi events every year, but once your time together has passed it’s back to being the only one (that you know of?) until next time.

Daily life is exhausting. Being the only one wears you down and affects your mental and physical health. A lot of the time my heart sinks when I step out of the front door in the morning because I know I have another day full of heternormativity, bi-erasure, and micro-aggressions ahead of me. And yet I know I’m lucky and privileged. I am safe. I have a job. I always have enough. Even if it is dispersed around the country, I am part of bi community. Most days do not involve discrimination,  harassment, or overt biphobia.

When I feel alone I come on my site and look at the stats map.

map of world

The image shows a map of the world. Scores of countries are highlighted yellow or orange.

If a country is coloured in it means 1 or more person has viewed this site from that location. The darker the colour, the more hits from that area.

I know this probably looks like I’m trying to inflate my own ego or something. I’m sorry about that. I just wanted to show you this map of the world because it contains just one year’s worth of data from one small website. Yet WordPress logged hits from 84 separate countries! Assuming all of this traffic was not made up of accidental clicks by monosexuals then imagine how many more of us are out there.

We are not alone. We exist in every single place on Earth. I draw a lot of comfort from that.

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Had more sex with cis-men than any other gender..?

I grew up in a small town that was very white, Christian, and straight so unsurprisingly in my teenage years there were not many opportunities for a bisexual to share affection, kiss, or have sex with anyone apart from cisgendered boys. Though once when I was 14 I snogged a girl in the year below me at school whilst at a local band night.

And then that was it until I moved hundreds of miles away from home to go to university four years later.

From then on I found it really hard to let other women know I was interested in them and explore things beyond kissing for several reasons. Low self-esteem, being covered in eczema, past abuse, but also because…then what!? We only received very basic sex ed in school which didn’t mention anything apart from heterosexual penis-in-vagina sex so I had absolutely no idea what to do next. (Or even for that matter, enough knowledge of sex, pleasure, and anatomy to be able to tell others what would make sex enjoyable for me.)

The aforementioned things are all difficult obstacles to overcome. Plus bis are so hypersexualised that potential partners often assume you’ve had a lot of sex already. In fact, many women who are curious and are looking to experiment have said that they’d like to have sex with me because I’m experienced and can show them what to do! (I’m flattered my personality and love of Doctor Who counts for so much.) So yikes, no pressure then.

When faced with that situation I would retreat into my shell like a turtle. I still do! Though when I have the spoons I also challenge their biphobic assumptions and explain that being bi does not automatically make you anyone’s sex teacher. I’m not an object for your ‘practice run’ either (so you can presumably experience the ‘real thing’ with a monosexual later).

It wasn’t until 23/24 onwards that I started to have sex with people who weren’t cis men. I know there must be many others out there who have or are experiencing something similar. For those who realise they have, or develop, an attraction to the same-sex later in life you may well be in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, and have ‘only’ had sex with cis men. I imagine older bis might feel the pressure of people thinking they should know what they are doing by that age.

(See also, ‘You can’t be bi, if you were you would have known about it by now/tried it when you were younger!)

It doesn’t matter how much or how little sex any of us have had in our lives but we are all socialised to feel like it does and society judges us by it.

Some people seem to think bisexuality can only be granted as a label when you’re able to rattle off a long list of sexual experiences but people aren’t conquests, achievements, or objects that give you a certain status.

So what does all this mean?

It means that, if you experience either a sexual and/or romantic attraction to more than one gender you are bisexual/pansexual/biromantic/demisexual regardless of any sexual experience you may or may not have had. Congratulations! It’s impossible to be ‘not bi enough’.

It means that, if someone thinks they have the right to challenge what label you use to identify yourself as because of knowledge they hold about your sexual history (e.g. ‘you can’t call yourself bi, you’ve only had sex with men’), you can tell them to fuck off!

It also means that, if people don’t believe you and question you about your sexuality (e.g ‘But HOW can you be suuurre you’re X if you’ve only done Y, hmmmmm?’), then you can also tell them to fuck off!

Or you can be more polite about it but you get the idea. You don’t have to justify or explain your sexuality to anyone else.

For a lot of people who really want to have to have (more) sex with women but a lack of knowledge feels like a huge barrier I recommend reading Girl Sex 101 by Allison Moon. It’s a really informative book full of hints, how-to guides, and diagrams. Its content covers communication, pleasure, and consent, and the book is trans inclusive.

Event Review: Butch, please!

I’ve been in London about a year and a half now and during that time I’ve really struggled to find a regularly occurring safe space where I feel happy to hang out and can meet other people like me. I think I’ve felt the absence of that in my life more because I’d lived in Manchester (which has one of the largest bi scenes in the country) and Nottingham (where almost all of the bi events were set up and run by me)!

I tried out a regular bi pub social in London when I first arrived but there were about 6 other people there who barely uttered a word to me all evening, including the organiser, so I never bothered going back.

Another option was to try going out to clubs like She in SoHo but when I went there the floor was covered in water due to a leak in the ceiling (which the bar staff were desperately trying to stop my stapling napkins to the plywood!) and I got tired of trying to go clubbing in a tiny rooms in basements about ten years ago.

A friend said she loved Butch, Please! and I thought I’d give it a go even though I was scared. I’ve long avoided events that are described as being solely lesbian after experiencing very violent and aggressive biphobia in the past, but I’d been to The Royal Vauxhall Tavern before and really like the venue so thought I’d give it a try.

The event is described as:

“A night for lesbians and their friends of all genders. Everyone welcome if you wanna have a good time. For Butch Muthers and Baby Dykes alike – bring the love, the respect and the power…Wear what you like. Be nice. Have a good time.”

It would be really nice if the organisers could add a few words to say that bi and pan people are welcome too! 

But gripes about bi erasure aside (it would also be nice if their FB had more bi stuff on it) I’m happy to say the night was absolutely *AMAZING*. I can only describe it as an absolute hoot. From the second I walked in I felt very welcome and safe. I was greeted by a friendly person on the door and I loved the event merchandise available (cute little badges).

If you get there early enough you can grab a table but if not, there is a large dance floor, a cloakroom, and plenty of space to put your drink down. It’s very cheap for London; only £5 to get in!  (Many clubs charge £20+.) The DJ played a wide range of music for people to dance to and there was something for everyone whether you wanted Abba or Le Tigre. I’m not a night owl so the fact that I could boogie from 8pm and leave at around midnight worked wonders for me – especially as it’s held on a weeknight.

804x398-1
The picture shows the event logo; black lettering with the words ‘Butch. please!’ all in capitals.

People wore what they felt happiest in. You could see everything from fancy outfits with heels to t-shirt, jeans, and trainers. There was a mix of skin colours and nationalities. Trans and non-binary people were welcomed too.

One thing that really struck me was the sense of community. Most people were clearly regulars who knew each other. People who had never met me before saw I was with someone they knew and didn’t hesitate to introduce themselves, sit at my table, offer me a drink, or shake their stuff on the dance floor with me. It’s the friendliest club night I’ve ever been too. I’ve been recommending it to all my friends. Can’t wait for the next one!

Pre-Kiss Checklist

Earlier in the year I met a really cool woman whilst out and about in London. We got chatting and went for drinks and to my delight got on so well we agreed to meet up again later in the week . However as far as I was concerned this was only for friendship – and I hadn’t said or done anything to indicate otherwise. So Friday arrived and I was looking forward to another night of hanging out with my new companion. She knew I was bi and I knew she wasn’t straight so I was also happy to get a chance to relax, be out of the closet, and be myself.

After getting some food we went to a bar in Soho. We had drinks. We talked more. We laughed at how these kinds of places always seem to be the size of your living room.We grimaced at the leaky ceiling and shook our heads in bemusement when a member of staff tried to staple napkins to it to stop more bits of plywood from dropping to the floor. Later we got up and went for a dance. I can’t remember what the questions she asked me next were exactly but it went something like this:

“So have you been in relationships with women, or just men?”

I answered.

“And were those, like, proper long term relationships or just short term things?”

I answered.

A minute or so later she slammed her lips against mine. I was very surprised! Maybe I should have said earlier that I just had friendship in mind (but then she didn’t say she was thinking of more either). And maybe I could have picked up on her intentions at some point in the evening and subtly clarified. But I’m not very good at this socialising with other people thing and low self esteem means I struggle to comprehend how anyone can want me romantically. I honestly had no idea she might have assumed otherwise. Oh well. At least I know now for next time.

But all that is beside the point really.

I hate how my sexuality comes with so many assumptions and negative connotations. I hate how she only wanted to kiss me after she had assessed that I was ‘gay enough’ and had ‘dated women enough’ to be a suitable recipient for her affections. If my answers had been different, would I have been judged unworthy? As someone ‘too straight’, too unreliable, and too untrustworthy to be intimate with?  It was a really unpleasant experience.

I am bisexual. And I am ‘bi enough’ thank you very much.

 

 

Traveling To Meet Family I Never Knew I Had

I remember what it was like to come out to my family. I know what it is like to still not be able to tell all of them. And in the past I’ve written about what it’s like when a  bereavement takes away the chance of ever being able to say.

I remember all the time spent as a teenager and as an adult, not knowing whether the people in my family would accept or reject me or fall somewhere in between. Agonising year after year after year about whether it’s safe to come out and if so, when and how to go about it. For me it’s painful and stressful and a slow form of torture you have to carry with you every single day when all you want is to be wanted and loved unconditionally for who you are.

For many of us deaths, divorces, and new relationships change the shape of our families and people can find themselves having to go through all off the above for a SECOND TIME. This was the case for me when a step-family came into my life. (Although I wouldn’t wish for things to be any different because I’m happy that my dad and step-mum have been able to find love and happiness together.)

Now, from a very young age I’ve known that my dad was adopted. I never thought much of it because I was told never to mention it and I loved the grandparents I knew. It was a shock at the time, but as far as I was concerned my adoptive grandparents were my family and the mysterious biological relatives out there somewhere was something I never really had a concept of anyway.

When I was in my early 20s my dad decided to look for his family and some time later contact was made. I’m delighted to say it was a positive reunion for all involved. However it was still a huge thing for me to try and get my head round as after my birth grandma was forced to give my dad up for adoption she was sent to America and went on to have four more children. This means I have many aunties, uncles, and cousins (plus their babies) in another continent.

Part of the reason I put off flying out to America to meet them for so long was because for me that means having to go through the above for a third time. A THIRD TIME!! And this time having A LOT of people to get to know and work out whether it’s safe to come out to them or not. And if it all ends badly I will be alone and nowhere near home.

I am sat a plane to America as I type and I feel a lot of things; happiness, excitement, sadness. Grief for the time we never got to spend together. Grief for the grandparents I never knew. (My birth grandma passed away a decade ago. Birth grandad remains unknown.) However most of all I’m afraid that my recently discovered biological family will be biphobic. I feel very vulnerable and emotional right now and unable to face any negative reactions or rejection that might arise. I wish I could just dance out of Arrivals singing “I’m beautiful and bi!” whilst doing jazz hands or something and they’d go, “Awesome!” and we’d hug but sadly life is never that simple. Or stylish.

But one thing I’ve realised is that if I fear or expect any biphobia then I am being just as prejudiced as I fear they might be. I would be judging them before I know them and thinking less of them. That’s not it’s not a nice thing for me to do and it’s not very nice or fair for them. So despite being utterly terrified and emotionally exhausted I am doing my best to have an open heart and an open mind as I fly over the Atlantic.

Can bi volunteer work help you get a job?

This year has seen a lot of changes as I’ve moved house, moved cities and found a new job – no wonder I haven’t had the time or energy to write anything here since January!

I was very fortunate as I had enough money in the bank to last through a short period of unemployment and pay for the cost of moving. I also had enough to give me 1-2 months to find work/start temping so I had the privilege of being able to be out on my CV and take a higher rate of rejection. If it took longer to get work I would be able to cope for a while.

There were a few reasons why I chose to do this. One is that I can no longer bear to hide my sexuality, even if I know the results of coming out will be damaging. I want people to see ME and not something I’m pretending to be. Another is that BiTopia and bi activism took up so much of my life there was little time for anything else. (Clearly wasn’t following my own advice on avoiding burnout!)

In the UK there is an expectation that your CV must show examples of employment, volunteer work, AND some kind of skill building, teamwork based hobby. (Way to discriminate against all the bi people who are just struggling to get by, and can’t do some/all of the above.) So if I didn’t talk about my bi group on my CV, it wouldn’t fit the unspoken criteria for being short listed without lying anyway. Besides, it was all relevant experience to the jobs I wanted to apply for so it made sense to put it on.

Another reason was that as I was moving to a much bigger city, there would be a better chance of finding an LGBTQ+ friendly employer. The people who saw queer stuff on the CV and immediately rejected me because of it would be the people who never got in touch – hurrah!

Finally, I wanted to share what I’d achieved because I felt proud.

It felt very scary talking about it out loud in the job interview in response to questions like, ‘Do you have experience using social media?’ or ‘Can you work with a wide range of people?’ I felt very vulnerable and afraid. I kept reminding myself they could be LGBTQ+ too,  but mostly I was waiting for them to shoot me looks of disgust or call the interview off early. (Not that they did of course.) My voice did wobble at times despite my best efforts to keep it steady and talk naturally.

In the end I got the job, and I also had another interview lined up that I cancelled once I heard the news.

I’m not going to end this with some sappy “You can do it too!” sentiment. Everyone’s situation is different. You might not be in a financial position that allows you to leave a job, take longer to find one, or pick and choose amongst them. It might be damaging or dangerous to come out in your field of employment. But bi activism and organising groups and events can equip you many relevant skills and experiences. And these can aid you in applications and interviews. If being out on your CV is something you are thinking of doing then I wish you good luck!

Saying Something Doesn’t Make It So

Recently I mentioned an LGBTQ+ issue to a neighbour and was immediately met with the words “But that’s not really a problem any more.”

This happens to me a lot.

I can understand the (false) reasoning behind the sentiment. There is a pervasive feeling amongst people with privilege in our society that, in this modern day and age, things have improved and people are now tolerant and accepting. Like we’ve reached and crossed a finish line and there is nothing else to be done. It’s 2016 you know? That stuff just doesn’t happen any more! I can also understand how the ‘I don’t see it, so it mustn’t happen’ way of thinking an take hold. For example if you are white, and your life doesn’t intersect with any/many BME people, then you wouldn’t see any violence, prejudice or discrimination against them taking place. So you could reach a false conclusion that it barely occurs. (I sadly, wrongly used to be that person.)

I think the British media also exacerbates this, as issues such as racism in the police force or the fight for equal marriage in America often get more coverage than UK issues. Or the UK issues barely get mentioned at all. So people think it’s not much of a problem here. E.g. many people have heard of how all the Oscar nominees are all white this year, but they might not think about the lack of diversity in British film and television. And BME people are more likely to die in police custody in the UK too. In terms of general knowledge, a lot of people will know who Caitlyn Jenner is, but could they name a British trans person?

A lot of people don’t want to think about these things because it makes them feel uncomfortable. So it’s easier for them just to say it’s not an issue, and suppress other people speaking up about it. “Just live your life and be happy.” they say. “Stop making everything into a big deal!” Or they do things like make you hide your (perfectly reasonable) posters for a protest in case you upset other people, who aren’t even affected by the issue you’re protesting against!

And yes things definitely have improved a lot over time. But saying that things are still bad isn’t disagreeing with that, it’s acknowledging that something is still happening that people shouldn’t have to deal with. That something, like violence against trans people, or LGBTQ+ homelessness, or the fact that women are more likely to be raped if they’re bisexual needs to stop NOW. ASAP. We can’t improve anything if people won’t even accept it’s happening. It’s a powerful tool of oppression.

It’s really frustrating when people who are not affected by an issue, or are not a member of a minority group disproportionately affected by something, insist that it’s not really a problem. Putting salt instead of sugar into your tea by accident is an example of something that is not really a problem. Saying something doesn’t make it so, and I wish people would at least listen for a few minutes before opening their mouths in these situations. If they meant well and honestly didn’t know it was an issue in society, then why can’t they take a step back and think, “Well by Jove, I’m so lucky. I was so unaffected by that awful thing I didn’t even know about it! I should learn about it, and see if there is anything I can do to help stop it.”

On this occasion I didn’t know the exact figures, so I just mumbled quietly that it is still a problem before the conversation moved on. I have just looked it up for next time. We shouldn’t have to be walking encyclopaedias of depressing statistics, but other people often force us into that position by insisting things aren’t important or that they aren’t happening. Then they get into arguments with us when we have the audacity to point out their false beliefs.

Life makes me tired, and I am tired of banging my head repeatedly against brick walls.