Eastshade: gaming, grief, and lockdown

Mild spoilers for Eastshade within.

One of the few joys of lockdown has been the chance to discover new games and play them for hours on end without interuption. I notched up 10 consecutive hours in Heaven’s Vault one Saturday back in May because it was so entralling, I just couldn’t bring myself to stop. And the light evenings back then meant I could still go for my permitted walk of the day afterwards. How fabulous!

For the past few weeks people have been feeling on edge, knowing lockdown restrictions could become harsher any at moment with little to no warning. For many, this uncertainty and lack of clarity has been some of the hardest aspects of the pandemic to deal with.

Now full lockdowns are happening again in parts of the UK – and it looks like next week the rest of us will join them. It will be harder this time with colder, wetter weather taking away our chance to enjoy time outside coupled with long, dark evenings.

Life has been reduced to trying to similtanously savour and grieve the things you know will soon be taken away from you again. Every weekend I go for what could be my last meal at a restuarant for a while. Or see a friend in a park for what could be the last time for a while. It’s hard to fully enjoy these activities though, because we just don’t know.

Over the past month I also had a grief milestone looming over me. On Sunday, the sad and grief-stricken day arrived where I had lived longer without my mum than with her. As always with grief-milstones, the build-up was very emotional and intense (and always worse than the actual day itself for some reason!). I felt quietly heartbroken and I didn’t have anyone to talk about it with who understood or knew what that day meant to me.

And then I stumbled upon Eastshade. What a beautiful, moving, life-affirming game! It gave me everything I didn’t realise I needed.

A screenshot showing a beautiful, green landscape with some mountains in the distance, and a hot air balloon rising into the sky.

It is very carefully and thoughtfully designed. At the start of the game, you travel to a small island populated with talking, walking animal folk. Your reason for visiting is that your mother really loved this place. You want to find and paint 4 beautiful views on the island that she told you about. She died an unspecified amount of time ago. This is OK though because the grief is quietly there but it’s not so raw it’s unbearable. You have gentle challenges to move the game along but nothing is urgent, nothing bad will happen to you and nothing can hurt you. You can find and complete other quests along the way but they are also small and gentle, like helping someone to find something. Or discovering the source of the music in the woodlands at night.

Exploring is the heart of the game. All the quests are designed to get you look around and discover something more and you are always rewarded for this. Every flower, beach, woodland trail, and sunset is just magnificent. It is so beautifully crafted. For example, the light changes depending on the time of the day. So I often found my way back to the beach, river, or tower top just to appreciate it during a different moment.

The sound design was also exquisite and again, I often found myself visiting places just to hear a particular piece of music, or the waves, or the sound of paddling my raft on the lake.

Another clever bit of design was the way that areas of the island opened up for exploration. At first you are in a small village, then the surrounding area, then the town etc. etc. You always had enough to explore and still feel free to do whatever you wanted without getting lost or feeling too overwhelmed. Just as one area might start to get a bit boring, another opened up. As you began to tire of walking around, you earned enough money to buy a bike or a pulley wheel. Then you could have fun whizzing around on wheels or zooming down ziplines to previously inaccessible areas.

When you return home at the end of game, you see the pictures you painted on the island and the letters you received from new friends made.

A screenshot from a cave on the beach, looking out to the sky, the sea, and a cliff face. A stone column divides the view of the sky into two.


Everything I’ve just described matches the criteria for boosting mental well-being, doesn’t it? It feels like the game was deliberately designed with this in mind.

  • Exploring your surroundings
  • Appreciating nature
  • Discovering new and exciting things
  • Helping others, and being helped in return
  • Overcoming challenges
  • Making new friends
  • Going somewhere new
  • Doing things to remember the people we love

We can’t do a lot of these things in real life right now, so I feel so blessed to have discovered this game at a time where I could benefit from it the most. Thanks to Eastshade, I can do these things virtually instead. I have a wonderful and safe place to return to any time I like.

That’s all great but why are you talking about it here, in your blog on bisexuality?

Good question! Well, one of the quests is to get two erm, female bearfolk, together. They have feelings for each other, but aren’t sure if the other feels the same. Your task is to invite one of them to a picnic so the other can tell them how they feel. So sweet! And I didn’t know it was coming so it was such a pleasant surprise.

This quest really made me smile. It was simple, joyful, LGBTQ+ inclusion in a really nice and meaningful way. The quest was treated exactly the same as any other in the game. That’s all I’ve ever wanted in the media I consume really, to be represented and treated just like everyone else.

Thank you for giving that to me, Eastshade. I love you.

A screen shot of a waterfall, lined by trees either side. Trees with green leaves on the left, and a deep shade of pink on the right. Again, the sun and moon are visible in the sky.

When I feel too anxious to eat

Content note: In this post I talk about anxiety, struggling to eat, and mushy foods that help me.

Disclaimer: None of this is medical advice, just my thoughts! Please speak to your doctor if your mental and/or physical health is taking a turn for the worse at the moment.

I want to write about topics like this to normalise talking about mental health problems, especially as they are so prevalent in the bi community. It’s easy to look around and feel like you are the only one.

Do you ever get so anxious it makes you feel sick? Thankfully it doesn’t happen to me very often, but when it does I really hate it. It sticks around for ages and even when I do everything ‘right’ to help myself and self care nothing seems to make a dent in it.

I signed up for counselling. Exercise regularly. Get lots of sleep and rest. Talk to friends. Etc. etc. etc. thanks for nothing, anxious brain. I feel full all the time, and when I cook I can barely swallow more than a few mouthfuls.

When you feel like this, what food helps you?

For me soft, mushy food is all I can manage. My favourites are:

  • smoothies
  • sausages and baked beans
  • soup
  • porridge with cinnamon
  • ice cream & ice lollies

Something that helps me is, putting a small amount on my plate to start with so I’m not putting any pressure on myself. Often I feel able to go back for seconds – which feels better for me than starting with too much and feeling overwhelmed then having to put some back.

I try to be gentle with myself and remember that this round of anxiety will break at some point and I will feel a lot more normal again.

Hugs for all of us.

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?

Straight washed history

Recently I went to one of my favourite places in London, the Imperial War Museum! Within seconds of walking in I was raiding the bookshop. One book by Stephen Bourne caught my eye. ‘Fighting Proud’ looks at the gay men who served in the armed forces or contributed to the war effort on the home front in World War I and World War II.

BookCover

The image shows the book cover, which features a photo of two men in uniform embracing.

After just 10 pages I had to put the book down for a while because it invoked such a strong reaction in me. In the preface Bourne writes “In the 1970s I was completely unaware that, as a gay teenager, I had a history.” He then goes on to write that finding a book in the library changed that, and taught him that gay men had existed in the past.

I can relate to that feeling so strongly. Growing up and going to school under Section 28 meant that I only learned about LGBTQ+ issues and LGBTQ+ history by myself, looking up and reading about whatever I could after I had left secondary school. It’s hard to look up what you don’t know about though. And you can’t educate yourself on what you never think to search.

In the first few pages of Fighting Proud I learned that Wilfred Owen, the well known First World War soldier, was gay. WHAT?! How did I not know this sooner?! Siegfried Sassoon was too!

I feel shocked, angry, and cheated by the education system. Like nearly everyone in the UK, I studied their war poetry in my English lessons. This important part of who they were was never mentioned. (Although I’m not sure if this was directly because of Section 28, or whether the syllabus in general was ‘straight-washed’ and this part of their identity was conveniently not mentioned by teachers or the textbooks.)

I also learned that a play I studied in English called ‘Journey’s End‘ contains a lot of homoerotic subtext. Its original director James Whale was gay and the author R C Sherriff is thought to have been gay too.

In another chapter of Fighting Proud Bourne writes about Lord Kitchener. Again, another prominent figure in British history. Even if you don’t recognise the name or know he was a military leader in the First World War, you’ve probably seen his face on the famous recruitment poster. (The one where he points towards the viewer with the caption “Your country needs you.” written underneath.)

As is often the case in history there is no concrete evidence of Lord Kitchener’s sexuality. However he did live with a younger man, Captain Oswald ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald, for 9 years. Again after reading this I felt shocked, angry, and cheated about what little I had been taught in history class.

Perhaps it’s worth pondering at this point whether someone’s sexuality matters. After all, it’s not relevant to their war poetry, playwriting skills, or ability to lead to lead the troops to victory, is it? We still learn about them and their achievements all the same, don’t we?

But it matters to LGBTQ+ people. Without this knowledge we grow up not knowing the lives and stories of those who came before us. I hope it’s different for younger LGBTQ+ people out there today, but for the pre-internet and pre-social media generation this straight-washing of education meant growing up thinking you were the only one. That you were abnormal. New. A seed rather than something with roots to ground you and show you your place within the world. You grew up without role models. Without knowing that people like you have achieved amazing things and have been remembered in history for them. (Or in Kitchener’s case, a controversial figure rightly criticised for a lot of horrific stuff too.)

And everyone else grows up thinking LGBTQ+ people never existed in the past either. That being queer or trans is wrong and abnormal when actually, we’re really common! There’s thousands and millions of us! And lo and behold, the harmful myths and prejudices against LGBTQ+ people continue. So does the higher rates of violence, hate crime, and discrimination. Plus higher rates of mental health problems compared to the general population.

All this time there was so much I never knew. I never fully appreciated how robbed I was by the straight-washing of history until now, and this is just one small section of history from one book.

Without consciously realising it I had thought that everything I studied in school was ‘straight’ and I just had to accept it. But I don’t think that way any more, because now I know that I was denied my truth and I was lied to.

I’ve mentioned the well known folk from history in this blog post, however Fighting Proud is full of other previously untold stories. Thank you Stephen Bourne for bringing them into the spotlight where they belong.

Being out as bisexual at work

Yesterday my boss was preparing to go on annual leave. Next week we will have our company-wide staff meeting so she gave my two co-workers and I a sheet of notes of things she would like us to discuss. There was a paragraph for each of us on the page, and we knew which one was ours as they had been colour coded according to our favourite colours. As it happens our favourites are pink, blue, and purple. My purple paragraph had been placed in the middle.

“Awwwww,” I said upon opening the document. “You’ve accidentally made the bisexual flag with your paragraph colours!”

My boss didn’t know there was a specific flag for bisexuality so looked it up, and we all talked about a few other things relating to flags, labels, and sexuality before returning back to work.

I thought about how lucky I was that I could use my bi activism to help me get a job (on two separate occasions now). As well as talk about this blog and the Big Bi Fun Day at work, and about bisexuality in general. I’ve been out in nearly every school/office/dead end job I’ve ever worked in, but this is the first time I’ve never been questioned, mocked, or made to feel unsafe because of it. In fact, I can safely discuss bisexual issues quite a lot.

If people are able to try coming out as bi at work they risk being treated differently and being viewed as an untrustworthy, indecisive, and unreliable colleague. They risk being passed over for job opportunities and promotions, being fired, or for people to make their working lives so miserable they have no choice but to leave. Bullying is rife in many offices.  I have either experienced all of these things firsthand or seen them happen to other people. As a bystander you can defend someone through actions such as shutting down gossip, supporting them in team meetings etc. but so much happens beyond the space you occupy. And when it’s management or a large group of people you often have very little power to stop it.

For most people it is still not safe to come out at work and it never will be. Often it means working alongside people who you know are biphobic, perhaps even having to put up with anti LGBTQ+ comments and behaviour every time you go in to work. Sadly it’s not limited to your colleagues – if there is no system in place for dealing with it then you may well have to endure the same from clients, service users, and/or volunteers too.

Depending on which study you cite, only 6-12% of bisexuals are out to their co-workers. A figure that is a lot lower than the numbers for gay and lesbian people which is around 40% – which of course is still a very low figure. (Stats from Invisible Majority, lgbtmap.org – thank you to @KivaBay for sharing this link on their Twitter timeline.)

I still stutter and stammer sometimes when my co-workers ask me about the events I run. Even though I know it’s ok to talk about it, it is hard to let go of the fear that automatically floods your veins and makes you freeze when someone mentions anything LGBTQ+ related in the workplace.

It is so amazing to have the support of my work colleagues and yesterday, after the ‘bi-coloured-meeting-notes incident’, I took a moment to appreciate how rare this is and how lucky I am to fall within that small percentage of the bi population.

 

Other resources

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.

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 by 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.