Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Did I always know I was bisexual?

I am bisexual
Reposted from my Dreamwidth blog

How long have I known I’m bisexual? A simple question with no simple answer. Someone passed a meme around on Facebook last week saying “It’s fine if you haven’t always known,” which prompted me to reflect.

I have accepted it for seven or eight years, I suppose. But was it a matter of learning something about myself I didn’t previously know? Or was it just that I started to be honest with myself about something I’d always known? Neither of those sits quite right with my memory.

I didn’t come out to anyone but my partner for several years after this realization. Even now, although I openly identify as bisexual online, you wouldn’t guess it from my life in physical space. Primarily, of course, my partner and I were and are in an exclusive relationship and already had been for years before, so I’m not seeking romantic or sexual partners of any gender and have no intention of doing so.

(This is something people sometimes misunderstand, so in case this concept is new to you: no, that doesn’t mean I’m not really bisexual or that I’ve “chosen a side”. I’ve chosen a person.)

But it took years for me to summon up the courage to come out at all, even online. I’ve never taken part in any Pride event, publicly or otherwise, nor any other LGBT-related social activity. Last year a friend invited me to a “coming out stories” session as part of a campus LGBT awareness week; I chickened out.

I grew up Evangelical, which in New Zealand isn’t quite as tightly bound to conservative politics as it is in the US, but on some issues there is definitely a Godly side and a Satanic side, and at least back in the ’80s and ’90s sexual orientation was one of those issues. Meanwhile in the secular culture which I encountered at school, to be gay was the very depth of loserdom, the nadir towards which lesser losers such as geeks and nerds and the arty-farty were presumed to be drawn.

Once I entered an environment where I had to justify moral positions with reasoning, I quickly accepted (intellectually) that there was no justification for opposing same-sex relationships. With a personal history shaped by Evangelicalism and Kiwi-bloke toxic masculinity, however, my emotional reactions took over a decade to catch up – and indeed, acknowledging my own bisexuality was a late stage in that very process.

Nowadays my only contact with the Evangelical community is through my family and some old friends, and if they’re any indication then the norm seems to be shifting. But that’s only a few people, and those few might just as easily be drifting away from the norm as drifting along with it.

Anyway, my single biggest reason for delaying coming out publicly was that I felt a bit presumptuous suddenly identifying as a member of a community which I knew very little about and had a history of being uncomfortable with.

There existed in my teenage years a movement which called itself “Gay” and “Queer” – yes, “Queer” – with its own symbols and aesthetics and its proprietary words, including “bisexual”. This movement seemed entirely alien to everything that was familiar to me, and of course both sides of my cultural background actively encouraged that alienation. I didn’t see any connection between the rainbow flags and the pink triangles and the fishnets and sequins, on the one hand, and my own developing sexuality on the other.