Ever since I was little, I knew something was different. (As much of these articles start out this way, it is true.) There was this wonderful girl in primary school who I can remember being my first crush. I was in Year 1, she was in Year 6. She used to hang out in the playground and share a chocolate bar with me. It was a match made in heaven, naturally.
So, when she left for high school, I was devastated. I mean, I thought we had something special, I really did. Apparently it takes more than a Penguin biscuit to make a girl like you.
Then I met my subsequent crush, a sweet boy who used to hit me over the head with a foam foot during playtime. I can really say, looking back on it, that it was such acts of affection that drew me to him from the off.
Through the next years of school, I was the typical mess of hormones that everyone else was, but with the addition of me being made the butt of many jokes about greed, indecisiveness and wanting to have my cake and eat it too. Most of the men thought I was telling them these things in order to be more attractive to them or in order to prove a point about sexual liberation or something idiotic like that. Most of the comments, as well, are things that many women who love women hear on an all too regular basis:
“You’re just looking for the right man.”
“So, that means you want a threesome, right?”
And most painful of all:
“You still haven’t grown out of that yet?”
As if attraction to another person is an old anorak I still have from primary school, and I’ve refused to take it off.
My family has always been the biggest support I have had my entire life, no matter what I have come to them with, and in that way I am truly lucky to have them in my life. In terms of friends and partners, however, I have never found acceptance in my sexual identity like the acceptance I’ve found since coming to university. I had never been able to make jokes about myself without other people also joining in uninvited; the sharp comments about me going to women because I’m so unattractive to men have stopped entirely, and I couldn’t be more grateful, and the LGBT+ community down here has opened my eyes to so much, especially in terms of me as a bisexual woman.
Back home, I was one of a very select few LGBT+ teenagers, and I was absolutely the only one out in my group of friends for the longest time, and so I found myself identifying with the struggle that so many LGBT+ teenagers go through around the world. I fought alongside them every year I could at Pride, and even managed to march in the parade one very fortunate year. It was such a wonderful and open atmosphere and made me feel so comfortable with myself in a way I hadn’t done since I had offered that girl a half of my penguin biscuit all those years ago. Me and my girlfriends at school would proudly hold hands, even to crowds of jeers and occasional throwing of food, because we knew that we were doing absolutely nothing wrong, and I still hold absolutely no regrets about those years, even if I sometimes look back on them and cringe about how ready to argue I was.
What I’m trying to say is, I felt like I was one of a special few. I was one of the discriminated, and that made me feel that I had a much more important fight to fight, on behalf of the rest of the teenagers who would come after me and those who fought before me. As if the future of all of the LGBT+ teenagers that came after me relied on my unique perspective, my ability to be outspoken.
But (and there’s always a but), since coming to university, my horizons have broadened so much, to where I now know my view from back then was warped in my favour.
I chose to ignore that, when I am dating a man, I have the ability to blend into the background. Not that I choose who I date based on that by any means, but who I date does have an effect on how I am perceived day to day, and that perception can change from me being just a regular, heteronormative woman to a not-so-heteronormative woman. It’s the difference between me being able to tell judgmental extended relatives about my current partner and being unable to even acknowledge that I’m in a relationship for fear of their opinions and their ostracism that would inevitably follow. I am very lucky in that way.
In other ways, I am very much unlucky. I suffer from the same judgment and ridicule that every woman who loves women goes through, and whilst there are wonderful people within the community itself, there are always people outside of it who want to beat down peoples’ rights to love freely and without fear of exile, pain and even death, and I’m sure every bisexual woman has gone through much the same thought process.
We’re Frankie Muniz, Malcolm in the Middle, stuck between straight friends and LGBT+ friends alike, fitting into both groups but also not quite fitting into either. We’re the middle of the Venn diagram of sexuality, and I for one think that that’s an awesome place to be. It offers a way to view both groups at once, allowing both a third and first person perspective on many issues.
And please, don’t take me the wrong way. I am very, very proud of being a bisexual woman. I think being able to date anyone along whatever part of the gender spectrum they may fall is a wonderful thing to be able to do, and coming out to my friends, my close family and my partners was the best thing I ever did. But with this identity does come some recognition of privilege, as does every identity.
The thing that hurts me most is when I see people in the community arguing over who has it worse. And I don’t mean in the sense of recognising privileges and admitting that our opinions and perspectives always always benefit from other people and their experiences. I mean in the sense of people wanting to be recognised as the ‘sexuality that struggles the most’.
Our fight is the fight of every LGBT+ person; the fight for the freedom to love whoever we want without fear, judgment or revulsion. It is a fight that is still continuing today, and playing oppression olympics will get none of us anywhere. Especially if the fight is coming from both sides, inside and outside of the community. Infighting and backbiting means that advancement is held behind, and pride in identity is not the same as trying to find a reason that you feel discriminated. Stoke the fire in your belly with something other than vitriol, and remember that we should all come together as a group in order to help each other, not argue over who suffers the most.
Bisexuality has brought so much joy to my life, as well as a lot of pain, but I regret none of it, because being able to date who I want is what I still strive for in all aspects of my life, no matter who may disagree.
I still hold onto the hope, no matter how naïve, that I will soon be able to introduce a future partner, no matter their gender, and not have to think twice about anyone’s reaction, and I’m sure that’s a fight that everyone can get behind.[fruitful_sep]
Lauren Baker is a former northener turned Londoner who studies Japanese and Linguistics. In her spare time she studies the sign languages of the world and annoys her friends with memes and cat videos. Her passions include language, gender politics, feminism and caramelised almonds.