Another coming out

For a blog that covers some madly personal stuff about my life, there’s a surprising amount of things going on that don’t end up on here. I live a very complicated life, and I’m always mindful of both my own sense of exposure anxiety, and that it is at times difficult to tell your own story without telling parts of other peoples. Who didn’t start a blog or ask to be included in one. So I’m trying to be open but discrete and honest but useful.

When I gave a workshop earlier this year about starting a blog, I found myself explaining to various people, usually of an older generation, what a blog is. A number of them referred to it as an online journal. For some blogs that is true, and some of those blogs are simply amazing. For me, it is not. I keep journals, and I write in them regularly too. For me a blog is an entirely different thing. Everything that is posted here is run through a specific set of filters, and the most important one is “Will this be helpful to other people?” So while I’m doing my best to be honest and honour the dark, painful, and anguished aspects of my journey, I’m careful about how I do that. I don’t write posts about, say, suicide, when I’m feeling deeply suicidal. I write them when I’m stable, have some perspective, and can hopefully write something that is both authentic and uplifting. Raw distress and confusion can go into my journal but usually not my blog. There are certainly glimpses of it at times but I’m very aware that some of the readers are in bad places and I don’t want to drown anyone. Plus I’ve found that sharing about things I’m currently struggling with instead of those I used to struggle with often makes people uncomfortable, and some reduce that discomfort by imposing advice. Which I hate. So I’m cautious about how I engage that whole area.

This year has been a very big year for me. I moved into my own secure, stable unit. My dog and cat died. I got a puppy. I’ve been giving talks locally and interstate. And on my birthday, I came out as bisexual to my family. That is my group identity. As I’m multiple, the reality for me is straight and gay parts.

It feels like such a cliché to be struggling with sexuality. Many years ago I was in a community health centre and saw a poster that initially made my breath catch in my throat. It read “Is being different getting you down?” I went closer to see what they were offering. The small print read “Some girls like other girls. Some guys like other guys. Some like both.” I was so disappointed. It’s been such a long road to work out why I felt so different, what that meant and where I could find peers. Multiplicity and dissociation have dominated that process. Sexuality hasn’t had much of a look in.

I grew up in a highly homophobic, at times violently so, environment. As a young person I deeply buried these feelings that would have marked me for rage and abuse. As a young adult I suffered from chronic nightmares that were creative and horrifying. I described them at the time to a psychologist I was seeing as torture. Every night I went to sleep and was tortured in my dreams. Eventually we realised there was a lesbian part who had been totally cut off, buried, and denied expression. When we reached out to her with acceptance, those particular nightmares immediately stopped and have never returned. They were part of me screaming in the dark totally alone and rejected, who no longer screams.

Accepting the group identity of bisexual has been both challenging and liberating. I deeply fear homophobic reactions from others, and while I kept my own sexuality secret, I could also maintain a distance from the homophobic abuse of others. Now, it is personal. To read about a gay teen being bashed I no longer feel angry and horrified like I used to, I now feel afraid and loathed. That has been a difficult transition. I don’t cope well with feeling loathed. With a history that includes being stalked, I also don’t cope well with predatory advances. Revealing a queer identity as a women can bring out  distressing responses from some straight men. As someone who loves children I’m painfully aware of those who see all differences from the norm as ‘deviance’ and who confuse minority sexual orientations with paedophilia. To be thought of as a monster is horrifying.

Encountering the stigma specifically surrounding bisexuality has also been very difficult. I am afraid of rejection from both the straight and queer community, there is at times a sense of not belonging properly to either. When I go to queer events I am always assumed to be lesbian and find myself constantly correcting people and wondering why I bother. I have been stressed by the discomfort of some of the straight community and find myself constantly assessing my behaviour to make sure I’m not being misinterpreted. Giving flowers or a hug to another women is not simple anymore. It has been a huge process to reconcile the fundamental difference of some parts being attracted to men and others to women, and to work out how we could possibly date and love someone without hurting them or being hurt by them.

The conclusion we have come to for us is that being in a straight relationship is deeply distressing to gay parts at the moment, while being in a gay relationship does not distress the straight parts. Getting into chat rooms online to find lesbians talking viciously about bisexual women has been confronting and painful. To be stating our group identity as bisexual when we are not looking to date men is frustrating and sets me up for stress. But identifying as lesbian when that is not how all of us feel is merely swapping one closet for another, and I am so tired of closets.

I feel deeply resentful that I have both the multiplicity and the sexuality to come out about, that feels too much a burden of mis-perceptions and stigma to handle. I want to be out, that is the kind of life I want and the values I have. But I am also rocky and scared and have needed to break the whole process up into small steps to keep it manageable. I am also deeply frustrated that these characteristics become all consuming, totally defining who I am for some people.

So this year, when I turned 29, I woke up that day and decided I was not going to reach 30 and still be hiding this. I’m tired of secrets and the shame that glues to them. I’ve been reaching out to the queer community and making new friends, which has been wonderful and difficult and left me feeling like the world has turned upside down. I still can’t quite believe that I’m allowed to be attracted to women and no one is going to hurt me for it. I went to a “Rainbow service” at a church over easter and sat towards the back, sobbing my heart out and trying not to show it. It’s been an incredibly difficult process even though it’s what I want, even though I believe no one should be ashamed of their sexuality, and I’ve done it at my own pace. I still find myself lost for words, overwhelmed, remembering the speaker at my Grandmothers funeral using his time at the podium to sneer that in her time “we didn’t have homosexuality”. The ridiculousness of that statement is blatant. So is the contempt, and it makes my heart curl up and wither.

Bizarrely, despite how incredibly difficult this journey has been, accepting my attraction to women feels like somehow taking the easy way out, after having spent so long suppressing it and keeping it secret. It’s such a relief, such a sense of coming home. To have escaped the world I grew up in and navigated my own fear and confusion and the mess of labels and stigma, to be finding a place where I can just exist as I am, it’s like flying.

So here I am. Many of my favourite artists and musicians are bisexual. I’m part of a diverse community. Bisexual is not shorthand for faithless, promiscuous, damaged, or untrustworthy, although bisexual people may certainly be any or all of those – like anyone. As an artist I find bodies beautiful, vulnerable, and deserving of being seen through romantic eyes, not shaming or judging ones. I’m angry that so many people are struggling with things that leave them excluded, secretive, ashamed, and lonely. I do not believe that is right. I now co-facilitate a fortnightly group The Gap, for same-sex attracted women aged 25 – 40, not because I have extensive networks and experience in queer culture but because the group was short a facilitator and closing down. I believe that we all have the right to choose our own words and labels that feel most comfortable and not to be defined by other people, and that we have the right to live whole lives, free from shame, fear, stigma, abuse, and isolation. I want to be free, authentic, to feel like I can breathe, that I am whole, I want to love and live in the sunshine and drink the night and be fully alive. And I want to help other people find those things too.

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