Being Bi – My First Pride

imagesFrom the erasure of bisexual participation in the early Pride movement, to incidences of biphobia at Pride events today, the bisexual community has had an uneasy relationship with Pride. But when we focus on the worst Pride can be, we can forget about the best. Here Clara from Retrogreat.com reminds us just how important it can be.

I’m 9 years old. Some friends and I play “Mummies and Daddies”. It turns into a campaign at school of calling me a dyke and a lesbian. I don’t understand – I have crushes on both men and women, but assume puberty will establish a preference.

I’m 17 years old. One night at a classmate’s house, she strokes my waist, she feels different to the lone boy I’ve kissed so far. Her boyfriend watches from a chair. After a while, she leaps away without warning, begins to cry and leaves the room. It takes me years before I realise he’d pressured her into it. She possibly didn’t want to kiss me at all.

I’m 25. I quit my job & go backpacking. I’m mostly out as bisexual, though it doesn’t occur to me go to gay bars. I’m not gay, would I be welcome? I sleep with a lot of men. They’re everywhere, they’re looking for it and I know the script. It’s so easy.

On a night flight from Bangkok to Heathrow, a tiny blonde girl wants distracting. She downs raspberry vodka and propositions me. I will happily tell the story of joining the mile high club but worry it doesn’t count. A one off with a stranger? I didn’t even initiate it.

I feel like a fraud.

I’m 33. I’ve started going to LGBTQ venues and getting involved, performing in cabarets and community events. I’m trading at a “Queer Fayre” selling super femme Barbie Shoe earrings.

A dapper woman looks me up and down.

“Never would have thought YOU were a lesbian,” she snorts.

I’m not.

“Sweetheart. No one will buy this stuff. Have you thought of making cufflinks?”

“You can’t trust bi girls. They’ll always want …the other one” says a drunk gay woman, leaning over me to talk to my partner.

Oh.

I read about bisexual women’s mental health. I read that we’re likely to be sexualised. I think about being coerced into sex acts by one boyfriend, and the scars it left on my psyche. I think about how I’ve been on antidepressants for 20 years now.

I’m 36. I’m walking down the Falls Road in Belfast. My lover talks about the 80s and the knot in my stomach grows. I don’t understand. I’ve never understood how quickly and easily differences turn to hate turns to violence turns to death. Why we can’t be better than this.

It’s here I learn about Orlando.

The outpouring of grief is immense. People are talking about the acceptance that I never found in gay bars. They talk about communities I’ve got a conditional place in. I mourn murdered Latin(x)s and their friends. I grieve for a shared sense of fear and shame we’ve had to fight our whole lives, regardless of how we dress or who we date or how much we have to keep hidden.

It’s a week later and I’ve just woken, throwing up into the toilet thanks to a Brexit-inspired hangover. I’m tired of this. I’m drowning in hate, hate, hate, death, pain. I need a straw to clutch.

I’m due at the Samaritans office to face paint their volunteers for London Pride. I will be visible this year. I need this, but I’m terrified. I home in on other visibly bi people like they’re life rafts.

The atmosphere is lovely in the sunny street as we wait to march. I’m with a friend, we hold hands. When the parade kicks off, we make our way past Portland Place, handing out flyers so people have someone to talk to. I wasn’t expecting to be applauded. I wasn’t prepared. I cry before we’ve reached TopShop.

Around Haymarket I see an Italian friend leaning on the barrier. She’s flying a pan flag. These days I use both bi in the “same and other genders” sense and pan when I feel it’d be understood as trans inclusive. We run over and hug, and I ask if she would like, or mind, if I flew the flag through the rest of the route. We find a huge stick on the ground and move forward. Some older men look puzzled, but there are teenagers with bi, trans and pan flags who scream and high five us.

I’m 36 …and finally feel it. Every time I see a queer kid’s joy. Every high five or pointing finger hits me like a punch in the stomach, but one of hope instead of anxiety. I hope things are better for them. I hope I can heal, a little.

It’s the first time I’ve felt so immediately, viscerally connected.

I don’t ever want it to end.

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Clara

Clara is newly resident in the East Midlands, an enthusiastic crafter & an art student.
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