Readers’ Coming Out Stories: “I Couldn’t Tell If I Wanted To Be Bowie Or Bed Him.”

drawing-1135457_1920David Bowie raised some major feelings about my sexuality for me by dying and breaking my heart. In my early teens he came out as bisexual and I identified with him. Perplexingly, I couldn’t tell if I wanted to be him or bed him.

From 11 I was at boarding school, and no it wasn’t all girls. From then on, I would say I had a lot of very sweet, lovely, special and very mature relationships with girls and thought nothing of it. At 15 I decided to get shot of my virginity. It seemed a simple solution to a potentially embarrassing problem. No fuss and bother, I had sex with a man. I didn’t do it again for another two years, indication enough that I was not impressed. I really didn’t spend much time wondering if I was the same as the other girls though I felt a bit out of it, lumpy and awkward. I was great at pool and smoked, swore like a sailor and wore jeans instead of my uniform skirt but really looking back I thought myself a dotty eccentric.

A year later I was accused of being a lesbian by a worldly girl in my dorm. When confronted, I denied it. Something I regret, not because I was active but because it negated the relationships I had had and it also seemed pretty weak and cowardly. I managed to tearfully convince my house mistress that I was as shocked as she was and left school with my reputation for being an odd fish intact.

Then followed the art school years where I confounded my foundation year by kissing a girl and liking it surrounded by aghast gobsmacked teens I really did not understand what the problem could be. Were there rules? I wasn’t aware of them. I had clearly missed a meeting and at this point you could accuse me of naïveté. True to form I fell for the wittiest, most humorous person there and followed him to Goldsmiths in London to study for my fine art Degree… I visited the women’s centre in Deptford when the dole refused to give me any summer spending money due to living with a man. The Wimmin explained they could do nothing for someone sleeping with the enemy and could I please ask him to leave the building. These separatist feminist lesbians were fascinating and I promptly became one!



At 19 I met and began a deeply dramatic relationship with a much older woman whose 15-year-old son had caught my attention first. I was so protective and manly, trotting out all my macho stupidity. It was mortifying (I was practically teaching her sons to fish, which I would have done if I could actually fish) but I thought she needed that. She had grown-up friends who accepted me into her group as the tomboy that I was. I was terrible, moody, bolshy and borish. Eventually she woke up and dumped my ass.

I went completely off the rails, got my first tattoo, boozed, brawled and screwed around. I even ruined a gold star gay on the way. It was the 80s so I went on marches, started a separatist women’s group at Uni, got evicted for being too extreme. Started a women’s video collective, slept with all the women got evicted for being a distraction. I retreated further into the bottle the pills, the wild sex and rock and roll, I was in Heaven…and sometimes the Bell, the Canterbury Arms and the Angel. I lived a double life. Lesbian separatist feminist most days and nights but had the occasional man on the side, denying to myself this was an issue. I kept my secret life, well, secret.

Twice I was caught having inflagranti with men, but I was so convincing as a lesbian, my persona so real, that my perfidy was ignored for being too ludicrous to be true. No one was more lesbian than me. I wore a badge that said ‘How Dare You Presume I am Heterosexual’ and a labrys earing! I I loved loving women, the feelings were so exciting I walked on air whenever I met someone new. I had a girlfriend who I had complicated non-sex with. She lasted two years until we finally consummated our turbulent relationship and found our chemistry was due to longing. I had loved her with a passion: my stickleback, my bruised plum. I decided I was just too messed up to go on as I was and dived into left wing politics as if it was the proverbial nunnery only to find myself in a complete sexual feeding frenzy. This was the only time in my life that I had open relationships with both men and women. There are those who would say that I was being greedy. Never ever did I call myself bi, better to be greedy and undiciplined or even wicked and mad than to be undecided!

The thing is at this time and ever since I have felt pressured to decide what could not possibly be decided… for a decision there would need to be a comparison. There is no comparison between men and women they are completely different. I have loved them in different ways and they have given me different love in return. I spent eight years in a very unsatisfying and damaging relationship with a man who was all I believed I deserved until I left. One day I met a lesbian in the street I had known at uni. When the conversation got round to where I had been in the interim she blew up…I had been living with a man, shock horror. I had apparently made her a lesbian. Frankly I was surprised,( I couldn’t remember sleeping with her) but never the one to shirk, I would take the berating. Turns out I had simply made her a lesbian by talking about it. There in Peckham High Street I had a firm fucking word. If she was a lesbian it was because she was a lesbian. No one is so convincing they can talk you into that lady, I said!

At 33 and cutting a swathe through beautiful young men and women, a one-night stand turned into the current love of my life. Without warning and with no fanfare, a really determined, quietly spoken, Byronesque, doe eyed, floppy haired super model genius stopped my wandering. I swore I would never marry. I married him 10 months later. I was never going to have children. We have two incredible home educated sons of 14 and 16 who have been insisting I stop referring to myself as a “hasbian” and recognise with pride that I am bisexual, for goodness sake!

A gorgeous young woman friend I love like a daughter just came out to me today, (of course I have known for four years but it was up to her to tell me). I told her I was writing this and she said she didn’t do labels. I thought back over my life and realised that the reason I had been so confused was that we had to have our labels. In political defiance and to fight for and win our autonomy (I was beaten up twice for being openly gay). We knew that being out, proud and loud was our only defense against a homophobic world and the only way to change that world. I know there are still homophobes a plenty out there but I live in Montpellier: home, three years ago, to the first European same sex marriage. I don’t know Bruno and Vincent but they looked beautiful. I cried. I remember when Pride was a demonstration with placards and banners not a mardi gras with colourful wigs, high heels and rainbows… I know when I look around at the gay lovers kissing in the street here on any ordinary day that they can do that because so many gays and lesbians, and of course determined bisexuals fought for the right to love openly, equally and without prejudice.

I have no plans after 20 years of monogamy to add any more frisson to my sex life and it would seem a lie to say I was gay whilst in a long loving marriage to a man. I would also dishonour every woman I have loved if I were to live under the mantle of a straight matron. So with no more apologies, flip asides and jokey wise cracks I say with my brightly coloured, pink haired head held high and with real pride I am a bisexual.

Allison Carmichael runs, a graphic design and web marketing company in South France. As a political artist and humanitarian she is always happy to stand up and be counted, believing in the unity of humanity and the freedom to be ourselves, hence her involvement in the humanitarian peace projects of

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