"Straddling the fence hurt my hips"

maid-498254_1280I think I’ve finally made sense of why, at the age of almost thirty-four, I have had medical problems with both of my hips in recent years. I’ve come to the conclusion it’s something to do with being bisexual.

I can hear eyebrows being raised from here… Okay, I’ll explain as clinically as I can (as a nearly-qualified nurse, I should know my stuff by now). I have spent so much of my adult life awkwardly spread-eagled over the threshold of the gay/not gay closet that I suspect it’s taking a toll on my joints.

It all started when I was about sixteen or seventeen. Why was it that I sometimes had the same kind of rude dreams about female pop stars as my friends did about Take That? Why did I snog a girl for a dare at a party and, to my great surprise, find it way more awesome than kissing boys? I put two and two (eventually) together and admitted to my slightly older boyfriend of the time that I thought I could be (whisper) bisexual. He, predictably, thought this was HOT, and I felt mildly miffed at my tender age that he wasn’t taking me seriously. Well, if he was, it was in a very “woooo, let’s have a threesome” way, which really wasn’t terribly useful.

Fast forward to present day, with a string of failed relationships with both men and women behind me (including a divorce), I’m currently in a four-year relationship with a lovely divorced chap with kids. In the frighteningly long time since my teens, I’ve swung between believing that I’m firmly 50/50, to declaring my proud lesbianism at the age of twenty (and subsequently crawling back in the closet again), to admitting I’m probably more into guys in some ways but would very likely end up with a woman if I were ever single again.

Confused yet? Well, I’m not. See, this is my problem. I don’t like the word “bisexual” much, because it inevitably invites accusations of being confused (and many worse things) from both sides. Do I fancy men? Yes, sometimes. Do I fancy women? Yuhuh, sometimes. Do I like the idea of having relationships with either gender? Indeedy. Am I remotely concerned/confused about any of this? Not in the slightest! Yet, after so many years of feeling awkward with the bisexual label, I prefer describing myself as simply “not straight”. A gay male friend of mine recently advised me that I would be insane to ever consider marrying my current partner, as [sic] I “don’t even know if I’m a lesbian or not”. I’m sure he meant well, but it’s not true for a start – I know I’m absolutely definitely not a lesbian. I like men. I have loved several. Sometimes they make me feel wibbly and tingly (in a good way). But then, all of the above apply can equally to women, ergo, I’m definitely “not straight”. However, just as I have no intention of running off with the next man who chats me up, I have no intention of running off with another woman either. I’m with my partner, and that’s the end of it as far as I’m concerned. Sometimes, I could cheerfully thump him, and I do wish he’d stop leaving his half-finished cups of tea in the living room when he goes to work. But I love him, I enjoy his company, I care about him, worry about him, and he’s the only one I want to come home to after a hard day. He’s also the only one I want to do grown-up nobody-else’s-business rude things with (aside from a small but select group of both male and female celebrities). Naively, I’m assuming this is the same sort of set-up for most people regardless of gender or identity. So, really, it shouldn’t matter a bean which side of the fence/closet door I make my pitch, as it were. Except, in reality, it does – as we all know, people are inherently nosy and determined to categorise others as they see fit, and that’s where I get twitchy (and probably what’s buggered up my hips, closet-metaphorically speaking).

labelsThe thing is, I’m not willing to arrange my sexual and relationship preferences into a handy understandable label for other people, and this makes me feel like a very round peg in a series of square holes. I would truly love to be proud to call myself bisexual – I think in many ways internally I am – but I’m sad to say I’m more often ashamed of it out loud, so to speak. I am not the first bisexual woman to complain that lesbians often consider us lesser beings, and in the company of gay or lesbian folk I’ve often felt like an impostor, particularly when I’ve been in hetero relationships. Essentially, I’m not a REAL lesbian. On the other side, I am enormously uncomfortable with straight women – experience (and cognitive behavioural therapy) has taught me that the reason for this is probably all in my head, but basically, I am always petrified they think I’m a creep; a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The old chestnut that bisexuals basically want to shag anyone or anything that moves is unfair, but it’s still out there – my dear old dad, who was actually very supportive when I (sort-of) came out at eighteen, simply said he’d always envied bisexuals, as they could go home with anyone from a party. I think he meant well.

So far as the rest of the world is concerned, I know there is absolutely no shame in being bisexual, just as there is no shame in being heterosexual or Guatemalan or a panda. So how do I stand up for myself and stop hovering over the closet threshold like an idiot? I want to be proud of myself – and I am, for many things aside from my sexuality – but if not proud, I’d love to at least own my sexual identity and stop dithering about it as much.

I don’t know. Maybe I just need to grow a pair (although that’d bring an entire vista of new complications… “Am I ex-female? Male? FTM?” Oy).

I recently pondered an interesting comparison. I’m forced to use a wheelchair a lot of the time at the moment (due to aforementioned rubbish hips) and I’ve thrown myself into the role of being disabled with gusto, complete with getting angry and activist-y about disabled rights, particularly in the current political climate. When we are visited each fortnight by my partner’s kids, I have no hesitation in using my crutches or wheelchair to get around, and plonking my blue badge on the dashboard to park when we go out. When I last needed to use one four years ago, I used to take pride in flouncing around Tesco in my rhinestone’d wheelchair – with my fairly numerous tattoos on show – to do my shopping by myself, in spite of disapproving looks from many of the more senior residents of my quiet and relatively posh little town. What it boils down to is: I am absolutely not ashamed about my disabled diversity. So why can’t I apply the same to my sexuality? As superficial and vacuous as it is, I used to have my Facebook profile set to “Single”, and “Likes: Men and Women”, thinking this was pretty brave stuff when it came to outing myself to all and sundry. When I met my partner, in deference to his children (who are also on Facebook) I removed the “Likes: Men and Women” part entirely so as not to engender difficult questions. I suppose at least I didn’t lie; I just removed any potential mention of the issue.

Maybe that’s the key to adopting a more comfortable position in or out of this ol’ sexuality closet – not so much ignoring the issue, but treating it as if it’s immaterial. I know I’m so much more than just bisexual: it’s only one tiny part of who I am, after all. Believe it or not, writing this article is my first steps towards being “prouder” of that tiny part – ultimately, I shouldn’t really give a monkey’s about what people think of any of my “tiny parts”, and neither should any of us. Call me idealistic, but I really do believe all that matters is treating people, including Guatemalans (and indeed pandas too) properly and with respect. I don’t always succeed, but I just try to be the best human I can be – and I’m proud of that.

I’m Lucy. Nice to meet you. 🙂

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Lu Nicoll

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2 Responses to "Straddling the fence hurt my hips"

  • Paige Listerud says:

    How can you be proud to be bisexual and not feel like a “lesser queer”?
    1) Realize that the lesbian, gay and queer people who set out to make you feel like a lesser queer have really fucked up political ideologies.
    2) Realize that bisexuals have contributed great things to the world. For example: for the LGBT movement in the United States, bisexuals like Brenda Howard, Stephen Donaldson, and Alan Rockaway did groundbreaking activist work. Google them. Great bisexual feminists? How about Simone de Beauvoir and Kate Millett–feminism would not be the same without them. Bisexuals that rocked our Western culture? How about Shakespeare. Don’t listen to the bullshit interpretation of his sonnets as just “allegories”–read his torrid bi love triangle for yourself.
    3) Realize that the whole L, G, and T communities are not going to make it unless bisexuals come out and your coming out paves the way for a freer world than just coming out L or G alone.

    • mm
      Libby says:

      If only it was as easy as that. The messages that we are not queer enough are so insidious, it would take a skin of steen to deflect them. And (speaking personally) sometime I just don’t have the energy to fight it.

      You mention a number of activists in the US, but here in the UK our exposure to them is limited. We do, of course, have a growing culture of our own, but it’s not always easy to find and erasure is rife. The feminists you mentioned, for example, are known in academia and activism to have been queer, but it’s not unusual for people outside of that to be ignorant of the fact. Of ocurse, it’s a learning curve, and we don’t all get thrust into the movement automatically knowing everything about our histoy, and educating youself isn’t a quick job. But yes, understanding our history is a great way to build confidence in our identities and should definitely be encouraged.

      I think you’re right, to an extent, about your third point, but I’ve 95% of the biphobia I’ve faced has come from the L&G community. The pioneers of that movement were bi* and trans* and now we are marginalised within it, so it’s difficult to be trusting of them (collectively, that is, not individualy) or worry so much if they ‘make it’. Of course, I am sour faced pessimist, so I would say that.

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