Celebrating bi visibility day
Exploring your identity is a lifelong journey.
by Thomas Gallagher, Contributor
This Wednesday was Celebrate Bisexuality Day. It’s a day to celebrate bisexuality (in case that wasn’t clear from the name), but also a chance to make bisexuality more visible. According to a report from The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) titled Invisible Majority, bi people make up a little over half of the LGBTQ community, and yet they often go unnoticed.
Most people assume a person in a same sex relationship is gay, and a person in a relationship with someone who is or passes for the opposite sex is straight. People are often judged by their relationships – especially their relationships to men. Even when a person is known to identify as bisexual, it’s often explained this way: bisexual women are really just straight and trying to impress men, and bisexual men are gay and lying to themselves.
Not being seen, or being seen as a stereotype instead of a person, takes its toll. According to the report, bisexual people are more likely than gay and lesbian people to face sexual harassment or violence, have higher rates of poverty and mental health problems, and are more likely to have attempted suicide. Even though they make up the majority of the LGBTQ community, they are also less likely to be out. Until recently, I was one of those people that hadn’t come out – even to myself.
I was about 12 and at a sleepover with a group of friends when I was aware, for the first time, that I felt a sexual attraction to another boy. It was also the first time I felt I needed to hide it to fit in. For most of elementary and high school I focused on my interest in girls, even though I was too afraid to date one. No one in my family identified as anything but straight, and growing up Catholic, it wasn’t something that was ever really talked about at home or school.
My first year of classes in the film program at the U of R were challenging for a kid with a rather conservative view of the world who was starting to worry he might be gay. I had friends who were gay, and I accepted them, but it didn’t feel ok for me to be gay. I was terrified of the idea, and I was still attracted to women, so I held fast to my identity as straight and suppressed everything that made me doubt it. It never occurred to me that both could be true. Things were good for a while, but eventually anxiety and depression made finishing school impossible. The struggle with my sexuality was a big part of that.
Depression ate up several years of my life, and it took a few more to deal with the financial impact, but in 2016 I was able to return to school. I met a new group of friends, got involved with theatre, and started to open up a little. I still thought the issue was settled: I was straight. But I started to have thoughts and feelings that I didn’t feel bad about anymore (as long as no one ever found out). I met great guys that I wanted to be friends with, and would think, “I’m not gay, but if I was…” In my first year back, before Christmas break, I remember thinking how good it would feel to bring one of those guys home to meet my parents, but that it would never happen because I couldn’t be anything but straight.
Then I started to fall in love with a woman – an exchange student. She kissed me and then flew home to Mexico a couple of days later. We started to talk on the phone a month after that. Even when I started to say, “I love you,” I worried that I couldn’t because I’m secretly gay and just couldn’t admit it to myself. In the meantime, I graduated from school, a pandemic happened, and I found myself at home with more time to talk on the phone. As I fell more in love, I felt safe enough to admit for the first time that I sometimes find some things about men attractive.
I had never told anyone before. I hadn’t even really admitted it to myself. But once I said it, the walls inside me started to come down. I realized that it wasn’t sometimes, but often, and that it wasn’t just some things, but many. I suddenly became aware of the box I had put myself in; how it influenced the way I spoke and moved, the colour of phone case I chose, and the songs I wouldn’t listen to if other people were around, all so they wouldn’t get the wrong idea about me. I put so much energy into worrying what other people would think – that they would see me as less of a man. I realize now that even if they do, that doesn’t make it true. I am gay, and bisexual, and what that means to other people is not what is important. Now, when I look at myself in the mirror, I see myself as I am, and I am proud to be me.
I have worried at times that I am too gay to identify as bi (and wondered if I should be writing this article). I find myself trying to prove that my attraction to women still exists. I feel a stronger attraction to men, but I worry I might not be gay enough to really call myself gay either. I am sure others have had similar doubts. I am not 50/50. I don’t feel there is any part of me that is straight, but I know some of my feelings for women were (and are) real.
I don’t know where my story will go from here. But as I start to come out, the fear I once had has been replaced with the knowledge that I have friends and family that will support me. And it’s the friendships I developed at university that have helped me come this far. If you identify in any way as part of the LGBTQ+ community at the UofR, there are people here to support you too. UR Pride is still running programs, and you can find out more about them at their website. Don’t be afraid to reach out, and know that you are not alone – no matter where you are at in your own story.
Everyone’s experience of bisexuality is different. I am collecting stories from other bi+ people to share in a future article. If you have a story you would like to tell, you can get in touch through firstname.lastname@example.org.