Bi Visibility Day 2016 - Jen's Story
Published: 22 September 2016 Tags: community, bivisibility, biphobia By John Walding
When did you first realise you might be bisexual?
My sister came to visit and left a copy of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit on our kitchen table. I was 15; within a week it was read and something I'd known since I was about 12 started to develop a word to go with the feeling.
How did you come out? What were people's reactions?
I came out to the whole of my sixth form shortly after - it was a new school and had the "I can't lose any friends" aspect, though I look back at it now and it feels like a lot more of a risky idea. From there there's been the whole gamut from "me too" to a couple of old friends who didn't want to know me any more. That made me achingly sad at the time but is their loss, in the end.
What's the best thing about being bisexual?
I tend to think it's that whoever you fall for is never a surprise - as compared to say someone who has always thought of themselves as a lesbian and then falls for a man. Actually it can still be quite a surprise, just in other ways.
Have you experienced biphobia? Were you able to do anything about it?
Many times. Sometimes, being trans, it gets hard to spot which bit of prejudice is which. But for example a while ago I said something about being bi at an LGBT meeting and the person next to me said; "if you say you're bisexual to me that means you're not happy in your current relationship". Well, I've been saying it since I was sixteen and that's included, ahem, a fair few relationships over the years. If I've managed to be unhappy in all of them I must be a lousy picker! The situation there though just felt a bit too unsafe, so I found a way to extract myself from the conversation and be elsewhere.
Why do you think Bi Visibility Day is important?
For a long time now I've been saying: the principal challenge for bisexuals is invisibility and all that flows from it, and the solution is visibility and all that comes with it. I've been involved in marking Bi Visibility Day every year since that first time back in 1999, both raising the bi profile and celebrating the mutual support we get from bi community spaces. As visibility has risen some of the challenges - that our needs were assumed to be whatever gay and lesbian needs were only lesser, for example - have started to be acknowledged more widely.
We've still got a long way to go, mind.
Do you have any bisexual role-models?
Not really. I have a few queer heroes, people like Bernard Greaves who has been consistently championing LGBT rights since before I was born, but I'm more motivated by my antiheroes, the biphobic and transphobic people whose actions made me get off the sofa and get stuck in!
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of coming out as bi?
First, and this is the same for coming out as trans or gay as well, work out a safe plan. If coming out going badly may for instanct mean you lose your home, you need to have a plan for what to do, where to go.
Take it at a speed that works for you: you may have had a really important realisation about yourself, but if today isn't the right day for it you can still come out tomorrow.
Second, and especially for bi people because we tend to be a bit "invisible", find other bi people for peer support. It's good to have other people to reassure you you're "bi enough" or to share some of the more peculiar responses you get with and let off steam. BiPhoria's a good place to start.
And last, be ready for surprises. Because, again, we can be a bit invisible, some of the people you tell will reply "me too". Which can be wonderful, even if you do think "damn, if you'd told me sooner I wouldn't have been so worried about telling you myself!"