I can remember the night I came out to my friends and family like it was yesterday. On hiatus from University because my mental health had been making it impossible to leave my bed, I decided to force myself out for the evening. I have always struggled with mental health problems, but that year I was beginning to crumble internally because I could no longer repress and ignore a part of my identity that I had been conscious of for some time.
Even now I can’t explain why I had been so terrified of being honest with my loved ones. I was confident that I was privileged enough to be surrounded by people who wouldn’t find my coming out an affront. I knew deep down that any loss I incurred would be a blessing. And yet, this didn’t calm my anxieties.
On that cold Tuesday evening, emboldened by enough double vodkas to last me a while, I sent my mum and my friends a text. Ever sophisticated, I didn’t divulge too much information and just typed ‘I swing both ways, just thought you should know.’ As I suspected, I wasn’t met with any hostility, just reminders that I am loved in any form I choose to take. My mum’s response is one I will always keep close to my heart, ‘well fair play to you … lesbitrons still have babies bitch.’ As I sat waiting for the train the next morning, slightly hungover and shivering as a light flurry of snow fell all around me, I realised how much lighter I already felt. As if the weights I had been carrying on my back had lessened since my confession. I was almost angry at myself for having waited so long, for denying myself this sense of freedom.
Since that day last year, I have spent a lot of time cultivating what I call my ‘gay bubble.’ I’ve pushed myself way past my comfort zone to try and slip inside London’s LGBTQ+ community (although I still feel as though I am just on the periphery). I have made friends with other queer women and I have loved and lost someone important for what feels like the first time, though in reality this is not the case. Inside this gay bubble of mine I feel comfy and at ease. I try not to get involved with the arguments about who gate-keeps sexuality, and instead just relish the fact that I get to love a woman if I choose to. Sometimes however, this bubble is popped. Each time I speak to a new doctor, a new colleague or try to make a new friend I am forced to come out all over again. And on these occasions, in conversations with strangers, I do not feel as safe as I did that first time. I am lucky enough that so far, I have not experienced violent or dangerous reactions, but that is not to say that the ones I’ve had have been pleasant. In these moments, when I have to witness the obvious disgust on people’s faces, the subtle shuffle away of the chair, or the patronising, ‘now why would a pretty girl like you waste yourself doing that?’ I am reminded that outside of my gay bubble, anything that doesn’t resemble cisgender heterosexuality still isn’t the norm. It’s still different. Strange. Not discussed. It reminds me that by creating my gay bubble I have lulled myself into a false sense of security. But do you blame me?
Naively, I assumed that coming out as bisexual would be the end of the inner turmoil I felt with regards to my sexuality. I thought I had found my label and that it would stick. Unfortunately, this year has proven me wrong. After the end of my first relationship with a woman, I took the time to reflect on the ways it differed from those I had had with men. In short, it was better. Much better. I had more fun, I felt more loved and I felt like I didn’t have to defend who I was as a person as much. In fairness, this could have been due to the fact that I had chosen a much kinder partner than those I’d had in the past, but I had an inkling that it was something more than that. In that moment I opened up a line of questioning that I struggle with internally on odd days, and every time friends ask if I’m ‘just a lesbian now.’ I don’t know, is the honest answer. I know that even if I am still bisexual, my attraction to women is much stronger than that towards men. But really, that is all I know. I have thought about the relationships I’ve had with men. Relationships that have been laced with abuse and co-dependency. I remember the gut-wrenching nausea I felt at 15 when all my friends had had boyfriends already and were starting to become suspicious about my lack of interest in the opposite sex. I remember that the first relationship I had was with the first boy who had been interested in me. I wonder now if I had really wanted that relationship or if I coaxed myself into it in a bid to fit in when I had already spent so much time feeling like I didn’t. The second relationship I had with a guy came a few months after what was arguably the most traumatic event of my life. I wanted someone to take care of me and protect me, someone who would make me feel safe. Did I actually want it to be a boy, or did I just latch on in desperation to what felt familiar and secure? I can’t answer these questions right now, maybe I’ll never be able to. Feeling anchored to the label I attach to my sexuality is a balancing act, and I alternate between bisexual and lesbian all the time. A few days ago, I came to the stunning realisation that, in reality, it doesn’t bloody matter. I don’t need to waste time trying to categorise myself, and I don’t owe anyone an explanation of where I fit. All that matters is that I get to sprinkle my love over whoever I want.
Jodie Hare is a Postgraduate student currently working towards an MA in Modern Languages, Literature and Culture at King’s College London, and hopes to one day work in the publishing industry.
From Bent Street 3