"I’d only ever come across straight or poorly fleshed out gay characters on TV or in books, and only knew a couple of real life adult gay people, so I didn’t really have anything to compare my feelings (your average, childhood crush) to."
I was going through my year seven yearbook a few months ago, and I found a picture of a classmate, someone I’d forgotten about who’d moved schools not too long after. When I found this picture I suddenly remembered that I’d always wanted to talk to and be around this girl. It seems pretty obvious to me now, having come to know and embrace my own bisexuality, that I had some kind of crush on this girl. But poor eleven year old me, who also had crushes on boys, didn’t know that was something that could happen and didn’t really understand her feelings. Up until this point in my life I’d only ever come across straight or poorly fleshed out gay characters on TV or in books, and only knew a couple of real life adult gay people, so I didn’t really have anything to compare my feelings (your average, childhood crush) to.
Flash forward to 2014, I discover the word bisexuality, and it’s like something in my mind just clicks. I don’t tell anyone. It’s a somewhat small country town, and I could count on one hand the number of lgbtq people I knew of that lived there. I didn’t know anyone who’d shown any particular hatred towards the community, but that didn’t change the fact that it was very much a straight town. I came out to a couple of my friends one by one, and then all at once, and other people came after.
I’ll spare you my coming out stories, because they’re all a little messy, but come March 2016 (start of year 12) anyone close enough to have me on Facebook knew. My friends, family, and workmates were all cool with it. I got hugs from classmates on the day it all came out, and that was that. But I still didn’t feel like it was properly accepted. Don’t get me wrong, there was no active exclusion of me due to my bisexuality, but people would unknowingly say something that didn’t sit right, or they’d joke about “ooh are you texting your boyyyfrieeend” but they’d never say girlfriend, because it wasn’t something spoken about.
"I was in this town where people had known me since I was born and they expected me to be one thing, and when they found out I wasn’t, they just decided not to talk about it at all."
I felt caged in. I was in this town where people had known me since I was born and they expected me to be one thing, and when they found out I wasn’t, they just decided not to talk about it at all. Maybe they thought they were being respectful and not treating me like I was any different to how I was before. But it wasn’t that they were treating me differently to how they had previously treated me – it’s that talking about it was taboo, unlike talking about being straight, which happens every day and you don’t even notice. Typical jokes about boyfriends, about “oh he’s cute” – I couldn’t chime in with a girlfriend joke or an “oh she’s cute” without making people around me feel awkward, and people wouldn’t make those jokes with me because it made them feel awkward.
I feel I should clarify – I don’t blame anyone for this. We all are just products of the people we were raised by and the society we are raised in, and this sort of “casual straight taboo gay” attitude has been ingrained into our society. But it’s changing now, I can see it slowly shifting. It’s slower in the country though, where there are less people to challenge the standards, which is a huge part of why I moved to Melbourne – freedom, away from people who already have expectations on what I should be, where people won’t care.
In my old town, I felt like I had no room to breathe or move or just be me without somebody either commenting or quite clearly trying not to talk about it. In the city, there’s so many people all busy with their own lives, and they don’t have time to care. I feel more comfortable in my own skin, more comfortable coming out. Something I’ve learned: you don’t come out once, or twice, or even three times. I meet new people every day. A lot of my workmates don’t know I’m bi; a few do. I guess this post is itself another coming out, if I choose to share it with people who don’t already know. I’ll meet people in the future who will be important to me and I’ll have to do it again and again and again. But that’s okay, because like I said – society is changing.
"I moved to Melbourne at the start of this year and I’ve just felt so free ever since."
One of the workmates I did come out to is a woman maybe in her late 40’s/early 50’s. A man had just proposed to his boyfriend in our store, and we were discussing attitudes towards lgbtq people. She told me her own mother didn’t mind gay people, but didn’t like them in her family. She told me that she herself had no problems with gay people whatsoever (she said her niece is bi, I said “me too”), but she doesn’t think they should be allowed to adopt kids. She told me her son disagrees, and sees no issues with gay people adopting.
You can probably see where I’m going with this. While we are all a product of our parents and society, society is always changing and influencing more people. It’s getting better with each generation. People raise their children to be better than they are, and the world grows. Hopefully for the next generation, they find the world just a bit less close-minded, a bit more relaxed about the ways in which people express themselves. Even in the last few years I think, things have gotten much better.
I moved to Melbourne at the start of this year and I’ve just felt so free ever since. It had taken a toll on me, being out but not able to talk about it. And while I miss my family and friends so much, it’s nice to be in a place where I can be myself and people aren’t going to be weird about it, where we can have these conversations and I can slip in a joke and we can all laugh and not feel awkward about me trying to join in a conversation I wasn’t really a part of in the first place.
So a word of advice to the family and friends of lgbtq people – casual acceptance is the way to go. Let them joke and make comments, make boyfriend jokes as well as girlfriend jokes, normalise it. Inclusive actions speak far louder than the words “okay, if you say so”."
"Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside” – Lin Manuel Miranda.