Hello lovely people!
In my coming out story I shared what it was like to come out as a bisexual human at the age of 17. However, something I didn’t talk much about was what it was like to exist as an LGBT+ person in the place in which I grew up, mainly because I’ve only recently realised that it was a very unique experience in how isolating it was. In the last few weeks of university I’ve thrown myself into LGBT+ events, and even now as someone who’s been pretty solid in her identity for a lot of years I suddenly feel very empowered by my sexuality. Here’s why.
I was born and raised in rural Cumbria, right in the very North of England. It is far from a diverse area; my town only had a handful of BAME families, most people are Christian, it’s been a Tory constituency since it was created and what’s more relevant here is there really aren’t many LGBT+ people. I’d never met anyone who identified as transgender until I came to university for example, and there were only a handful of gay kids in my school.
As a result representation was something I just didn’t have in my social environment. Considering that bisexuality was almost entirely invisible in most forms of media until very recently, I couldn’t even turn to films and television to explain how I felt or find other people like me. Looking back this was incredibly isolating for a number of reasons.
Firstly it meant that whilst I was going through that classic babygay confusion I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. I think it took me about 5 years to finally become comfortable with the idea of being bisexual, after playing around with just about every label under the sun in private. Secondly when I started getting to the age where people were going out and partying I was placed in an environment where bisexuality was seen as illegitimate. Straight girls always kissed girls when they were drunk and this was seen as cute and quirky, whereas wanting to date them was very different.
Perhaps the most important thing is that I just didn’t have the chance to express my sexuality. I didn’t have friends to relate to on LGBT+ issues, go to nightclubs where boys were allowed to kiss boys or chat about gay culture over coffee. As I got older I gained a few friends who were part of the community sure, but because we were all stuck in this social isolation we never really had an environment where we could be unapologetically ourselves.
This is exactly the reason why I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with love for the LGBT+ community recently. In my first year at uni I didn’t feel like I wanted to get involved with any LGBT+ groups, because I didn’t think it was right to be that outspoken about my sexuality. Yup, rural Cumbria affected me even up to the age of 18. However, everything has changed going into my second year. I want to experience everything I missed out on growing up, and I definitely have in the last few weeks. I’ve been going to our little college LGBT+ events and met some amazing people I’d now consider friends, adopted some first year students to mentor through the LGBT+ association and been on my first association social and night out (and I’m absolutely knackered from it but anything for a drag queen DJ playing ABBA all night). It still astounds me that I can walk into a room and be proud to part of a community I once felt so distanced from, a community that is full of genuinely lovely and accepting people.
I never want to have to hide my sexuality again, and to be honest I don’t really feel like I have to anymore. Having an LGBT+ support network is so so so important, and you should never feel like your sexuality isn’t worth celebrating if it’s safe to do so. I’m just really bloody gay at the minute (even though I still like boys hahah I’m not about bi-erasure).
-Megan, listening to Citizen and getting very hype for their supporting slot at The Story So Far this week