Finding my place
Lockdown has been grim. People’s lives have been lost or made unlivable. So I have been searching for any silver lining I can find to celebrate. This is my story of self-discovery in the midst of a pandemic. Of how being forced to slow down and stay at home allowed me to understand that my bisexuality has a place in the Queer community.
I already knew I was bisexual before Covid-19. I came out in 2018, but I came out selectively. Until this year, I kept it from most of the people in my life, because bisexuality still teeters on the edge of acceptance. To many, outside the community, it is viewed as a passing phase, after which our bisexual woman inevitably ends up with a man, or realises that she is a lesbian. The poor purgatorial bisexual. Forever dangling in the middle between gay and straight; unable to choose, unable to decide. Waiting for the person who will come along and open their eyes.
But this understanding of bisexuality is crude and old fashioned. A preoccupation with whether I’ll be interested in a girl or a guy “this time”, one that plays to the world’s fascination with people partnering up. It irks me. You can be bisexual, unpartnered and still fulfilled. The obsession with the sex part of sexuality often feels annoyingly reductive. Sexuality is so much more than who you have sex with or who you’re attracted to. But until March 2020, I hadn’t fully grasped this. Then came BoJo’s order to stay at home.
In the small rooms of my flat, I found time to think. Time to talk with other LGBTQIA+ friends, and time to consume immense amounts of inclusive culture – TV, film, and literature – in a way that I hadn’t had before. Time to realise that more than just being bisexual, I am also Queer.
Before the pandemic, queerness for me had been lumped in with archaic stereotypes of homosexuality. The camp, “effeminate” man; the butch, leather-toting woman; the androgynous Berlin raver. I didn’t feel that I slotted into any of these categories. With no obvious Queer identity, I was confused and I felt left out. After the pandemic hit, with time and learning, I came to realise that queerness means so much more. It’s not a place in which only people looking a certain way or wearing the right thing can exist – a metaphysical Berghain. There is freedom with the word ‘Queer’; it encompasses gender, sexuality, perspectives and identity. It is multi-faceted, nuanced and above all, accepting.
With this new-found realisation, I jumped into everything Queer, desperate to know more. I found acceptance on the small screen. In the gorgeously heart-breaking worlds of Mae Martin and Michaela Coel, in the gutting, historical power of It’s a Sin, and in the unadulterated pleasure of RuPaul Charles. Queer television nurtured me and made me weep, it slowly healed those cuts of self-doubt and those wounds of confusion, sweeping me into its arms and embracing me. I felt seen, appreciated, and unbelievably positive.
Watching people like me on screen, on paths of their own self-discovery, has made me feel less isolated in a lonely, cut-off world. On-screen relationships like Willow and Tara (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Rosa and Jocelyn (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), and Angel and Papi (Pose) taught me that Queer love is as valid as any love, Just as messy, complicated, nuanced and distinct.
RuPaul’s Drag Race taught me about self-expression and gender fluidity; Sex Education about pansexuality, non-romantic Queer friendships and anal douching; I May Destroy You that sexuality is a spectrum and Shrill, well, Shrill just made me fall in love with Lolly Adefope. There are hundreds of films and TV shows out there with dynamic and rich Queer storylines, and from the confinement of my flat, I saw people who felt and loved like I did as real, accepted and even celebrated. Queer television has given me a community and more than that, a place within it.
So, I guess it boils down to this: being introspective is not just a soft-boi trope. It has tangible benefits, and despite the horrific injustices the pandemic has dealt us, the one thing I feel grateful for is the unexpected opportunity I was given for introspection. I am more comfortable and feel safer than ever before. I feel part of a community that accepts me, warts and all. I have better friendships and better relationships with the ones I love because I am truthful and honest with myself.
Sexuality is not just about sex; who you do it with or who you crush on. It’s about who you are. It’s about comfort, self-expression, who you surround yourself with and your community. And, of course, it’s a little bit about sex.
Things you can do
Watch Queer TV.
- Sex Education (Netflix)
- Shrill (BBC Iplayer)
- Pose (Netflix)
- Schitt’s Creek (Netflix)
- I May Destroy You (BBC Iplayer)
- RuPaul’s Drag Race (US – Netflix, UK – BBC Iplayer)
- Atypical (Netflix)
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Prime / 4OD)
- Feel Good (4OD)
- Queer Eye (Netflix)
- Euphoria (Prime)
- Genera+ion (currently on HBO but coming to the UK soon, I hope)
- Euphoria Christmas Special (only on NOWTV at the moment but hopefully more widely accessible soon)
(online – websites)
- Queer Intentions: A (personal) journey through LGBTQ+ culture, by Amelia Abraham
- Queer: A collection of LGBTQ writing from Ancient Times to yesterday, by Frank Wynne
- Written on the Body, by Jeanette Winterson
- Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong
- What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, by Helen Oyeymi
- And hundreds more
MindOut is a charity dedicated to the mental wellbeing of LGBTQIA+ people. No worry is too simple.
Diversity Role Models gets LGBT and straight ally role models to speak directly to young people about their experiences. Think: challenging stereotypes and preventing bullying.
Switchboard is there to listen; by phone, chat or email. Everything is confidential and all the volunteers are LGBTQIA+.
‘Queer’ is still a term that many in the LGBTQIA+ community take objection to. It’s associated with many years of struggle and cruel debasement. This is just my experience. There is still a long way to go with Queer representation. Black Queers and Trans Queers do not have enough screen time. Queer Muslims and other religious denominations have little to none. This piece and the conversation around it is only a starting point.
This is also just the start of my journey, there are bounds and leaps to continue to make. I have grasped just one piece of the puzzle but now I am more excited to understand the puzzle itself.