I’ve been struggling with what to write for Pride month this year. In other years, I’ve put a tiny little banner on my Facebook profile, or posted about how happy I am in my relationship, how I am “a beautiful bisexual disaster”, quoted facts and figures about the queer community. I’ve had a lot to say, but very little of it went below the surface. It was all true, but it wasn't my story.
This year, I wanted something more honest. That’s harder for me to put into words, because coming out was the biggest rule I ever broke.
It wasn’t a rule that I was instructed to follow. Not explicitly, anyway. No one sat me down and said “Anna, thou shalt be straight” (“or if not straight, be silent”) but I knew it anyway.
It was something I was taught on the playground, when “gay” was used freely to describe everything terrible about life. Bedtimes? Gay. Jogging bottoms with no poppers up the side? Gay! Loving learning? SO gay! I learned that being liked meant avoiding all things even remotely gay.
As a child, then a teenager, I heard adults voices debate the human rights of LGBTQIA+ people. Should we be allowed to marry? Or to have civil partnerships? To adopt? To access healthcare if we have AIDS? To be out and “act upon it”? I knew that to have a full set of human rights, you need to be straight.
I’ve wrestled with what it means to be bisexual for most of my life. I’ve had counselling, therapy, healing, and I’ve journaled and meditated and reflected. Until relatively recently, my relationship with my sexuality was uncomfortable at best, and very often unhealthy.
The first time I kissed someone who wasn’t a boy, I was 13. The backlash was so painful that I shut that closet door faster than light. I didn’t feel like there was any safe way to be attracted to more than just boys. So I didn’t let myself think about it. I boxed myself into a nice compact box marked “crazy about boys” and that was that. I built myself a fortress of rules to keep the illusion of being safe.
Only I wasn’t safe.
“No wonder that happened. You’re a bit slutty, look how many of the boys you’ve fancied!”
(I lost my right to say no when I was open about attraction!)
“Let us pray for all the gay people, that they will realise their sins”
(What does it mean to be an official sinner at Midnight Mass?)
“Did her husband divorce her because she was bisexual?”
(Will mine divorce me because I am?)
“Why is everything about women with you now?”
(Why won’t I just stay in my box?)
“Do your parents know you are bisexual?”
(Do I tell them or let them be told?)
The second time I kissed someone who wasn’t a boy, I was 31. I was out by this point, but still pretty terrified. I was breaking the rules, big time. But this time, I knew that the rules hurt me more than the scary thing would.
So I broke them. In fact, I didn’t just break them, I smashed them into thousands of tiny pieces and set them on fire. And then, I created something magical in their place… Freedom.
Today, I am free to love the person I love and brave enough to let Mel know and love me, exactly as I am. To make a family - emotionally, practically and at some point (pandemic allowing) legally as well. To put boundaries in place, keeping the judgement and disapproval that I’m still met with at a firm distance. The courage to exist honestly and be openly queer is one of the biggest gifts that coaching has given me. I'm free to love that part of me now too.
But it's also vitally important to me that I show the children that come behind me - my niblings, my Speech Therapy clients, the children of my friends and those in my communities - that I will love them exactly as they are too. That I will fight for their futures.
Prides are often very sparkly parties, but PRIDE is a movement. It started with a riot, with the activism of lesbian and trans women of colour. It’s grown, priorities have shifted, but we aren’t there yet. We aren’t even close.
Mel and I could not legally get married in 168 countries in the world.
It is illegal for me to be who I am in 69 countries.
My identity is punishable by death in 11 countries.
Conversion therapy is only banned in 4 countries.
Queer women are still at risk of corrective rape in the UK.
I still don’t know who will be at my wedding.
So I'm recommitting to using my voice year-round. My activism isn't just for June, it's until the world is changed.