by an anonymous contributor
Growing up, my brother and I were always opposites: Where he excelled academically, I was creative. Where I was an extroverted social bee, he was an independent introvert. We tended not to get along very well as a result of our differences, but we did discover that we had in common: neither of us were straight.
When I was sixteen my brother came and sat next to me on the sofa; I was (regrettably) watching the Big Bang Theory and my mother told me to pause it. “Your brother has something to say to you.” Eerily similar to the events of the book ‘Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda’, I turned to my brother and said “What, you’re pregnant?” to which he replied: “No, but I am gay.”
I wouldn’t necessarily say I expected the news, but I also wouldn’t say I was surprised. My brother never seemed interested in women, but he also never really seemed interested in anyone. He explained that he had confided in one of his close friends but it was now spreading around the school, so he wanted to tell me himself before someone else did. We weren’t attending a particularly progressive school, so this also didn’t surprise me. I like to think that if it weren’t for his unfortunately misplaced trust he would have never had to have ‘come out’ to me, and that he could have just went about his life and that would have been fine.
My mother made a point of raising me with feminist ideals and LGBT+ acceptance. When referring to my future partner she never specified a gender and told me that the only thing that mattered to her was that whoever I brought home made me happy. Because of this, I don’t think it would have phased me if my brother had skipped the whole song and dance of sitting down and officially ‘coming out’; but in him coming out, I started having to contemplate doing the same myself.
The first time I began to consider I wasn’t straight was after receiving bullying at school when I debuted a new hair cut aged fourteen. I loved the show Primeval and thought the character Abby’s bleached pixie cut was the coolest thing I had ever seen. My mother refused to let me bleach my hair so young but she had no objections to letting me get it chopped, and I was ecstatic to look like a character I admired.
I felt a buzz going into school the next day, and for most of the morning I was met with initial shock followed by positivity. This wasn’t to last however, because as mentioned before, this wasn’t exactly the most progressive school. It wasn’t long before I had classmates asking me if I’d cut my hair because I liked girls and “Lesbian!” called after me in the hallways. My choice of footwear also did me no favours in quelling the rumours, as you’d find me cutting about the school sporting a ratty pair of Doc Martens. My mum told me she used to wear them when she was my age, and I thought she was cool and they were cool so it made sense to me to wear a pair too.
I lay in bed after a particularly draining day and for the first time the thought came into my head “what if they’re right?”
I immediately tried to think of something else, almost as if I believed that by thinking of it I’d will it into existence. But in a similar fashion to telling someone not to think of pink elephants, thoughts of my sexuality consumed my mind every night.
I’m far enough from the situation now to find the humour in it; stumbling into homophobic bullying with blind admiration of a character’s haircut and my mother’s shoes, then spending my nights wondering if they might be onto a winner. It’s almost comical that that’s how little it took for the school population to decide that I clearly wasn’t heterosexual.
During my bullying I clung onto every crush I had on a boy desperately telling myself, “Look! You’re not a lesbian!”. I chased away the late-night doubts with loud day time gossip, making it clear to my friends exactly which boys I thought were cute.
Growing up, bisexuality wasn’t something I was aware of in the same way I was with homosexuality. I managed to conclude that I wasn’t homosexual, but as I got older and bisexuality came into more conversations I was slowly coming to the realisation that maybe that term applied to me.
The main cause for my delay in identifying with the label bisexual was my misunderstanding that being bi was a perfect 50/50. I felt I was more predominantly attracted to men so to refer to myself as bisexual felt be dishonest, but as I became more educated I understood that it’s all a spectrum and my attraction to women was valid.
And with that came the problem, in finally accepting that I wasn’t straight, I was now confronted with a whole new set of problems. Obviously queer identifying siblings isn’t unheard of so I wouldn’t say my situation was entirely unique, but I also didn’t have anyone within my social circle I could relate to. For the majority of my friends, their fear of coming out stemmed from the worry that their family wouldn’t take it well. For me, I already had blatant proof in the form of my older brother that my parents would be okay with me. My fear was the backlash my parents might receive from the wider family and their own social circles.
A prevailing homophobic belief I had been exposed to frequently was the idea that to have raised a queer child you have to have done something ‘wrong’. While I am happy to joke with my friends that my mother must have put something in my brother and I’s cereal, I’m well aware that people would view my parents in a negative light upon finding out I wasn’t straight either. I know that if I were to voice concern to my parents they’d tell me that they’re better off without those people anyway, but I still couldn’t help but feel like a burden. My wider family were very accepting of my brother, but I had this niggling fear that maybe me being queer as well was going to be a step too far in their eyes.
My plan of attack was very reminiscent of my school day denial, because I fully intended to just never come out until it was necessary. I figured if I dated a man my bisexuality could be my little secret and if I dated a woman I would cross that bridge when I came to it. Of course alcohol always has other plans, so after a few years of quietly keeping my head down I drunk texted my mother a far from eloquent confession while in the smokers corner of a club, then proceeded to turn off my phone. Can’t say that that was the best way to go about it, but at least it was very fitting of me.
As predicted my parents handled it just fine. My friend that night had asked if she could put her cigarettes in my bag and I had entirely forgotten they were in there before dumping said bag on the dining room table, so the first thing my mother said to me in the morning was: “Bi is fine. Being a smoker, however, is not.” So that was the best possible outcome all things considered.
I had this idea in my head that once my parents knew I’d have to tell the wider family, fully expecting one of my parents to casually ask “so when you are planning on telling everyone else?”. Time went on however and the question never came, nor a single suggestion. Slowly it just sunk in that maybe I could have the experience I wanted my brother to have, I wasn’t in school anymore and no one was going to “out” me other than myself. I know that for some the process of coming out is a healing and positive experience, so I don’t think any set way is better than the other. For myself, being able to accept that I can just carry on living as I please and that I don’t need to accommodate to other’s feelings on the matter has greatly helped me with the sense of guilt and resentment I felt towards myself.
Before I always had this feeling I was hiding something, but now I don’t feel that way at all. The only thing I had to change was my attitude towards myself, because once I did that I understood that no one else’s thoughts on it mattered. In the end I think I hid behind what other people thought to justify my own internalised shame. I didn’t have the same ‘coming out’ experience as my brother, but both experiences were right for us.
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