*taps mic* – is this thing on? Welcome to #BiPanic, your bi-monthly column exploring all things bisexual
BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGE BY PEXELS
Happy Bisexual Awareness Week! Today, we launch #BiPanic, the brand-new column exploring all things bisexual. Whether dismantling harmful stereotypes, fangirling over our favourite TV shows or having a good old chuckle, #BiPanic is here to provide that vital bisexual commentary.
I came out as bisexual when I was 18. Now, I had a very complicated, convoluted journey towards coming out and I travelled along that path even after I did. I first voiced my thoughts that I might be queer – albeit drunkenly – on a hill in my hometown when I was 17. My entire life, I’d been attracted to women, enjoying those first fleeting crushes on my friends when I was in primary school, though I didn’t know that’s what they were then. I’d had boyfriends as a teenager and fangirled over Robert Pattinson and Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys as much as the next edgy, alternative fangirl: so, when I began to realise that I also fancied girls, I was confused. There was something more behind my hyperfixation on Lady Gaga: I too, was born this way.
Growing up in a village in rural Bedfordshire and attending school in the neighbouring Hertfordshire, I had no bisexual representation. The constituency I grew up in has been Conservative since the beginning of time, and the views I encountered surrounding LGBTQIA-related issues were traditional, as expected. The education I received at school was poor to say the least, and I found myself learning about the LGBTQIA community mostly through Tumblr.
When I started sixth form, I made a friend that turned out to be bisexual; she was open about her identity from the very beginning and a little lightbulb went off inside my head. “What’s bisexual?”, I remember asking her. It sounds silly, but at the ripe old age of 16, I didn’t know what bisexual was. The only out LGBTQIA people I’d met in my time were at school, when a boy and his best friend came out as gay and lesbian respectively. I silently applauded and wished that I knew them better so that I could congratulate them.
Finally, after lots of exploration and extensive research, I formally came out to my friends. I’d first encountered bisexuality through that vital schoolfriend when I was 16, and now, I was 18. I always knew that my friends would accept me: there was never any doubt. I told my mum when I was 20, and she was incredibly understanding. She didn’t downplay my identity by citing the long list of boys I’d dated at school: I was welcomed with loving arms. “I’m your mum, sweetheart. I know more about you than you might expect”, she smiled as she hugged me. Nothing changed.
One thing I didn’t expect when I gave myself that label – and in doing so, declaring it to the world – was the style crisis that followed. Now that I was out as queer, how did I outwardly express that? Was there an assigned wardrobe that I needed to adopt? A fashion statement that I needed to master?
My entire life, I’d expressed myself uniquely. As soon as I was old enough to dress myself – my mother quickly gave up fighting with me as I clearly had my own opinions – I was fashioning stripey tights with spotty tops wherever I could. There was no colour that didn’t clash, in my opinion, and that is a mentality I’ve somewhat taken forward with me into adulthood. My dad was the king of bringing home sweatshirts intended for boys from his travels across the US as a touring musician: I had a huge collection of Hard Rock Café, GAP-style hoodies from toddler-age, lovingly paired with dungarees by my mother. My parents were my biggest cheerleaders from day one.
When I came out, I panic-bought a few plaid shirts. I didn’t know how to look bisexual, and I’d learnt on Tumblr that queer women were infamous for adopting these. In the beginning, I wanted to look as visibly queer as possible; to be included in the community without question and welcomed into LGBTQIA bars without a second glance. I didn’t want to “look straight.”
Soon after, I opened my wardrobe and didn’t feel inspired by anything in it. Nothing felt like “me.” Lusting over Shane McCutcheon’s looks and wishing I could look so evidently queer was redundant. From that moment, I realised that there was no given style I needed to adopt and I went back to my old ways of just dressing how I felt. Queer people have expressed themselves through fashion for centuries, from pearl earrings to top hats to pinky rings, but those tropes aren’t assigned by duty. Swathes of fashion houses wouldn’t exist without our community; there’d be no Alexander McQueen, no Giorgio Armani, no Versace.
I’m almost 25 now, and my wardrobe has never been so authentic. Fashion is and always has been important to me; I express myself through my clothes, and ironically, I’ve ended up sporting the archetypical Doc Martens and the “Bi Bob” coloured with pink, but I’ve never felt more “me.” There’s no one way to look adequately bisexual, and if I could go back in time and tell my 18-year-old self that, I would.
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