I came out as bisexual at fourteen years old. At home, it was as if nothing had changed. My mum always has and always will be like a best friend. I tell her everything and she has always supported me in what, or who, makes me happy.
At school, however, I experienced the real, bitter tastes of phobia and hatred. Name-calling, physical assaults and threats became an everyday part of my life for a while. I was lucky enough to have friends who were always quick to defend me, but the words still stung and the bullies still managed to find me when I was alone.
As I’ve gotten older, not only have society’s views about the LGBTQIAP community developed, but of course I have become a young woman and as a result now find myself in different environments and social circles. The type of phobia I experience at this age tends to come from a place of ignorance rather than vitriol. People are naturally curious when and if I choose to disclose my sexuality to them, and if their questions are respectful and within personal boundaries then I am more than happy to answer them. Truth be told, I would rather they gleaned information about what they do not know from someone with first hand experience, not from some of the ambiguous rubbish spread virally online.
Despite more and more people from the community speaking out about their stories, there remain some who perhaps due to immaturity echo the school playground bullies with comments like “You’re a bit greedy then, aren’t you?” and “You must prefer one to the other,” or my all-time favourite: “But you’re with a man!” This is why I call him my ‘partner’.
My queerness is erased on a daily basis. I only now feel comfortable identifying as pansexual but despite this, my queerness is erased on a daily basis. By the media, who think that women only ever ‘experiment’ with cis women or are only ever through-and-through lesbians, portrayed almost always as the butch and stand-offish type. Ever noticed how there’s been three seasons of OITNB and they haven’t used the word ‘bisexual’ once?
My queerness is erased by every colleague I meet who assumes that I must be heterosexual because I am in a relationship with a man.
My queerness is erased by the people who assume that once you pick one gender, you stop forming attractions to people of other genders. Please, if you are in a relationship, I ask you to think of your list. The one from Friends where they are allowed to sleep with five famous people outside of the relationship. Now try and tell me that you don’t find other people attractive when you’re in a committed relationship. Try and understand how stupid it is to tell a bi/pan person that they have ‘picked a side’.
I have my queerness erased whenever women assume that I am going to act like some kind of sexual predator around them, or simply that I must be attracted to them because they are a woman. I still have preferences and sometimes, you ain’t my type.
I own my queerness through referring to him as my partner, because for that split second, whoever I’m speaking to understands that I, as a pansexual woman, am in a relationship with someone who could be any gender. I didn’t even need to define my sexuality because without saying it, your brain couldn’t put me into a box. My partner exists and I adore him for who he is, but his gender? I’ll leave that to your imagination.
Jenna is currently studying at the University of Winchester but lives in sunny Bournemouth. She writes as Chief Editorial Intern for local website ‘Bournemouth News & Info’, and in her spare time she can either be found in little pubs with live music and good company, blogging feminist rants or cheering on her local roller derby teams.