RELEASING YOUR TRUE SELF
If seven years ago someone had told Grace Bradshaw she would be writing an article for GCN she would never have believed it.
Why? I wasn’t queer enough. Or so I thought. At that time, as a 35 year-old bisexual cis woman married to a straight cis man I had fallen into the trap of running in circles every day trying to get things done and make everyone happy but neglecting my own passions, needs and values, which, on reflection, served nobody, least of all myself. I felt invisible.
I met my husband in my twenties, and with the exception of one break up we have been together ever since. Before I met him and during the break up I had experiences with other men and with women and felt very comfortable in my attractions and behaviour.
I knew I couldn’t claim a lesbian identity because I felt strongly attracted to men, but I didn’t feel straight either. I knew I was bisexual but there were so many myths and such little visibility around bisexuality that I found it difficult to understand it in any in-depth way. A few years later, my husband and I were enjoying getting to know each other and although he knew my history he didn’t really understand the importance of what it meant in terms of identity. I didn’t myself. In many ways, we were very innocent and didn’t have a lot of knowledge to draw on regarding different sexual identities. Looking back now, I realise how incredibly naive I was as a young woman.
We embarked on a committed relationship and as time went on and as I was gradually more exposed to a traditional way of thinking and living in terms of family, values, relationships and environment, the penny started to drop that I had a need for a different type of expression. However, being partnered to a straight man whom I felt attraction and love for, I thought it meant no part for me in the queer community. I surely had no right to be part of it. I wasn’t queer enough, not even bi enough!
I would continue to go out to the pubs and clubs on occasion and really enjoy it but felt uneasy in expressing myself fully. Some of the traditional views I was exposed to sought only to confirm this pattern of thought, the most toxic of all being that I would hurt my husband by being more visible and there was no reason to do that because I wasn’t really queer, which was deeply upsetting. Now I was in limbo - too queer for the very straight world I was living in but too straight for the queer world.
Seven years ago I gave birth to my son and everything changed for me. As anyone who has become a parent will know, it is an overwhelming experience. Overnight I became a mother which brought with it great love and joy along with exhaustion. As I enjoyed bonding with my son in his first year I wondered about the person he would grow into. I was excited to see him develop and wanted him to feel safe and encouraged to develop his own identity and express himself in all the ways he needed to. I knew that to encourage him to express his humanity I would need to express my own. I began to understand I had a responsibility to be more visible but was not sure what that meant and did not have a clue where to start. I sought support but was still a little nervous about it. Although at this time I was out as bisexual to a lot of people in my life and at work, I still felt invisible and had no real connection to the community.
So began the slow walk towards understanding through inner work, conversations with the people around me about how I felt, and connection with the community in a more meaningful way. My husband and I agreed to a more open relationship for ourselves. Two experiences during this period really opened my eyes. The first happened on a weekend away a few years ago when I enjoyed an unexpected night with a woman who I met in a queer space on a night out. What surprised me about this experience was how different it felt to be in a queer space flirting with a woman rather than a man, an experience I had forgotten. The queer expression came racing to the surface. It came so naturally it astounded me and reflecting on it afterwards I wondered why the difference. The answer I concluded was a complex mix of erasure, internalised biphobia, the need for expression and utter frustration with heteronormativity. The second came from re-engaging with the community in person before the pandemic and online during it. The community being more diverse now, hearing people’s stories taught me things I could have learned no other way. I learned that the feelings I had around not feeling queer enough and being invisible were not unique to me and were shared by other Bi people. I also learned that I enjoyed much more privilege than I had realised by listening to other community members tell their stories.
I have heard most of the stereotypes; selfish, attentionseeking, immature, but I don’t consider the disclosure of my identity or the expression of desire to be so, I see it as human, the expression of my humanity. Many of us have been culturalised to suppress the best aspects of our humanity in different ways but I feel it is more important now than ever to let it radiate from us. I feel happy to have enjoyed a time of self-growth and inner reflection and to have prioritised the people and things I value most in life because, in the end, the most important person you can be visible to is yourself.