This year’s IDAHOBIT theme is ‘together as always: united in diversity.’
Days of visibility are hugely important to the queer community. To feel seen, both within the community, by allies and the wider population means our experiences, and existences are validated, when historically and still today we have been marginalised, minimised and persecuted. It means that as a community we stand together against hate and ignorance.
Bisexual and pansexual people have often experienced erasure of their experience and questions about the validity of their sexuality – too straight for the gays, or seen as experimenting, greedy or indecisive by the heterosexual masses.
My first experience of bi-erasure was one of ignorance rather than pointed vindictiveness. When I told my friend that I thought I was bisexual when I was about 14 or 15, she told me that it wasn’t really a thing – just a stage on a journey to gay or straight.
“Look at Elton John – he came out as bi, then gay, so you know – it’s kind of a holding pen for making a proper decision, isn’t it?” she said.
And popular culture reiterated this stance. I was (as most people were in the 90s and early 00s) an avid fan of Sex and the City and Carrie confirmed that “bisexual women must be straight women stuck in their experimental phase, and bisexual men must be sexually confused men who are on a layover on the way to Gaytown.” The broadly thoughtful and generally rational Miranda confirmed the distain towards bisexuality by saying it was “greedy double-dipping.”
So there you have it. Two if not three sources: ready for print – at least in my inexperienced teen brain. It must be true – not bisexual, just indecisive. That meant that until I was in my early 30s I thought because I’d landed in a heterosexual relationship, I was in fact, now straight. Never mind the same sex relationships I’d had along the way. Never mind the people I remain attracted to. My relationship’s straight, so I must be straight. How wrong I was. News flash. You can be bisexual and be in a heterosexual presenting relationship. You can be bisexual and be in a homosexual presenting relationship.
I still think how insane it is that it took so long to feel it was ok to come out as bisexual, to even understand that I was indeed bixsexual. But even when I did, I felt nervous, and even had moments where I feel like I’m “not gay enough”. It something that nearly, not quite, held me back from becoming the joint CEO of Outvertising – the UK’s advocacy group for queer people working in advertising. Outvertising exists to make the ad and marketing industries completely LGBTQIA+ inclusive. Through my work with this group, and with Carat PROUD, I feel more able to be my full self at work. I am way more educated now, way more certain and confident in who I am. More able to articulate who and what I am, and because of this I hope I behave in a way that younger people in the business and industry can take as an example of strong queer leadership.
So that’s why these visibility days like IDAHOBIT - especially a day for the whole community that unites us in our visibility, our diversity and joy is so important to me. While it feels like we are privileged to be able to live openly and I feel pride that I’m able to be an out, bi woman at work – of course I can – at Carat we centre our people, and are laser focused on understanding and supporting the whole self… It’s also important to remember that that freedom balances on a knife edge, and can’t be taken for granted.
So, today on IDAHOBIT I wish the community love and power, especially the trans community. As we’re seeing now across the UK and America, we are watching the trans existence become a point of political debate, and legal rights for the community are being rolled back. Visibility and standing against hate is a must. To my trans niblings: You are here and you are real, you are enough, you are loved.