By Sara de Souza
During the Fall of Grade 10 at my “all-girls’ school,” I recall developing a crush on someone who at first glance I thought was a boy. I believed my feelings were irrational and tried to push them out of my mind. But they wouldn’t go away. A year went by and I asked a very close friend if I could try kissing her. To my surprise she accepted and a mutual friend photographed our simulated kiss. Unfortunately, thanks to photo index on the disposable camera I had, the girls at school also found out about the infamous “kiss.” I found myself suddenly enmeshed in gossip and glares from girls I rarely spoke to, and soon-to-be ex-friends. I came out almost a year later, before the summer I left for university. I recall one experience with a friend during our commute to Toronto. I blurted out to her on the subway, “Oh, by the way, I’m not straight…I’m bisexual.” She told me I couldn’t just throw something like that out there, and kept quiet. Our outing seemed to progress normally until we parted, but we never spoke again. I tried to chalk up her rejection to how close-minded institutional religion had made her. But really, we went to the same high school and I had friends who identified as Catholic and still accepted me. The experience just taught me that not everyone will accept you for who you are, and you just have to live with that, despite how hurtful it may be. During my first year at McMaster University I was able to “make up” for the missed prom and attended our LGBTQ Centre’s annual formal, where I was met with one of the biggest surprises of my life! At McMaster, I had garnered somewhat of a reputation for being an activist engaged in feminist movement and LGBTQ organizing on campus. Several of my residence hall friends naturally assumed that my participation in the formal was evidence of my activist identity and not my newfound bisexuality. While at the formal, themed “Fairy Masquerade,” four of my friends randomly decided it would be a good idea to get dressed up and come surprise me. I had no clue they would do this, even though they all helped me get ready pre-event. I was so happy and felt so loved. I thanked them for coming and couldn’t stop telling everyone how happy I was! This was definitely one of the highlights of my coming out experience. Today, four years later, I still identify as bisexual. Yet, my understanding of who I’m attracted to is continually evolving. After attending my first bisexual support group, The B-Side at the Sherbourne Health Centre in Toronto, I came to understand that my sexuality is more fluid and that I am more pansexual in terms of whom I find myself attracted to. For the first time, I found I was part of creating a bi community, something I had never experienced prior. After meeting one transwoman, I picked up a copy of Julia Serano’s, The Whipping Girl, and it honestly changed my life to recognize that the relationship between being bisexual and wanting to explore my own understanding of gender is something other people could relate to. Throughout the years that I have identified as bisexual, I have been met with varied degrees of acceptance from friends, family and strangers. Yet, I remain true to my beliefs. There are times that I want to believe that I am a lesbian, but then I realize that I have to separate stereotypes from reality, including those that made me believe that my lack of having a partner of an expected gender somehow made me unworthy of love. I know that I will one day find a partner who I can love, and their gender won’t be of consequence to me. I know that my sexuality has been shaped by both positive and negative experiences and it has made me into a more empathetic being who welcomes fluidity and gender diversity. If nothing else, I try to help create space for people to just be themselves in all their beauty. I just wish that I were a better friend to myself sometimes! Lastly, as a bisexual feminist who also is learning to manage her anxiety, finding helpful mental health services has improved my confidence in navigating my relationships. I have seen three therapists in my life and never has my sexuality come up until the last therapist. I didn’t speak about it because I felt I would be rejected and that it just wasn’t “relevant.” This attitude is something I believe a lot of bisexual youth also have in common with me. They believe that somehow their sexuality doesn’t “fit” into therapy, or they don’t know how it does. This is why having a supportive therapist is essential. I managed to find one through a local clinic which specializes in anxiety disorders. I encourage anyone reading this to also check out their local clinics and “interview” therapists on their opinions around sexuality. This is what I did and it really made all the difference. Although you can never tell whether someone is harboring implicit biases you can try to get a sense of where they stand on the issue of bisexuality. One quality that makes me proud to be bisexual would have to be my acceptance of gender diversity amongst people. For me being bi and queer enables me to appreciate unique gender qualities and trans/queer gender identities. I have recognized that the people that I am the most connected to also appreciate my queer gender identity and love me for it.
I believe that through my intersecting identities, mainly as a racialized woman of South Asian heritage as well as a bisexual woman, my siblings can learn through my history of coming out. I want to teach my younger siblings (who are 11 and 10 years old) how important it is to be true to oneself while simultaneously being the “safe space” which enables others to do the same!
Sara is a 24-year-old queer feminist from Toronto, Ontario who actively participates in her local anti-violence movement.