The Truth Is, I’ve Always Been Bisexual—So Why Did I Lie In My Own Diary About It?

The other day I was watching the episode of Law and Order SVU where Olivia Benson’s 9-year-old son came out to her as bisexual. There was a mixed response to this online and a discussion revolving around whether or not a child would even know their sexuality at that age.

These comments mostly came from my generation and above, with the generations below wholeheartedly agreeing that “of course they would know”.

The difference being, growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I wasn’t privy to the term for someone who likes both girls and boys. It wasn’t peppered through TV shows, movies, and the school grounds like we see it today, so with zero representation of bisexual characters in the media or entertainment field, it was no wonder I had no idea if I was bi or not.

You were either straight or gay.

And I didn’t feel like either.

When I was a kid, I had a crush on a boy called Jon who took up pages and pages in my diary. Years later, it switched to a crush on Michelle; however, instead of using her real name in my diary, I called her ‘Michael’ for fear someone would find it and read it. Imagine being so confused, ashamed, and scared of your own feelings that you couldn’t even speak the truth in your own diary.

In fact, my earliest memory of sexuality was in primary school (I was maybe 8 years old) and I asked a boy at school what the word ‘gay’ meant.

He responded with, “It means that you’re boring.”

This added more confusion.

There was no internet to look this up, no adults I felt comfortable asking, and if 8-year-olds didn’t know the terms for different sexualities back then, it was no wonder I had no idea what mine was.

By 16 I well and truly knew that I had feelings for both boys and girls (thanks to shows springing up like Will & Grace and my undeniable crush on Megan Mullally), but I still wasn’t ready to face the term bi. I kept waiting to finally settle on a gender – everyone else around me seemed to.

Then one day after school, my group of friends and I were sitting in a park and we asked each other our ‘deepest, darkest secrets’. The majority of my friends were Christian, so by secret standards, things were pretty tame; when it came to my turn, I was almost shaking.

I tried to speak the words, “I have feelings for a girl at school.” That’s all I needed to say. There was one particular girl that I had a crush on since Year 8, but I remember looking into my best friend’s eyes on the cusp of saying those words to her and I literally couldn’t. I felt a surge of fear rise up in me that I wouldn’t be accepted. I would be judged, branded as different, or worse, excommunicated or phased out of the group as a result. And yet I could tell her a plethora of details about my three-year crush on Jon and an incident surrounding sexual assault at a party with a male.

But speaking of my crush on a girl… that was too far.

“I can’t say it,” I finally said, and we quickly moved on. I’m pretty sure from the way I was acting, my friends must have thought I had killed someone.

Then when I was 19, I developed feelings for a woman I worked with who was 30. We worked all day together, partied all night, and I spent most weekends crashing at her house. We were very close, and against all the fear and uncertainty of what would happen, I finally told her how I felt. Maybe I had seen one too many Hollywood movies where it worked out for heterosexual couples, but I did it in the form of a poem.

She was mortified, freaked out, wanted nothing to do with me, and more to the point told everyone at our workplace (including my boss) about my feelings for her and how “gross” it was. I still remember the email she sent to me which said: “fuck off, grow up, and leave me alone.”

I was not even out to my family and friends yet and now suddenly my entire workplace knew I liked women. Fortunately, another coworker said to me, “Don’t worry, you can’t help who you love; she didn’t handle it well,” which was a small comfort in a sea of judgment.

But back to my point: if I couldn’t tell my childhood diary that I was bisexual, or my best friend at 16, or my parents, or anyone really, I certainly couldn’t tell the world.

It felt unsafe.

But maybe if there were shows like SVU that explored this topic, and a wider social understanding of people’s differing sexualities, maybe I would have felt more comfortable to explore mine from a young age instead of pushing it so far down I didn’t know what I felt anymore.

I still find myself shrinking back when I speak of this topic, it’s like embedded trauma, muscle memory that never seems to go away no matter how much healing I do. I keep waiting to be labeled “gross”, or to be banished, or to be told to ‘f off’ when I tell someone of the same gender I love them.

When I finally did find reciprocal romantic love with a girl at age 22, even my girlfriend was confused as to why I waited so long to express my true feelings when it was beyond obvious there was a mutual interest.

I guess it was once bitten, 99 times shy.

Decades later, as we move into 2022 and beyond, I’m extremely grateful that the world is changing. The media is shifting, identities are expanding, pronouns are evolving, and varied sexualities are adequately and regularly represented.

And to answer the question as to whether or not kids know their sexuality at such a young age, even the actor who played the 9 year old boy on SVU responded with ‘Yep!’ because he is bisexual in real life, and I can’t help but think this mainstream representation has given kids permission to not only feel safe but proud to express who they truly are.

Happy Pride Month.