Why Bi Visibility Is Important – Ida Thomasdotter


For as long as I can remember, I have been attracted to people of different genders. Even long before puberty, in kindergarten when liking someone had very little to do with any conscious sexual feelings and more to do with innocent butterflies. (I still maintain to this day that my first love was Jessica, when we were both four years old, even though I would struggle to put into words the difference between what I felt wrestling with her in the sofa and what I felt for other bffs I had later.)


Curious from an early age

From the age of seven, when I started primary school, I would always ask both boys and girls to dance at the after school discos and it never occurred to me that the other kids made their choices based on anything other than personality or height compatibility (I was the second tallest person in my year group at the time.)

It was also around this time that I found out about sexuality. I was playing with a group of kids in the school playground when one of them said the word lesbian. Perking up at hearing a new word and eager to learn it, I asked him what it meant and he matter-of-factly told me that ”a lesbian is a girl who likes other girls” and I distinctly remember feeling a visceral surprise at the idea that there would even be a word for that, that there existed a word for something that I, up until that point, had assumed all girls did.


I was in my mid-teens when I found out that there was a different word for how I’d always felt and I remember telling my then best friend about the discovery in something akin to coming out, and he just gave me a weird look and said: ”I know. I’ve been telling people that about you for years.”


It didn’t change anything. Maybe at the time I thought it should, but now I’m well aware that the fact that it didn’t, the fact that I could say I liked girls out loud and actively ask other girls to dance and it was met with shrugs, means that I was very privileged. But even within that privilege, there was something a bit off. I didn’t become conscious of it until after my friend and I returned from having got on a bus to Stockholm to be in the Pride parade. There had been a weird but powerful feeling of belonging in that parade and I didn’t feel that at home.

Ida at the Pride festival.

Learning more with age


The complexities and issues with sex and sexuality that I’ve dealt with throughout my teens and twenties has had very little to do with other people’s genders, even during the decade when I was to all intents and purposes asexual, I remained biromantic. I still developed crushes on people of all genders, I just had no interest in them sexually and no sex drive to speak of, probably as a result of depression but possibly also due to some barely consensual sexual experiences that left me with a muscle memory of associating sexual situations with violated boundaries and lack of autonomy and control.


When my sex drive slowly but steadily began to filter back, in my mid- to late twenties, the subject of sexuality became more important because suddenly, as I was contemplating downloading dating apps onto my phone and put myself out there, as encouraged by my flatmate, this bisexual business wasn’t theoretical anymore.

Now, there were actual, practical decisions to be made. Filters to be set and faces to swept. And, although I started my newfound dating journey as I felt was expected of me, by keeping my choices as close to fifty-fifty as I could, gradually I began to accept the fact that I had very little interest in dating men and eventually ended up dating women exclusively.

Identifying my sexuality

I began to self-identify as queer, a term which is both rebellious and inclusive, but more importantly encompasses sexuality, gender and personality all in one and allows for fluidity in a way that the other labels in the acronym don’t.


Fast forwarding to my early thirties, maturer and definitely more confident in myself and my sexuality, I was still swiping my way through the dating apps, still optimistically hoping to meet that someone that I’d want to go on a second date with and, staying true to my bisexuality, every four or five dates I went on was with a man. Even though the only people I ever wanted to go on more than one date with was women.


Then, I met one man that I actually clicked with. In fact, I more than clicked with him. I had an inkling of a connection with him and I definitely wanted to see him again. This person ticked all the boxes for me, even the sexual one. So we went on a second date, and a third.

Bi Visibility Day


Today is Bi Visibility Day. And if I’m perfectly honest, I didn’t see the point of this day when I was still dating. I self-identified as queer and no-one questioned it. But ever since I fell in love with my partner, who just happens to be a cisman, I don’t feel like I can call myself queer anymore. I also feel like the full spectrum of my sexuality, which I’d finally embraced and become comfortable with, is now half-hidden behind this relationship, like I’m supposed to be straight now.

My partner, although accepting of my bisexuality, once questioned the idea of an LGBTQ community and said: ”In what way are you LGBT?”


I couldn’t put what I felt into words then anymore than I can put into words how my feelings for Jessica at four years old was different to my feelings for Katarina and Niklas. But my partner’s question, undoubtedly genuine and not meant to hurt or erase anything, puts a finger on something that I’ve subconsciously been struggling with since the beginning of this relationship; how does a person’s sexuality manifest itself outside of dating/relationships? How is sexuality interconnected with personality? Why do I feel like half of me is now invisible because I’m in a romantic relationship with a cisman?


I often remember that feeling of belonging that I experienced when my friend and I danced along in the Stockholm Pride parade back in 2002 and I miss that feeling. I’ll get an urge to spend more time in LGBTQ settings and regain some of that sense of community, because I do feel more at home in those settings than heteronormative ones. But something always holds me back now, like I don’t belong there anymore. Like I would be an imposter.


So I get it now. I get why visibility is important, even bi visibility, maybe especially bi visibility.


Ida Thomasdotter

Ida is a writer and interdisciplinary artist, using a variety of mediums such as video, painting, drawing, and written word to explore themes like life and death, power structures and struggles, gender, neurodiverse mindscapes and the human condition from different perspectives and to question, if not break down, the structures of traditional narration. 

She is an autodidact artist, with formal education in writing and filmmaking from Broby Grafiska (Screenwriting) and Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts (Film Foundation) et al, but also a ‘difficult’ feminist like her mother, a sporadic yogi and a passionate mental health advocate. When she’s not busy working, Ida tends to her garden, drinks copious amounts of Swedish coffee, watch a lot of Scandinavian dark comedies and plays with her rescue kitten Blomma.”


Queer literature you need to check out – Kate McCaughey

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Queer Literature has existed for as long as people have been penning their thoughts into stories and poetry. Ancient mythology told stories of homoerotic lovers, very often queer Gods, Goddess and Greek artists (special shoutout to 6th Century BCE Sappho who, is thought to be, the earliest documented lesbian). Eventually, in the Middle-Ages, Christianity swept in and abolished the consensus that homoesexuality was ok, but of course this didn’t stop LGBTQ+ writers. Antonio Rocco, Francis Lathom, Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf are only a handful of queer people in history taking to plays, poetry and novels to articulate their homosexual desires.

We are now at a point in history where Modern and contemporary literature is rife with LGBTQ+ representation. Here is a short collection of prose, poetry and a playscript to get you started with your own queer reading list, representing lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and non-binary stories.

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Novels

Rubyfruit Jungle – Rita Mae Brown

Rubyfruit Jungle Cover

Published in 1973, Rubyfruit Jungle follows the life of Molly Bolt as she explores her own queerness as an American teenager, rejecting the paths she is expected to follow. The novel truly was one of the first of its kind, and Brown’s writing combines humour and tenderness against the backdrop of New York’s fascinating LGBTQ+ community.

Oranges are not the only fruit – Jeanette Winterson

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit Cover

Emotional and dark, this 1985 novel explores the life of a young lesbian living in a Pentecostal community in England. Written with subtlety and powerful dialogue, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit grapples with Religion-based homophobia within a coming-of-age framework. Definitely to be consumed with a big cup of tea on a rainy afternoon.

Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney

Conversations with Friends Cover

A more modern and perhaps lighthearted story than the prior two, Conversations with Friends has a bisexual woman, Francis, as its protagonist. Rooney’s observations of contemporary Ireland are sharp, and she portrays Francis’ bisexuality carefully whilst avoiding tokenism, as she dives into a tantalizing love affair. 

Mr Loverman – Bernadine Evaristo

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If you’d like an entertaining and tender read, Mr Loverman is perfect for you. The 2013 novel tells the story of Barrington Walker, a seventy-four-year-old Antiguan living his life in London as a closeted gay man. Barry is funny, perceptiive, loving, and it’s through his eyes that Evaristo tells a deeply important story of sexuality, family and society.

Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other cover

I’ve already mentioned Evaristo but I guess it’s because she’s just so good! Girl, Woman, Other took the literary world by storm last year, and for good reason. It follows the stories of 12 women and non-binary individuals as they deal with sexism, racism, immigration, family, love and the changing landscape of contemporary England. I’ve said it before, but I could truly read Evaristo’s opinion on everything.

Trumpet – Jackie Kay

Trumpet cover

The 1998 novel was inspired by the real Jazz musician, Billy Tipton, who, upon his death, was outed as transgender to his family, friends and fans. Kay relays the trans experience with tact and energy, exploring grief, family and powerful, irrevocable love. Her writing style is lyrical and warm whilst always being resolutely honest.

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Poetry

To Find A Kiss of Yours – Federico Garcia Lorca

Lorca was, I would argue, one of the most powerful writers of the 20th Century. A Spanish poet, playwright and director, he was a forerunner in many arts movements (futurism and symbolism just to name a few). Holding Socialist views, it is thought he was assassinated by Nationalist Milita during the Spanish Civil War. This poem about a sweet and simple kiss, describes queer love with tenderness alongside ecclesiastical and divine imagery.

Having a Coke With You – Frank O’Hara

Written in 1960, this free verse poem chronicles an afternoon spent with a lover, comparing him to fine art pieces which he surpasses in the writer’s eyes. Like Lorca, O’Hara was part of an avant-garde writing and arts moment, and explored the world around him through deliciously experimental portrayals of daily life.

Want – Joan Larkin

Larkin’s work in the literary world has been powerfully unapologetic. She has written extensively about LGBTQ+ issues in prose and plays, but it is this 1997 poem that welcomed her onto this list. Playing with repetition and the whimsical power of the mundane, Want illustrates the deep yearning of a long distance lesbian relationship.

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Plays

Angels in America – Tony Kushner

Angels in America Cover

This award-winning play (premiered in two parts in 1991 and ‘93) is on almost every essential queer reading list, and for good reason. Focusing on the AIDS crisis of the 1980s in a New York setting, Angels in America is raunchy, garish and funny whilst remaining a key voice in the pivotal tragedy for the queer community. Best viewed onstage (there’s a fantastic 2017 National Theatre adaptation!) but the play script itself is also definitely worth a read.

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Non-Fiction

Queer Intentions – Amelia Abraham

Queer Intentions cover

I picked up this book on a whim in an art gallery and was not disappointed. Queer Intentions is a deep dive into a personal yet encompassing journey of LGTBQ+ learning, outlining history and contemporary queer culture worldwide. The book is packed with nuanced yet critical information whilst maintaining a humour and tenderness that renders it a real page-turner.

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An article by Kate McCaughey

Kate is an English Literature and Theatre Studies graduate from the University of Leeds. Now living and working in the North East of England as a writer, Kate is Passionate about current socials inequalities and focus much of her work on LGBTQ+ issues, class and women’s rights. These range of skills in copy editing, zine editing, spoken word and theatre makes Kate an incredible addition for Proudly.Blog.


Header image by  Syd Wachs on Unsplash