Coronavirus has been described as some ‘great leveller’, a truly horrific world-changing event that is meant to be an indiscriminate force that cares very little for your economic, political, or ideological persuasion. However, this simply is not the case. Everyone’s circumstances have led them to cope with this issue in entirely different ways and have had completely unique challenges to face alone.
My particular challenge will be one encountered by many students returning home who are figuring out or coming to terms with their identity. For the ones who might not be fully ready to tell their family they are LGBTQ+. Being torn away from the freedoms of your own space and returning to your parents’ home can pose its challenges. There could be antagonism, ambivalence, or merely a lack of knowledge to who you are, and that is a terrifying prospect to a lot of people.
I am a bisexual male, and yet, despite my families overtly liberal views and support they have shown for family friends who are gay, I had a fear that bisexuality might be that step too far for them. I thought that my bisexuality would disturb the views of sexuality and gender that they grew up with. I could still see traces of it in our family dynamic. I think I found it too easy to dismiss the challenges my bisexuality had brought me. Growing up, I found it vital that I could pass as straight under the gaze of my peers. I was able to avoid the routine and systematic bullying I had seen inflicted, and I would inflict myself, on anyone who deviated even slightly from the static patriarchal heterosexual image. My conflict has been mostly internal, my friends and partners often caring very little or being supportive even in my exploration of my identity.
Where I have struggled is the marginalisation of bisexual identity. People, the media, and sometimes even myself, will suggest that I may “just be gay or straight” or “I’m just young and exploring things” or “everyone’s a little gay”. I don’t feel I can (even now) be self-assured enough to contest those claims. Although I have actively been attracted to women and men since I can remember finding people attractive, my memory isn’t some objective truth. My memory is coming from where I am now and clouded with all my heavy biases. I was such an exaggerator, and quite frankly a liar as a child, I can now find it hard to distinguish what was childish hyperbole and what were real events.
Identity is messy and incoherent, and the strict labels we place upon ourselves and others can never do justice to our intricacies and complexities. Because of this, I have found myself drawn to the term queer, that seems to mitigate the need for resolving anything concretely. However, the term queer to many still leaves questions, and for that reason, I often settle for bisexual.
Most of the time, I am comfortable and assured in my identity, but telling my parents felt like a place I would not be able to come back from. It felt like chiselling this label permanently into stone. I was lucky enough to have almost certainty that they would not mind at all, but something felt so permanent about the decision. Sadly, a day came when I was pushed by circumstance to tell my parents.
They were sat in the living room, and I told them.
I told them about the uncertainty, I told them about how long I felt like this, I had told them about specific struggles to fit in, and they just listened. The first thing they said was they were proud of me. I wanted this to be a side note, I thought I wanted them to hear me then move on like nothing, but hearing them tell me they were proud of me, with the years it had taken me to come to terms with my sexuality, it meant so much. They just understood, they didn’t impose their experience, they didn’t interrogate me. They just said, “we will support you no matter what”, whilst not being blind to the struggle I had faced and what I would meet in the future.
I will never understand the remarkable privilege that my parent’s acceptance has given me. I won’t understand what it is like to spend this time in lockdown trying to be someone else. To be trapped in the confines of my own house, possibly with an explicitly homophobic or transphobic family. To all those who are, I can pitifully offer no more than my deepest sympathies and support. I urge you to talk to friends or find support online. Even though you may feel alone, I can promise you there will be people out there that will love you for you.
The future is uncertain; nevertheless, we will meet again, hold on and don’t lose hope.