Having real problems sleeping at the moment, I know that some of this is grief, as it has been the run up to and the 2nd anniversary of my sister’s suicide plus what should be John’s 40th birthday is starting to loom large in my mind and heart. I always have a poor sleeping pattern around anniversaries or when my grief is teetering on the surface. One thing that has kept me awake and generally been in the background is the realisation and acknowledgement of the years of self torture I have put myself through. I know the human psyche is a very complex things and I have no knowledge or expertise whatsoever into it, I’m just recounting my own experience…
This picture is of my homework diary from when I was in year 10. 1998. This is a visual representation of what was going on inside of me. Up until then I guess I had never really thought properly that the same feelings I had towards men I had had towards women too, and I couldn’t possibly admit that it was true. I’d become a Christian in the summer of 1996 and thought I knew all about what Christians said about people who had same sex attraction and what the Bible said as well. Even though I was definitely attracted to men it was unthinkable that I should be attracted to women too, and yet when I thought about it properly I knew it had always been true, from when I was very little. Some people think you can’t possibly know how you feel when you are young and while it’s true I didn’t quite understand it at the time, I do now. That bubbly feeling whenever I saw a certain person in the TV show House of Elliot, that one friend I thought about much longer than I should have, and the girl I cried over and I realised I probably shouldn’t be. But back in 98, at least where I grew up, you were either straight or gay, and I didn’t feel I fitted in either of them, and I knew I didn’t want to be gay, plus I fancied men so I couldn’t be right? I had heard the term bisexual but no one really talked about it seriously. So with all that in mind I refused to accept my attraction to women. That was the only answer where everyone wins, God wins cause He’s cross about the whole thing anyway and I want to please Him more than anything else and I win cause I don’t have to deal ‘with it’ or so I thought…..
How silly, cause I realise the moment I started pushing it all down inside, what actually happened for the next 3 years was I was constantly ‘dealing’ with ‘it’. I was so worried about it all the time, it was all I could pray about. ‘Make it go away God, make it stop.’ The amount of nights I cried myself to sleep is such a sad thought now. One of the lowest points was crying myself to sleep on my birthday, after hours of prayer for it all to stop and be over. I remember walking to church and my heart breaking cause I felt I couldn’t be faithful to God and like women as well as men, and I didn’t understand any of it. I just knew I loved the Lord and He meant everything to me and I was nothing without Him, so the only choice I really had was to walk away from Him or bury it and police it incase it ever came to the surface.
And thats what I did. I, as the picture shows, refused it. Once I had recognised it and rejected it I started to police myself with an aggressive strictness. I couldn’t let it get out, ever. It simply could not, because otherwise me and the Lord were over and I knew it, and I was not under any circumstances going to let that happen. So I closed that part of me down, down completely. I had to. What other option was available? I had told my mum one night and she had told me not to be stupid and slammed the door never to talk about the subject ever again. I’d read what (I thought) the Bible said. I’m an in for a penny, in for a pound, kind of girl, all or nothing, I mean it would be so much easier in one sense if it was all men or all women but it was both and I mean that’s not easy for anyone to get their head around is it? Especially not when your 15/16/17 years old. I’d told my best friend and I’d told my youth workers and while they were accepting of me and didn’t judge or condemn me, they didn’t have to, I had already done it. I was judge, jury and executioner. And while at various stages of those years I had gone a little back and forward over it, by the time I was 18 the decision was made. It was a source of shame and will never be mentioned and any time it appeared in my thoughts would be shut down completely. Zero tolerance. I hadn’t noticed how exhausting that whole thing is till recently. Policing yourself 24 hours a day 7 days a week for decades on end. The slightest hint and internally I would slam myself with shame, condemnation and judgement.
Waking me up in the middle of the night recently is the question: in the times when I wasn’t consciously ‘dealing’ with ‘it’, what if I had gotten so used to shutting myself down that I no longer recognised I was even policing myself? At first glance it would appear as though I had specific times in my life where I was bisexual, and times I wasn’t, but that’s nonsense, it’s not a phase. You can’t drift in and out. It was always there, it’s just at times I wasn’t able to keep it as far down as I would have liked. For instance when I first worked for John Lewis, that time was so hard… I can’t believe I am gonna write something I haven’t even told my therapist yet (although hopefully by the time I actually publish this I shall have told her..) I had gone on secondment to another dept and it was my time to return back to where I came from. Returning, however, would mean seeing the woman I liked again, and so in an attempt to not go back to my department, one night I got a hammer and I repeatedly smashed it into my hand… that is why if you look at my palms side by side you will see one is slightly more raised than the other… it also hurts when its cold. I did go to work and I didn’t tell a soul what I had done as how could I explain it?? But when I was offered the chance to move departments I jumped without thinking. There were certain songs I listened to when I was at school during those years that I couldn’t let myself listen to ever again because they reminded me of that time. I feared (this is so irrational…) that they would reignite whatever it was within me that had liked women so I avoided them like the plague. I would walk out of shops if they were on. If I was in a restaurant and they came on I would break out into a cold sweat.
When last summer my attraction to women resurfaced I began to realise exactly what had been going on when I didn’t have the inner strength to police and fight it. Even though for the last year I have been accepting of my bisexuality still I find prayers for God to take it away start up with in me. Still I wake up in a cold sweat cause I’ve had a dream about a woman or I’ve realised I like someone. Now I try not to fight myself over it. It’s hard not doing automatically what you have done for years, and yet so unbelievably freeing. It’s difficult to describe. The relief that comes when I remember it’s ok. I’m not bad. There’s not something wrong with me. I’m ok. I’m not horrible. I’m still loved. Jesus is still with me. Huge waves of relief wash over me and often I find myself smiling. I’m ok, and I’m going to be ok.
Why am I saying all of this? Why now and why publicly? Because I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through. I don’t want anyone to spend years crying night after night, I don’t want someone to take a hammer to themselves, I don’t want someone to feel rejected by God especially, if like me growing up, that is the only thing they have. I acknowledge that had I of come to terms with this sooner, I may not have had some of the life experiences I have done, but I must also face the pain and the hurt I have caused myself over the years. I see, know, and have experienced what homophobia causes when you internalize it. Internalized homophobia is real and causes terrible suffering to people. I most definitely did not choose to be bisexual, not in the slightest. I just always have been, and there really is nothing I and seemingly God can do about that.
There are some people who say, well that’s fine but don’t engage with that part of you. ‘Leave it alone and crack on with life.’ But wasn’t that what I had been doing? People like Jackie Hill Perry et al are not helpful to me as I know I would slip back into harmful ways if I followed what they say. Maybe it does work for them, but not for me. I need to be gentle and caring with this part of me after the years of denial and damage I have done. When I let my sexuality be what it is and engage positively swathes of freedom and enormous relief wash over me, which constantly surprises me. I never thought I would feel like that, ever. It has taken a lot of work to get to this place but I can truly say I’m grateful I’m here.