I’m a bisexual, female, disabled scientist; so nuke me, Trump.
My identity is pretty much an amalgamation of social rights issues, but that doesn’t mean I’m not genuine as some people might presume. It’s a strange phenomenon, but I do know a few people with disabilities who are uncomfortable about coming out as LGBT because they might be deemed fakers, and I honestly can’t decide whether the problem is with the way disability is perceived, or the way the LGBT community is perceived.
There are people out there who assign themselves a long list of labels to do with gender identity and sexuality that don’t actually apply to them, who do so because they want to be perceived as modern and unprejudiced. While the intention of being open about equal opportunities is highly commendable, it leaves those of us who are genuine a little conflicted, because coming out as a member of the LGBT community for most people is simply terrifying.
My sexuality confused me long before I became disabled, but I was afraid to discuss it for fear of disappointing my parents, or being bullied at school any more than I already was. For fear of what being open-minded would make me, I suppressed any feelings I had on the matter, and vehemently denied to myself that I was anything other than heterosexual. This actually got easier when I first fell ill, as I had something else to be concerned about, but as the years went by, no matter how much I stamped down on them, my thoughts would turn towards my sexual orientation time and time again.
Leaving home and heading off to university should have been the time when I started to express my sexuality; I lived alone and away from those who had bullied me at school, but I still couldn’t shake off the fear that engulfed me every time the thought crossed my mind. I kept my mouth shut, as I always had done, and tried to move on.
The thing to finally bring me out of my shell was actually Jarred, who was openly bisexual from the day we met. It sounds ridiculous, but I saw the freedom he had in being able to express himself when a good-looking man appeared on TV, and I wanted that freedom. Jarred helped to strengthen my self-esteem and boost my confidence, and I began to realise that if I did decide to accept my sexuality, no matter what happened upon being honest, there would be at least one person I could rely on to get through it. However, I was so used to being scared of my sexuality, that I was too old to “come out”, and on top of the wheelchair it would simply seem like a plea for attention. Once again, I kept my feelings to myself, but the more I saw Jarreds’ freedom, the more I wanted it myself.
I can’t quite explain it, but one day the desire to have that freedom outweighed the fear of appearing fake, and with the help of a glass of wine, the truth seemed to just fall out of my mouth. After a quiet moment, Jarred said, “I know.” I stared at him dumb-founded, feeling foolish for thinking that I would have been able to hide something of this scale from the one person I allowed close enough to see such a thing.
I would like to be able to tell you that my fears and reservations about being open about my sexuality evaporated in an instant at this point, but that would not be the truth. I gradually began to make my closest friends and family aware of the situation, always a little reticent for fear that they would react badly, but with each positive reaction, my confidence grew, until one last hurdle remained. Now, I had to be open and honest with the rest of the world.
A simple post on Facebook sufficed for those who knew me who I hadn’t already told, and then I started to declare myself as bisexual on job application forms. The freedom it gave me in being able to express myself without a serious fear of being deemed a faker for social reasons was even better than I could have ever imagined. For the first time in my life, I felt like I had an identity that was true to my own form, which encompassed my sexuality, lifestyle, and preferences. In telling the rest of the world who I was, I had managed to find myself.