When I was small I remember drawing, in crayon, a small rainbow on the wall of my bedroom. It was just over my bed. I could look at it while I lay in bed, also I could hide it with the pillows from my parents, who I knew would be furious that I had defaced the wall. It was a tiny, colorful, childhood whim. Eventually, since all secrets do come out, my parents did find the clandestine rainbow. Asked why I had done it, I said because it was pretty and it made me happy.
Fast-forward to present day. I am an adult. I can paint all over my walls in rainbow colors if I wish—although I would have to repaint them neutral colors when I give notice to my landlord. I still often feel as though I have something to hide though: the fact that I am bisexual. There are a lot of misconceptions about what that means, in the minds of homosexuals as well as heterosexuals. Being bisexual means I am attracted to people of both genders, male and female. It does not mean that I am attracted to everybody, just like being straight does not mean that a person is attracted to every person of the opposite gender. It also does not mean that I need male and female partners to be happy or that I am incapable of a monogamous relationship. I am perfectly comfortable and completely satisfied in a committed relationship with either a man or a woman. It is not true that bisexuals are simply being “greedy” and have a really wide dating pool. Not all females that I might be interested in are bisexual or homosexual, or they might just not be interested in me. Similarly, not all males I might be interested in will be interested in me or comfortable with dating someone who is bisexual. That is fine, being bisexual is not about forcing that sexual orientation onto anyone else. It would not work anyways, bisexuality or homosexuality is not contagious and people each have a right to their own sexuality, preferences, and identity.
There is a lot of stigma that I face as part of the LGBT community, both inside my country—although I am lucky to live in Toronto, which is one of the most diverse and accepting cities I have ever encountered—and outside. I have been thrown out of bars in Canada and I hid my sexual orientation from my employers in London because I was afraid of being judged for my sexuality instead of my contribution to the workplace. When I am in the Balkans, and this is my third trip, I tend to hide my sexual orientation. I do this out of caution because I am in a context that is not my own and where I do not fluently speak the language. I also do this to avoid causing offense or to be accepted more easily.
I am torn about this. On the one hand, my sexual orientation is intensely personal and is not something everybody needs to know. On the other, it never feels good to hide who you are. I feel sometimes as though I am betraying the LGBT community and myself, especially when I am in the Balkans. The way I look and express myself through fashion does not immediately mark me as different. Most of the time in society, with the exception of if I am with a girlfriend, I can ‘pass’ as straight. Other people are victimized because their self-expression marks them as ‘gay’, regardless of whether they actually are or not. In the Balkans especially, there is a serious fight for LGBT rights and equal treatment. I feel guilty that I have the option of choosing to opt out of the difficulties that some people have to face on an almost daily basis. It feels cowardly and it feels like I am contributing to the problem and not to the solution, to the intolerance and lack of information instead of the growth of tolerance and spread of education about these issues. So consider this a coming out story, or consider this a pledge of solidarity. Myself and other members of LGBT communities around the globe have a sexuality that we did not choose and that many do not understand. We have lifestyles that not everyone agrees with, but we let who we are, our identities and desires, guide our lives because it makes us happy. That happiness is as innocent as a crayon rainbow and equally as beautiful and valuable as anyone else’s happiness.
The article was originally written in English.
Illustration: Aurel Schmidt (thumbnail), Steven Meisel
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