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Two years.


October is a bit of a funny month for me. It's home to a few major anniversaries and memories - some of which I'd like to forget. My childhood dog was put down in October, I've been dumped (twice!) in October, I was burgled, I've been made redundant, and (a good one this time) it's the month I moved to Glasgow. While I wouldn't consider myself to be a particularly paranoid person, I do feel like waving sage around my house when October comes around each year.

But there's another anniversary that makes me incredibly emotional - and in a good way.

And that's my outiversary.

While I might be unapologetically bisexual now: it was only two years ago, a month before my 27th birthday, that I stood in my kitchen one Friday night and decided I was done.

Last year, on #BiVisibilityDay, I wrote a blog post explaining why it took me so long to come out and I'm not planning to re-hash the entire story. What I'm going to focus on in this post is the coming out itself and how my life has changed since that night.

My coming out wasn't entirely out the blue and was a progression (or a reaction!) to another major decision. Somewhere in late summer 2017, a memory came up on my Facebook from many years ago. In the photo, were me and a frenemy who had been in my life since 2009. The person in question is a highly problematic individual and when I looked at the photo, I felt something switch in me. My awkward and shy face. Their creepy fucking smile. The timestamp that reminded me that I had put up with their shit for far too long.

While I had tried to distance myself a few times in the past, I had always ultimately chickened out. But something about the painfully awkward facial expression of my 19-year-old self made me snap. This time I was walking away from that person for good and anyone who enabled them.

Fast forward a few months later and I'm in my kitchen just minutes away from the moment where I'd snap about my sexuality.

You see, the weekend I came out was the same weekend as their birthday party. I wasn't going. I had been chased to go by mutual friends and I hadn't caved. I was really walking away. 

And within the adrenaline of all this, I found the strength to do something else: that night, I became an openly bisexual woman. The moment was so poignant to me that I remember that I was looking in my fridge when I made the decision. There's a running joke with my friends that I came out of the fridge rather than the closet.

My coming out was subtle and many people probably missed it. That night all I did was change my sexual orientation on my dating apps. And I only began to actually tell people when I began meeting girls off of Tinder. It would still take me another year to become the proudly in-your-face-bisexual that I am today.

The next four months of my life were some of the most emotional of my life. This is the time period where I began to come out socially. I mean, I count my outiversary as that moment in my kitchen but there was still some work to be done. I began dropping it into blog posts (the first time is here) and then told people as I began to go on dates. If you're one of the friends who I came out to directly (rather than just finding out from a blog post) I can remember exactly how it was done. Maybe you don't. But I remember where I was when I did it, and how the conversation got to that point. Those moments have never left me.

I also began seeing girls I knew on dating apps, so I guess the news was going to get out.

And while I'm at home with my story now there are still those moments where I look back - with an actual tear in my eye - and think: holy fuck I actually did it. 

For those of you who have never had to come out, the emotion I feel around this anniversary might be hard to understand.

But the impact coming out has had on my emotional and mental health has been profound. While, yeah, coming out might seem no more than a moment where I can go "woohoo, I get to date girls now" it was a lot more than that. In the year that followed that night, I felt like I was being reborn.

If you've known me for more than two years, you might recall how awkward a human I used to be. I never went to the GP so I'm hesitant to use the term and self-diagnose, but my younger self very likely suffered from social anxiety. The link between LGBTQ+ individuals and mental health problems are well documented. And for me, that manifested in struggling to connect with people, overthinking absolutely everything, being scared people were judging me for the tiniest of things, and struggling to make chit chat. I also suffered from arachnophobia (which, no, not officially diagnosed either but on more than one occasion I was left sobbing uncontrollably because a spider was in the house). I'm not a psychiatrist and have no idea if this medically adds up: but sometimes I think spiders were the physical manifestation of my anxiety. Either way, I don't have the phobia now (just a strong dislike).

Very recently I read Brave New Girl by Chloe Brotheridge. Chloe is a therapist who specialises in anxiety disorders and there was one tidbit in this incredible book that hit me right in the sweet spot: carrying a massive secret around can sometimes be the root cause of anxiety.

Oh.

A lot makes sense now.

The thing is: after coming out I found confidence for the first time in my life. I began to move around the world with more ease, rather than shuffling around like I had done before. I looked people in the eye when they spoke to me. I could talk back if I needed to. I felt less weird having serious conversations. I could actually connect with people on a deep, emotional level.

Having the confidence to be honest about who I found attractive opened up the door for me to become honest about who I was in every sense of the word. I ditched hobbies that I only had a passive interest in and focused on my passions instead. My clothing choices became more consistent. I became confidently vegan rather than awkwardly pretending I wasn't hungry. I've also shared publicly that I would consider an open relationship. I applied to a university course last year that would have resulted in a change of career direction. I post things online that I know my family won't like, but I know now that I don't live for them.

I've become the most honest version of myself in every way possible. And, fuck, does it feel good.

And the thing is? Nothing bad came from coming out. All those years I was scared to be myself because I felt like I was too nerdy, too bisexual, too introverted, too awkward, or too vegan. Truth is: the only people I lost were the people I chose to walk away from in the summer of 2017. In the two years since I've come out, I've developed - for the first time in my life - a proper support system. Not just people to hang out with or people I talk to in a superficial way. But deep, emotional, and authentic relationships.

High school me would think you were lying if she was to be told that the 28-year-old version of her would say these words but...

....I'm popular now?

People like the real me. They really like her. Some people actually love her.

One of my friends Abbey - who I met about eight months after I came out of the fridge - told me that her favourite thing about me is that "Morag is just so Morag". I almost cried when she told me this as less than a year before I met her I was only just beginning to embrace the honest version of myself.

I've also received DMs from people thanking me for how open I am. And that shit always makes me cry happy tears. I want to hug the younger version of me and everyone who feels they have to hide from the world for something so trivial.

Coming out of the closet also helped clear up another issue that had followed me around for years: my inability to commit to someone romantically. I've only had two official relationships in my life, but these were both when I was a lot younger. I have spent the bulk of my twenties single. Which has been fine, as being single is not a bad thing. However, one reason I was hesitant to commit to anyone was that I wasn't being honest about who I was attracted to. Yes, I could have just married a man because, duh, I have always been genuinely attracted to those creatures. But I couldn't do so while knowing that I hadn't given myself to full opportunity to date all the genders that I really wanted to before picking that one special person. There was that nagging thought "do I really want to end up with a man, or would I prefer a girl?". If I end up with a man now, I'll confidently know that it's just how things worked out.

A few months after coming out I started dating a girl in the late spring of 2018. It ended a few months after it began, and after we parted ways the idea of a serious romantic partner to whom I was committed to was no longer scary. I no longer felt like I would be missing out on something that I secretly craved. Bisexuals don't have to have slept or dated a person of every gender to be valid but, for me, I didn't want to go to my grave having not done so.

Since then I've been fine with the idea of romantic commitment. I've not found anyone, but I have given random suitors a real chance. Not long after things ended with that girl, I began to develop my first big crush on someone in years. It was a man, and the idea of committing to him didn't seem scary. I mean, it didn't work out in my favour but it was nice to have a big crush on someone without being scared to do something about it (new Morag wasn't scared to pursue and did speak up!)

I've also given some thought as to how I would like to identify. I love that language has evolved to include new identities that explicitly describe someone's sexual attraction. I've chosen bisexual mostly because its the mainstream term and you don't need to explain it to people. Though the word bisexual does come with stigma, because when you get technical (and pedantic) about it: it means attracted to two genders. I do not believe there are only two genders and I am attracted to people across the gender spectrum. But I wouldn't say I'm gender blind, which is why I've always rejected the term pansexual. But there is a power in reclaiming words that have negative connotations and I would love to see the meaning of the word bisexual shift to reflect the modern world. But sometimes I worry that this is my cis-privilege showing (call me out if I need it).

However, two other identities I feel comfortable with are polysexual and fluid. Polysexual means attracted to many genders, but not all. Which does more closely sum up how I feel. But I have had to explain what it means to people - even people on queer dating apps! And fluid means that someone's sexual orientation can shift. My attraction has always been fluid, and I have no "fixed point" on how attracted I am to different genders. Months can pass by where I feel monosexual, but then I shift back into the centre.

Coming out about my sexual attraction also created an environment where I began to explore my romantic attraction and attitude towards relationships in general. I wrote about it in-depth earlier this year. When I began dating a girl in spring 2018, it was the first time where there was a big conversation about what we were, rather than just making assumptions based on labels. We were romantically and sexually involved, but we agreed that we were not life partners and were free to date other people (but be honest about it). To be fair, I had mentioned in passing before coming out that I felt curious about polyamory and open relationships (me and my first ever boyfriend talked about it!). Since we parted ways a year ago, I have tried to make a habit of talking openly to any sexual and romantic companions on how we show up on each other's life. This chat always goes down better with queer people. Even bisexual men are in tune with the idea that it's not okay to assume what you are to someone (straight men are still very bad at assuming).

Dating as bisexual woman has had a few pitfalls. I'm now a prime target for those pesky unicorn hunters. And while threesomes are a very valid sexual fantasy, the way these couples go about wooing bisexual women is so...odd. So odd, in fact, that I have a half-written guide in my drafts about how to do it ethically!

And then there's the Gold Star Lesbians who would never touch a bisexual girl. In fact, the bulk of girls I've flirted with online have been bisexual (or something similar). Very rarely do I have gay women in my DMs.

But here's my personal favourite: straight dudes who I've matched with asking what my preference is. One, it's a very personal question to ask someone who is no more than a Tinder match. And two, it stinks of the myth that bisexuals can't help themselves and will ultimately cheat on you with someone of another gender so, hey, let's check that she's more into men than girls so that I can trust her. Okay, I don't know their reasoning behind asking that question, but that's how it feels to be asked. Also: my preference doesn't stick for long (this week alone I've switched my Tinder back and forth between men and women).

Near the tail end of 2018, one of the mutual friends with the aforementioned frenemy popped up in my Messenger Inbox. We'd remained friendly-ish but she ultimately acted as if she expected me to change my mind and come running back (probably because I had in the past). I was invited to her NYE party, where I knew that person would be. I declined. Right after the new year, she messaged me pleading saying that she missed me and that she would ditch this person if it meant getting me back.

Ultimately, I didn't take her back (but hear me out).

A lot had changed since that night in my kitchen. She didn't miss me. At least she didn't miss the real me. She missed the super obedient, shy, and non-confrontational version of me that I used to be. She missed a girl that was similar to me, but ultimately wasn't me. Not true me, anyway. And our friendship had always been wooden because of that.

But also, I knew from my days in the closet that she doesn't believe bisexuals are real. As in, I've heard her say that word for word. That's the thing with spending a chunk of your adult life in the closet: you know who the secret bigots are. And she was one. You don't need to be a brain scientist to make the connection between my decision to walk away from that particular group of people and my decision to come out.

And when I turned her down, she stayed friends with the person who was stood with me in that photo - despite knowing how badly they had behaved over the years. She was never going to walk away from that person because it would have been the morally right thing to do - she was only offering to walk away if it meant salvaging a friendship that lacked any real depth (hi if you're reading).

These days I am loud and proud about my sexuality. And I know that annoys some people. There are the flat-out bigots who just want everyone to marry someone of the "opposite" sex and make babies (they probably believe women should be in the kitchen too). Then there are the "I'm not against it but why do we need Pride" types.

Quite frankly: fuck you.

I spent my teenage years terrified that someone would catch on to the fact that I fancied a girl two years above me. I tried to fight it for most of my early twenties. It caused me to have social anxiety. I became frightened of my own feelings. I've missed out on pursuing girls who I liked in a mushy way because I didn't want to admit that I liked girls in a mushy way.

I was scared to love. And no one should be scared to love.

Coming out is my proudest achievement, but it shouldn't be. What kind of world are we living in that someone's proudest achievement is learning to love themselves in a world that still tells them not to? Or overcoming the gaslighting from a society that tells us that bisexuals don't really exist?

Coming out is bullshit and shouldn't be a thing. It's easier now to come out of the closet than it was a decade ago. But not everyone can live life freely. Even though I'm a millennial and don't belong to a generation fuelled with hatred, it still took me over a decade to come out. I also live in a safe enough country, but it still took me over a decade to come out. Yes, society's changing attitude helped me slowly get there - but ultimately it was letting go of the wrong people.

But despite coming out on the internet, there are still situations where I choose to stay quiet.

I'm lucky enough to be out at work. It's the travel industry, an industry that is typically dominated by women and a lot of the men that do work in it are LGBT+ themselves. I also work in digital marketing, which is hardly the most corporate occupation ever. But I do sometimes fear the day when I move on and have to come out all over again (or choose not to!).

But I have also discovered bi-erasure first hand. Very recently I met a new person who, when I mentioned I was going on a date, immediately used male pronouns. On this occasion, I was going on a date with a man but I wasn't sure if I wanted to randomly start a conversation saying "hey, on this occasion, it is a man I'm going on a date with but just so you know...".

And then there are the people who know fine well I'm bisexual but still seem to forget.

I have made the decision, however, not to explicitly come out to my family. Since I'm loud about it online, I know a lot of them must know. It's not a secret; they are allowed to know. Largely the reason I've never told them is that the topic has never arisen. When I came out to my friends, it was when I began going on dates with girls and non-binary people. I didn't say anything until there was something to tell them. But because I've never had the kind of relationship with my family where they'd know about random flings and Tinder dates, the natural opportunity has never come up. They only know when I'm dating someone if the person I'm dating becomes an official partner - and that's why I've ultimately made the decision to only explicitly say "I like girls" if I meet a girl I want to commit to on a serious level.

And I know there might be an element of "bi-privilege" to this but: I might still end up with a guy anyway, and I'd rather not put myself through an awkward conversation with family members about liking girls only to never bring one home.

Saying that I am very grateful for the family members who have liked posts on Instagram and Facebook that acknowledge my sexuality. That's all I'm looking for. I don't really feel like having an in-depth chat about my sex life with family members, thank you very much. I chose to come out in a natural way, and I'd prefer for it to be acknowledged in a natural way.

Would my life be different if I had come out sooner? Yeah, probably. But given I was surrounded by biphobic assholes for years, I was never safe to. And I stand by that. Words can be weapons and having friends who denied the existence of bisexual people caused me to doubt my own sense of self. I've not forgiven the people who made me feel like I had to hide the real me - and probably never will.

There is nothing wrong with not being out. We all have different stories and varying levels of safety. I'm not even sure if I would come out sooner if I could do my life again. All I care about is that I am out now and sharing my story loudly so that fewer people have to feel the way I did for over a decade. If just one person accepts themselves after reading this 4,000-word ramble then I consider the multiple re-writes to be worth it.

When writing this post I chose to not hold back. Part of me did almost remove certain anecdotes (mainly the parts where I discuss family and ex-friends) but I wanted it to be the real story of how coming out changed my life. Not a wishy-washy version of the story where I'm like "yeah, everything's great now and I'm not angry at all".

But all things aside, the last two years of my life have been the happiest and most peaceful of my life. I'm finally sitting right in my own skin and I'm no longer frightened of everything. And all because I did something as simple as admitting to myself that I could fall in love with someone regardless of their gender or sex.

That night in my kitchen I never imagined that coming out would lead to the level of happiness I now feel. The idea that finally accepting the very thing that I had tried to run from for over a decade was the very thing that would set me free still seemed too bizarre. I was scared really fucking scared, but it turned out I had nothing to be scared about. Because that night was the night my life really began.

Anniversaries are always special, no matter what they celebrate or mourn. But some just hold a larger significance.

And for me, the most special anniversary of all is the one where I took a deep breath and gave myself permission to love. Not just permission to love people of all genders, but permission to love myself in all my bisexual reality.

13th October 2017.
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