When I was a child, no one ever explained sexuality to me. I knew that men and women got married because I saw examples of that all around me. My parents, my family, books, television.
I found out about being “gay” much later at school. Even then, there was a significant chunk of time when I didn’t know that gay wasn’t just a meaningless slur that others would use to bring you down. But even when I learned about what homosexuality was, I still haven’t encountered the word bisexual.
Until I was 13, I only ever saw heterosexual couples on TV and a few super campy characters who were supposed to be gay. I only met the first openly gay person that year. And the year after that I finally saw the first serious portrayal of a homosexual character on TV (Emily from Pretty Little Liars, in case you were wondering).
Around this time, I began to understand that people can be attracted to different genders. But the rule seemed to be this: you’re either straight (which is good), or gay (not so good).
The first time I was introduced to the word bisexuality, it was wrapped in a nice blanket of it doesn’t exist. You couldn’t say the word without the addendum of it’s not real. People would say they’re bi, of course, but they were lying to themselves. They were all actually gay. Just look at anyone gay on TV. They always start off dating someone of the opposite gender before they realize they’re gay. Bisexuality is a phase.
So, there I was a few years later, age 18 and fully aware of my attraction to men. Of course, there was a part of me that kept nagging, asking if I was sure I was straight. And I wasn’t. But I was pretty sure I wasn’t gay, so what did that leave me with? Everyone knew bisexuality wasn’t real. There were no bisexuals anywhere.
Until summer of 2015 came and Shane Dawson posted a coming out video. I was big into watching YouTube videos, so I immediately clicked on it. I’m bisexual, it was called. It wasn’t a long video, but it changed my life.
I watched it about three times and then sent it to all my friends. I didn’t know why, but I needed them to see it. It was important.
That summer, wherever I went, this one question kept haunting me. Could I be bisexual? I was obsessing about it, and I knew it. I kept comparing attractive women I saw on TV to attractive men. Is there a difference? Did I actually have a crush on Regina from Once Upon a Time this entire time?
Turns out I did. Three months after seeing the video, I came out to my closest friends.
The thing about Shane Dawson’s video was that it was real. You couldn’t deny his pain, his experience, his truth. There was no way you could convince me bisexuality wasn’t real, not after watching that.
Once I knew it was real, all of these things kept coming to the surface. How I fancied a girl when I was thirteen (and then suppressed the memory of it). How I always questioned my heterosexuality. How I always felt personally offended by the word gay because it hit too close. How I had way too many girl crushes (and how they weren’t “girl crushes” but actual crushes).
It’s now been almost five years since I realized I was bisexual. Sometimes, it feels like it’s been much longer. But, sometimes, I wonder. I wonder how long it would’ve taken me had Shane Dawson not made that video.
In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about media representation. Whether you’re gay, bi, Asian, black, trans, fat, small, disabled — you have a right to see yourself reflected in the media. I didn’t see myself on TV and it messed me up for years. I always knew something was missing, but I never knew what. How could I understand who I was when I didn’t even know people like me existed?
I am writing this story for three key reasons.
First, to say that yes: we need more representation and diversity in the media. We need characters who aren’t all exactly the same. We need celebrities and people with a platform speaking up, sharing their stories. Without this, we risk that people will feel invisible. Without this, we risk that whole groups will be erased from the public eye.
Second, to contribute to the representation we so desperately need. Mine is a story about a confused bisexual girl who became a slightly less confused bisexual/pansexual woman. Maybe by sharing my story, someone will feel more represented.
And third—well, it’s good therapy to write about your feelings, isn’t it?
Media representation is vital. We need it, and we still don’t have enough of it. Not seeing myself on TV was damaging to my mental health. It was also damaging to all those people who tried to help me by saying bisexuality wasn’t real. They didn’t know any better — and how could they, when they’d never seen anything that would prove otherwise?
We all need to do better, be better. Request, no, demand that we are seen.
No matter who you are, that’s your right. You should be seen, and you should be heard. For the sake of you and all those who will come after.