Bi-visibility day – my coming out story

By Mandy Lewis, customer service advisor

LGBT icon rainbow flag

I’m not sure if I’m surprised, or not, at the data that Stonewall discovered from their Workplace Equality Index, when over 2,000 bisexual people responded to the 2015 staff survey:  Only 27 per cent said they are comfortable in disclosing their sexuality to all colleagues, compared to 66 per cent of gay men and 62 per cent of lesbians.  And just 9 per cent agree there are visible bisexual role models in their organisations.  So in a bid to buck this trend I agreed to share my story to celebrate Bi-Visibility Day and to become a visible role model here at Riverside.

I had my first serious crush on a woman many moons and camel rides ago in 1983 when I was 18 and in the army.  I didn’t do anything about it; just admired from afar.  But, as things do when you’re young, that faded and I later fell in love with a man, who went on to become my husband.  I put the crush down to ‘one of those things’.  I continued to be attracted to both men and women (to have both my husband and myself admire an attractive woman could be quite funny at times).  While I didn’t see anything wrong with that, I became increasingly aware that I wasn’t sure how those around me would feel, so I put that particular conversation starter to one side.

I’d been divorced for several years when, in 2010, I fell ill.  During my recovery I met a woman online and eventually, we met up in person and decided to make a go of things.  I told my immediate family, but it was something of a non-event.  My children didn’t mind, so long as I was happy and others felt the same.  I have been very lucky.

Thirty years on from my first crush I still feel that my bisexuality is a non-issue, but I have learned that it’s not the same for everyone. 

I have met with very little outright negativity from others. 

On one occasion I was told that I was just greedy and on another, a gay man said he didn’t believe in bisexuality; we simply hadn’t made our minds up yet.  I’ve also learned not to grind my teeth when I’m considered to be a lesbian if I’m in a relationship with a woman and straight if I’m with a man.  I have, however, seen a lack of acceptance and understanding directed towards others, which has made me conscious of how lucky I’ve been and determined to do what I can, to increase awareness and support for those who have not been so blessed.  You may have noticed that I don’t use the word tolerance as I dislike it with a passion; I have no desire to be tolerated, grudgingly or otherwise.

The world has changed from when I first realised I might be different, but if you can surround yourself with a supportive network of people, be they family, friends or support agencies, then do it.  I do understand that there may be many reasons why it could be difficult but you can only truly be happy when you can be yourself.