Lewis Oakley takes on biphobia | Photo: Supplied
I’m told to feel miserable, the world is a terrible place, especially for LGBTI people. Even if you yourself aren’t facing problems, your LGBTI siblings are. They’d have me believe there’s no time to take your eye off the ball in this cruel world. I’ve come to realise this isn’t the best mantra for LGBTI people to be telling themselves.
LGBTI people shouldn’t be told their lives are going to be harder. There is a fine line that exists between being compassionate and being patronising. There is a distinction that needs to be made between sharing your experience and looking for problems.
As a bisexual activist, I do have to look at the problems faced by bisexuals.
However, it’s also important for me to make sure that bisexuals are seen as more than just having problems. As an activist there are things I can do: I can campaign for bisexuals to receive more funding from the LGBT, challenge attitudes, look for ways to grow our community. The one thing I can’t do however is force other bisexuals to be happy. That’s a choice they have to make for themselves.
Why it’s ok to take the fight for equality not so seriously
To that end I think it’s worth sharing a message I received from a bisexual man. He struggled with coming out but also looks back at that time fondly.
‘I could never come out to my parents because they were from a generation where homophobia was part of everyday life. My dad would not have spoken to me. My mum would have tried to “convert” me to being straight. It would have been a nightmare.
‘I discovered I was bisexual aged 18. This was in 1985 which was one of the worst times to be anything other than straight. The AIDS crisis was all over the media. Four out of five people thought homosexuality was morally wrong or evil.
‘My boyfriend at the time had similar issues so we kept each other a secret which was sad in some ways but did also give us a bit of a buzz as well.
‘Plus there was no internet to turn to for advice. We couldn’t exactly ask anyone else without arousing suspicion. So we had to figure it all out together for ourselves. We were together for over two years though and I would go back to that time again in a heartbeat, despite the difficulties.’
Being LGBTI is not always so hard
What I took from Chad’s story was that even under the harshest of circumstances, he was able to find happiness and enjoyment in his life. I think we should all be sharing more stories of LGBTI people living their lives. As an activist, I want to be more mindful that while I’m advocating for a better tomorrow, I need to do more to tell people that their today can be just as good.
Even in my own experience, I don’t look back at my time in the closet as an awful time. I had so much fun sneaking around and being mysterious. It was fine in my late teens early 20s but I also now enjoy my life out of the closet. I can’t imagine the closet would be as much fun for me at my age now.
Activists can get sucked in to the progressive bubble. Sometimes we start thinking that no one can relax or be happy if every LGBTI person isn’t living in a utopia. While we need to keep going to improve the lives of LGBTI people, we also need to focus on empowering and being positive as opposed to shouting and being negative.
Keep the balance
Fighting for equality is an artform.
When I first went to Soho at 19, it was a party. We were dancing towards equality, the vibes were positive and there was a community spirit. I want to get back to that, to that feel good vibe that made LGBTI people feel happy and straight people eager to get involved. We partied comfortable in the knowledge that while the homophobes were off being angry they’d never know enjoyment, happiness and camaraderie like we were experiencing.
Our happiness as LGBTI people shouldn’t come from other people deciding whether or not to give us rights or treat us with respect (though those are majorly important), it should come from within us. I love everything about being bisexual, it’s a party I’m proud to be dancing at.