Saturday, July 24, 2021

I’m Bridget Reidy Dundon, I’m 15. I use she/her pronouns. And I’m bisexual.

For me, that means I like men, women and anyone in between or beyond the gender binary.

Growing up in Ireland, LGBTQ+ definitely isn’t easy.

Growing up, I was never educated about relationships that weren’t between a man and a woman. There’s a reason for that. I think it boils down to how heavily Catholic this country is. It’s a huge part of society for us. That isn’t a bad thing, but there certainly should be room for both education surrounding religion and LGBTQ+ identities.

I grew up feeling like I was different or odd because I didn’t realise I could like men and women. I was convinced I was meant to like men, like all the other girls my age. There were no other options. In primary school, we had a sex education class in fifth and sixth class, during which we only discussed sex between straight couples (male and female). Stories we read in class only showed male and female relationships.

I thought I was broken or that I was odd, because that wasn’t the case for me.

Since I grew up never being educated on different gender identities and sexualities, I was convinced something had to be wrong with me. I was defective or broken for not only liking boys.

I tried for a while to tell myself that I didn’t like anyone and I was aromantic – that means I don’t feel romantic attraction. But that didn’t stick, especially because I was crushing hard on a friend, who was a girl. Then I went back to identifying as a lesbian. I couldn’t be bisexual.

To me, it wasn’t an option. I thought that being bisexual was bad, because any media with bi people that I was exposed to wasn’t good. It either sexualised them, claiming all bi people are into threesomes and are sex objects, or that they were cheats because they wanted to have sex with anyone who walked the street.

Of course, both of those things are so wrong and I realise that now. I never truly understood anything LGBTQ+ related until I joined my local youth café. There I met a whole lot of other people who looked to me – and they were – really sure of their identities. Meanwhile, I was still confused about my own. They taught me that I didn’t need to know right away. They constantly reminded me that they were there to support me in figuring out my identity and my place.

For a while, I eventually stopped labelling myself. I was reassured by my friends that there was no need to rush labelling myself. I didn’t need to label it. I could just … be.

I was allowed to live as who I was without judgement from those closest to me.

I decided I wanted to come out to my parents in the summer of 2019. It was a spur of the moment decision. We were in the car pulling into the car park of my brother’s Football-For-All group. My dad was discussing going up to Dublin with PATH (Portlaoise Action To Homelessness) on the weekend of Pride (festival that celebrates and promotes everything LGBTQ+). I knew my parents weren’t homophobic or anything like that. I hadn’t labelled myself at this time, so I just said ‘I like girls’. That was it. They were really supportive and decided we would all go to Pride as a family outing for the day.

When I went to Pride that June, it was amazing. I enjoyed the entire experience. It made me feel like I had a place in the community. It solidified that I wasn’t alone. The parade passed and people from the crowd could join and walk along to where the celebrations were being held. It was really really cool when we got there … so many people similar to me … all together. And to a young LGBTQ+ person, it made me acknowledge how lucky I was to have the community I did.

Pride is protest. It’s fighting for our rights. I learned that when I was in Dublin. But even in our protesting and fighting for equal rights, we had celebration, solidarity and joy in our identities. We had visibility and we were seen.

A few months ago, I came out to my class as bisexual.

They accepted it. Some of them had already fi gured it out. They were all so nice about it and they know they can come to me with any questions they have that are LGBTQ+ related. I don’t mind answering them.

Since coming out, I have definitely begun to address my internalised biphobia and worked through it myself. I know my sexuality now and feel comfortable with my label. I feel happy knowing who I am. Plus, I know by being out, I am making the LGBTQ+ activists and icons of the past proud.

We wouldn’t have our rights without the people of Stonewall fighting for us.

Around 50 years ago, an uprising took place at the Stonewall Inn in New York. It was raided by the police in the early hours of the morning and three nights of fighting ensued. LGBTQ+ people were finally fighting back after years of oppression. Marsha P Johnstone, a black trans woman, threw the first brick. She began the fight towards our rights. We have her and all of those who have since fought for LGBTQ+ rights to thank. Without them, it still could be illegal for people like me to live as our true selves.

Learning about the history of the LGBTQ+ community is very, very important to me. It means that I can appreciate and thank the people who put their lives on the line so that I could be proud and true to myself.

I am proud of who I am.

It may have taken some time for me to get here, but I am here now. Something I’ve learned since coming out and finding my space in the LGBTQ+ community is that being LGBTQ+ definitely isn’t one size fits all. Everyone in our community is valid and deserves love and respect. Only you can decide what you identify as. It doesn’t need to be something you rush into labelling right away.

Gender and attraction are complicated to fully understand, especially when you haven’t been taught how to figure it out and understand it. There are many resources available to help you if you’re struggling with accepting being LGBTQ+. Youth Work Ireland Laois has resources and groups available for young people. You can get in contact with them on their Facebook page. There are also many helplines and online support. The Trevor Project is an American-based service that has online resources for you to turn to. Another site is lgbt.ie, an Irish online portal, which can direct you to local support groups and more helplines.

I’m proud to be bisexual and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. To anyone who’s questioning their sexuality or gender, just remember that in time you will fi gure it out. It is perfectly okay to be unlabelled or unsure of your identity. You are loved and you matter. You will figure it out and you are not alone.

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