As many of you will be aware by now, I identify myself as "bisexual".
Whilst it does sometimes feel comforting to have a label to apply to my sexual identity, I often feel that it's just another attempt to box me in. People, within the straight community and the gay community, have problems with people who identify as "bisexual" - it's difficult to assign a bisexual person a position in the world. If I'm with a woman, I can be accepted within the gay community but shunned from the straight community - if I'm with a man, I can be accepted in the straight community but shunned by the gay community. It's a difficult tightrope to walk. Perhaps it would be more fitting to denote myself as "pansexual", meaning that I am ultimately attracted to personalities rather than sex; however, this would be just me postulating or trying to appear less shallow than I am, because, however big a part personality plays, the sex of the person is also something that I am attracted to.
So, if we want to use terms, "bisexual" is the best term to be using for now.
When I was growing up, I knew nothing of the fact that there could be anything other than a man and woman together. I was not shielded from the world, not did I have strict parents, but it was just never something that factored its way into my life. I knew that "gay" was something that the children at school used as a derogatory term, but that was the extent of my knowledge. As for bisexuality - this was even further beyond the realms of my comprehension. If I didn't realise that there was such a thing as sexual identity, how could I possibly understand the fact that there were people who weren't fazed by the gender and sexual boundaries placed on them?
As I got older, of course, I started to notice boys. What girl doesn't? I started noticing what I liked, what I found attractive about them, who was handsome and who was not etc. etc. A normal part of growing up. But there was always something there, niggling away; something that was, for quite some time, easy to ignore. If I opened the wrong newspaper on the wrong page and found myself staring at a topless woman, I would of course turn away as quickly as possible - but there was that part of me that couldn't help but look, couldn't help but retain that image and feel something that I wasn't quite expecting to feel. I had crushes on girls as I grew even older, but dismissed this as just "hormones". But it never went away, although for a very long time I could hide it successfully, because I only let the crushes on guys slip through to the top.
Of course, when I was going through my mid-teens, there was a large part of me that wasn't happy. Having gone through emotional bullying at primary school ,I had very low self-esteem and I had reached a point where I didn't really know who or what I was supposed to be. I don't know whether my unwillingness to identify as anything other than straight had anything to do with it, because of how successfully I managed to suppress the other attractions that were lying just beneath the surface. Even so, I feel now that that was one of the problems - that I was, subconsciously, refusing to acknowledge a part of who I truly was. The older I got, the more interested in gay rights I became, although at the time I felt this was just a natural affinity I had with a group who was being constantly bullied and belittled, rather than anything that could possibly be deeper than that.
There was just something not quite right. It was a mixture of things, but I did not truly know who I was. I was a little lost, I was confused and I couldn't put my finger on just what was stopping me from being happy.
And then came Ianto Jones.
It sounds incredibly stupid, or trivial, but this is the honest truth. I have recently become part of the LGBT+ Commitee at my new university (Cardiff), and the one thing we talked about was the lack of role models for bisexual students. And, suddenly, in this fictional character from a silly, campy little sci-fi show in Wales, I had myself a ready made role model. Sure, he wasn't perfect - on the contrary, he is perhaps the most screwed up character that I have had the good fortune to see on the television - but there was so much with which I identified, with which I felt a sudden affinity. I watched him go from absolute loyalty to the girlfriend whom he loved and lost, the flirtation, atttraction and beginning of a sexual relationship with a man, and then the absolute conviction and devotion with which he treated his same-sex relationship. Here, suddenly, was a young man with issues (like me) who had had relationships with/was attracted to both sexes (like me, although I had never realised) and who seemingly had no problems with the fact that, yes, he did in fact like men and women. A whole new concept had opened up for me, and it was through him that this new term - "bisexuality" - was suddenly plucked from obscurity and flung into my lap.
Ianto Jones loved both, equally
And so I began to come out of my shell. I began to realise that what I had been suppressing all these years was indeed an attraction to women, alongside my attraction to men. I just had never acknowledged it before. And, with that slow realisation, I began to gather a greater sense of who I really was. As I began to acknowledge it, I began to change my physical appearance to match how I felt inside - whereas before I'd been the stereotypical quiet girl, with long hair and glasses to hide behind, now I determined to cut my hair short and ditch the glasses in favour of contact lenses. The final result you can see quite clearly in my current icon.
Eventually, last year, I came out to my parents and to my friends. There was no one definitive moment when I "came out", but there was a point in which I started to openly acknowledge my attraction to girls alongside my attraction to men. I started talking about girls I thought were attractive as well as boys, and, at just that one time, I used the word "bisexual" for the first time to denote my "preference" (a word that I have a lot of dislike for). So, whilst there was no definitive "moment" for me, there was a gradual transition into becoming me and not being ashamed to acknowledge that.
After this, however, I discovered that bisexuality is not something that is readily understood by the majority of people.
I'm going to be quite blatant, open and honest about this, as it is not something I am ashamed of: I have never had a relationship. I've never had one. I've never dated anyone, I've never been on a date and I've never once slept with another human being. Simply because I'm still on the road to discovering who I am, and I'm not willing to let anyone get that close until I myself am fully comfortable in my own skin. However, this was quite a harsh contrast to what people expected when I started identifying as "bisexual", and suddenly from every angle I was being told that I can't possibly know whether or not I'm bisexual, seeing as I have never had a relationship with a woman. I know that I like both men and women - it is something ingrained in me, it is something that I recognise has always been there - and I don't actually need to have had sex to know that I want to and would do given half the chance. If I were straight, there would be no doubt as to my sexuality if I were still a virgin.
In fact, as the understanding was so underdeveloped within both the gay and the straight communities, I began to feel as though I wasn't accepted anywhere. The only place I felt really accepted was when I was watching this character, Ianto Jones; he brought me a lot of comfort and he brought me a lot of confidence, even if there was no way of expressing it. I openly acknowledge now that, without this character, it may have been a long time before I discovered my true self - it might even never have happened. I owe the character an awful lot, and I often now say that, without him, I would never have come out or been the person I am today. So, perhaps now people will be able to understand just how deep it cut me when the character was removed, in an untimely fashion, from the show - you all know where that particular saga has led us to this day, and I won't go into it here. Needless to say, I grieved and mourned and experienced a real sense of loss when I realised that that comfort was gone, and that was the reason why I delved myself deeply into the world of fanfiction. I still felt connected there - I still felt as though I had the support structure, that comfort and that affinity.
I have now been at University for three weeks, and I have never felt more comfortable in my own skin. Whilst I was initially terrified about joining the LGBT+ Society for fear of rejection or being told that I "wasn't qualified" (being both bisexual AND a virgin), it has been the single best development of my life. I have met, suddenly, people who understand me and accept me and, ultimately, LIKE me for who I am. I've been able to come out of my shell, to get involved, to really take this part of me and passions I have to fight for understanding, and turn them into something productive and wonderful. Only three weeks in, and I already have a place on the LGBT+ Committee (as Transgender Welfare and Campaign Officer) and I'm going from strength to strength.
This is my reality. I am eighteen years old, I am bisexual and I am open, out and proud about that fact. This is who I am. This is the way God made me. And, right now, I really wouldn't want to be anything else.
I just hope that, somewhere out there in the depths of the big, dark internet world, someone might stumble across this. And, maybe, it will help them too. If someone out there has no role model, then I hope reading my story has done you some good. Because everyone needs a Ianto Jones in their life to show them the way, and if I can be your Ianto Jones, if only for a second, then it'll be worth it.