Wednesday 4 October 2017

Educating Myself on Myself: Embracing my Bisexuality at University

Eilidh shares her experience of being bisexual at university and her experience of coming out. 

- Eilidh Tyler Reid

I always found it difficult to admit to myself, never mind anyone else, that I was bisexual. Throughout my childhood I’d only ever (knowingly) met one person who wasn’t heterosexual, a friend of my mum’s; a tall, foreboding and wonderfully flamboyant gay man. Not exactly the broadest of experiences as a kid. As a teenager, I attended a Catholic all-girls school, typically rife with gossip, of which anyone who was openly LGBTQ+ was frequently the subject.

And so, I spent years ignoring my sexuality by only dating guys. I thought I could continue doing that forever, but holding back made me feel increasingly isolated, miserable and exhausted. I was method acting for so long that the emotional exertion became a drain on my mental wellbeing, and I began to shut myself off and become more and more uncomfortable in my own skin.

My first turning point came a year or so before I went to university when I finally came out to two of my friends who’d openly identified as lesbian and bisexual respectively. This was my first experience of feeling like I could connect and finally talk about sexuality in a safe space. As soon as the words left my mouth I felt a heavy sense of relief, as if I’d been holding my breath for a long time. It would be another while until I experienced that same weightlessness, at the end of year one of my degree.

Being at university is something entirely different from what came before, and a place where many of us feel like we can begin being more open about who we are. I was lucky enough to be a part of a university with a very active LGBTQ+ community. Through the LGBTQ+ society I could go to events that celebrated identities out with heteronormativity, a far cry from my high school experience! It was eye-opening, in the best way possible.

I didn’t fully come out until my penultimate year of study. A large part of that decision surprisingly came from the academic side when I came across an author called Katherine Mansfield. I loved her work so much that she ended up being the focal point of my dissertation. The other thing that I fervently admired about her was her unapologetic bisexuality.

I read about her earlier struggles with her identity, and later accounts of her proud adoration of her female partners. I recognised the gradual acceptance of one’s sexuality from my own ongoing development. The fact that my new heroine shared a similar internal battle inspired me to research further into writers who also identified as bisexual, and I was amazed and elated to find out that many of my favourite authors were the same as me. This literary sense of community coupled with the welcoming, safe environment offered by the LGBTQ+ students at university helped me to finally embrace who I was. I can now talk openly about my sexuality and stand up tall as I do so.

The most important part, I think, was that feeling of being a part of something bigger, no longer alien in one’s sexuality. Growing up without the knowledge and awareness of the LGBTQ+ community held me back for years, and I am here to say this: you are not alone. We are here. We are writers. We are artists. We are politicians. We are doctors. We are scientists. We are everything you can think of.

University is a wonderful resource not only for academic learning, but also a means of understanding and loving your identity. Make the most of your university’s LGBTQ+ society, talk and connect with other bisexual students, perhaps even do as I did and find out about how your academic passion correlates with your identity. Always remember that you are part of a community that cares about you and your mental wellbeing. Make the most of your time as a student to embrace your sexuality, I promise you that you won’t regret it. I certainly don’t.

If you'd like further support or information, you can find details for a range of services and organisations listed on our LGBTQ+ Resource Page.

Hello! I'm Eilidh, and I'm from Glasgow. I graduated last year from the University of St Andrews where I studied English Literature. I currently work for Waterstones. I am a passionate advocate for student wellbeing and the importance of mental health support in educational establishments.

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