[Editor’s Note: Viewpoints within this article are the author’s alone]
When I was 16 I started having very bizarre experiences with my body and voice. No, not my balls dropping, a little scarier.
Back when I was living with Mum and Dad, I remember one morning very vividly. I was getting ready to go down to London, packing my bag, charging my iPod, brushing my teeth while being shouted at to make a move, or we’ll be late for the train.
When I reached up towards the bookshelf to grab whatever teen-non-fiction I was reading at the time, it felt like the book had caught onto a very strong cobweb. Not just any cobweb, a web from a spider who was consuming a diet of superglue and cement. Without warning the book had been flung to the other side of the room.
I hadn’t noticed my arm doing this, nor did I tell it to. It then went completely numb.
I tried to speak but all that came out of my mouth was gibberish. My thoughts somehow were not connecting to my throat muscles, and I lost my ability to say what I wanted to say in my head. This was a Hemiplegic Migraine. On a monthly basis, I would suddenly lose control of my left arm, my vision would go, and my speech would be gibberish.
The first time I had a Hemiplegic Migraine, my parents thought it was a stroke, which while rare in teenagers, does happen. Luckily, over time, I stopped getting migraines completely, but what stuck with me was how peculiar it was to lose your ability to speak, to lose your voice.
Perhaps the most interesting and confusing experience of my life was knowing that my body does have the ability to speak, but not being able to say a word.
(Read on how I craftily segue this experience to the topic of my article.)
This loss of voice, although biological, is something I’ve experienced within the LGBTQ+ community, completely un-biologically. Instead of certain neurons not responding to each other correctly, it has been organisations and activists who’ve lost some track for whom this is all for.
Being left out of the conversation for being not gay enough. For having organisations only let you speak during select weeks in the LGBTQ+ calendar year of national days. Being ridiculed to silence by your own community.
It’s all too similar to knowing you have the ability to speak, but your body twisting itself to lose your voice. For our Voices issue, I wanted to highlight the number of ways in which we lose our voice, within our own community, and how we can uplift each other and grow together. Let’s start by looking at the migraines in our community:
When queer organisations do not represent queer communities…
I bang on about this statistic all the time, between 52%-59% of the queer community are bi, but I only get spoken to about bisexuality from big queer orgs and charities on Bi Visibility Day in September.
All LGBTQ+ charities know this, but they still minoritise the majority experience even when statistically bi people suffer from greater risks of mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, and sexual violence.
It’s experiences like these that turn bi people away from queer groups and events. With a lot of bi people turning back to the closet as a result. Losing a hearty chunk of their voice and identity to structural issues within community organisations.
This isn’t even mentioning the huge amount of work we need to do around other minoritised sexualities, identities, and ethnicities. When the only leading voices in queer organisations are white gay men, no one has a voice.
When our own activism needs a dictionary to understand…
I completely understand the privilege I’m in today. The Bisexual Manifesto was written before I was born. I owe not only my freedom, but my life and health to the activists before me. Our words are carried by the blood, sweat, and tears of those before us.
I am ever grateful for the queer and bi activists from history and those doing amazing work today.
Where I find baby bi’s voiceless, is where tiresome fights have been inherited within, and the art of sexual liberation has been academically dissected to terms and language inaccessible to everyday people. This is a mistake I myself have made.
I remember when we first launched Unicorn Magazine, I showed a bisexual friend of mine who was so excited to finally have an edgy and fun platform to explore their identity with. They came back with: “Fuck Lev, this is dense. What the shit is a non-monosexual?”.
I had to think back before I started volunteering my time to bi activism, I didn’t know half the language I know now, and if I saw a third of the Twitter fights between other activists I would be turned off this part of my identity for the rest of my life.
We forget sometimes we’re talking about shagging and our experiences of life and love. We have a duty to be inclusive in our language to invite the whole community to these conversations.
When our confidence needs nurturing…
There is a cycle for bi people to feel voiceless in all aspects of sexuality. They go to the big organisations, they don’t see themselves there. They go to queer events and have no voice there. They go to bi activists and groups and can’t speak the language. There is no podium to speak from and listen to.
We learn from role models and teachers. We must make them or risk passing on the same issues to the next generation of baby bis.
It’s not surprising that only 36% of bi people are out to their friends, compared to 74% of gay and lesbian people (Stonewall Bi report 2021). Only a third of bi people’s mates know they are bi. How horrifying that two thirds are not confident to tell their friends they like multiple genders.
We need to be better at building spaces that are open and fun.
When things can get better…
My huge hope for voices is within younger generations. I’ve been sent TikToks from friends which talk so candidly about bisexuality, pansexuality, and queerness. These are the innovators democratising sexual liberation, taking the piss out of each other, having fun talking about life and love.
They don’t need a major LGBTQ+ org to run an event for them, because they are connected to a thousand other people just like them on TikTok and Instagram. They don’t need to learn academic texts and language, because that’s not how they speak. They have a voice.
It’s amazing to see people realise that they have the ability to speak, and then do. Body and mind in harmony. Of course I’m not saying that some apps are going to change the world, but they might change the way we natter.
We can be better at giving people a voice, but it has to come from all of us. Activists and organisations alike. We can learn a thing or two from younger generations and how easily they found a voice, and how they give a voice to others.
Written by Lev Alexander