Last year was my first pride, the first parade I'd attended in my new skin, in my new guise. I ignored the commercialism, the sponsorship from capitalist companies that attached themselves to buses with rainbows strewn from mirrors. None of that mattered, because I wasn't there for that; I wasn't, as it was suggested by some work colleagues, imposing myself on 'their' party. They meant no malice but somehow they didn't know not to assume, not to read me in their default way: straight.
But that's not what I am, I'm not straight.
Standing on the side of the road with my friends, an amnesty international sticker plastered to one breast, tears sprung into eyes not previously fully opened.
It was the flag that did it; the pink/blue/purple striped one waved loftily by marchers smiling enough to make their cheeks ache - smiling so wide it reached to the edges of the road and spread to everyone in the crowd,
In the wake of a tragedy like the one that occurred in Orlando, solidarity and community is needed. Given that many of the people I know still read me in the way my colleagues did a year ago, I couldn't be as open about my sorrow as I wanted, couldn't without explaining, without coming out. I was still scared, still unsure about being myself.
But the time for fear is over. The time for pretending, for passing without resistance, is over. Visibility is what our community needs, to be louder, prouder, for those of us who live in relative privilege, able to express ourself with a higher level of freedom, to shout from the rooftops about our love and lovers, about our desire no longer to hide.
I am, and have probably always been, bisexual. It has taken so long for me to be able to be open and proud about this fact, due, in part, to a lack of visibility and representation when I was growing up: all our sex education was strictly heterosexual; bi characters in popular culture were categorised by the gender of their partner, not their own definition; language and stereotypes portray us as attention seeking or greedy, put us into binary boxes based on comfortable narrow definitions.
Through meeting people who've shown me that gender and sexuality are not as clear cut as the world wants us to believe, I have learned more about myself than I thought possible. I have been able to love myself in a way that I haven't done since I was a child. I am happier, calmer, I am part of a global community that gives support and companionship, that signals with rainbows and love. I am a queer woman, and I love myself for it.
So when I say I have crushes on women, I don't mean that they'd be an exception to status quo; when I call out people using homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language (and many other slurs), it's not just as an ally; when I attend a pride parade, I am not crashing their party. I am one of them.
I am Bi. I am me. And I'm not going to hide anymore.