I was born in 1970 and grew up in Birmingham. I attended religious schools and even a religious sixth form college, whose principal sent me to talk to the priest because he thought the intense relationship I had with a fellow female student might be inappropriate, as he put it. I’m not really sure I knew what it was. In secondary school, I had pretended to fancy boys to fit in, but in college, all I knew was that the noise in my head seemed to stop when I was with this woman.
In the late 1980s/early 90s, in the midst of some troubled years, I became involved in a feminist collective. For the first time, I was in a space where women were talking openly about themselves. It was a really powerful experience for me. I began hanging out in their company, which was a world away from other parts of my life. My memories of the time are really mixed but as well as supporting each other, they include playing pool in gay bars, my first kiss, visits to the Silver Moon bookshop in London, demonstrating at Pride and sadly, the loss of people we knew to AIDS.
I figured I must be lesbian but then in 1994, I fell in love with a man with whom I later had my two daughters. I moved to Scotland, and began working as a drugs worker and volunteering in a supported accommodation project for sexually abused young women. HIV/AIDS touched my professional life for the first time. I helped set up a support group for workers at the newly opened Centre for Women’s Health in Glasgow and in doing so, met a wonderful woman who called herself bisexual! It was the first time I had heard the word and suddenly I had a way of describing myself! Through her, I met other bisexual women and became involved in bisexual activism.
Yet another move in 2001 took me back to the Midlands, where I worked for the AIDS Resource Team which had a particular focus on multiagency support for children affected by HIV, sexual health and substance use. Personally I found friendship in Nottingham Bisexual Women’s Group with relationships that still endure today.
I marvel at the rich vocabulary available and used by both my daughters to describe themselves and their identities and how far things have come in that regard. Words are really important to me, having grown up with some experiences for which I had no words. Even when they sometimes leave me feeling like I don’t quite fit in, they represent a way of finding community and learning, and I am very grateful for that.
Annie, Forum Trustee