'Maybe "unisexual" would be a better term than "bisexual"'

Brian MacGowran, 33

Leaving school at eighteen I knew that I was bisexual, that I liked being bisexual, that I didn't know another self-acknowledged bisexual in the whole world and that things weren't going to be easy.

I came from a two-parent, two-sister, one-brother family and a set of single-sex, clergy-run schools in Dublin city. The family was nuclear in that there was plenty of fission between the parents and a lot of bonding between the children. We, the older children at least, knew that our parents loved us and that they were good people but should separate. I always felt my loyalties being divided between my very strong-minded and mutually antagonistic parents.

Home and school had many happy days and I got a lot out of them. One thing I missed out on was free expression of my love for a person regardless of their sex. My parents recognised only heterosexuality and they hindered the development of even that in (heir children. At school the line was piety and purity with strong hints that we weren't just talking about the opposite sex. While my parents never interfered in my activities with other boys and, later, adolescents, my teachers were cute enough to go looking for improper actions, getting their kicks out of catching someone at it.

In childhood and adolescence I became fairly handy at breaking I he strictest rule in the teachers' book without getting caught. Some of my experiences with boys were happy, playful events, with no thought before or after. As I grew older I wanted more than just a )pod game: I wanted a lover-friend.

In my mid-teens I had two girlfriends. I liked them but wasn't mad about them. It was a burden to appear to be conforming: I felt I was on stage. In those days, my sisters were my favourite females: we got on well.

At seventeen, at a time when I felt overwhelmed with desire for male love, I met Reena, a quiet, smiling, sensuous, beautiful young woman. We were flung at each other by our passion. I felt we would be outlawed as soon as the adults realised. I did my best to pretend that nothing was happening when in fact the best thing ever was happening. The adults did end our union in a way, for our lovemaking was ruined by lack of contraception, illegal at the time.

In university, studying biology, I was delighted to be in an environment with both sexes: such a relief after school. Relations between women and men were fairly free and homophobia was mild. I began to come out as bisexual. My friends liked me 'for myself' but didn't want to know the full story. I retreated, felt cheated and put my energy into looking for love from one or another of the people around me. It was clear to me that some of the men were bisexual, but it was not clear to themselves. Nothing came of my efforts and I eventually lost interest.

In my second year I met a woman who fascinated me. Helen played all her games intellectually, repressing her sexuality quite a bit. With her incisive mind she confronted the world fiercely, giving only a hint of her warmth and gentleness. As the months passed, we played fewer games, got to know each other and fell in love. We loved to be alone together but we had conflicting interests socially. After a year she became interested in another man, and so did I. We never discussed my bisexuality though Helen saw it clearly enough in the end.

For a long time I was mad about this man Paul, a kind, sensitive, mischievous, laughing being. We got as far as bed a few times but only shoulder to shoulder. He always assured me of his (asexual) love for me and skillfully avoided my attempts to get to the point. He did his best not to hurt me and to keep his position as a non-macho, affectionate heterosexual. I still wonder. We had great fun together in familiar and faraway places. On my own I was often miserable, verging on depression, suicidal. With time I came back to life.

After graduating I travelled a little in France, returning to Dublin to share a house with my sister, another woman and a man. This other woman, Maura, infected me with her laughter but her sadness floored me. For a long time I held on to the hope that we'd become lovers. During this time I drifted around Europe, enjoying the novelties but basically lost. I ended up teaching in a school in Belfast for a year, during which I learned an awful lot about life, and myself.

From warring Belfast I moved to thriving, lively Galway, to do postgraduate work. The town was new to me and life was exciting. I Fitted in easily and enjoyed all the fun as well as the work. Mind you, I could find nobody who I recognised as gay or bisexual. Colleagues saw me as hedonistic and for months mock-playfully asked me if I had ever had a homosexual experience. I finally replied yes which ended mention of the subject. I had two intense shortlived relationships with women. Their bodies and minds captured me but their monogamous heterosexuality frightened me. The first woman wanted marriage; the second scorned contraception, leaving us to play, I felt, Russian roulette. There were also two incidents of surprise, unspoken, sex with men I met in holiday situations. I hadn't lost the desire to come out but I felt less able than ever to do it.

From being very social and friendly I withdrew to a quiet life away from the town, living with my brother. This retreat was for the sake of my work as well as for my peace of mind. I imagined how my life would be completed by having a male lover. I didn't recognise then, but know now, that I also needed a bisexual relationship with a woman (by a bisexual relationship, I mean one in which my partner accommodates my bisexuality). I didn't recognise either that all my relationships with women had suffered from both my fear of pregnancy and my being taken as heterosexual and therefore monogamous.

Soon after I withdrew from the crowd, a lovely man called Kevin jumped out of it right into my arms. This event was spread over a fortnight but was nonetheless a leap. My brother left the house for his own reasons and Kevin moved in. It wasn't a piece of cake for us. Kevin had been seen as the nicest, handsomest, surest heterosexual walking the street and he'd never had sex with a man. Neither of us had ever known any gay-identified people and we could only guess at where such people would be found.

At first I was delighted that we should be seen together. This time, I thought, people would get the message that I felt good about what I was. Pretty soon Kevin began to quiver with the shock of finding himself in what was formerly a fantasy. Eventually the two of us were paranoid. Our friends never let us know whether or not they were aware of our relationship. Other people had their suspicions, and reacted with various degrees of homophobia and harassment.

At the same time as Kevin and I became lovers I met a friend of his, dark-haired, black-eyed, fine-featured, sharp-minded, tighthugging Cathy. She wanted a relationship with me, but was afraid of sex. As we got over this I found it impossible to tell her about my relationship with Kevin. I was very disappointed she wasn't able to see it for herself. At times the unnaturalness of this was an enormous strain. I contented myself with showing Cathy that I wasn't monogamous.

After six months Kevin and I had come through our paranoia and we felt we had achieved our main aim of not being beaten by the world's oppression. We'd talked to nobody, kept our distance and tried to show our contempt for heterosexism. Some of our friends were hurt by our keeping away from them. Cathy and I had developed a mock-heterosexual relationship with an escape clause: we were both free to go our own ways when the summer came. We all three talked a lot about travel and when summer did come Cathy went to America. That decided things for Kevin and I. We lost interest in our studies and in the life that went with them and we left for France.

We went to Paris where I lived for three years, Kevin for two. We lived together for short spells, we lost touch for others. We worked in heterosexual environments and all our close friends were heterosexual, though only a little heterosexist. To them the nature of our relationship was never an issue. We discovered the gay scene, and often went to bars and discos, together and individually. I had occasional encounters with heterosexual women and I grew steadily more unhappy with the lack of open bisexual relationships.

Kevin and I got a lot out of living abroad. We loved learning languages and we were excited by Paris and Europe generally. We met a lot of interesting people, some of whom are still great friends.

I came back from Paris to join Kevin and Liz, a lesbian friend of his, in a house they shared in Dublin. I was excited about living with them but Liz and I didn't get on domestically. After a year she left to live with her lover. Kevin and I spent almost two more years in the house. We put most of our energy into health and fitness, into our jobs (which interested us), into our families and into other such projects. We neglected our own relationship, which resulted in much strife, but we gave a lot of support to each other in other ways. There was some friction in our separate attempts to define our sexuality. I still hadn't got the better of the world's ignorance of bisexuality: I was somewhat oppressed by people's rigid classification of sexuality into hetero and homo. We left the house six months ago and I left Dublin for a new job in Galway. I wanted to get away from cities.

About a year ago I heard of the London Bisexual Group. I went to the Politics of Bisexuality Conferences in London and Edinburgh and have been building up bisexual contacts ever since. For the past few years all my heterosexual friends have known about my bisexuality. Cathy lives a few miles from me and we spend a lot of happy time together. Kevin is still in Dublin, though he's planning his next move. We see each other often.

Sometimes I speculate on the nature of sexuality and on the origin of my, or another's, sexuality. What I find more useful and more important, at least in the short term, is to confront people's rejection of love between people of the same sex and to challenge their view of the sexes as two species, at different evolutionary levels.

Recently a neat piece of surgery put an end to my fertility. I have always seen female contraception as another form of male control of women (in spite of the benefits it brings), so I decided to Like responsibility for my part in reproduction. I should have done it years ago when I first thought of it. It helps me to keep my distance from male-dominant society at the same time as it takes the threat and the fear out of sex with women. It's another stage in removing the cast which has been thrown about each of us. By working through the sexual process, nurturing the positive and getting the better of the negative, people will get to know each other better.

It's relatively easy for me now to write about my bisexuality. To get to this stage I have worked for years, alone and with others, through pain, doubt, fear, anger, division and confusion, coming eventually to the clear view of my sexuality and my personality, as whole and entire. Maybe 'unisexual' would be a better term than 'bisexual' in that my instinct is for a kind of sexuality, of personality, of mind and of body which I need and which I find in certain individuals of both sexes.

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