'I do not believe that bisexuals are any threat to the homosexual cause'
I thought I was heterosexual until I was nearly 23 years old. I had had an eccentric and moderately fulfilling relationship with a bloke for the previous four years. Then in 1971, after leaving college, I had joined a consciousness-raising group, part of the Women's Liberation Movement and had attended pickets and demos too.
Gradually I began to understand more about other women and myself; I stopped feeling that women's bodies were ugly, repulsive; I began to realise how and why women were oppressed. My boyfriend resented the group's confidentiality and the emotional changes I was undergoing which were no longer accessible to him. Our relationship began to falter, and during this time I developed an obsession with a woman I was working with, much to my surprise. I also moved into a radical feminist flat, where men could not visit (allegedly because it was the presence of men that necessitated housework which women, left to themselves, would never have any truck with).
My boyfriend, after one memorable row, sat outside on the wall and wept whilst I coolly observed him from my feminist eyrie; lost in the first glad euphoria of lesbian feelings, I was pitiless. In fact, the new attachment turned out to be a colossal illusion, although I spent a few desperate years in pursuit of my elusive friend. In my late 20s, I fell in love with a woman and the depth and intensity of my feelings triggered off many profound changes in my life. I developed a new perception of moral values and of the unconscious. Paradoxically, for the first time I also developed a wish for children.
In my early 20s I had unquestioningly accepted my bisexuality and naively expected to find a culture of bisexual women where I would be welcomed amongst the throng of marvellous women I expected to meet. Of course, this culture did not exist at all, at least not until quite recently. Where I came across lesbian culture in the Women's Liberation Movement I was at a loss to identify as a lesbian. This was not because I did not experience lesbian emotions. It had to do with my inability to relate to the 'lesbian view' of the world. I have struggled with my guilt about this for years. There was also much social and ideological pressure to hide one's bisexuality and to make a choice of sexual label – either lesbian or heterosexual. There were many feminist arguments against bisexuality, none of which I believed in, since I could not relate them to myself. Eventually I stumbled across a book by Sheila Rowbotham and Jeffrey Weeks Socialism and the New Life: The Personal and Sexual Politics of Edward Carpenter and Havelock Ellis (Pluto Press, 1977). I understood then the fear that had led lesbians and gay men to always reconstruct the definition of homosexuality to protect themselves. I understood the political imperatives of the past and to a degree I continue to respect them. But it is always with an immense sense of personal betrayal, since I do not believe that bisexuals are any threat to the homosexual cause, although we continue to be outcasts in the new lesbian and homosexual culture.
I also looked at my bisexuality in psychological terms (this was during the time when I was trying hard to become EITHER lesbian OR heterosexual) and I found Lily Pincus' book Death in the Family. In it she maintains that bisexual feelings will always surface in a person who has been bereaved, but that they can, with support and counselling, be 'resolved'. My mother died in 1970 and I had been unable to mourn her enough; she had died cruelly from cancer which she had feared and resisted; my father instead had accepted his death some years previously with a kind of strength. I felt that Lily Pincus' theories might have some relevance to me and I entered psychotherapy in 1980, to try to come to terms with my mother's death and with a hidden agenda of 'clarifying' my sexuality. Then in 1984, I joined a bisexual feminist women's group and found the support and intellectual freedom I had been looking for. These days I have less guilt about my sexual 'deviance', and more faith in myself.
I feel sad that bisexual people are invisible and invalidated in our society when they have so much to offer. I feel that in a new society there must be room made for bisexual people. I don't think that everyone should be, or is, bisexual, but I think that it is potentially very creative, both emotionally and psychologically.