Friday, January 20, 2012

Why I'm not anonymous

Sue George is my real name, and it never occurred to use a pseudonym on this blog. But maybe it should have.

I have a certain (small) profile as a writer on bisexuality, and wanted to continue that here. I am also a professional journalist, not (sadly) on bisexuality, but there is some overlap between the two. For instance, this blog is mentioned on my LinkedIn profile, and also on Twitter, which I use partly for work.

I thought when I started – correctly, I’m sure – that people would be more likely to read ideas and theories about bisexuality, and take them seriously, if a named individual was writing them.

But the fact that I write this as me – and people often find this blog by looking for “Sue George” – has certain ramifications. In particular, it curtails what I write about and how I write it.

You’ll search for a long time on this site before you find out much about me that shouldn’t be completely in the public domain. There’s very little information about my own relationships, and nothing about my own sexual or romantic life after about 1980. I said early on that I wasn’t going to include anything I didn’t want my family or my employer to read. Now I have no employer as such – being freelance/self-employed – that is even more important.

The downsides of being me
But recently I have been thinking about all the things I can’t write about on here, and wish I could.

I can’t write about sex. Not just my sexual life, but anyone’s. Someone who might give me work might look at it and shudder. Human rights, identity, history etc – I would have absolutely no problem arguing my right to do that, and no one has ever asked me to. It also means that I have to turn down those several people who have emailed me asking to guest post on the subject.

I can’t write much about my own life. The people involved wouldn’t like it, and have told me so on many occasions. “Don’t you dare write about me” has been several lovers’ parting shots (and not in recent years, either).

I can’t include some of my opinions which I have formed as a result of the above.

When it comes down to it, I am quite a private person and it never fails to astonish me what some people are happy to share with THE ENTIRE WORLD.

The positive side of anonymous blogging
I know that a lot of people who read this blog, and blog themselves, post under pseudonyms. They want to tell the word about their lives honestly, which they just couldn’t do otherwise for obvious reasons.

In addition, many of the blogs that I have learned from have been written under pseudonyms. The writers are free to cover all kinds of controversial subjects that they just could not have done under their own names. It frees them.

Say, for instance, you are a social worker who used to be a drug addict, or a single mother who is a sex worker, or you are in a long-term clandestine relationship, you might well have valuable insights that you wouldn’t feel happy sharing with the world under your real name. I’d certainly want to read those insights, and I’m sure others would too.

And the negatives
Of course, anonymous blogging – and particularly commenting - can and often does free a writer to be vicious, nasty and generally unpleasant. As a result, many people have called for “no more anonymity on the internet”.

Now that, of course, would make the internet a much nicer and politer place. But it would also mean that readers would be unable to learn about the otherwise hidden sides of life, something that can be really valuable for both readers and writers.

And that’s particularly so for bi people, many of whom have insights they don’t want their family and employers to know they have!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Coming out bisexual

The first of January, the beginning of a new year, means a new start. Resolutions, if you like. And for some, the idea of new beginnings means coming out.

I spend quite a lot of time on Twitter these days, and various retweets – or repostings by others, if you don’t know about Twitter – are from or about people who’ve decided they are finally going to tell other people they are bisexual.

Coming out as bi can be complicated, mainly because you have to tell people over and over again. People you don’t know will assume that you are either gay or heterosexual, depending on whether your partner is a man or a woman. If you are single, or dating several people, or poly – that can be easier.

There’s no bisexual “look”, in many places there’s no bi scene, the fact that other bisexuals seem hard to find (other than on the internet)... all these things can be annoying if you are looking for support.

But telling the world you are bi is important, really important.

Most of the world thinks that there is no such thing as bisexuality, that bi people are straight people playing at being gay (bi women) or gay people running away from their real sexuality (bi men). You know that it’s not like that – for you and for many others. The more of us who come out, the easier it is for those people who are not out yet.

And there are many people who cannot be out yet, because it is too difficult. They are too unsure of their feelings, their religion says it is wrong, it is illegal in their country, everyone around them thinks it is wicked, their family actually would beat them up and throw them out. They need to know there are people in the world who can support them, however far away they are or whether or not they know them personally.

So coming out is a public service.

It’s also something to do for yourself. Telling people you are bi, especially potentially tricky ones like parents and partners, means you are telling the truth about yourself. You don’t have to lie about a significant part of yourself. Yes, it will be difficult sometimes, but you may also be surprised by the people who will help and support you.

A bi man I once interviewed - deep in the closet, with a conventional life that felt he couldn’t threaten - said that he longed to “live out loud, like other people”. Coming out is the first step to doing that.

Happy New Year. And good luck!