ShoutOut to my teenage self: Sharon Nolan

ShoutOut to my teenage self is a series of letters from inspiring figures in the LGBT community and allies to themselves as teenagers. Our second contributor is Sharon Nolan.

Sharon is a queer activist from the West of Ireland and a coordinator for Bi+ Ireland. She dreams of making the world more inclusive of the entire LGBTQIA+ community whatever way she can, and getting the 8th repealed. She’s can usually be found (giving out) at @sharmander_says on Twitter.

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Hey Sharon,

I know you’re stubborn and that you think you know all there is to know about the world but I think I’ve got some tips that’ll help you navigate your way through the next few years and beyond. Firstly? You’re going to finally let yourself free from behind your pile of books. You know all of those opinions, passions and love you have, that you were just too scared to show? You’re pretty damn outspoken about them now! That crippling lack of self-confidence does ease off with time too. Even if it doesn’t disappear, you learn to power through it regardless!

You’re going to go through a lot of phases. Historical vampire theories, true crime novels, mini top hats with every outfit, and neon blue eyeshadow being your staple look to name a few.  But your bisexuality? It will end up being one of the aspects of yourself that you’re most certain about.

There are going to be some hurdles along the way because not everyone is as sure or as comfortable with your bisexuality as you will be. There will be a lot of coming out, and (frustratingly) repeated coming out. There will be awkward dinnertime conversations and late night DMCs (deep meaningful conversations). They’ll even be talking about being bisexual on TV, and the sky doesn’t fall in!

Also? You don’t have to be the ‘perfect’ bisexual. You don’t have to defensively tell people you like boys and girls 50/50 (because we know that’s a lie about how you feel), or accuse others who aren’t bi+ in the ways you imagined it as ‘not being bi enough’. That’s just some internalised biphobia, but you’ll work through it and come out the other side better than ever, and ready to recognise that our community all experience attraction in different ways, and that doesn’t make anyone any more or less bisexual. Your frustrated annoyance at gay bars and pride events wasn’t the bigotry you thought it was - but instead a reactionary frustration for not experiencing the acceptance, welcome and representation in those ‘gay spaces’ that you expected.

I can’t lie, the unexpected biphobia within your new LGBT+ home will hurt. You expected some of your straight friends to have doubts and questions, and to assume ugly stereotypes, but your fellow community members? That will sting. This experience leaves a fire in your belly though, and lead to you making a commitment with yourself to work towards changing that experience for others who come out as bisexual, pansexual, or anyone who’s attracted to more than one gender. While on this journey, you will find your community. You’ll meet some of the greatest friends anyone could ask for - all while you’re growing, finding your feet and speaking out more.

With this, you’ll also get the opportunity to join the amazing Bi+ Ireland team! You’ll get to help create events and spaces for anyone under the bisexual umbrella to meet each other and support each other, you’ll get to help represent the community at different prides across Ireland, and together you’ll work towards bi+ visibility and inclusion throughout society. I may be ‘bi’ased (heh), but we have a fantastic coordinator team and you’re going to love them all so much. The most amazing part of it all though is that you’ll get to help be part of the movement to create spaces for our bi+ community throughout Ireland, ando work towards making the spaces you and so many others dream of!

With being bisexual, this happens to lead to you dating people of different genders over the years. The main difference isn’t how you feel about each of them - but how society reacts around this. Holding a girl’s hand in public the first time will be a scary experience, and seeing how the social dynamics of being read as ‘queer’ for the first time has the world viewing you through a whole new lens. Luckily, Ireland is a much kinder and compassionate place in 2017 to be LGBT+ than when you first come out, so as the years go by it’s going to get easier, with further support from the wider community.

Most importantly? You’re still as big an emo kid as ever - and yes, you do finally get to see Taking Back Sunday and My Chemical Romance in concert!

In all seriousness though - you’ve got this better than you ever realised, I promise, and you’ll be Taoiseach before you know it!

Love always

Sharon

For more information on Bi+ Ireland's work visit http://www.biireland.com/