*Natasha was beautiful and tall - a young aspiring catwalk model who took a liking to me. I was blown away by the attention, but I didn't understand why it meant so much. We sat in the library in Hounslow Treaty Centre, when she grabbed my hands and ran her fingers over them, "you could be a hand model, your hands are beautiful". I looked into her eyes and melted. I wasn't listening to what she was saying, her fingers were still running over my hands and my heart beat so hard I couldn't hear anything else. I knew her from *Jason, the popular boy at school who I would sneak out of my house in the middle of the night to go see. She would see him sometimes too. We didn't talk about what we did, but the three of us knew. Jason wouldn't tell anyone at school about us - he was popular, I was far from that. But Natasha was even more secret. Our stolen glances, holding hands in the park, stroking her soft thin brown hair - I could never tell anyone.
*Sally was one of my closest friends for a while. We both had twin brothers who lived on my road in common. But the nights we shared together meant more to me. At first it was considered experimental (I never told anyone about Natasha), but I soon realised she meant more to me than just comparing body hair and secretly touching each other’s bodies in the dark.
"I never knew about the word gay until I came to the UK"
My family sensed something and felt the need to make these kinds of announcements. I never knew what bisexuality really meant and would laugh about how they were 'greedy', not settling on just one gender. You were either gay or straight - anything else was ridiculous.
"What is this disgusting lesbian doing here?"
No one in the house was a lesbian, but anyone with a piercing who clearly smelt of cigarettes was a freak, therefore a lesbian. A lot of female friends were chased out of my life. I became one of those girls who wasn't "like other girls", even though...I liked other girls. Men filled the void and I became the 'tomboy' in the group - a problematic term I embraced to escape my sexuality. I found it difficult to be around women without feeling shame. I looked on Facebook and wondered why all my friends had a large group of close knit girls they hung out with, but I didn't. I found comfort in internalised misogyny.
I needed to explore my sexuality and understand it, but I felt like I couldn't. I had been told so many times that liking the music I liked was "freaky", that chopping my hair so short all the time made me "look like a boy" and when I said my idol was Sarah Connor in T2, I was told she was "too manly".
10 years of suppressing any feelings I had towards women had taken its toll on me. I suffered from anxiety, panic attacks, depression, body disorders and it wasn't until now I realised a lot of bewildering sexual experiences. Maybe I would be a different person if I was allowed to consider my sexuality, instead of being told that I had to get married to a "good Indian boy".
One of my biggest and longest standing crushes has been Shannyn Sossamon, hidden under the guise of a 'girl crush'. I would cut my hair like her, dress like her and watch films with her over and over - "it's a girl crush!!". A girl crush. All my friends would have girl crushes, unaware that they were allowing me to hide a secret under their thinly veiled homophobia. But I was obsessed. I would talk about Shannyn all the time - I couldn't rationalise my obsession to my straight friends and I wasn't allowed to explore why, so eventually, I suppressed her too.
I would dare myself to come out by asking friends: "who are the top 5 hottest women??", waiting for them to ask me, so I could announce Shannyn Sossamon and then explain why - I wanted to breakdown and tell everyone how important she is. Most times I ended up saying "oh you know! The usual! Uh, Scarlett Johansson I guess" and sometimes I'd say Shannyn's name and then mumble quietly, while showing people photos of her and then trailing off into something else.
I met this Greek girl at university who I fell for. She had high cheekbones, was quite thin, almost comic character like - the way she dressed reminded me of the comic book character Chamber (who I was also in love with) - but I couldn't say anything. I can't imagine many friends discriminating against me or treating me differently. All I could feel was irrational fear. I barely spoke to her or hung around her, but clearly remember the day she came to my halls to give me mushrooms. I showed off by taking far too many and walking to Wetherspoons at 8pm, off my face, smiling at everyone who walked past me, just because I wanted to impress the Greek girl. She never really spoke to me after then and I was forced to forget her. But you never really forget them. Like I’ll never forget Antony or Will – important people in my lives who have made me who I am. The difference is I was allowed to explore my feelings with men, I’ve never allowed myself to accept women.
I've only been in heterosexual relationships, I was even engaged to an amazing guy but I haven't been able to stay in one relationship until I finally confronted myself. I've spent the last couple of years softly whispering to selected friends "I'm bisexual", but I haven't been able to yell it out loud.
I'm now 34 and finally feel like I can say out loud: I'm bisexual and I don't feel scared anymore.
*names changed for anonymity