Pronunciation: /ɪnˈvɪzɪb(ə)l /
1. Unable to be seen
2. Concealed from sight; hidden
3. Treated as if unable to be seen; ignored or not taken into consideration
I spend a good portion of my life feeling like I’m completely invisible. I’m a bisexual woman in a long term relationship with a guy – why would anyone think I was anything other than straight? For most of my life I was invisible even to myself. It took 24 long years of feeling abnormal before I came to the realisation that I was in fact bisexual. I was very lucky in this however and although it was hard to accept and come out to myself, I had an amazing boyfriend who supported me every step of the way. Once I came to terms with my sexuality, I felt like a fuller person somehow. I wasn’t weird or strange or just generally ‘wrong’. Somehow accepting my ‘gay side’ made me feel more secure in my ‘straight side’ – I was a whole person.
The thing is, though, I’d already been (permanently) working in my school for three years before this momentous event. It’s now three years since then and I still don’t think I’m generally out at work – even though I’d like to be. I’m ‘not sure’ because although I have mentioned some things to colleagues about LGBT issues, I don’t know if they’ve realised that this is actually a personal thing for me. It’s pretty hard to get past the ‘she has a boyfriend so she’s straight’ mentality.
Firstly, I have to say, my school is fabulous place to work. Section 37.1 doesn’t apply, the principal is extremely passionate about equality and human rights and one of the teachers with a post of responsibility is LGBT so I know it’s not going to be an issue career wise. So why aren’t I out? Well, a bisexual in an opposite sex relationship is pretty invisible. Short of walking up to people and saying ‘Hi, I know we’ve known each other for six years and we talk almost every day but I just wanted to double check that you know I’m bisexual’, it’s really hard to let people know.
Option 1: Mention partner in conversation
Generally interpreted as: Oh, she’s got a boyfriend – straight, straight, straight, straight, straight.
Option 2: Drop in a ‘Wow, *insert famous woman’s name* is fabulous looking!’
Generally interpreted as: Yes, she is, isn’t she/I’d love to look like that too.
Option 3: Discuss how much I love certain LGBT artists/musicians.
Generally interpreted as: She’s very into her alternative music. I suppose, her boyfriend is a musician so that kind of makes sense.
Option 4: Talk about some of the LGBT activism stuff that I do – INTO LGBT Teacher’s Group, BeLonGTo etc.
Generally interpreted as: She’s so passionate about equality. That mother language project she did was great, oh and the thing she organised when the Traveller activists came in was nice and all the books she has looking at ‘race’ and disability and different religions are lovely.
Sometimes you know, I’m actually jealous of how gay and lesbian teachers can come out by just talking about their partner! Also, the thing is, I AM passionate about equality in all its forms – not just for the LGBT community but in all areas of society. I think that if I was a bit more of a one trick pony, people might question whether I was straight but when I do stuff on the other areas also (which don’t directly affect me), it just seems like LGBT stuff is just another of my ‘issues’.
And so… I’m invisible.
This doesn’t affect my teaching, it definitely doesn’t affect the children in my class but it does affect how I feel in school. Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m being disingenuous because people don’t know this rather important fact about me. Other times it still makes me feel like an outsider. Recently we were talking about the media coverage of the issues facing LGBT teachers in schools and one of my friends questioned whether there really was an issue or whether it was just something that ‘these teachers’ had in their own heads. I realised then that despite my continual references to the work I was doing with the INTO LGBT group, she hadn’t made the connections. I wanted to say something but in that moment I just didn’t have the strength.
I’ve thought long and hard about whether or not to put my name on this blog post. Not because I’m afraid that people will find out about me but rather because I don’t want readers to dismiss this as just one personal story. This IS my personal story but it could also be the story of the person sitting next to you in the staff room on Monday morning – you just might not know it.
But since invisibility is the problem, anonymity hardly seems like the way forward.
My name is Cecelia.
And maybe, just maybe, I’m not quite as invisible as I was before I wrote this.