LGBT news and popular culture site The Queerness asked me to write an article on David Bowie’s film career, and here it is
I’ve been inspired to share something I wrote for Glitterwolf Issue 8: Identity – ‘A Letter To My Sixteen Year Old Self’, published in April 2014 in which thirty-three LGBT poets and writers wrote letters to their sixteen year old selves. I was, and remain, very proud of this very personal piece of writing.
Showcasing fiction, poetry, art and photography from LGBT contributors, Glitterwolf was edited by Matt Creswell. ‘Identity’ was Glitterwolf’s first themed issue, featuring work from Ian-Jon Coughlan, C. Cleo Creech, Lewis DeSimone, Mark Ellis, Bretten Hannam, John Hubbard, Raymond Luczak, Hal Duncan, Paul Magrs, Steve Berman, Evey Brett, ‘Nathan Burgoine, Jeff Mann, Amy Shepherd, Jerry L. Wheeler, Lori Smith, and others.
A LETTER TO MY SIXTEEN YEAR OLD SELF by James Gent
You’re on the beginning of a long journey into The Strange World of the Bisexual. I’m addressing you from an astonishing 23 years hence. Sorry to say I haven’t got all the answers and you don’t wake up one day with the whole life thing sorted, but on the plus side you still have all your own teeth and hair.
Anyway, this bisexual thing. It’ll begin to nag at you as you become more aware of your evolving sexuality, there’ll be times when you’ll refuse to acknowledge its existence but ultimately you’ll embrace it and find that accepting your sexual identity for what it is is the best thing that’s happened to you.
But that’s all way off yet. You’ve begun to become aware of a growing curiosity about pretty boys, boys like you, wondering what they might feel like and taste like. It’s all a bit much to take in, as you’re barely getting to grips with girls without needing a whole other load of confusing emotions to deal with. You find it alarming, but also very exotic and exciting. Why is this? Well, being a callow, naive, insecure youth from the provinces you’ve got a lot of baggage and lazy cultural assumptions about same-sex attraction to unpack before you can give into these stirrings without tying yourself up in knots of guilt, shame, confusion and paranoia…
Being an inexperienced, insecure teenager growing up in a remote small town still stuck in the tail end of the intolerant 80s, gay and bisexual people are completely alien to you. Acknowledgement of any same-sex interest intrigues you, but it also scares you – don’t be too hard on yourself but the casual homophobia you’ve grown up with as constant background noise, has rubbed off on you and you’re internalising it. Not cool, Jimbo! Don’t put yourself through the wringer over this – fancying other boys is not only acceptable, it’s awesome. When you go to Uni, don’t keep all this buried – you’re paranoid you’re carrying around an awful secret, but trust me, everyone else at Uni is too wrapped up in their own shit to even care what’s going on in your own little world.
Eventually, you’ll get to explore this curiosity and find out what those boys taste like (beer and cigarettes mainly). What about girls? Barely a year will go by where you don’t have an outrageous crush on a girl you know, but it’s the same thing – you’ve wrestled with enough demons to get behind the ‘gay’ thing, you really don’t fancy having to go through a second closet… It’s not only casual homophobia that’s left its mark on you, but also some very ignorant falsehoods about bisexuality that you take very much to heart – it’s not real, bisexuals are just greedy, lazy or indecisive, and that you need to MAKE UP YOUR MIND AND PICK A BLOODY SIDE!
Don’t let all that binary bullshit fool you. You’ll have a series of epiphanies (No spoilers, would hate to deprive you of a heck of a wild, messy, confusing and cathartic ride – it’ll be the making of you) and ultimately come to not only accept but embrace living and loving as an open, proud, bisexual man. You’ll still encounter ignorance in the form of what we call ‘bi erasure’ and ‘bi visibility’ (yep, get ready for lots of new identity politics jargon, PC’s big in the 21st century) – straights and gays alike will both try and marginalise, deny or de-legitimise your identity. Ignore these people, they are assholes – be proud and be visible, not everyone will understand but there are hundreds and thousands of other people just like you!
Bottom line, old chum, it is SO important to not feel like you have to hide a vital part of your personality away or feel ashamed about it. Be kind to yourself, you’re only young once.