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Home > Knowledge & support > Resource hub > “Was there anyone else like me?” Finding an identity as a bisexual teen with type 1
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes seven years ago, at the age of 17. This diagnosis came at a very formative age for me. I was exploring my identity, living life as a teenager and having fun, and all of a sudden, it all came crashing down. Or that’s how it felt.
When I was diagnosed, I only knew one other person with type 1 at my school. No one in my close or even extended circle of friends had type 1 and media representation was misinformed, to say the least. I quickly found myself frustrated by the headlines that would trend surrounding diabetes, often skewed with misconceptions about the differences between type 1 and type 2. It became hard to ignore, considering I was increasingly on the receiving end of comments like “but you don’t look diabetic”. It only added to my isolation. Was there anyone else like me?
Around the time I was diagnosed, I was having another identity crisis of sorts. Learning that I had a life-long, chronic illness sent me into overdrive. My body, as I had known it for 17 years, was no longer the same. It had nursed me through childhood and the majority of adolescence, but now, it had decided to give up on me.
Simultaneously, I was questioning my sexuality. I’d dated boys before but my feelings towards girls wouldn’t go away. I’d had all-consuming obsessions with my female friends when I was little and would become consumed with jealousy should another girl in our class refer to them and their ‘best friend.’ I took the popular girls’ character traits and aesthetics on as my own, convincing myself that I wanted to be them when really, I just wanted to be with them.
Around this time, I realised that I might be bisexual. I knew I liked both boys and girls, but I couldn’t understand the dynamics and fluidity of sexuality as a spectrum. In my conservative hometown, you were either gay or straight: I didn’t know anyone that was bisexual, and I hadn’t encountered any bisexual characters on the TV shows I’d watched. My struggles with my sexuality and with my type 1 diabetes became intertwined. I felt alone, devoid of community in all areas.
When I moved to university at 18, I still struggled to find my place. All the LGBTQI venues seemed to be designed for gay men, and whilst I loved and could absolutely get on board with the RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties that were forever taking place at the local venue, I couldn’t help but feel that I still hadn’t found my community as a bisexual woman. Back in London, the city had lost the majority of its LGBTQI venues post-gentrification, and venues for queer women were rapidly disappearing. At the time, the sole bar which now thankfully dedicates itself to queer women, non-binary folks and their guests was labelled a lesbian bar, and I didn’t know where I fit.
As it turns out, there were people like me, and I found them eventually. I was so caught up in finding people that looked like me in LGBTQI venues that I forgot that there were, actually, other places to find like-minded people. I joined the University’s LGBTQI society and very quickly became acquainted with an array of bi people like myself. I even met someone else with an invisible disability, and she understood what it meant to be both bi and disabled, living with a hidden disability rather than a physical one. For years, I’d been reluctant to call myself disabled because societal stigmas had had an impact on me: it wasn’t visible, so surely it didn’t exist, right? Wrong. Knowing that there were people like me out there was a new moment for me.
Likewise, it took a while for me to find my type 1 tribe, but I got there eventually. In my third year, I encountered a poster whilst studying in the library advertising the “Insulin Army.” After messaging them on Facebook, I joined them for a drink. Though there were only a few of us, it was endlessly empowering. We bonded over our matching insulin pumps, shared the best tips for tackling hypos, and drank our pints together without a care in the world.
Now, I’m 24. I was devastated when I was first diagnosed with type 1 and so confused when I realised that I wasn’t straight. But now, I realise that these elements of me make me, me. They’re the best parts of me. My type 1 diabetes will always be a part of me, as will my bisexuality, and I’m proud to be flying the flag for both. Happy Pride Month.
For information and support on LGBTQ wellbeing, please visit:
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