After years of judging her bisexuality, mother comes out to daughter on air

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A BBC radio show has broken ground by tackling one of the most often-ignored initial of the LGBT community: B.

Nichi Hodgson, a journalist who reports on sex, gender and law, spoke to different people around the world to explore the depth and variety of the bisexual experience, and discuss the biggest issues bisexual people face.

After years of judging her bisexuality, mother comes out to daughter on air
Nichi Hodgson, photographed by Charlie Hopkinson, © 2016

In making Being Bisexual, a radio programme produced by Made in Manchester, and broadcast on the BBC World Service, she wanted to talk about the bisexual community independently of the lesbian and gay community.

Too often, the strands are grouped together despite the fact that their experiences – and discrimination – are often very different.

“I’m really pleased that the World Service has had the courage to do something like this,” producer Ashley Byrne told PinkNews.

In the programme, Hodgson meets with a massive range of people, including a Bi support group in Birmingham, Pride-goers in Tel Aviv, bi campaigners from Iran and young people in a polyamorous relationship in Brazil, all with vastly varied experiences and understandings of their sexuality.

Hodgson then takes it much closer to home, to interview her own mother about how she feels about Nichi’s sexuality.

Unexpectedly, Hodgson’s mother comes out as bisexual.

After experiencing dismissal of her sexuality from her mother in her youth, Hodgson said she could never have expected this openness, confidence and acceptance from her.

“It was really special and I felt really happy that she felt confident she could do it. She’s so relaxed when she’s talking about it, there’s no sense of struggle there,” Hodgson explained.

“And I would like to think that me coming out may have helped her come out as well.”

For Hodgson, the documentary ended up being a huge exercise in understanding herself and her own sexuality.

“I kept hearing the same things again and again and being able to relate to it – stuff that I had never talked about with anybody. Some things I’d thought about but never really articulated with other people.”

She realised that she had been erasing her own bisexuality in her work and life, partly because she’s in a “traditional” relationship with a straight man, something people find that hard to fit with their understanding of bisexuality.

Hodgson also says making the documentary helped her reflect on her own experiences of biphobia in the past – she tells of a lesbian girlfriend who used to “joke” about scrubbing her clean.

So much of the struggle of the bi experience comes from a lack of awareness and role models, meaning knowledge of bisexuality is based on stereotypes and stigma, Byrne – the producer – said.

“It’s about awareness more than anything – unless people start talking about it really, it’s going to continue to be hidden,” he added.

He cited YouGov polls which say that as many as half of young people identify as somewhere between hetero and homosexual, and yet bisexuality is still not widely talked about, so many bi people feel isolated.

“You tend to be defined by the relationship you’re in, whether you’re in a ‘straight’ or a ‘gay’ relationship, so it’s very hard to talk about the nuance of bisexuality,” Byrne said.

“The word bisexual shouldn’t be a dirty word, it shouldn’t be something that people run away from.”

Although the documentary highlighted how wide-ranging biphobia is, and how deeply it runs in society, Nichi said making it was a wonderful experience.

“It made me feel better, and more optimistic about the future of bi people,” she said.

The documentary is part of the season of programmes on the BBC that are being released to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK in 1967.

Many television channels have been making content to commemorate the anniversary, such as Against the Law and Britain’s Great Gay Buildings.