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Coming out as bi – and as a moderator

Picture of a Bi Pride Flag by Peter Salanki
Bi Pride Flag by Peter Salanki (CC BY 2.0)

Dru Jaeger is one of Club Soda’s co-founders. In this blog, Dru explores being bisexual, moderating your drinking and what they might share in common: the need to start conversations.

23 September is Bi Visibility Day. It’s a chance to celebrate bisexual lives and culture, and to recognise the existence of bisexual people in the LGBTQ+ community.

So here I am.

I walked out of Team Straight in my 20s, and I enthusiastically signed up to Team Gay. But like many people, I’d fallen for the idea that sexuality was a binary, black and white choice. It took me a while – in fact, most of my 30s – to realise that there was another way. I didn’t have to pick a team. I discovered that I could find happiness pretty much anywhere on the diverse playing field of human sexual experience, and enjoy connecting with people of all kinds.

Identities and labels

Sexual orientation is about our attitudes and behaviour – how we feel and what we do. But it’s also about our identities. There are lots of ways in which we signal our sexual preferences to the others, including the words we use to describe ourselves. Those words for our sexual identities can be useful labels, but labels aren’t always comfortable to wear.

While my attitudes and behaviours are definitely more bisexual than anything else, I don’t like calling myself bi. Admittedly, it’s a better label for my sexual identity than straight or gay. But it suggests that humans come in two flavours – male and female – and in my experience, life is a bit more complicated than that. I’ve tried the label queer, but I’ve got mixed feelings about it. So most of the time, I try to live without a label at all.

But labels do have their uses. It would take more than a lifetime to get to know another human being, and most of our interactions don’t allow us to ask lots of questions. So identity labels are a shortcut. That’s why we put them on dating profiles. Labels aren’t perfect, but they make it easier for other people to comprehend us. Labels might not sum up the complexity of our lives, but they can help us decide whether to ask someone out on a date.

Mindful drinking labels

Although the language of mindful drinking is still evolving, we’ve already got some labels in our community. Alcohol-free is an example of a label that works pretty well. It’s straightforward, and it helps other people understand what we like and don’t like. I tell you I’m alcohol-free and you (hopefully) don’t offer me a glass of wine. Sorted.

But labels are trickier for those of us who moderate our drinking. At this year’s Mindful Drinking Festival, I chatted with someone about who spends 364 days of the year not drinking, but who enjoys drinking on his birthday. He didn’t like calling himself alcohol-free – that wouldn’t make sense for anyone who came to his birthday party. But he didn’t feel like he was a moderator either.

My attitude toward drinking has shifted over the past year. Rather than describing my approach as cutting down (as if drinking were the norm), I’m now actively choosing when I include alcohol in my life. What does that look like in terms of my behaviour? Well, last month, I had a glass of wine with dinner for the first time in a long time, and last week, I enjoyed a pint of Belgian beer with friends. As winter approaches, I’m looking forward to sitting by a fire with a good bourbon. In summary, I drink little and rarely. And increasingly, I go for weeks and months at a time without drinking alcohol at all. So how about my identity? I’m going to struggle to come up with a single word to describe it. Is moderator the best label for me? Honestly, I’m not sure.

And even if I did call myself a moderator, I’m not sure it’s going to help you understand me. You might be entirely unsure whether to offer me a glass of wine. To be honest, I don’t know how I’m going to respond if you do.

It turns out I don’t need a label. Instead, we need a conversation.

Be visible and start the conversation

Whether we are bi, moderating or both, let’s take Bi Visibility Day as a moment to start conversations about who we are becoming. Our identities might be hard to label, but our attitudes and behaviours are valid and real.

And I should say this: If you are a moderator, you are more than welcome to have those conversations in Club Soda. There’s a place for everyone who changes their drinking in the mindful drinking movement, in whatever way they do it. That includes you. Yes, your attitudes and behaviours might continue to change as you discover more about yourself and the role you want drinking to play in your life. And yes, your identity might be complicated. But that’s OK. You’ve got just as much to offer as those who label themselves as alcohol-free. Your life experience, your growing understanding of yourself and your mindful drinking skills are valuable to others. And you help show the world that people can’t be divided into two opposing camps of those who drink alcohol and those who don’t.

So come out today, make yourself visible and start the conversation. We’d love to get to know you better.

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