Penelope Pettigrew is not the one to give up. In 2020, after failing to convince any of The Voice judges to turn their chairs, Pettigrew came back to the competition this year and rocked the stage impressing all four judges.
Pettigrew moved to the top 20 of the competition, and top five of Team Guy Sebastian, before a format change saw her being knocked out the show. Now, she is preparing to release her new single Fuckboi and perform at the BICONIC event this year.
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Coming Out As Bisexual Is Tough
“I’ve spent a big part of my life trying to make everyone around me happy and make everyone like me. I was really cautious of how people perceive me. Now I’m like ‘this is who I am, like it or not’,” said Pettigrew. “And there’s so many people around who celebrate who I am that I don’t have to worry about people who don’t.”
“Coming out is a really scary thing,” Pettigrew stressed. “It’s like going for a breakup and then saying ‘let’s go on a little break’ until you get your courage. I can imagine that’s what some people have done and I don’t blame them for that. The only thing is, it can be destructive for bisexuals because it starts to perpetuate this idea that it is just a phase.”
Pettigrew’s mother came out as gay when she (Pettigrew) was in high school. But, Pettigrew says she did not have a bisexual role model to look up to.
‘I Didn’t Want To Claim The Title Of Being Bisexual’
Pettigrew says that it was only later in her 20s that she became comfortable identifying as a bisexual.
“When I was in my twenties and in a relationship, I would call myself ‘bicurious’,” said Pettigrew. “I didn’t want to claim the title of being bisexual. What if I were with a woman and then realised ‘oh no that’s not for me’. Taking the title and then giving it back would be a big dishonour to the community.”
“2019 was my first experience with a woman and it was awesome. That was when I realised that I am definitely bisexual. That was the big tick,” she said. “Now that I am in my thirties, I am taking the time to process it all. I’ve been in a few long-term relationships and now I am a bit cautious.”
Once she identified as bisexual, Pettigrew said she also saw the options available by stepping outside the established constructs.
“There’s so many options outside of the standard monogamous or typical heterosexual relationships. There are options for people who are fluid and curious. I am open to having a relationship which is more like that with someone like me,” said Pettigrew, explaining how unique everyone’s experience is.
“Bisexual, trans, and non-binary people have so many options. I don’t want to exclude trans and non-binary people from the conversation. For heterosexual people, their answer is ‘I’ll go find a guy or a girl’. For fluid people, its not that straight-forward and that’s okay. That’s totally fine.”
Crushes, Men, Women…
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“Being in heterosexual relationships fit with me. That was the closest thing to how I feel and so I rolled along with that. Back of my head, I was always like ‘there’s still something missing’. Whereas for people who are gay, they look at heterosexual relationships and they go ‘none of that fits me at all’. I realised I have to go somewhere else.”
Pettigrew said she wanted to explore her sexuality. However, when she brought it up with her ex, it ended up being an issue, so she had to suppress that side of her.
“After five and a half years, I felt like I couldn’t be in my skin any longer. I felt like I had to change,” she said adding that coming out helped her feel free. “I just felt like I don’t have to walk on eggshells anymore.”
“It’s really interesting to watch yourself interact and flirt with different genders. I feel so much more myself whenever I flirt with or pursue women. I feel relaxed. I feel comfortable enough to be goofy to send a picture where I don’t look overly attractive enough or I pull a funny face. They laugh and they interact with me, whereas with guys, I am more self-conscious,” she said, talking about her crushes and interactions with women.
“With women, there’s this neutral ground. Its more of a spiritual experience. It is this goddess energy,” she said. “Its like you’re on common ground and it makes so much sense. But I also do love the dynamic of the masculine and the feminine, when you talk about being with men. There’s a lot to explore.”
Being A Bisexual Role Model
“Embrace yourself. Be true to you,” is Pettigrew’s message on Bisexual Visibility Day.
“There’s no blueprint to being you or to to being bisexual. You don’t have to compare yourself to someone else’s journey. You don’t have to validate your bisexuality by being with someone from your gender, or by dating someone in particular,” she said.
“Don’t worry about having to explain to people. Just because somebody asked you a question doesn’t mean you have to give them an answer. You don’t owe them an answer. It doesn’t matter who they are in your life. If you don’t feel comfortable answering, its totally okay to say, ‘I don’t have an answer for that or I am still thinking about this. I will come and talk to you when I am ready.’ That is a valid answer,” she suggests, when it comes to explaining your sexuality to people.
Penelope talked about people who came up to her to say that they were able to come out because of her. “One woman was able to come out to her husband because of me. She came up to me at a bar once and thanked me for being able to live a life that was more authentically her. Even with her baby and her husband, she claimed that she was able to be herself,” she said.
“It was so humbling and inspiring. It made me want to be a louder voice,” she said. That was when she was able to be the representation that she missed growing up. “I am here to listen to and encourage people who want to listen to me. I want people in my life who can uplift me and I can uplift them.”
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In 2020, Penelope attended the BICONIC event celebrating Bisexual Visibility. “It was incredible. I hadn’t been a part of bisexual event and was new to coming out. I remember being in the audience. There were drag queens, trans, and non-binary people. The room was full of this incredible energy that was so uplifting and accepting,” she said.
Penny talked about one artist on stage who explained that being in a relationship that looks heterosexual does not make you any less bisexual. “‘Your partner does not define your sexuality. You define your sexuality.’ I cried when I heard that. It was just so nice to hear someone say that,” she said. She had always felt a pressure to present herself as gay, without which, she felt that her identity would be invalidated.
“For bisexual people that’s just not the way it is. Same goes for pansexual people. You can be with whoever you wanna be with and you are still queer and that’s amazing. That you will always be amazing and nothing can change that.”
‘Virtual Biconic: Celebrating Bisexual Visibility: Past, Present, and Future’ is happening on September 24, 2021. Hosted by Bree Mountain and Natali Karo, the event will feature Penelope Pettigrew, Dyan Tai, and Cassandra. Tickets to the show are available here.