Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Personal, Writing

A Letter To The Girl From 365 Days Ago

Hello beautiful,

You’re not dead, yet, and that’s a good thing. You also haven’t wished for it in a long time, and that’s also a good thing. Would you like to know why?

I’ll tell you, in time, but first, we have some other matters to discuss.

We’ll start with January. It is just about to start for you, and it begins the way that December ended, in lockdown. You are bored of all this pandemic business, as is everyone else, and as I write to you, I regret to inform you that it is not over yet. We aren’t quite in lockdown, but it might happen. The upside is, you are no longer afraid of it.

The thing you feared the most about the lockdown was that your boyfriend would go wandering and forget about you, and during the first lockdown, that did happen, but you manage to grab another one pretty quickly, just in time for the next lockdown, and the worrying began again, but this time you won’t be afraid of that. Not because you have found an intensely loyal man, or because you grew as a person and stopped being so insecure, but because you grew as a person and addressed why a man slipping through your fingers scared you so badly.

Oh, you are as impatient as ever. I was going to tell you about everything else first, but I suppose you deserve to know.

This was the year that you accepted the truth. You know exactly what I’m talking about, and I know for a fact that as you read this, you have a racing heart and a tight throat. It’s the same mix of guilt, panic and shame you feel when you think about that girl from school, or that girl you wrote White Wine about. It’s the same shame you feel when you watch the Scottish Affairs Committee (not giving any further context there, if you know, you know). It’s the same way you feel every time your family asked about your love life and the same way you felt when you were fifteen, writing (admittedly, quite good) poems about Carol Ann Duffy.

You know what I’m about to say, and you are staring at this letter, trying to rearrange the words or shove them back into my pen, but you can’t (primarily because I typed them lmao). I’d go back to the girl you were two years ago, or five, but I know they couldn’t take it. I know that they weren’t strong enough to take this journey, and if I’m honest, I don’t think you are, but I know that I was not strong enough for you not to.

You have been carrying this alone since you were a child, but it’s over now. I know that you know what I’m about to tell you, and I know that you are hoping that I won’t. The funniest thing is that your dearest friend in the world is just like you, and you have loved him, just the way he was, but for so long, you couldn’t love yourself in the same way. You accepted him, genuinely but you saw yourself as a freak. I guess it was less acceptable if it was two girls, to you? You celebrated him, but you kept yourself a secret, because you thought you were different, something shameful and terrifying, but much like the angel in the nativity, I come to you and I say “Do not be afraid, because we have missed out on so much life already, and we don’t have time to be afraid anymore.” Perhaps the angel of the lord wasn’t so abrupt, but you know me, I’m no angel.

It all started on a date with a man. He was crazy about you, and you thought you could do what you always do, act crazy about him and hope that he married you and gave you the child that you had always wanted. He probably would have, had he not guessed what you were. I still don’t know how he did, mind you. He asked you, directly to your face, and you felt like you were going to die on the spot.

“Are you a lesbian?”

It seemed like an unfair question. You had been willing to give him what he wanted. You would have been loyal. He would have been happy. He just didn’t need to ask questions. It was a good deal, really, but I suppose he couldn’t take it, because he knew it wasn’t what it appeared to be.

Truthfully, it wouldn’t have been a good deal, after a while. You’d get burnout from having to get through the sex, just like you had before and you’d start recoiling at his touch, he’d feel rejected, you’d get depressed. It would be the same as it always is. You’d cling to it desperately, because you wanted to be anything but what you actually are and it would slip away from you, because as it all turns out, men are not stupid, and they can usually tell when their partner doesn’t want them.

You told him that you weren’t “like that…” but you knew that you couldn’t hide much longer. You also knew that nobody was buying your “Shy bisexual” persona either. It was starting to become really obvious that you were just not built to be with a man. If a man who was a stranger could figure it out, then there was no more hope of deceiving everyone else.

I tried to pretend I was just thinking about it, like it was something I was considering for the first time but I had always known, and eventually, after several years of keeping it a secret, I told the truth for the first time. I wrote a bunch of angsty poems to tell the audience and I recorded an angsty voice note to tell the family. As it all turns out, lots of people apparently knew and were just waiting for me to say it, on my own terms, so… you really have nothing to worry about. You could do it, today, if you want. It makes no difference to the people that love you. Your mother still loves you, I promise.

Now that’s over with, we can talk about some other news. As I mentioned, Covid-19 is still very much a thing. You are very bored of it now, mainly because the British government is making a mess of preventing another wave and you long for the safety and competency of a Nicola Sturgeon or a Mark Drakeford, but, alas, you only have Boris Johnson to rely on.

Speaking of all of those people, you finally launched the politics segment of your podcast into its own podcast and you’re having a lot of fun doing it. It does your mental health a lot of good to pretend to be Emily Maitlis once a week.

Your birthday absolutely sucked because you spent it in lockdown and you were really sad, all day. That is why it was important for you to treasure your 28th birthday, but, noooo, you didn’t want to listen… I can’t tell you how the next one will be, because it hasn’t happened yet and nobody knows what the British government will do from one day to the next, but I hope it will be better. God willing, I would like to go to Toby Carvery for your next birthday, but we will see what happens with restrictions.

You will write a lot of things that you love this year, but your favourite is a song called Widow, that you released to raise money for Terrence Higgins Trust. You’ll be donating the royalties every year from now on and I can’t wait for the many years of fundraising ahead.

You currently have a duolingo streak of 506 days. You finally opened up and tried to make friends outside of the internet. You’ve written songs that have been played around the world. You went on a date with a girl, on purpose, in public and you didn’t bail on her or insist on it being a secret. You hit a million streams on Spotify. It’s been a much better year than you are expecting, and I’m proud of you.

You spent a lot of the year being confused and scared. Scared of the virus, scared of your secret, but as I write to you, on New Year’s Eve, staring down the barrel of 2022, I am so happy to tell you that the fear has less of a grip on you now.

I don’t know if it will ever go away entirely, but we’re getting closer to living with it, day by day, and for once, I am actually excited to stay up until midnight and say goodbye to a year full of difficult but necessary lessons.

I wish you all the best for 2022, and not just because I have an interest in what happens to you, but because at last, I am ready to accept that you deserve it. You deserve the absolute best, and you’re going to get it.

Love forever,
J x

Posted in Blog, Personal, Writing

The Truth, On National Coming Out Day.

I have known I was a lesbian since I was about ten, and it scared me to death.

Well, I say that, but it was more that I knew I was interested in women, not men, but didn’t know what that really meant since I was about ten. More on why that was in a second.

I grew up in a very progressive household when I lived with my mother, and that is such a blessing and a privilege, but it didn’t make a difference to how I felt about myself and the fears I had. I’m grateful for it, but they couldn’t save me from the world outside.

At school, “promotion of homosexuality” was banned, so I thought something was wrong with me. My family would try to teach me about other types of families and people, but I was being fed homophobia from a school that had no choice but to teach it to us.

(For more on why my school experience was so bad, and the history of homophobia in Kent from our local government, check out this really good article by Kent Live).

My faith is very important to me too, and I imagine that played a part. My relationship with it has changed as I’ve gotten older and felt confident in questioning what I’m told. I firmly believe God would not hate me for feeling love, but that took a long time to understand.

I will probably never be able to marry in a Catholic Church, despite being more of a Catholic than many straight people who have been allowed to. It’s painful to think about but I’m kind of at peace with it.

As I got older, and particularly when I went to university, I discovered that it wasn’t a sickness and that I wasn’t damned to hell, but it has taken literal years to unlearn that fear and self loathing. I spent years trying to be someone else.

I tried to tell someone at that point, but he took it so badly that I decided never to tell anyone else, until now, and only now, because I can no longer live in a prison that he and I built.

Telling my family was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I am so fortunate that my (living) relatives reacted with love. It’s too late to know if my father could have ever accepted it. I have my doubts.

In my mid twenties, I began calling myself bisexual, because it felt a bit safer than telling the truth. Bisexuality is absolutely real and bisexuals are 100% valid, I just wasn’t one of them.

Even after getting over the fear of being sick or damned to hell, I was still afraid of the reality of being a lesbian. I wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted a family. I wanted to be a wife. When I became legally old enough to marry in the UK, it was still illegal for me to marry a woman.

And I mean REALLY marry by the way. Civil partnerships are not the same imo. Labour should have pushed equal marriage through and they failed the LGBT community by not doing so. Come at me Tonty Blair.

I became convinced that I’d have to “put up with a man” to get what I wanted. To be a wife, and more importantly, to be a mother (being married is kind of a required step to have kids as a Catholic lmao). Putting up with a man would be worth it to hold my child in my arms.

The only man that it wasn’t torture to have a sham relationship with. He was kind and patient in a way nobody had ever been, and not being able to love him in the way he loved me is my only regret. I think I did (and still do) love him, in my own way, and he will always mean more to me than he could ever understand.

When I was a teenager, I’d pray every night for it all to go away. I’d stare at boys all day in class and plead with myself to find them attractive. Up until this year, I’d basically force myself into relationships with men to try and make myself like them. It just made me sad.

I would invent reasons to like men. Pretty much anything I’ve ever “found attractive” in a man throughout my life have either been typically feminine traits (a coping mechanism) or made up stuff I’ve projected onto them to find some way to like them.

I am almost thirty years old and I don’t think I have ever truly been in love, because I’ve been masquerading and pretending out of fear or I’ve been in a fleeting connection with a woman that I run away from because I feel like I shouldn’t be with her.

I joke all the time about being emotionally broken but if I’m honest, I really do think that suppressing my real self and bullying myself into the closet over and over out of fear has done legitimate damage to me, and I don’t know what to do about that.

My greatest wish is to find this girl again and tell her that she’s going to be okay.

I eventually came out (properly this time) because of two things. One, I was on a date with a man and he literally said to me “I think you’re a lesbian” and I knew the jig was up. Two, I couldn’t face turning thirty and still being desperately unhappy.

I don’t want to be lonely anymore. I don’t want to feel like I’m constantly chased by a shameful secret. I want the people I love to really know me. I want to find someone to build a real life with instead of settling for a sham marriage. I want to really live.

I don’t say any of this so that people will feel sorry for me, by the way, because it’s one of those things where the damage is done (by myself lmao) and I don’t really need validation, I just want people to understand why we can’t allow future generations to do this.

People ask why LGBT inclusive sex and relationships education needs to happen. People like me are why. You have to let kids know that they’ll be okay. Nobody is saying “teach kids about anal at five years old!” but just let them know it’s okay if they grow up to be gay, so they don’t end up like me.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Personal, Writing

I Love You, But I Have To Go

It’s all falling down.
London Bridge,
and all the things you dreamed of,
as you stared across the river at it.
I love you, but I have to go,
because there’s nothing else I can do,
except mourn you in solitude when I eventually arrive on safer shores, of course,
but for now,
all I can do is pull away my fingertips from your grasping, desperate hand,
tear my eyes from the face I’ve stared at for a lifetime and walk away.

I love you, but I have to go,
because you have to die so that I can live,
and I know you’ll never understand why,
but I love you,
more than my departure suggests, and I know this is best,
but something about the way you wail makes it so hard to hang it all up and go.
The sky is aflame,
we swipe the clouds left and right with warm hands,
but you know that I have to go,
don’t you?

I love you, but I have to go.
I love you, but you have to let me go,
and I’d tell you
“No, I won’t forget you”
but the way you cling to what’s left of me shows that you know I will.
I take one last look at your familiar eyes,
your gaze so defeated under the glassy guard of the Thames,
and my hand hurts without you to hold it,
but the world is aflame,
the sun is sleeping on the ground,
and I love you, but I have to go.

I’ll never know if you were crying,
as you slip further under the surface,
but you had to die,
so I could live,
reborn and free of who I was, with you.
I love you, but I have to go.

Maybe one day,
when it all cools down,
you can come back around,
but for now,
I have to rebuild a new girl for us to be.
I love you, and I’ll come back for you, one day.

Posted in Blog, Personal, Writing

Why Can’t Men Leave Lesbians Alone?

Hello, it’s me, your unfriendly, neighbourhood lesbian.

Blue ticked bitch, besties!

I’d like to start by saying that when I refer to men in this blog post, I am not talking about non binary people. Maybe we won’t be compatible (but maybe we will…), but I have no issue seeing them around because we share experiences and understand each other. I am also not talking about trans men, who, again, might not be a match for me (but again, maybe they would…), but are not a problem in wlw spaces.

I am talking about cis men in wlw spaces.

The audacity to like my profile when you’re not only a cis man, but also a TORY??????

The majority of experiences I have had with cis men in wlw spaces are predatory, with them being creepy and invasive, harassing me and other women who just want to find other women, so the question is, why are dating apps enabling this?

We are not even talking about people who could be considered feminine, and questioning their gender, these are legitimately cis, masculine, heterosexual men who are very comfortable with the idea that they are men. Many of them will openly admit this in their profiles, despite having a profile set as a woman “by mistake”. Some will even have their gender set to “Man”, but will inexplicably be shown to lesbian women, and be allowed to interact with them.

I blame Drake’s new album for this.

I have received abusive, homophobic messages from cis men, including men implying that my sexuality is a result of sexual trauma or child abuse, men implying that they can “fix” my sexuality, men pressuring me to accept their advances, men insisting that I should just try to be with them (I have, and I had a dreadful time) as well as men pleading to see private pictures and videos of me and other women. I have reported these men when I’ve encountered them but nothing has happened, and frankly, they should not have had access to my profile in the first place.

How to lose friends and alienate lesbians…

I used to get some harassment when I was deluding myself that I was bisexual (happy Bi month to my former siblings by the way, thank you for taking care of me over the years), but it was nothing in comparison to the way men have treated me since I began being real about being a lesbian.

This is not just a problem on widely used apps that include cis and straight people like Tinder and Bumble but it is also an issue on apps specifically intended for LGBT women and non binary people interested in women, such as Her and Zoe. If apps specifically made for us are no longer safe, what are we supposed to do?

Cis men on your LGBT+ women exclusive app? It’s more likely than you think…

This might just seem like I’m complaining over a mild inconvenience but this is a major safety issue. Hate crimes against the LGBT community are increasing, not only in the UK but across the world, so having safe spaces where we can communicate and be open about ourselves is important.

LGBT women have faced rising homophobic and transphobic abuse through dating platforms from cis men, along with messages full of fetishisation and fantasies. There have been cis men pretending to be trans men to avoid being banned from LGBT focused apps, only coming clean about being cis when they’ve matched with somebody, which puts real trans men in danger of abuse and harassment. Trans women face harassment from men who sign up purposefully to fetishise them and dehumanise them, but the majority of apps have no interest in stopping this clear abuse of the rules.

I also have no clue what you’re doing here, buddy.

There are some men that I can believe may have made a mistake setting up their profiles (although why they haven’t noticed and started a new profile is beyond me) but there are also many who had a clear motive when setting up profiles that will be shown to lesbians, especially when they do so on apps that are clearly and undeniably for women and non binary people only.

Why do you require a lesbian to do that? Go play dress up by yourself lmao

Women will have profiles deleted for having too much cleavage in a picture, or for using a swear word when responding to harassment, but men specifically setting up profiles to harass women who are clearly uninterested are left to do as they please, and all women can do is complain to each other because the platforms don’t care about our safety or wellbeing.

It’s literally impossible to be straight and bisexual at the same time, my dude.

So, here I am, complaining to women (and probably some men and non binary pals) who read my blog, hoping for change. Part of me knows it won’t happen. In the UK, lesbians are still harassed in the street and online. Women in general are subjected to regular harassment and breaches of our boundaries. The public is turning on the LGBT community, labelling us as “woke” and “loony lefties” because we want equal treatment for our trans family, and so, with all that in mind, do I expect this predatory behaviour to stop? No lmao, I’m just tired. That’s all. I’m exhausted.