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.

Telling my family was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I am so fortunate that my (living) relatives reacted with love. I still don’t know how my father would react, but it’s too late to find out.

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 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, Writing

A Confession, Extracted Under Duress

I told everyone once (several times, actually) that sincerely is how I end my letters but never how I live my life, and it is perhaps the one thing I have never lied about.

One day, you might be happy, but you are not happy now. I want, so desperately to tell you that you are happy when you are twenty one or twenty five, or twenty nine, but it just isn’t true.

You aren’t unhappy because of how your life goes (although I suppose that’s a factor), you are unhappy because you have been lying for almost three decades.

It doesn’t feel like a lie. More of an accident. A terrible mistake that went unresolved for far too long. You said something, and then you kept saying it, for a very long time. Then you said something else, to be a bit more adventurous, but the thrill was short lived because there was someone walking behind you, taking every step that you did, watching the way your mouth melted around every lie, until the rest of you dissolved and there was nothing else, but her.

She is terrifying to you. She looks like you. She dresses like you. She talks like you. She types like you. She orders a McNugget meal and a McFlurry every Thursday night and watches Drag Race, just like you. That is because she is you, I’m afraid, but there is one key difference. She is a…

You have told the truth, entirely, out loud, once. Just once, and that was by accident. You were talking to a friend, and she asked you about dating and you called yourself THAT word. It’s lucky that you were on the phone, because you clasped your hands over your mouth and hot tears began prickling at the corner of your eyes. You didn’t even know why you were crying. It was just a word. Just a label. Just seven letters.

You have typed it into your Twitter biography but I think most of your followers think you are joking. I cannot tell you why that is, because as I am sure you are already aware, you are not funny. You are the straight man, if the straight man was a woman, who wasn’t straight.

You hadn’t told your grandparents yet. As of writing, you still haven’t. You had planned to tell them a few days before that phone call with your friend, at dinner (your family keep making dinner plans with you since the Covid-19 lockdown ended, because the novelty of your company has not worn off yet), but you couldn’t say it. Every time you thought about saying it, your throat got tight. You felt sick. You imagined looks of disgust and pity on their faces. Your grandfather asked if you were seeing anyone. He made a point to keep the question gender neutral. He said “someone” not “him”. You changed the subject without answering the question.

You went home that night and cried yourself to sleep. I still don’t know why. Does it really matter if you say it? Maybe they already know? Maybe they’re fine with it. Maybe if they’re not, you could still just marry a man and have a baby, after all. You never cared for intimacy anyway, so why not just do it? Find the first frog that crosses your path, close your eyes and play Princess.

Please tell them. I am begging you.

Nobody will love you any less, my girl. It doesn’t matter though, because your name is nobody. You despise yourself. You despise the future, and how it wouldn’t be what storybooks and pop singles from the 90’s said it would be.

I don’t know why you can’t say it. Maybe it’s because you’re afraid that it means something more than “I am exclusively available to one group of people.” Maybe it’s because you are frightened to admit that the dating pool getting smaller means that you have even less chance of getting the fairytale ending to life that you want. Maybe it’s that the things you want in life are only the things that you want because they’re easy to obtain? You aren’t the prettiest girl but you’ve had at least one serious marriage proposal, and you threw it away, why? Because he wasn’t a…

Your grandmother pulled you aside that night, at dinner. She can always tell when there’s something stuck in your throat. She asked. You couldn’t look her in the eye, because you knew that if you did, you’d say it. They already thought you were halfway down this path, so what difference does it make if you keep walking and find a rainbow, or whatever?

It makes a difference to you. I wish I could tell you why, but I can’t, because I don’t know. My throat is tight, just now, and I have a feeling that I’m on my way to a screaming headache. I have an unread message from someone who’d like to take me on a date. I am afraid of her. I’ve done this before but it’s never been so final. I always had the get out of jail free card of comp het, and how easy men are to find, and how I’m really just your neighbourhood friendly bisexual with a mild misandrist streak (that is a joke, it turns out you ARE funny, so please, no emails from men), but now I’m…

I went on a date with a man in June. He was several decades older than me, and he told me that one day, he’d love me to live with him in Dundee, and I thought “Yeah, okay, why not?” I like Scotland, and I liked him. Honestly, I did. He thinks I didn’t, but I did. He made me laugh, and I liked that he moved really quickly, because it didn’t give me time to think about why I’d probably be better suited to a…

He knew. A man who had known me for just a few weeks knew. He said it, completely openly as we had drinks and I almost choked to death before spluttering out a denial. I wasn’t a… I definitely wasn’t a… I would definitely not be better suited to a…

I HAVE NEVER SUCCESSFULLY PLAYED GOLF!

I suppose I should have reacted with something other than childlike distress at the mere mention of sex, if I wanted to pass as a friend of Thatcher. As it all turns out, my dead eyed, dissociative drama show is harder to replicate over text message. I’m not normally there, when a man is, you see. I go to this place. There’s nobody there but me. I play guitar in a meadow, or I walk along an empty beach. I play him a record of sighs and screams and I just wait behind the scenes for him to fall asleep, then I normally cry in a bathroom because I feel invaded, and it isn’t his fault, because I did say yes, but I’m too hysterical to swallow the blame myself.

They always say I’m so tight but they never wonder why that is. I am not sixteen anymore. I suppose if I know why that’s a problem, I should be in good order when it comes to handling…

I actually wouldn’t. My first girlfriend was a heterosexual who had the hump with her fella, and wanted to make him jealous, and the second was sweet but even more repressed than I am, so we just sort of held hands in a wardrobe for a few months, and then she had the audacity to die (one day, we will write something about how self centred you are, but one thing at a time), so I am right back where I started. Starry eyed and scared of how quickly I can lose “it”. Wishing I was sixteen again, so I wouldn’t have the stigma of being SUCH a late bloomer.

You have watched the episode of The Simpsons where Patty gets married a million times. It has become comforting, because you know that even though it’s possible that someone who loves you will stop as soon as they see the truth, they’ll always come around by the end of the episode. Your life is not an animated television show, my girl. You are not less of a bein’, and maybe everything will work out well, or maybe it won’t, but either way, you are being followed by THAT girl, and THAT secret, so close to being spilled, and the pain is immeasurable.

Your grandparents are some of God’s better people, and they taught your mother to be kind, which was passed to you, in utero and on the outside too, so what are you so afraid of? They’re used to you being dramatic, so if it all goes wrong, we’ll pretend it was an improvised monologue, like the first time you told a girl that you loved her, at eleven years old (you have spent years pretending that she was a boy when you tell that story, it makes her look of horror a little less harrowing), and then we will marry a man, with a job and a car and a high sperm count, and hopefully he’ll have an affair and leave me the fuck alone, and I’ll write a record about it and get custody of the kids, and they’ll all hate him, so he’ll never come to visit and I will never be invaded again.

The phone is ringing as I write this last part. I secretly hope I hear my grandma on the answering machine, so I can mumble something about how it wasn’t important, and I’ll call her back later. Either way, whether she answers or the machine does, we all know I won’t be able to tell her, out loud, on purpose, that I am…

I am a….

Well, you know.

Posted in Blog, Personal, Writing

Should people stop coming out?

Happy Pride Month! I know, it’s a bit of a bleak one, this year, due to Coronavirus cancelling all our plans, but despite the lack of parades, events and gatherings for the community, this pride month can still be a time to celebrate ourselves, and the steps our community has taken over the years, whether it’s on your own, or on a zoom call. One of the things that I’ve been thinking about recently, is the act of coming out, and what it means in the modern world. There is a lot of debate about it, from within and outside the LGBT+ community, with some believing it is still an important part of a person’s journey, and some believing it no longer matters. I think it matters, and I want to explain why.

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Recently, TV presenter Phillip Schofield used an episode of This Morning to announce that he was coming out as gay. It was emotional, with Phillip, and many of the nation watching at home crying, and it was a powerful message to closeted LGBT+ people that it is never too late to be true to yourself. However, some people were not moved by the moment. There were many responses stating that he was selfish, for having married and started a family before coming out, for example, which ignores the reality that the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, in 1967 was not the end of discrimination for gay men, due to stigma continuing for decades.

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It hurts to have built a relationship with someone, to then discover that they didn’t and couldn’t love you the way you loved them. One of my earliest relationships was with a gay man. I had no idea, but looking back, the signs were kind of obvious. Our relationship was almost entirely platonic, just with a fancy “in a relationship” facebook label. We never had sex, in fact, he never once even discussed it, or attempted it. When he kissed me, it was gentle and sweet, but entirely without passion. When he came out to me, a part of me was hurt, because I knew that he loved me, just not in the same way I had loved him, but I understood why. His parents were homophobic. He was frightened of being kicked out of his house, or abandoned, and so, he found a girlfriend. I was hurt that our relationship was essentially built on a lie, a little humiliated, because it turns out, most people around me could see that pretty clearly, but I knew that he hadn’t done it deliberately to hurt me. I imagine Phillip Schofield was in a similar situation, because for all the changes made by society, there has always been, and probably always will be stigma against LGBT+ people. By the time he was an adult, homosexuality was legalised in the UK, but there were still huge amounts of discrimination in British society, so it wasn’t (and to be honest, still isn’t) so easy to just come out, and be done with it. I sympathise with his wife and family, but I sympathise with him too.

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Other complaints were essentially “Who cares, lots of people are gay, why does it need to be a big deal?” and honestly, this is a complaint I have only ever really seen from straight or cis people. Coming out doesn’t have to be a big deal. It doesn’t have to happen, if a person doesn’t want, but for a lot of people, it is a cathartic and essential declaration of who they are. Yes, to a straight or cis person, seeing another celebrity come out, or seeing a viral coming out video from a member of the public might make it seem like this is just a normal, run of the mill thing, that all us rainbow bitches are doing, on an almost daily basis, but the reality is, the act of coming out publicly, is the end of a long road of self discovery, and acceptance. Most people come out to themselves, a long time before they tell anyone else, and that in itself is a hard road to walk down, so when a person reaches the point, where they feel comfortable inviting others on that journey, being met with responses  like “Who cares?” or “We always knew!” can be very hurtful. Yes, maybe you did always know, or maybe you don’t care, but the person opening up has probably had a long road to finding out who they are, and this is something that matters to them. It costs you nothing to keep your cynical comments to yourself.

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Coming out is a route to defining who you are, and what that means for you, on your own terms, and is by no means the end of an LGBT+ persons journey, but an important milestone, that they have every right to celebrate. It doesn’t matter if you already know lots of LGBT+ people, or if you think that society should move on from LGBT+ people being seen as different. You don’t know this particular LGBT+ person, because them coming out, is you meeting them, as they truly are, for the very first time, and it isn’t much to ask to just let them have their moment. You don’t even have to participate, you just have to not be rude or dismissive about it, really.

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A lot of people will make the argument that coming out is redundant, because being LGBT+ is normal, or that we are just like straight and cis people, but that isn’t really true. LGBT+ hate crime has risen over the years, with homophobia, biphobia and transphobia still being consistent issues. When was the last time you saw someone being murdered because they were straight, or harassed in the street for being cis? I’m not trying to sound angry here, but, well, I am angry, because telling us that we are accepted is dismissive, when there is still open discrimination against LGBT+ people. If we are just like straight and cis people, where does the discrimination come from? You might personally have no problem with LGBT+ people, and that’s lovely, but evidently, a lot of people still do.

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There are some who are never able to come out. Living their lives in isolation, or living them without the honesty that they deserve to have, out of fear, both in the past, and now, in the modern world. Annual pride parades, brands covering themselves in rainbows every June, and LGBT+ representation may give non LGBT+ people the idea that everyone is accepting, but everyone’s personal circumstances are different. People’s environments can effect whether they feel safe to be open about who they are, and for some, the open joy of pride month is just a bitter reminder of a life they will never get to fully enjoy. Sometimes, I feel those of us that are out take our openness for granted. Once you’re out, and living your life as you want to, it can be easy to forget how you got there, and even harder to imagine how difficult it would be with even more obstacles.

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There are also some who come out, to seemingly deaf ears. This is a problem that is often faced by us bisexuals, and can be demonstrated by looking at one of the most famous bisexuals on the planet, Lady GaGa. Lady GaGa has been open about her bisexuality since the beginning of her career, and has essentially come out, multiple times, as every time she discusses it, it is met with a lot of doubt. People doubt her bisexuality constantly, she is constantly labelled as an ally to the LGBT+ community, and rarely recognised as a part of it. Her years of activism, openness about her sexuality, and frankly, very obvious lyrics about her bisexuality are ignored, because people invalidate her at every turn. Bisexuality in particular seems to be difficult for many to understand, with assumptions such as it being a phase that takes you to either heterosexuality or homosexuality, or that if a bisexual person doesn’t openly and loudly date all kinds of people, they are not in fact bisexual. Coming out, allows us to define ourselves. In some cases, it has to be done repeatedly, due to people doubting that we know ourselves best, but it is still an act of power that allows us to openly state who we are. The invalidation of people like Lady GaGa often comes from a lack of understanding. Despite bisexuals having always existed, we are very misunderstood (don’t get me started on the constant invasive and incorrect assumptions about threesomes, my alleged lack of fidelity and whether or not I hate trans people). It might not seem as complicated when it is your lived experience, but to people who have never experienced bisexuality, it might be hard to understand, so, I would argue, that more bisexual people coming out, or talking about who they are, will increase that understanding, break down harmful stereotypes, and minimise things like this in the future. The same can be said for all parts of the LGBT+community, especially, in current circumstances, the trans community. There is a lot of confusion around trans people from outside of the LGBT+ community (and even inside it, if we’re being honest), which leads to difficult experiences for trans people, and also leads to discrimination. Allowing trans people the space to discuss and define who they are, on their terms, once again, increases public awareness, and has more of a chance of lowering discrimination, than just pretending there is no discrimination.

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Coming out is not only an act of expression for yourself, but a way to connect with a community of people that know your experience, and can support you in the next steps of your journey. It can also be a message to people who are a few steps behind, as was the case with Phillip Schofield, and other high profile LGBT+ people. Yes, to a straight or cis person, it’s just another celebrity, coming out, but to a person who is afraid to be themselves, it is a message that they are not alone, and at a time like this, there is no more important message for the LGBT+ community (both open and closeted) to hear.