Sunday, 29 January 2012

How did we get here? Our coming out stories...


S:
I am extremely lucky to be able to say that in all the times I have come out to friends, family and colleagues, I have never really had a bad response from anyone.
In fact, the person who struggled with the fact I was a lesbian the most, was myself.

Like most young girls, I had female celeb idols who I wanted to look like, but when I was 9, I was fascinated by a female singer whose music videos I watched on tv. I didn't want to look like her, but I thought she was amazing.
I was a really girly child-I loved princesses, barbie, going clothes shopping with my mum, and trying out hairstyles with my friends. I was however, quite adamant about the fact that girls were much better than boys, and loved proving it at any opportunity. In primary school, my view of boys being the inferior species was a popular one-most little girls think boys are horrible, smelly creatures!

When I got to high school, my classmates no longer had this view, and my complete disinterest in boys, along with the realisation I had when i was 13/14 that yep, I was a lesbian, made me feel completely alienated, alone, and misunderstood.
I had two friends who were gay boys, and both quite feminine, which although I finally knew someone else who was gay, they did nothing for my view that gay men were girly, and gay women were masculine.
I suffered quite badly from depression aged 14-19, and instead of finding comfort and acceptance from gay youth groups and forums like other gay teens, I found them promiscuous and stereotypical, and fiercely resented them for reinforcing my view that i didn't fit in with gay teenagers any more than I fitted in with straight teenagers. I did not know any other gay people, and my parents, my dad especially, were quite vocal in their disapproval of homosexuality.
My unintentionally naive view of a lesbian, from childhood to about 13ish, was a woman that wanted to look/act like a man. That was definitely not me. I did always know I liked girls though, I just got the idea it was something I shouldn't mention, and instead try to ignore.
When I was about 14, my favourite show featured a femme lesbian couple amongst it's main characters. It was definitely a revelation to me to see someone who represented two aspects of myself that i never knew could go together before. That's what I was, I thought - it turns out 'lesbian' did describe me after all, but I still wasn't comfortable with the description.

When I left school, I had a bizarre, almost double life. Some of my friends knew I was gay, and I had my first girlfriend, a tomboy who was as unsuitable for me as I was for her. I also had a job in a high-end fashion store, which went hand in hand with my love of clothes, hair, makeup, shopping etc.
My family most likely gathered I was gay during this time, but never said-we just didn't discuss that type of thing (i remember my dad being horrified when age 14, i knew how a baby was conceived!)

After 18months, I split up with my girlfriend, and met L. It sounds cliche but on our first date, I knew she was the one. She was feminine, intelligent, generous, beautiful, funny, and the most interesting person I have ever met. She also had red hair-just like the girl in the music video I'd loved for 10 years (years later, L took me to see the music video girl in concert!)
We became a couple exactly 2wks later, and on my 20th birthday, I 'came out' to my family.  i use quotation marks as I never had the coming out experience of announcing I was gay. I don't even know if I actually mentioned at this point that L was my girlfriend, but we certainly didn't hide any physical affection, including quick kisses, and made it pretty obvious, if they hadn't guessed already!
I was 'alternative', liked rock music, my friends and I were very much 'free spirits', and I didn't feel I had to explain myself to anyone. I wasn't asking for acceptance for my sexuality, I just wasn't hiding it anymore (my favourite shows all featured lesbians, and my walls featured posters of Shirley Manson, Brody Dalle, etc - I never really did a good job of hiding,nor did I try to!)
 I had no reaction really, my dad left the room and stood alone in the garden until his sister talked him round, but I think after my first miserable relationship, my family was just glad to see me with someone who made me happy.

L is now very much part of my family, in fact she gets on with my mum better than I do! I've changed jobs a lot, and although sometimes i've been too scared of younger, openly prejudiced colleagues reactions, most of the time I have been open about my sexuality. I've had a few silly comments such as straight girls asking 'so, do you fancy me then?' and when we got engaged a lot of people asked if we'd both wear dresses, but unless its been behind my back, I've never had negative comments.

At the age of 27, it's only been in the past few years that I've stopped seeing the word 'lesbian' as an insult. Its not the first word I would use to describe myself,but I'm very comfortable with it being a part of who I am.
I have realised how important positive gay role models in the media are-after all, it was a music video that showed me the first woman I was attracted to, and a tv show that showed me you can be girly and gay. I also realised that the thing that makes coming out easiest, is comfort in your own skin, and pride in who you are. L, and my relationship with her has given me more pride than anything else ever has, and the possibility of gaining a negative reaction would never cause me to disrespect our relationship, or myself, by hiding it.


L:
It's weird isn't it, growing up as a gay child / teenager, because you always know that you just don't quite fit in, but you can never put your finger on why. As a child I was a popular, happy, pretty little thing who loved ballet more than life itself. I had a million friends and we spent our weekends making up elaborate plays and dances, singing our hearts out to our latest favourite song, and dressing up and playing make believe. My naivety ended as High School began. Thrust into the more adult world of school, where girls and boys were expected to kiss each other and hold hands, and the girls I was friends with began to discuss which boy was the "fittest" and the "best snog", I spent hours wondering why I didn't feel the same towards boys. I pretended to, I became good at that, but instead i threw myself into my school work, and every dance and drama group going. It was here that I first found myself with a great big crush on a girl. Although, at the time, I had no idea what was going on, just that she was the most beautiful and talented girl I had ever seen, and I was desperate for her to notice me. She didn't.

These crushes continued through high school, cleverly disguising themselves as admiration for girls who were super clever, talented or just plain lovely. I just assumed all girls felt like this, and left it at that. Until I was 15 that was, and hormones kicked in, and it hit me like a thunder bolt that when I was watching romantic films, I imagined I was the boy, being kissed by the girl. Women seemed to be on my mind all the time, and they were BEAUTIFUL!!

Being close to my mum, I told her... "Mum, I'm bisexual, I'm in love with the blonde lady in Casualty". Her response... "of course you are dear, it's perfectly normal, we all think we fancy women at some point in our lives, but it's just a phase so don't mention it again and forget about it now." That was news I wanted to hear, I'm still normal after all, phew. I thought it best not to mention it to my friends at school, cos like Mum said, it's just a phase, and besides, they were all learning how to give blow jobs and I didn't even know what one was.

At 16 my best friend told me he was gay and that he'd slept with a boy at the weekend. Him telling me this catapulted me into the realisation that I was not alone. Oh my god. And this seemed to be the catalyst to my realisation that yes, I was gay too. I could keep pretending to like the errrm fit boy in my year, or I could just admit to myself that it was ladies I'd liked all along.

Next, my parents found out. How? Well quite simply they read my diary. I could hear them discussing it one day, and decided to confirm it for them, so left them a letter on the kitchen table and went to my cousin's house (why on earth did I think that was a good idea?!) They weren't happy at all, they blamed my best friend, they blamed my other friends, they blamed the TV I'd been watching (Bad Girls anyone?!), they blamed my cousin for liking football (wtf?!), and didn't speak to me for about two months.

During this time I became quite political, and quite vocal about my sexuality. I was so proud of who I was, and I wanted the world to know about it, and that it was OK to be gay. So I went on many marches, I joined gay youth groups, I became an addict on gay youth forums, and started talking to other teens who were having trouble with their sexuality. This new found sense of self was liberating and exciting and I enjoyed being me, finally.

This all changed when I won a scholarship to a private boarding school for my sixth form. One minute I was out and proud, and the next I was expected to take one huge step back into the closet. My parents had warned me that they would kick me out if anyone found out I was gay, and that if this happened my dreams of being a doctor would be scuppered. I worked so damn hard to keep that closet door shut that I didn't make a single friend while I was there. It was a desperately lonely, heart breaking time of my life in which I nearly lost my sanity. But at least I got my A levels eh?!

So fast forward 2 years and I was at Uni, studying medicine. I had slowly started to re-build the confidence in myself that had been destroyed during sixth form, and I began to find myself again. Meeting S was another revelation, she was a beautiful, feminine, funny and inspiring woman who seemed to make my heart complete. She really gave me the confidence to trust myself, to believe that I was worthy of being me, just me, and that yes, I could be girly and feminine, and I could also be gay. Meeting her also gave me the confidence to assess my life and the happiness that I was getting from it. I wasn't happy studying medicine. Honestly, I'd never wanted to be a doctor, but I was capable of it, so had gone down the path people had drawn for me.

It was during an inspiring conversation with her that I decided to go into midwifery instead. So I applied and was accepted (god knows how cos I didn't have a clue what midwives did!) But she gave me the confidence to believe that I was worthy of happiness, and that my self -worth did not have to come from others around me. I love my job because, quite simply, it's about women. Women who have the ability to do something so beautiful and incredible, yet often need someone they can trust by their side, who empowers them to believe they can do anything, even produce a whole tiny baby! Qualifying as a midwife made my journey complete. I had been empowered by the girl of my dreams to follow my hearts desire and find myself, and in turn it means I can work with women to empower them to believe in themselves, to give them the confidence in their abilities not just as mothers, but as women.

I often think about my time at boarding school, it was the lowest point of my life, and wish that I could reach to that person, hold it really tight and say "it's ok, it gets better" cos it really really does. I never dreamed I would find the depth of happiness that my love and life brings. And I never dreamed of being so at peace with who I am that I will happily tell anyone that listens about my love for S, I am so proud of who I am because of her, and the relationship we have, that from the moment I met her I have never been afraid of coming out, through Uni, work placements, work, friends, family and anyone else who will listen knows about us now!



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad



4 comments:

  1. Wow girls, these are so inspiring!!

    We always find it fascinating to read other couples' stories, and it's amazing how many similarities we've found to ourselves - on our side, neither of us were 'out' as teens, but reading your comments, we can relate - liking girls on TV (Sarah loved Shannon from Home & Away)- reaction-wise Sarah's parents are much more like L's (including the threats 'if anyone finds out') and mine are more like S's!

    Your story is where we hope to be in the future!

    Laura (& Sarah) xo
    sprezzaturaourway.blogspot.com

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  2. Thank you for the super lovely comment ladies :) I hope your parents come round to your relationship, and realise that you two are each others family now-it would be such a shame if they missed out on important moments in your life.
    S xx

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  3. Great Post :)))) I love hearing other people's coming out stories.....
    I can imagine how lonely it felt having to go back in the closet in sixth form. I did the same when I started UNi. I went to Durham UNi and it was so heterosexual - that I felt I had to go back in the closet.... It was awful :((( xx

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  4. Inspiring post and we are loving your blog! Thank you for sharing, We always enjoy reading coming out stories. xoxo

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Thank you so much for commenting, we love hearing others experiences, or just if you liked the post!