I guess it was somewhere around my mid-late teens when an unusual amount of my friends started coming out and they kept asking when I was going to come out of the closet. I realized it in 2007 when I finally admitted to myself that I was, and had been, in love with my best friend. I was 22 years old. I didn't really want to admit it when I first told someone it was more like word vomit when "Jac", my best friend, asked me why I acting so weird around her. Many drinks had been had that night and it just came out. This was probably about 4 months after she started dating my other best friend (oh joy). lol. Then, I told my cousin who's a lesbian and some other friends. I decided to tell my cousin because she'd come out to our family already and I needed some info as to how to go about telling them as well and whether or not I should wait to tell my mother, who was pregnant at the time; I didn't come out to her until the following spring after my sister was born.
I thought people would be surprised, I didn't think they'd expect it. I also expected some tears, a little disbelief and maybe some anger. I expected my mom to start "shrinking" me, i.e. blaming it on sexual abuse in my past and as expected she did cry and did blame it on my past but she's learning to deal. She still doesn't think this is the "true me" and that I will come to my senses. However, a lot of people weren't as surprised as I expected them to be. For example, one of my cousin's said it was "about effin time." My friends just took it in, didn't really say much besides telling me it was ok. The only negative thing I had happen with a friend, well, with one of my roommates is that she quit talking to me for the most part and moved out shortly after. She never said why but I think my sexuality had a lot to do with it. We're on civil terms but we aren't as close as we used to be. We don't make a point to hang out anymore and she doesn't usually contact me unless she has an immigration question. It's sad but it's just how it is.
My family members here, in the US, know about me dating women. I didn't come out to each one of them but I do bring my girlfriend to family events. Since I have a cousin that's openly lesbian, it's not much of a big deal unless my aunt and mom (who are both quite religious) start up on how we’re not on a godly path. We try to avoid those conversations though. Then there's my family in Mexico, I have an aunt and a cousin that know because they came and visited us this summer but besides that, I haven't made a point to tell them.
As for my father's side of the family, I haven't told him nor am I close with his family so they don't know either. I don't think they'd take it very well though because a lot of them are Jehova's Witnesses.
I don’t think we ever really stop coming out unless we're in a position where people would automatically assume we're gay. For example, I don't feel like I have to come out when I'm in my role as a member of the Human Rights Campaign-Kansas City because people usually know that this is an LGBT rights organization. So, people assume I'm queer. On the other hand, when I'm organizing on immigration issues, I do make it a point to come out because being part of the LGBT community puts me in an interesting category when it comes to immigration. I'm also not one to hide my affection for my partner if I'm dating so, if I meet new people I do feel they need to know so they won't be surprised. Living in the Midwest we have a lot of conservative Evangelicals running around here so, you never really know what kind of reaction you're going to get when you come out...that keeps it interesting.
Despite that, I wouldn't say that I've been discriminated against but I've had close friends that have been. I think that because I'm more femme, people either don't expect that I'm queer or don't believe I'm "gay enough" when they do know I'm queer. I guess you could say that "I pass" very easily so I don't receive that much discrimination although, I was flipped off by a lady once when we were having a demonstration for pro-gay marriage. Also, I think I face the most challenges when discussing religious matters with my mother and aunt because they don't think I'm really queer or they think that if I turn my life to God then it'll go away.
I don't think I ever realized I was a lesbian until I was about 18 or 19. I just always knew I didn't like boys when I was younger. I never dated in high school and to this day have never dated a man. When I was an older teenager about 16 or 18 I was always drawn to girls but it never occurred to me that I was a lesbian because that is completely unacceptable where I'm from. I am from Alabama. If Alabama is in the Bible belt then my home town, Cullman, is the belt buckle. I went to college in north east Tennessee 5 hours away from where I grew up. It was there, being completely unknown, I was able to start over my life and find the real me. I acquired a random eclectic group of friends who were straight, lesbian, bi and I realized the reason I didn't like boys, was because I liked girls. But I never actually came out in college cause I was still afraid so when people asked me about my sexuality I always said ‘ya love who ya love’...
I definitely looked up to my friends who were already out and the TV show the L word really opened my eyes when I was younger to a whole different world I just really wanted to be out like them. Dana really hit close to home because she was always struggling with her out-ness.
I eventually came out to my friends at the time when I was about 21, I waited about 4 years because I am quite a shy private person and I was scared of people’s reactions and even now it depends on the friends. I was 23 when I first came out to my sister, she was about 19 and I drew her a picture in crayon of me holding hands with a girl and a big rainbow with a rainbow flag in the background and wrote "yep I'm gay" on it. It was funny. I didn’t come out to my mom until a year after that. At the time my girlfriend and I were living in an apartment together and the lease was about to run out. We hadn't found a place to live and my mom said we could stay with her...but my girlfriend of 6 months said she wouldn’t move in with my mom unless I told her I was gay so we invited mom over for dinner. We had a nice dinner and we were playing yahtzee and talking. I decided to test the waters by saying how awesome mom had been about my sister getting pregnant and not being married. Mom just said ‘well I love you girls no matter what’. So I thought, here's my chance...a couple of minutes passed, I gathered my courage and when everyone was silent I yelled out (really yelled) ‘MOM I"M GAY!’. She said ‘well honey I kinda figured it’s ok I love you no matter what’. I then proceeded to freak the hell out saying how she must really hate me and how I'm a big disappointment. My girlfriend was sitting on the other side of the room thinking what the fuck is wrong with you because I'm flipping out and my mom is cool with it. I finally calmed down but when mom started to head home I flipped out more and she just hugged me saying over and over that it's ok. I was crying but she was fine with it. My mom also told my girlfriend that she knew we were dating the whole time and that she loved her and hugged her too then when my mom got to her house she called me and told me again that she loved me and could never be disappointed in me.
Although my mom was fine with it and accepted me for who I am, I have yet to tell my dad, his wife and the rest of his family. I’m pretty sure they would flip out, especially my dad. My relationship with him and my stepmom has been rocky. When I was in college we weren't on the best of terms and I have always been terrified they would keep my now 14 year old brother and 11 year old sister from seeing me if I told them I was gay. However, I think they have always known. About a year ago my stepmom was talking to my 22 year old sister and asked her if I was gay. My sister told her to ask me. Then my stepmom said she doesn't know why I won’t just tell them cause they already know and it doesn’t matter but I am still scared. I am terrified but at the same time I am sick of hiding and it's so stressful and it sucks not to be able to talk about my life in general or my girlfriend. Now it's gotten to the point that if someone would just ask I’d come clean but I just don’t know how to start the conversation.
I also haven’t come out to anyone at work for fear of losing my job. I am a certified athletic trainer and am the person that takes care of the medical aspects of sports teams such as the recognition and assessment of injuries. I work closely with all of the varsity and junior varsity sports teams at some schools and I'm there every day at practices and games for anything medical related that they need. At the high schools 99% of the kids are born and raised here and have never been exposed to much and the same goes for their parents As being gay is not openly accepted where I live parents wouldn't want someone like me touching their kids, even though it's in a professional manner when I am assessing his or her injury or illness. I am constantly afraid of a parent finding out I am gay and then causing a big scene or something.
There is such a stereotypical view of lesbians in the media and in the town where I’m from. You'll hear the occasional "butch" lesbian joke or about straight guys lovin the "femme" girls but it's not just butch and femme there are so many other types of us out there. So many people hear the term lesbian and think of a flannel wearing, mullet havin, lumberjack lesbian with 30 cats. Yes I like flannel, no I don’t have a mullet, I'm not a lumberjack and I only have 2 cats but I have a dog too. People still tend to think of lesbians in that way, they don’t realize that the girl next door can be a lesbian too.
Being closeted to a lot of people is very stressful it's hard to deal with sometimes. I told my friends first because most of them were gay and I knew they would obviously be okay with it. My sister and I are quite close and she is the most progressive of the family but I only told my mom because my girlfriend made me but honestly, I’m glad she did as it does make me feel better knowing that my mom is okay with it and accepts me for who I am.
I never really knew I was bisexual until I started talking to my friend about how he was a girl (on the inside) and how great it would be to be a girl, not a guy. He also started talking about how if he ever became a girl, he’d have a girlfriend. So then he’d technically be a lesbian. This was the first time I ever talked to anyone about sexuality, being gay or lesbian or bisexual, when I heard how he would still feel attracted to girls even if he were a girl, that it would feel right to him. I thought that was really interesting and my curiosity got the better of me, so I kept asking him questions about it. When I did, I started remembering something similar to what he was telling me back in my childhood. I started to remember how I used to chase after guys and girls, wanting to kiss them (I ended up kissing them, too, haha). But a recess teacher caught me stealing a kiss from a girl and sent me to the principal’s office. I didn’t know it was a bad thing, I just knew I liked boys and girls. This happened in 1st grade. I’ve felt attracted to guys and girls throughout the years, but whenever I felt like I was going to like a girl, I told myself to stop and not think about it because I’ll get into trouble again. When I kept thinking about it, I realized what I might be, so I told my friend that I thought I was Bisexual. He got interested and asked me why I thought so and I told him why and asked him if that meant I was or not. He said it sounded like it and that I shouldn’t feel bad about being Bisexual. I didn’t feel bad, I just felt relieved that I knew why I liked girls and guys and that it had a name. But I didn’t completely accept the fact yet, I wanted to see if I still felt that way or not, and of course, I still did, I just felt better that it was ok to feel that way now.
Whenever I saw a woman on a commercial I would find her extremely attractive and wish I had someone like her. At first I thought it was weird to think that, because boys normally feel that way, don’t they? Then at school, when a girl wearing a short skirt was walking past me, I caught myself staring at their legs, how beautiful they were and kind of imagining what the rest of her looked like. Letting these feelings out again freaked me out a bit but I also felt good feeling that way again, so I just let myself feel how I would naturally feel. After a few months I was convinced I was bisexual. I was 16 years old when I realized and I felt awesome. But I also felt bad because I didn’t tell everybody I was bisexual, I felt like a liar.
When I got back to school again in the fall, my feelings for guys and girls got stronger. Whenever a guy friend would say something about a girl, like if she was hot or something like that, I would get the urge to also say what I thought of her or to agree with them. My best friend would say whenever a guy passed by, that he had pretty hair or looked cute. I would agree with her and whenever an attractive girl would walk by I would get the urge to tell her that she looked hot or that she had amazing legs (haha, if you haven’t guessed already, I find the most attractive part of a girl is her legs), but I would say nothing so I wouldn’t freak her out. I got tired of hiding my feelings and lying about them, too, so I decided to come out.
I had 2 role models. The first one was my friend that began talking to me about sexuality. If he never told me about his situation or about bisexuals, gays, and lesbians, I might not have realized I was bisexual sooner. He also encouraged me to come out once I was ready. My second role model is a guy I had known since elementary school (not well, I just knew who he was and see him every once in a while around school.). He posted a note on facebook telling everyone that he was gay he just decided to come out then and there. I thought he titled his note nicely too, ‘Secrets That Starve’, or something like that. He gave me that boost I needed to say something. Once I did come out, I emailed him and thanked him for inspiring me to do so. If he hadn’t come out at that time, I would have taken longer to come out or might not have come out at all.
The first person I told face to face, was my friend that helped me realize who I was. I love him very much and am very grateful to him for helping me understand myself a bit better. The second person I told, well, haha that was an accident. My guy friend was talking about pretty girls and said something about what made them pretty. I agreed with him and he got confused and asked if I was a lesbian. I laughed and said no, I was bi. By then it was too late and I freaked out, but he was just speechless, which made me even more scared. I told him not to tell, and he promised not to, which I am also grateful for. He and my other friend supported me a lot in coming out. The third person I decided to tell was my best friend; she had the right to know before I told anyone else. I also felt bad that I was keeping this from her, so I told her the next day at school. When I told her, she said she was ok with it and that I was still her best friend, her BB. I also told a few other friends that day, too, just my close friends.
After that, I basically told everyone. I just used facebook and said that I was bi and that was it. Not the best way, but it was the fastest way and I knew a lot of people would read it. I didn’t want to go to each individual person and say “Hi, what’s up? Oh, by the way, I’m bi.” And if I did tell them in person, they’d each ask why and how did I know and I would have had to explain to each of them individually. I don’t mind saying it, but I just don’t want to say it over and over again. I checked facebook to see what people said and nobody said anything about it. I got confused and re-updated my status, and then people said it was ok, that they were happy for me that I came out of the closet. They said they would still like me as me; I was still the Andrea they knew.
After that I decided to tell my mom, since she should know too. She just said that she sort of knew all along and that I was still Andrea, her daughter. My dad, well, I didn’t know how to tell him, I knew he was reaaaaaaally against gay people and said that it was sick and disgusting and sinful. But my mom told him without telling me that she did, but he just kept treating me like he normally does. I’m not sure if my aunts and uncles know, though if they found out they’d make a big deal about it and start spreading rumors or saying bad things about me and my parents. My mom might have told them, maybe not, being gay/lesbian/bisexual isn’t a good thing, especially if you’re catholic.
To be honest I was expecting a big “YOU ARE WHAT?!?!?!” but all I got was an “oh, okay, that’s cool.” Haha, I’m sort of grateful that everyone accepted me as me, but I kind of wanted them to be more surprised. I haven’t come out to any of my teachers though, haha, but that would be weird and random to just come up to a teacher and tell them you’re bisexual. It would be like telling them that you have an extra toe or something similar to that. I would only tell a person if we were friends or if they asked or if they needed to know.
I think society kind of had an effect on my decision to come out. I didn’t want to lie and hide myself anymore; I wanted to act how I wanted to act without being afraid of getting into trouble for it (well, not as much). Besides, I was aware of there being gay/bi/lesbian people coming out and finally being able to express who they really were. I wanted to feel better and at peace by not having to stress out all the time by hiding what I felt. I didn’t want to be bi because it was cool and it was a new thing happening, I didn’t even choose to be bi, I just felt those emotions (or maybe I just developed them, I don’t know, I am what I am.).
I don’t have any gay/bisexual/lesbian friends, only the friend who wants to be a girl, but he lives 4 hours away and I only talk to him over msn messenger. All of my friends are straight. It’s ok, but it would be nice to have a friend close enough that was lesbian or gay or bisexual so I could talk to them in person about what I am feeling, things that I can’t talk to straight people about because they don’t understand how I feel. It makes me sad, but I’m determined to find someone who I can identify with who understands what it’s like to like girls as well as guys.
It was sort of a weird discovery for me. It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school when I was fourteen, my first day of school I encountered my first gay person. She was the first person I could tell, however I didn’t just blurt it out. It took me a while to realize that the reason I looked at girls differently and was attracted to that girl I saw in the hall way was because I liked girls. It was not long after that that I told my new gay best friend and other new friends that were also gay. It was a relief to know that they would accept me. At school it wasn’t a big deal to me or anyone really.
However, outside of school it was a huge deal to me especially because I am Hispanic and my culture does not at all accept gays and lesbians. At that time, I was deeply religious and I tried to convince myself that I should not approach that girl I found so attractive and keep myself bottled up. Fortunately the feeling passed and I accepted that I like girls and there was nothing wrong.
A few months later I was going out with someone and found myself happy to be out. However, it all went downhill. Around 6 months later a teacher saw us arguing in the hallway and reported it to the vice principal, we were called out of class and they asked if I wanted to press charges but I didn’t. They had to legally inform my parents and they told them that my girlfriend was 5 years older than I and that she was manhandling me. My parents did not press charges but they did open an investigation to try to put her in jail. Till this day I still do not know exactly what they did.
So, my parents went crazy because of that, they forbade me to see her again and they tried to get me counseling. I then had to sneak around with her and I was even suspended for a few days because the police officer saw me holding her hand. My parents didn’t mind, they believed that would help me. My mom transferred me to another school however, I kept seeing the same girl for almost two years. My mom pretty much knew that I saw her (well I think) but she’d rather pretend everything was perfect.
After all that was done I dated a guy, I had never dated one before and he was very persistent even though he knew I dated girls. I was 16 by this point and we went out for a short time. Later on I tried to talk to my parents about having a girlfriend and they tried to brush it off once again.
After a while they would drop me off at my girlfriend’s house but we were still not talking freely about it, by this time I was 17. Soon, my mom wanted to meet my girlfriend, and she did, but it was only to know who she was. She then continued to ignore the fact I went to her house all the time. We broke up after a while.
I think the media plays a huge role in the way people judge all gays and lesbians. TV shows like The L word make people think that all lesbians are swingers of some kind. It would probably make it much easier for me if high profile people came out, yet not completely. Now I’m 19 and the only members of my family that know are my parents and two younger cousins, but because they are young they do not judge me. I don’t believe anyone else in my family will be accepting and I don’t want to come out to them until I feel it is time. I believe that my parents’ ignorance has to do with our heritage because although they know some gay people and may see some gay people in the media they still do not understand what it’s like for me to be gay.
I was 14 when I first thought I might be a lesbian. I was in the 8th grade and had a HUGE crush on my best friend. She’s absolutely gorgeous and I all I wanted was for her to pay more attention to me, when we hugged or when she touched my arm. I really, really just wanted to hold her.
I began telling people a few months after I realized that it wasn’t just some random thing. I wasn’t sure how anyone was going to react, which was worrying. I expected anything from hugs and comfort to anger and disappointment. I was worried that people might think I was the ‘creepy lesbian’. Thinking back, I had a lot of ‘crushes’ on girls and I just wanted to share it with my friends because I knew I trusted them to help me and still love me. I told my friends first because if anything went wrong with my parents then I would have them to turn to. It went something like this...”how would you feel if I liked girls?”. My friends were pretty cool with it, if we went to the mall they would always go... ‘ooh do you like her? she’s kinda cute’ and just tease me about it.
I held off telling my mom because, well it was scary. I’m the oldest daughter and I felt like I was disappointing her, or that she would hate me. I eventually told her a couple of months after telling my friends. It involved a bit of crying on my part, I remember being physically ill because I was afraid of her reaction but it turned out that her reaction was the funniest. Instead of getting angry or weirded out she said, and I quote ‘I don’t care about that. I got your report card today and you got a C in technology. Now that is what I’m worried about’. Needless to say, I was grounded over the technology grade. [laugh] I never actually told my dad. He knows, but I never sat him down and said ‘Dad, I’m gay’. I didn’t tell him because as much as I love him, we just don't talk that much. Not knowing what he would say scared me so much. And my mom told him after a while anyway, when I got my first girlfriend.
As far as everyone else goes... at school mostly everyone was okay with it. A few people were a little wary or didn’t believe it but because I was the first out lesbian in my school it was a really huge thing. Everyone was curious and asked lots of questions but they always asked my friends and never approached me probably because, well in 8th grade, who really directly confronts a person? 13 and 14 years olds thrive on rumours and hearing things second hand. If people have questions I will answer them but I don’t go out of my way to share anything. I find it’s better that way, not shoving my sexuality in their face.
The girl who I first liked, my old best friend, now knows that I’m gay but I never told her how I felt at the time and we’re not as close anymore. The only teachers that I came out to were my 9th grade Earth Science teacher, my 10th grade English teacher and my soccer coach. They’re all so supportive and I can talk to them about anything that’s going on in my life.
Some people have been difficult though, a lot of girls automatically assume that I ‘want’ them just because I talk to them. This has been a problem recently in my theatre class. One girl IMed me a few weeks ago and asked if I would ever date her, she has been a bit relentless about it, but she always lets me know that she would never date a girl. Especially me. Now the rest of the girls in my class are avoiding me.
Coming out to new people doesn’t bother me anymore though, people can think what they want about me. As long as they’re not hostile or rude, I can take any reaction. If I’m ever in a social situation with new people and they ask if I’m dating anyone, I just tell them that I have a girlfriend.
It was a lot easier for me to come out then it may have been for others as I had my cousin Amy as a role model. She lives near Boston and is married to her partner of ten years. She’s so confident in herself and it also helps that I know my dad’s side of the family is alright with her being gay. Also as an 8th and 9th grader I worshipped the musical RENT. I loved that there were two girls that were in love, even if their characters did more fighting than anything else! I do think, though, that if more high profile people in the public eye came out of the closet that it would have been easier for me. It would have been like they were saying ‘It’s okay, I went through that too’.
I’m now in a relationship with a girl and have been for a year. I’m extremely happy and she’s pretty much my other half.
I think I must have been about ten when I first even thought about liking girls, I watched the horse whisperer and Scarlett Johanssen was in it, she was really fit and she was also riding a horse so that was pretty cool. That is so lesbian! [laugh] But I didn’t actually do anything about it until I was 15, I just kind of tried to forget about it really and be with men. I had quite intense friendships with girls and I thought that was a way of hiding a relationship with a girl because a very intense friendship is sort of a relationship anyway.
My first real experience with a girl was probably when I was about 14 with a friend called Emma. I had quite an intense friendship with her and one night we got really drunk and got off with each other. I don’t think I even wanted a relationship with her I just wanted to see what would happen. But she was seeing this guy so it was obvious that we were never going to do anything more than that but that was probably the first time I ever thought ‘oh there might be something in an intense relationship, an intense friendship’ that you could actually have a ‘relationship’ with a woman.
I didn’t tell people at first, I waited until I had my first girlfriend. I was very confused because I’d kissed a guy just after I kissed Emma and so I knew there was a possibility that I could be straight but I didn’t enjoy kissing the guy at all. With hindsight, I think it was because it was my first kiss with a guy but at the time I thought it was because I really just didn’t like men so I thought maybe I shouldn’t tell people yet because I didn’t know myself what I was.
I was 15 when I met my first girlfriend. I met her through Emma, weirdly enough, Emma hung out with her quite a lot. I went over once after walking my dog. Emma said come to come over and meet this girl so I went to her house. My dog was a puppy at this point and it was really excitable because there were loads of people in the house so it was jumping everywhere and I had to tie her to one of Katy’s cupboards and it ripped them all out. So we met and I think we must have really got on that day but I can’t really remember that day very well. I do remember she wasn’t like anybody I had met before, I dunno, she was like halfway between what it was like to hang out with my brothers and what it was like to hang out with a girl and I remember that she used to make me laugh a lot. I think that day we, we didn’t become close, but we knew that we were gonna get on so we said ‘do you wanna meet up tomorrow?’ and then after that we just hung out every day.
One day, I think we were skiving from school, because it was that stage when everyone skives from school and is a bit naughty, and we’d been playing Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega and I just leant over and kissed her. I didn’t even know that I was going to do it. Then my brother came home about two minutes after that, because he was coming home from school, and I ran upstairs because I was quite confused and I didn’t really know what was going to happen next. I remember just sitting in my bedroom thinking ‘oh my god, that was the nicest thing to ever happen to me’. Then Katy came upstairs and we kissed again and then she went home. After that we started going out and that was that. It just happened really, we didn’t ever ask each other out, there was none of that, we just started sleeping together [laugh].
We decided to start telling people about us because although the first 4 months were really great being secret, we just really wanted to be together at parties and not have to pretend like we weren’t together and that we were interested in other people either. We also didn’t want to have to justify the amount of time we spent together; she would stay at my house all the time and people would wonder why if she only lived two doors away from me? We had a big group of friends that we used to hang out with together so we told a select few of the girls and soon, more and more of the guys found out because we told one of our close guy friends. Then we just sort of started telling everyone and everybody knew that we were together but that didn’t really stop the men thinking that they could sleep with either me or Katy!
Coming out to my friends had a massive impact because me and Katy had been honest with them so it made us closer and we had a more open friendship. There was a guy who had gone out with Katy for about 2 years and she had refused to sleep with him so he was really pissed when we got together as we were together for a long time and obviously we had a sexual relationship. So he got really pissed off and wouldn’t talk to Katy for a long time, about 5 months, and he really didn’t like being around us, but most people just thought it was really great to know, I’m glad that we did it.
Katy’s parents found out about us because her mum walked in on us one day after we’d had sex and were falling asleep together. I didn’t tell my mum until after we had broken up though, even though I think she had always known. I was quite a secretive teenager and I wanted it to be my life. My mother is quite liberal and open minded so it had nothing to do with her not accepting me, I just wanted something that was mine. When I eventually told her, that me and Katy had broken up, she said that she knew anyway.
I was more worried about my dad’s reaction to be honest. My dad is very conservative but I told him that I’d been going out with Katy. I never really came out; I just told my parents that I had a girlfriend so I didn’t have to say ‘I’m a lesbian’. Obviously it can be inferred from having a girlfriend but I never said ‘I’m gay’ or ‘I’m bisexual’ I just said ‘I’ve been in a relationship with this girl for quite a long time.’ The reason that I left out the gay part was because I didn’t know if I was gay or not at the time. It was very confusing.
I told both my brothers too. I told my younger brother who is only two years younger than me that I didn’t know if I was gay or straight or what, but my youngest brother already knew, he was the one who had obviously seen our first kiss, so I think he knew from the beginning. I don’t think it ever came as a shock to them.
When I was younger, I saw a film called ‘When the Walls Talk Too’, it’s about lots of generations of lesbian women. There is a story with Sharon stone and Ellen DeGeneres and they are trying to have a baby. That story really affected me because when I started going out with Katy I’d never envisioned having a family, but to me that said that you could have a traditional relationship and still be gay and I think that really affected me. I watched it when I was about 17 so that was really important.
It was a big decision to tell people about me and Katy when we went travelling together. We only told a few people and they didn’t react badly per se but I think because some of them were Christian it kind of rocked their boat a bit, they tried to keep clear of us and they didn’t get as close as they may have done had they not known. The problem with a same sex relationship is that you find yourself making a decision to tell people about it. You don’t do that with straight relationships so it’s quite a struggle when you’re in a same sex relationship, you have to think about how people are going to react and gauge the situation.
Technically I’ve been out for about 5 years because I came out in Australia to the people that I’d just met and that to me was coming out; telling people that I’d just met that I was gay because I never really stated it to my family. When I first started meeting people in Australia and they would ask about boyfriends I’d tell them that I had been with a girl for 3 years and that I was confused but the first year I went to Australia was the first year I came out. I think that for me was the first time I identified myself as something different.
I’ve only ever felt discriminated against a couple of times since coming out. The first was at my school prom. Me and Katy weren’t allowed to go together, we had to have male chaperones. The only other time was in Australia at a lesbian and gay group. I felt really discriminated against because I was bisexual and I wasn’t a lesbian or I didn’t know if I was a lesbian or not. I find that people want to put you into certain boxes, they want to know how you feel about things and I couldn’t tell them if I was gay or bi and I think that just confuses too many people.
I’m now in a relationship with a man and have been for 3 years but everybody that I have ever met now will know about Katy and will know that I’m interested in girls. My boyfriend never asked me if I was bisexual he just took it for granted that I liked girls when we got together. He asks me quite often if I miss going out with girls and what parts do I miss. We’re quite open about it and if we ever have a ménage a trois then at least he knows he’s gonna get a girl.
I was about 14 and I remember at school all my friends were female and they always used to say ‘oh you’re looking at us’ and I’d say ‘no no no!’ because of course when you’re little you go mental at everything, and then I thought ‘hmmm actually, maybe, this is quite appealing’. But I totally repressed it, and denied it. I didn’t acknowledge it until I was about 17. I went to college far away from my closeted home town and there I met a totally new group of people. I was just very open about it from the start I just said ‘hi people this is how it is.. I like women, deal with it!’ I thought if they knew from the start then they can make their minds up if they still want to be friends with me or not.
I did the same at Uni. In my first year I told this friend, and we’d been friends for a while, but she’s really religious so I knew that might be a grey area. So I told her and she refused to hug me for the next 6 months. I just thought ‘we’re mates I’m not gonna grope you if I give you a hug’ so that pissed me off.
My family only found out recently in May last year, when I was 21. I had this idea that my parents were going to judge me and be disappointed and my dad’s proper homophobic, which probably didn’t help the situation. I had tried telling my sister when I was 18 but she just said ‘it’s a phase, you’ll grow out of it’. I met my ex-girlfriend when I was about 16 via MySpace and it was kind of on/off for ages and ages because I was still in the coming out process and didn’t really know what was going on and didn’t wanna tell anyone and it was really weird. But she had been out for ages and was fine with it so when we eventually split up I thought I would tell my mother. My girlfriend had come to stay with me during pride, even though I had told everyone she was just some friend from university. Later on, after we broke up, we ended up going away together anyway because it was booked already. We had a hell of a time and when I got back I had a good moan to my mum and said ‘you know that girl who I brought up for pride? Well we might have been more than friends’ and then just stared at my feet. I think her eyebrows nearly hit the ceiling but she could have been more surprised still, I thought, at least she knows. She didn’t say anything and the next morning I got 20 questions like ‘who else knows’ and ‘why had I left it so long, why were they the last to find out?’ I left her to tell dad and the rest of the family. Then I came back down to Canterbury and about 4 days later I got a phone call from my mum saying ‘okay, I’ve had time to settle, I’ve had time to think about it. We still love you, you’re not a mass murderer, and you don’t rob old ladies so its fine. And all is good.’ To this day though, my dad has never mentioned it at all and whenever there are gay people on TV he sort of scrunches his face up and is really disapproving.
The only people in my family who know now are my mum, dad and sister and that’s it because I come from a very homophobic family. My grandpa still calls gay people ‘those funny people’ and my auntie and uncle don’t really agree with it either, they think it’s sick and wrong. But my immediate family know, the important people know, so it’s okay.
I still have to be careful around a lot of new people I meet even though I’m not the kind of person who says ‘hi I’m Emma, I’m gay. At the moment I volunteer somewhere and there are a lot of working class older guys who work there and if they ever found out I was gay there’d be hell to pay I’m sure. But if it comes up generally then it’s okay, I don’t really mind it that much.
I have had a couple of bad experiences from being out and proud though, some of my friends have stopped coming near me and getting changed near me because they’ve automatically assumed that now I’ve come out I’m going to started being pervy even though I wasn’t before! Also one night I was walking back from a club and there was a guy outside a ub who shouted dyke at me and spat at me, which wasn’t very nice.
I get a lot of flack sometimes just for not fitting the stereotypical view of what a lesbian looks like. It seems to me that a lot of people think that to be a lesbian you have to have short hair, you have to dress like a boy and you have to be really butch and manly about it. I know some of my female friends who are gay and proper femme have had guys say ‘oh I could turn you’ and ‘you couldn’t possibly be gay you’re wearing a dress’ and that annoys me.
To be honest, I think a small part of me is still not okay with being a lesbian. Maybe it’s because of society’s stereotyping and maybe it’s my family’s view on it, but even when I was younger and I was coming out there was always a voice in the back of my mind saying ‘no you can’t be gay because of this and that’ and I still do that now. I’ll use any excuse; I’ve had a boyfriend so therefore I can’t be gay or when I go down the gay scene in Manchester I have zero pulling streak which obviously means that if I can’t attract women then I must not be gay and they must know this! There’s always this voice at the back of my brain that’s trying to reason with myself. Even after 5 years I’m still trying to talk myself out of it.
I guess I thought I could be gay when I was 14. At the time I was totally in love with this boy and in 6 months I hadn't really 'done' anything with him, I thought that maybe I wasn't ready but you know those times at night when you are honest with yourself? Well at those moments I felt like I was attracted to him but not to his body - a feeling, incidentally, that I still have for men. After 6 months he forced himself on me because he was tired of waiting and I had a breakdown, but not the average rocking back and forth type. I ended up sneaking out my house in the dead of night and taking drugs and sleeping with, mostly, men but after however many months of this I realised I couldn't do it anymore. I knew that I wasn't enjoying it and that it wasn't helping me.
When I was 15 I went to Strawberry fair, a festival in Cambridge, and I met a group of new friends and when they asked me my sexuality I took a huge breath and said 'I’m bisexual'. I was expecting gasps, disappointment and disgust written on everyone's faces - everyone I'd ever known was 'straight' - but instead they smiled and one of them leaned over to shake my hand, looked directly into my eyes and told me she was gay. That was the girl that I fell in love with.
I never told anyone at school because that was how my school was. I was fairly popular there but I was also a bit weird and I knew that's what people thought of me. I had to choose between being honest and keeping friends. So I chose my friends over myself.
My mom and I aren't especially close, I have an older sister and they tend to talk more so I didn't tell her that I was bi until I was 16 and I wrote it in a letter after a huge fight. I also told her that I took drugs. I could never decide whether it was the drugs or my sexuality or a mixture that tipped my poor catholic mother over the edge but whichever it was she kicked me out, only for a week mind. But I spent a week sofa surfing and taking even more drugs before I went home to a house that didn’t mention either of these issues up for a very long time.
I told my two best friends, after we'd left school, on my 17th birthday, they laughed at me and told me they already knew and that I was an idiot, reminding me that they were not idiots and had figured it out. I've never felt so relieved or embarrassed. It made me wonder if maybe I'd been wrong about not saying anything at school, but looking back on it now, I think I was right. I would have lost a lot of people even if they didn't have a problem with it. It was dangerous to associate yourself with ‘freaks’.
Shortly after I'd just turned 17 I was sitting in a pub with a good friend. We'd had a good few drinks, and she turned to me and slurred 'I think I might be gay' to which I replied 'yeah, me tooooo'. I seem to remember us looking at each other rather shocked and then laughing and saying something along the lines of 'oh no, I don't want to be gay'. I think we also spent the rest of that night drinking as much as possible and telling everyone around us that we 'didn't want to be gay'. But when we woke up the next day we'd said it and we couldn't go back on it and so that was the end of it. It didn't make much difference to me, my last boyfriend had been over a year before that and I hadn't even slept with the poor boy. Three and a half years later, my friend and I still recall that night and tell others that we were 'coming out buddies'.
I never actually told my mom I was gay, it was implied. I dated a girl for 6 months who pretty much lived at mine and one day when she went home my mom came into my room - while I was naked in bed - and said 'is she your partner' and once I'd suppressed giggles at the choice of words I said ‘yes’ and that was it. In comparison to her first reaction she has taken the rest of it very well, and gets on well with all the girls I’ve brought home, always being friendly and inviting. My mother's incredibly catholic partner (male by the way, it just seems wrong to say boyfriend) also appears to be fine with it although the girls I bring home are 'friends' and even my mother can't quite push to use the term 'girlfriend', I'm just destined to have 'partners' for the rest of my days.
I thought I was bisexual at 14 because I had a very close friend when I was living in South Africa. Despite having a boyfriend at the time, people kept asking us if we were lesbians or insinuating that there was something more to it because we were always close together. I once went away for a month and she was almost in tears because I had to go. My mum started asking if my friend was a lesbian and implying that I was and that’s when I started to think that maybe there was something more to it.
I was 16 when I finally acknowledged it. I was in a really rough school so I spent most of my time on the computer as being one of the only people who could speak English in the school I didn’t feel like getting into fights. I met people over the internet and started talking to them about it. Then when I went to 6th form I told my friend there. He was gay but he was worried about it so I didn’t make a point of telling people about my sexuality but if it came up then I would mention it and tell them I was comfortable with it.
My dad was in South Africa at the time so I had to send him an email. He said that it was fine either way and he knew I was worried about telling my mum so his ingenious plan was to bring a girl home and tell my mum she was my girlfriend and see how she reacted but I didn’t think that was the smartest thing to do so when my mum came to visit I just slipped a letter into her bag as she was leaving because we don’t get along too well, so I wasn’t going to test the waters while she was there. She sent me a text afterwards saying ‘that’s completely fine, I love you for who you are’. However, she had heard the tern LGBT and asked me what the ‘B’ stood for so I said ‘bisexual’ and she said ‘what does that mean?!’ That bothered me because I just thought ‘so you accept me for who I am but you don’t even know what it means!’ I think she just read the letter and said she accepted it then pushed it to the back of her mind and pretended that it wasn’t happening.
I told my best friend who was gay and the girl that i pretty much fell in love with when I was younger, I went over there on holiday once and we were watching RENT. She turned to me at the end and said ‘you know what I’m thinking’ and I said ‘yea’. But she’s also bisexual and has a boyfriend who is 6 years older than her and a rugby player so it was quite intimidating knowing he was due home any minute. She just leaned over and kissed me anyway but I thought ‘oh god this isn’t going to happen’ but that was the point it became undeniable.
I haven’t told my sister but she’s really young and I’m just not too keen on my extended family knowing. I have a cousin who’s a lesbian and she told her family she’s bisexual as she thought they’d be more willing to accept it, as she had a boyfriend before. They just said ‘it’s just a phase’ but when they realised that it wasn’t they started making jokes continuously and I don’t want to live with that so I haven’t told them. My cousin knows, and when I stayed with her she was so open about it with her friends it made me feel better about it, but she also told me ‘be careful who you tell’. So she kind of prepared me for where I moved to next.
I went to a gay youth group in Milton Keynes and they were threatening to shut it down so we had our own committee to raise money for it and we were dressed up because we wanted to make it comical. I was dressed in a Santa outfit and this guy came dressed in high heels, a skirt and a red spaghetti strap top. No one would give him any money, they said ‘I’m sorry we don’t want to promote queers’ which I thought was ridiculous you can’t ‘promote it’ someone is either gay or not you can’t change it.
When I moved to Uni I knew that one of my housemates was a Christian so it was quite fun living with him and trying to mention it. I eventually figured out that he is okay with it but his friends who visit aren’t. I have a really close friend who stays with me often and I also have a boyfriend at the moment. He’s convinced that I’m going to run off with her so it’s made him extremely paranoid. So it gets difficult with Christian friends and anyone I go out with because they’re convinced I’m going to run off with someone else.
I think sometimes it would be easier to say I’m a lesbian because I get a lot of stick for being bisexual and people tell me to ‘pick a side’. At school in my psychology class, there were so many homophobic people in there I decided to just shut it off until i got to Uni because I thought if people liked me for who I was then they shouldn’t really care if I had to ‘pick a side’ or not but I still get comments from people. I was watching reruns of The O.C with my friend and her boyfriend and the character of Marissa came in with her girlfriend in her underwear. I jokingly said ‘stop talking, admire the view’ and the guy just turned to me and said ‘stop being greedy’ and I just thought ‘I’m not being greedy you’re watching with just as much interest it’s not my fault you don’t like guys!’
I’ve always known really, from when I was a kid. I’ve never really been interested in boys and I was always interested in girls. I was 16 when I came out. The first people who knew were my closest friends, who pretty much guessed anyway, I just didn’t deny it. I never actually said to any of my friends ‘oh by the way...’ and told them straight out. The first person I actually told was my mum. Charlie was the reason I told her. We had been together for a while, it eventually turned into a long term thing, but I decided to tell my mum about her. I didn’t actually say ‘I’m gay!’ I just told her that I had a girlfriend which made it a lot easier. I think ‘gay’ is such a strong word, especially when you’re young and you’re nervous and thinking ‘oh my god what are they going to say?!’ I think if you lead with ‘oh by the way I’ve got a girlfriend’ it’s less of a blow. It’s like when people say ‘I’m bi’ when they know that they’re not. It makes it more personable and puts a face to a name. Mum met Charlie after that. The whole coming out to my mum thing went okay, obviously she wasn’t ecstatic about it but she said as long as you’re happy then that’s fine, it went okay.
The only other person apart from my mum that I’ve told straight out was one of my aunties but everyone else kinda already knew or they’d figured it out. My sister found out through another friend of mine and eventually people were just used to it but I haven’t told all my family. I’m not really bothered if my family finds out though. The only time it bothers me is when we’re sitting around talking and my auntie or someone will ask my sister how her boyfriend is but no one will ever ask me. I’ve got all this stuff to say about the person I’m with and I can’t do it because for one, I don’t want them to say ‘Oh I didn’t want to know!’ or ‘I wasn’t expecting that’ and a lot of the time when my family’s together my grandparents are there as well and there is absolutely no way it could ever be mentioned in front of them because they would just die. They don’t really understand, I think it’s harder for older people to understand it. You just get used to it really.
I think what made my coming out easier was my best friend. When he came out it made it seem like it was okay and in that sense he was my role model. We were friends way before any of that stuff became apparent though, we’ve known each other since we were little. It was him that introduced me to ‘the scene’ because he’d already been out a couple times and told me there were these really cool bars in town that we had to go to. It kind of helped in a way, I think, because it made me feel a lot more comfortable then I would have done if I’d been anywhere else and it reiterated the fact that, yes, I was gay.
It also helped that not long after everyone started to find out, I left school and went to college. Once I got to college I could completely be myself, everyone knew about me and it wasn’t a problem. Whereas at school those people had known me for 5 years and I was much more uncomfortable with them finding out than I was with people at college. I think it was because they didn’t know me and they couldn’t really judge me. It took me a while to get used to it myself but after I went to college it settled down and I accepted that that’s who I was.
I’ve never really had any problems as far as other people are concerned, just the odd comment from blokes but blokes are like that. I figure that when meeting new people, sooner or later you’re going to have to mention something in some kind of way. When people ask ‘have you got a boyfriend?’ I just say no, but I wouldn’t go and tell anyone straight away, I’d wait for them to ask or I just talk about my relationships as anyone else would. I wouldn’t ever consider it a problem for me to say it to anybody.
It would be a lot better for me, though, if all my family knew. I wouldn’t feel as uncomfortable about talking about stuff. Especially because when you’re in a relationship and you wanna tell people about it, you want them to know that you’re happy. It’s a bit shit that I can’t do that and it upsets me a bit sometimes but it is what it is and I can’t really do anything about it unless I wanna upset my family. I mean I don’t know if it would or if it wouldn’t but I just don’t wanna run the risk you know?
It probably sounds really stupid but I think that I have always known. It wasn't a discussed topic when I was growing up - my parents always assumed and told me that I would meet a boy and fall in love, get married and have kids which to me, now, is strange because my dad's uncle is gay and has been accepted and his relationship is acknowledged by the family.
I think it was probably year 8 in High School when I finally realised. There were rumours flying around my year that I fancied a male music teacher, and when everyone began to alienate me and I was spending more time to myself, I had this inner argument in my head that I didn't fancy this teacher because I don't like men! And then the teenager in my head was shouting back that I should fancy men and perhaps I should play up to this rumour to make life easier. The whole situation wasn't helped by the fact that I had been sent to an all-girls high school and over every locker in form room were pictures of the latest crushes (Ben Affleck and Usher etc) and my locker was plastered with pictures of Nicole Kidman!
I had friends online through networking sites (mainly livejournal) that I had been open and honest with from the start. I think it was easier for me to tell them when I met them as they were online so we weren't face-to-face and they didn't know my friends and family. It had no real implications if I told them I knew it wouldn't get back to my family that way. However, when I turned 17 I was beginning to feel more comfortable in my own skin so first I told one of my friends from high school. I told her first because I knew she was pretty open minded. I sat down with her and umm'ed and aah'ed over how I was going to tell her and then just blurted it out. She just laughed and told me she had figured as much which was a bit of a relief to me!
I then waited until after my eighteenth birthday until I told my best friend and then finally everyone else. I thought I should probably tell her next so she didn't hear it floating around and from then on it just kind of spread round. I was sharing my eighteenth party with her and didn't think she'd react too well; I didn't want to ruin the party. When I did tell her, it was more of a spontaneous decision to do it that day - I didn't plan it. I woke up and went round to her house and told her. At first she cried as she thought I was going to tell her something much worse then she hugged me and told me she didn't mind. However, when she found out I was in a relationship with my now fiancée, everything changed. I definitely feel like she had (and still has!) a sense of ownership over me because we had been best friends for eighteen years and did everything together. I think she felt like I owed it to her not to move away/fall in love/be in a relationship without her say so. It's partly down to ignorance, too. She always used to say stupid shit like 'I like gay people, I do, it's just lesbians that scare me'. Sounds like it's down to the age-old thing where if you’re a lesbian you 'automatically' fancy all your female friends - which is obviously not true, but it definitely played a part. Now we rarely talk and she's adopted my little sister as her best friend.
My sister had actually asked me outright about a year before I actually came out, and I denied it. It was obviously blatant that I was lying as I was watching 'Imagine Me and You' at the time and just bought a lot of lesbian DVDs and she was sifting through them, reading the blurbs and just asked. I was so shell shocked that she had actually asked me that I just straight out lied. Now she holds it against me in our many arguments, and I don't blame her - I just wasn't ready to admit it, I hadn't properly come to terms with the conclusion myself!
I have never actually sat down with my parents and said the words 'I'm a lesbian' to them. However, when they figured it out, my dad was working away and I had gone for a shift at work so had been out for most of the day. When I came home after my shift at work, the locks on the door had been changed. I couldn't get a response and so went to the local supermarket where I bumped into my female teacher from school and she let me stay at her house. I went to work the next day and my dad met me there and took me home, where they both apologized. I swiftly moved out (about six months later) and have been living with my female fiancée ever since.
Nowadays they are accepting of my relationship, have even visited me down at our house and now send my fiancée birthday/Christmas cards and presents - trying to make more of an effort four years down the line! Probably at least 98% of my family now know. I'm pretty sure of it - I've introduced my girlfriend to my family a couple of times at family events so they would have to be pretty stupid or pig ignorant not to know. My grandmothers love her like their own grandchildren, and we have even received 'couple' cards at Christmas. I believe it's a big step forward for them, though it has taken them a good four years!
On 10th January 2000 (very specific!) my Mum hosted a party for her 40th birthday. Amongst the guests was Angela, a lady she occasionally worked with whom I had never met before. I was ten years old at the time and I remember being completely overwhelmed by feelings towards this stranger, although I couldn't have explained what I was feeling at the time. I spent the entire evening trying to spend as much time with her as possible; talking, dancing, taking photos - not too hard a task considering I was centre of attention along with my Mother.
In terms of thinking that I might be gay, I think that took a little while longer. My Mum began to work alongside Angela more and in turn our families began to socialise together; parties, Christmas, birthdays, holidays... and as this grew, so did my feelings. It probably took me maybe six months or a year to realise that I was attracted to her and I'm not sure that I was able to put a name to it until perhaps another six months later. All I knew was that I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible, be with her and I had dreams of her leaving her husband and children to be with me!
It wasn't long before everyone started to pick up on how I was feeling, because she was all I could think and talk about for a good few years. I remember my Mum accusing me of acting 'like an adolescent boy' around her and that it was better if we didn't see each other for a while - I think this was maybe around my 12th birthday. Similarly, friends had started to question whether I might be a lesbian, although I denied it to all parties at this point. I was afraid of what my parents would do, I went to an all girl’s school where lesbianism was frowned upon by other pupils and I had not wholly processed what my feelings meant albeit I never tried to deny it to myself. I think I readily accepted what I was feeling, who I was and I would endeavour to watch programmes such as Bad Girls where my feelings were portrayed.
I made the decision very young that I wouldn't tell people until I needed to, i.e. until I had met someone that I could see myself being with. I didn't quite stick to that, when I came to university, I came out as bi to my house and course mates, then eventually just drifted into admitting that I wasn't interested in guys full stop.
In terms of school friends, I drifted from most of them once I had left, so it only really left me with a couple of people I needed to tell - initially I put it on facebook, in the hope that would do the job for me, but that failed miserably. I think I must have been into the second semester of my first year when I was driving to the cinema with my best friend from school and was talking about Mel, a girl I knew, asking me to a gay club with her and that I wasn't sure whether it was as a friend or if she wanted more. By this point, my other friends all knew that I was gay, but Sarah said that surely Mel knew I was straight so wouldn't try anything. I remember hesitating, concentrating on driving for a while, before saying 'that isn't strictly true...I'm not straight, I like girls too.' I think she was a little shocked, but didn't really say anything about it... and then we had a laugh about how she hadn't noticed it on facebook. From then on, I just began talking about girls more when we spoke and it kind of got accepted into the conversation. I don't think I ever really came out and said 'actually, I'm gay', although she would define me as being so to her friends and boyfriend.
I think I was most fearful about Sarah's reaction, as I didn't want to lose her friendship. I was also worried about how my father would react. I hadn't spoken to my Mum since she threw me out when I was 17, so her reaction was no longer an issue for me, but it did mean that I would be lacking all parental support if he didn't take it well. I think I always knew deep down that he knew to an extent or that even if he didn't, then he would accept me for who I was, but my fear was over how and when I was going to tell him.
I had met Alice, a lesbian in a seven year relationship, through a family party a couple of years previously when I was still living with my Mum and I had her e-mail address from initial contact swopping photos of the party. I sent her an e-mail labelled 'family stuff', it was brief, confused and not really aiming at anything in particular...other than a great big 'HELP!'. Anyway, she replied and we spoke by e-mail a few times and then decided to meet.
Once we had met up and talked about it, I drove home with a sense of 'now or never'. So when I got back, I went upstairs, got my laptop, came back down, sat in front of the TV with my Dad, me on my laptop...then said something along the lines of...Dad, I have something to tell you. How much do you love me!? ...He was like 'Oh no, what have you done?' ...Me: 'Well...you know I met Alice for lunch today...well Dad, Alice is gay.... and um...I am too'.
Looking back now, I have to laugh at the situation, he was just like 'Is that all? That doesn't matter. I still love you.' He carried on watching the TV and I sent a text to Alice saying 'I TOLD HIM!' and then a few minutes later he started telling me about some gay people he has worked with and how nice they were etc. it is all very bemusing looking back. So I guess I had a lucky ride of it really!
I didn't know I was a lesbian until I was 39, when I met a woman and fell in love. I had been married since I was 19 and had 5 children. I never really enjoyed sex with a man except when I was very young and sex was a new experience and therefore exciting! I did have a couple of affairs while I was married thinking that I would find whatever was missing with another man. I never really liked men's private parts, again, except when sex was a new thing and something to be discovered - I always found them quite ugly, more and more so as time went on, and not just the private parts, but the whole of a man's body to me was unattractive.
I never really called myself a lesbian until I had had more than one long term relationship with a woman. When I was first in love with a woman, I thought I was maybe bisexual, or that it was just her as a person that I was in love with and found attractive, that it didn't necessarily prove anything about my sexuality. I actually saw lesbians as a breed apart, women who had always known they were gay, had never slept with men, and were somehow different to me, and I didn't dare presume to call myself one until I was totally sure and almost felt I had "earned" the title.
I was brought up quite strictly in a religious household and didn't even know there were such things as lesbians. I suppose I did what was expected of me, in getting married and having children. I did always want children though, and maybe saw getting married as the only way I would have any, while still staying "respectable" and pleasing my parents, or not risking their disapproval. So I suppose I was quite blinkered to anything outside of my scope of experience and followed the path that was expected of me. Within a year of getting married I already knew it wasn't right for me and had already had an affair. As I said, I thought the answer lay with another man, but I never found it. We got back together, I got pregnant, and we had five children - that kept us together - we were a team, bringing up the children. We weren't loving or romantic, I made no effort to please my husband and I made every excuse I could think of not to have sex - we once went for two years without sex at all!!!!
Every few years or so, I assessed my situation, found it lacking and didn't know why, but stayed with my husband because we had the children together. That's what the marriage was about to me - the children. I loved them whole heartedly they were my life and reason for being. I absolutely adored being a Mum and felt so fulfilled in that area of my life - the husband was almost a by-product of that really. But as they got older, I knew I had to get out of that marriage, and even told them so before I told him!
When I was 39, I started working part-time at a school, and met a woman who made me feel very uncomfortable – that’s the only way I can describe it. As soon as I saw her, I felt something inside me, an interest (and that was before I even spoke to her - I just saw her walk across the car park through the office window) - I can't say it was an attraction, because I didn't recognise it as such. I had been sort of drawn to other women throughout my life, but sometimes just thought it was a desire for their friendship, or if I did feel anything else, I felt extremely uncomfortable and put it somewhere else, refusing to see it for what it really was.
Within a few weeks of meeting my new colleague, I was spending as much time with her as I possibly could, and I had to admit that I had some kind of feelings for her. I wasn't even sure it wasn't a hormone imbalance, an early menopause or a mid-life crisis. I was very confused, not knowing why I kept thinking about her and talking about her, even to my husband. I even said to him that I wished “that woman” would leave me alone, because she was always hanging around me at work and was making me feel uncomfortable – I just couldn’t work out why. One day I had to admit my feelings to myself as I found myself going up to her room, questioning why I felt the urge to go and see her (I had no valid reason) and actually recognising that urge as a sexual attraction. I was quite shaken by this, and gave myself a choice: I could either “shake myself out of it” and go back down the stairs, or I could continue upstairs knowing that I wanted more than friendship from this woman. I continued upstairs!
After that, I couldn't sleep properly, I was on a high all the time, almost as if I'd taken speed - and it didn't help that I was sharing a bed with my husband. I kept making excuses to sleep downstairs on the settee so that I didn't have to share a bed with him. I just told him I wasn't sleeping properly. I think he had his suspicions, as he did keep questioning me about this woman, and he did ask me if she was a lesbian. But even when he found out that she was I suppose he never really thought that anything serious would happen. He just seemed to find it amusing that I was such good friends with her, and he would joke about her trying to "turn me". I started going to Sue’s house, I stayed over in her bed, we kissed and that was it for me. We did sleep together once before I told my husband that I didn't love him anymore and that I couldn't live with him, so I asked him to go and stay with his mother, to give me a break, knowing that once he had gone, I would never want him to come back. I recognised that if a woman could make me feel this way, then it wasn’t right or fair to him to continue in the marriage.
After that, I started seeing her properly, and we had a relationship that lasted, on and off, for seven years. I was never happy with her - I found her to be very cold and hard, controlling and manipulative. I left her three times for another woman, Sandra, and each time going back because I loved her so much. In the end, I finally left her for someone new, who had been a friend of mine for about four or five years, and who is my current partner. We have been together nearly four years now. It was only after leaving Sue for Sandra that I started to call myself a lesbian. Other times we had split up for brief periods, I had tried sleeping with other women, but still didn't feel like a fully-fledged lesbian, I felt like I was just playing at it.
I started to tell people within a couple of months, mainly because I had to discuss it with someone. My children were suspicious right away and started to question me. I tried to deny it for a few weeks, but they asked me not to lie to them, so I told them. They weren't bothered at all, in fact they seemed to think it was quite cool to have a gay mother! I had to keep it quiet at work, as it was a
I did tell a few close friends, as I felt the need to share my secret and unburden myself, as I wasn't in a healthy relationship. Sue tried to tell me that all lesbian relationships were as uncommitted and non-sexual as ours was - I think she picked me out, thinking that because I was naive about the gay scene, I would accept the little she could give. It turned out that Sue did have problems both sexually and emotionally, and was incapable of having a proper relationship, maybe due to her own upbringing. It was never enough for me. Once I had made love to a woman, I couldn't see sex the same way again - it had now become such an intimate and emotional experience, nothing like making love to a man had ever been. I had never wanted to cuddle a man all night or wake up and have a hug and a snuggle. But with women, it was a whole different thing. The same with sitting on the settee, cuddling up watching TV - that had never been how I was with my husband, but with women, I have to have that closeness.
I did gradually start to become more and more open about my sexuality, and I now tell most people. As a Nurse, it sometimes might not be appropriate to be so open, as I might offend some people, so I assess each situation before I discuss my private life. I did find it terribly difficult before I started to tell people, as I had to pretend my partner was a man, and I don't find lying easy. I had to be on the ball all the time, thinking before I said anything and trying to remember that I couldn't say certain things - it became a terrible strain, really, and it's easier to be honest. I think if people don't like it, then that's tough. Most people aren't bothered these days, so if I'm not at work, I am always open about my sexuality. As I said, at work, it's a bit different. I have to keep a professional distance and my private life is something I shouldn't really be discussing with patients or their families, and I do understand that older people may not find it so acceptable.
Some people I have never admitted it to, and I guess they just found out. I live in a very small town/village, and news travels fast. Lesbians here are a rarity, and I suppose it was juicy gossip. When I started my Nursing training, I hardly told anyone - it took me a few months before I did, and that was because it was difficult pretending I was straight, especially with people I spent so much time with and became good friends with. It took me a couple of years to finally admit it though. I didn't tell my brother for a few years because he lived in
I expected people to be shocked, surprised and I thought some people might not take very well to the news, that they wouldn't feel comfortable with me, or wouldn't want to be my friend any more. My friends were surprised, as they had known me only as Brian's wife and as a mother to all those children. Also, I looked straight - I had long hair, always wore skirts and had never shown any sign of being anything other than heterosexual. Once they had got over the shock, all of my friends were absolutely fine with the idea – they still saw me as the same person, which to me was a relief.
I expected my parents to be horrified and maybe never speak to me again! As it was, my mother fell out with me for other reasons, or maybe she used other reasons as an excuse, I don't know. My Dad did know, he told my brother that he had heard the rumours/gossip. I never discussed it with him openly before he died. I wish now that I had.
My ex-mother-in-law thinks it is disgusting, and so does my ex-brother-in-law. He is a religious fanatic, and thinks I am going to Hell! My ex-husband was really quite good about it once I was honest with him, which did take about five months after we split. He was obviously upset about me leaving him, but I think he never really took my lesbianism seriously until he realised it was here to stay. We don't get on at all now, which is a shame, but he has been so influenced by his family and new wife, who hates me with a passion, that he has now turned against me too.
Despite all that has happened I am now in a loving relationship with my partner Linda and have been for a while now. My children think she is the best thing that has ever happened to me and adore her. My two daughters have told me that if we ever split up, they would be devastated. We even share a grandchild – we got together as my daughter gave birth to her son. He is now nearly four and spends every weekend with us. He has been brought up knowing that he has two Nans – to him it’s perfectly normal. I have accepted myself for who I am and as long as my children accept it and are happy for me, which they are, then I am happy too.
With hindsight I think I’ve always known but I was probably about 12 when I first realised it. I spent most of 13 at an all girls boarding school thinking about being gay but the first person I told was my mother when I was 14. I told her the day I was going back to boarding school in church because I knew she’d find it difficult to batter me in a Catholic church. She took it surprisingly well. I said ‘would you mind if I was gay?’ and she said ‘mind? Of course not you’re my daughter I’d love you no matter what!’ and that was it, it was never spoken about again. My dad was a little different, I didn’t expect him to react as well as he did. I was 17 when I told him and I got him on safe soil, which is the Fox and Hound, he had a pint of Stella and I told him and he said ‘there’s nothing wrong with that lovie’. He then proceeded to get drunk and out me to the pub which I wasn’t too keen on but he thought it was fine. A week later I phoned him to see how he was and he said ‘I’ve had a terrible week, is it my fault that you’re gay? Is it because your mother and me split up and I wasn’t around?’ I just said ‘actually Dad you’re not that important’ and he laughed his head off. I’ve been quite lucky really.
I was a bit of a loner, I didn’t really have a best friend and I thought it would be easier to tell other people if I had the support of my family. It seems like quite a mature way to think but I figured my family would be the worst ones to lose. I think it was obvious to everyone else. My mum tells the story of me as a 3 year old coming down to breakfast one morning and I’d stuffed tissue down the front of my knickers. I announced in front of my extended family that my name was no longer Simone and that they would now address me as Charlie and I would go in the army when I grew up. So I don’t think it’s ever been a surprise to anyone. At school, people found out and it could be pretty brutal but I’m able to look after myself. I wasn’t the type who would be bullied, there were a few comments about it, but nothing ever horrific that I’d have to go and tell someone about. I was educated by nuns so there were a few that were brutal but they were brutal anyway, it wasn’t because they thought a child was homosexual, they were just vicious, nasty bastards. A few of us took a few beatings off the nuns but the other nuns were lovely and there was one nun who was very friendly but I won’t elaborate on that.
I was 15 and I watched the kiss on Brookside, which was the first lesbian kiss on TV, and that’s the first time that any emotion towards women was stirred up within me. I then fell for my best friend and after a year of these feelings and a fling with her I realised I must be gay as the love I felt for her was so strong. Unfortunately, our friendship didn’t survive our fling and after sleeping together we parted ways and we no longer talk.
I told a few friends over the following years but living in a small town it wasn’t going to be easy to come out. When I was 19 I told my best mate who I thought would go off me but she was really cool (too cool in fact lol). When coming out I had support from my male best mate who is also gay and I’m a confident person so I didn’t go through a process of denial within myself. I didn’t have any role models when I was coming out though and I wish that I had as it probably would have been easier facing everyone in my small town if I had someone to look up to.
When I was 21 I decided to tell my mum as I met a girl I wanted to settle down with. She was cool but sad as she wanted grandchildren. Since then she has become very cool about it and very proud. The only members of my family that I didn’t openly tell were my grandparents. This was due to the fact that they’re very closed minded. I knew they knew and I knew they didn’t want to openly discuss it. I was cool with that as long as they didn’t treat me differently.
When I was younger I sought out where to go in Edinburgh to meet girls but it was hard as I just didn’t feel like I fit into the scene. I was femme and there were mainly butch women in the places I went and besides all the good looking ones were taken! The scene put me off going out , so I went to straight places with my straight friends but this was just as hard as all I met were guys and in my heart I knew it was women I wanted. The scene is better now though; there are better looking girls of all different types I just wish it was like that 10 years ago, although the popular look is the ‘Shane’ look which, at times, can make you feel segregated.
I am now 29 years old and I have been out at work since I started when I was 22. I work for a bank and I’m a team leader so I’m open with the people I lead/coach from the offset and I haven’t had any bad reactions as a result. I feel quite lucky as I have never experienced any kind of discrimination for coming out to anyone and I’m glad that my family and even my work colleagues accept me for who I am.
I feel proud and very confident with who I am. I do not hide who I am as I think that makes it so easy for people in society to think being gay is not normal. The more people are open then the more chance people will accept us as the norm. I understand that coming out is very hard for certain types of people. However, I am of the opinion that they will only feel at ease with themselves and society when they are truly being themselves. I am still pissed off at the lack of honesty from some famous lesbians in the media. They all seem to take forever to come out and in the meantime this does nothing to help show young lesbians the positive aspect of being out and proud. Instead it helps them feel like they should keep quiet and not feel they can be whop they really are. I would like to see more role models in the media only to help show the world that there is nothing wrong with being a lesbian.
I first thought I was gay when I was 14 though looking back I was quite obviously massively crushing on girls but thought it was just admiration as I wasn't really aware of lesbianism. I started to develop strong feelings towards a friend who I knew was bi I spent a good 2 years mad about that one. Needless to say it never went anywhere.
I never actually decided to tell people, my friend and I were in the gym and she just said "Ashley, admit that you're gay, you're so gay and it's just silly, being bi involves liking men." I silently nodded and it spread round my group of friends then gradually my school. I told my best friend and she told my other friends for me to save awkwardness, people started to know by osmosis really. I told them because they were my best friends, my closest people in the world who wouldn't reject me or make a deal out of it. I expected my best mates to just say ‘I told you so’, I expected gossip from school and I thought the revelation would cause upset within my family.
I only came out to my family about 9 months ago. I come from a middle/upper class British Christian family with war heroes and bishops to its name. My family are liberal but I knew the reaction would be different to how they feel towards their mates who are gay, as I'm their kid. Though my mother tried to reassure me she didn't care as soon as she found out she stopped talking to be properly. She would treat Jess [my girlfriend] like dirt and when we went to stay at my uncles (her brother) she rang to warn him we were gay and a couple (funny thing is...he's gay too and living with his partner). I brought this up with her which ended in us both shouting, her saying she's having to question her religion for me and telling me it's not easy for her and me asking her to just treat me like she used to, like a daughter. It's all fine now, but I'll never come out to other parts of my family and like I said before, I have my family of mates. They’re the best people who have seen me grow up and would never reject me for any reason. The prejudice I receive in the streets is disheartening and can be dealt with, but when it's your mum it's not so fun. Make your own family, have two, why stop at one eh?
I came out mainly because I was mad about this girl and just as she was phasing out I met Jess and fell in love. I wasn't ever comfortable with who I am. When I was a child I thought I was a boy, I grew out of that but I've never been like all the other girls. Gender never meant much to me and when I liked guys it was never for their brains it was just magazine kinda men. It was ridiculously obvious I was going to be gay. Despite the emotional trauma of living as a teen/preteen, feeling like you're unnatural and knowing you'll upset your family for being who you are, it's the best thing that I could wish for. I'm proud of the battle, it makes me...me. The community amaze me, never a reason to be ashamed of who you are.
I first had a feeling I was gay in 10th or 11th grade but decided I wasn't and pushed it to the back of my head. I came to realize I was gay when I met my first girlfriend I was 18 and in my first year of college. After I realized I started telling people pretty much right away because I was just excited that I had finally figured myself out.
How I told people really varied on the person. I told my family in person over winter break. But a lot of my friends from Hamilton I told over msn and the phone. I really didn't think any of my friends would have a problem with it so I wasn't as concerned with how I told them. My friends come and go so if they had a problem then they didn't have to hang out with me. I was financially dependent on my family so it was really important that they were ok with it. I told my friends first just because I wanted to tell my family in person. I almost told my uncle before my parents because he came to visit me but I figured my parents would want to know first. When I came home for winter break, I told my younger brother first because I wanted his opinion on what my parents would think.
I expected my friends to be fine with it, which they were. I knew my one uncle would be fine with it, and I was pretty sure my parents would be ok with it but still had my doubts when I was telling them. My friends were fine with it and my younger brother was really cool with it. My parents were really shocked, and I think a bit upset but acted as if they were ok with it, they are honestly still trying to get used to it. My grandmother thinks it is a stage, and my other grandparents are trying to be ok with it. I have an uncle who congratulated me on coming out, which most of my cousins did too.
I don't think coming out really affected any of my relationships in a negative way. It may have made things a bit more awkward between me and my parents but I've always had an awkward relationship with my parents.
I think the most common thing for me when coming out to people was that they were shocked because I am girly and I was dating boys right up until I came out. I do find that I am stereotyped because of the way I look, people are surprised that I wear dresses and own heels. I think a lot of stereotyping of lesbians happens in the media and in the LGBT community. I've actually had someone ask me in a gay bar "why are you here? You aren't gay" to which I replied “you shouldn't judge a book by its cover”. Later I heard the same girl talking to her friend about how she wished there were more girly lesbians. I have been discriminated for being gay. I never got trained to waitress at one of my old jobs because I didn't flirt with my male manager. I've also had dyke yelled at me.
I feel like I’m always coming out, anytime I meet someone new I have to come out to them. Because I'm girly people just assume I'm straight until told otherwise, in which case I sometimes get told I'm not. I’m okay with who I am though, I had a great role model when I was coming out - Ellen Degeneres, she is amazing, so funny and hot!
I think I thought it when I was about 12 and then I think I kinda came to the conclusion on my 18th birthday where I did a lot of thinking and I realised that I’d spent more than half my life feeling this way. I thought, it couldn’t be a phase, you know ‘it’s a phase you liking girls’, I just thought yea I’m 18 I’m not gonna grow out of it, it’s not going to happen.
It was kinda forced out of me by my best friend who kept poking me and saying ‘are you gay? are you gay? are you gay?’ for about a week until I just said ‘yes, I am okay? Now just shut up’. She was happy then, considering she had outed about 3 other people before me and I got added to the list. I think she was just excited because it meant she could go to gay bars with me. I told all my friends but the first person that I really made a conscious effort to tell was my brother who was 13 at the time. I told him in the kitchen quite briefly by saying ‘Jesse, you know I’m a lesbian?’ and he was like ‘is that it?’ I asked him if he minded and he said ‘no’ then I told him not to tell anyone and he said that if he ever came out I would be the first person he told.
My older sister told my father on my behalf in front of me which was very awkward because my Dad knew. We were sitting there with me, my sister, my dad and my step mum and she said ‘oh just tell him!’ and I said ‘I’m not going to because you’re making it awkward’ and she blurted out ‘Dad, Carrie’s a lesbian’. He got angry with her because he said he would rather have heard it from me and he could tell that I would rather have told him myself, he was really okay with it though.
I told my mum about a month later, I couldn’t tell her at the same time because she was just about to get married and I didn’t want to take away from her day. I kept running through in my head the worst case scenario, which I think everyone does and that’s why I left it so long to tell her. I thought, worst case scenario, she’ll kick me out the house and I’ll have nowhere to live. So I had to weigh up the pros and cons. I knew I had to tell her at some point because she’d be pissed if I didn’t and I wanted to tell her because she’s my mum and I wanted her to know. I expressed these concerns to everyone and they all said ‘oh she’ll be fine with it, she has gay friends’ but I don’t know why everyone assumes that if you have gay friends then you’re okay with homosexuality because that is definitely not necessarily true.
Anyway, when she was on her honeymoon I left to go travelling and I was going to be away for 2 months. I thought, I can’t leave without telling her because then it will be a year since the first person found out and she needed to know. So I sent her an email saying I’d done the housework and then...by the way...’I’m gay’. I finished the email by saying ‘hope you’re okay, hope your honeymoon is going okay’. She replied when she got back with a long paragraph about her honeymoon, a long paragraph about how I hadn’t cleaned the house and then she just said ‘I don’t care about your sexuality’ and she finished it with a long paragraph about how crap I’d been while she’d been away. It wasn’t really discussed after that. It wasn’t so much that she didn’t care, because she loves me and I’m her child but it was more about ‘I don’t want it in my face. I don’t want anything to do with it’.
I think I was more optimistic about the reaction I expected from my mum. The way she phrased it, I was very confused as to whether she meant it in a negative or positive way. It took a couple of months for me to realise that she really wasn’t okay with it. The situation was probably made worse by the fact that she knew who I was dating on a personal level. I had told my Dad when I was with my ex so I think I found it a lot easier but when I told my mum I had just got with my current girlfriend. I never really said anything about it though, because my girlfriend knew my mum and she didn’t really want my mum to know.
My older sister didn’t take it well which is why she decided to tell everyone when I wasn’t ready for them to know. She also started to imply a lot of things about me that were very stereotypical despite the fact she knew I wasn’t those things. It helped the relationship with my younger sister because she was quite religious at the time and she was attending church a lot. At church they were teaching her some quite homophobic stuff and she would slag off a lot of LGBT things all the time. I told her that the reason I was late coming out to her was because of how she had been acting and she was very apologetic. She just said ‘I can’t believe I’ve been saying these things!’ It brought me closer with my Dad too. His view was that it was brilliant because he would always be the most important man in my life whereas my mum wouldn’t be the most important woman in my life. I think it made it easier not lying to my mum but harder in other respects because now she knows she says things like ‘stop shoving it in my face’, even though she would have been more accepting before I told her.
I remember getting told off by my aunt in the car because she lives abroad and I hadn’t told her because I assumed my mum would. She was just irritated because she hadn’t been told immediately via a telephone conversation and wasn’t being kept in the loop. My dad offered to tell my whole family for me. Unfortunately, my great grandma Jessica passed away about 3 months before I told my dad and I was always upset that I never got a chance to tell her because she was like a mum to me. I knew she would have been the most accepting person in the world. My dad told my nana Bev and she said ‘me and Jessica knew years ago!’ I think that made me happier, knowing that she had passed away knowing about that part of me.
I’m not out to all of the older members of my family, especially my Granddad. He is very Irish Catholic and although his best friend is gay it’s just not something that he accepts. It’s not that I wouldn’t tell him but it’s just that I haven’t yet and I won’t until it’s necessary. Unless it gets to a point where I’m taking my girlfriend to Christmas dinner, then there’s never a need for me to discuss my romantic life with him. Despite not really telling my Granddad I haven’t made a conscious effort to keep it hidden from anyone because I figure, if I can accept it then that’s the only opinion that I really care about. Some of my family have accepted it but those who haven’t I don’t worry about. I’m not going to change because they don’t approve so I don’t care about their opinions.
I found it quite funny when I told my friends because I was worried that they might be a bit awkward around me now that they knew, but they got more ‘touchy feely’ which slightly creeped me out. I think it was because they were trying to make it clear that they were okay with it but it was a bit weird.
I’ve experienced discrimination because of being a lesbian. I used to work at a theatre and I was pretty much the only female member of staff, all my senior staff were male. I went out with two of the guys, who both kinda fancied me, and this girl for a drink. One of the guys asked me ‘are you going to go out with Stephen?’ and I said ‘well he’s not really my type if you know what I mean, he’s missing something’. The girl found it hilarious because she got it straight away but the guys were a bit slow on the uptake. In the end I had to just say ‘I’m a lesbian’ and one of the guys said ‘no you’re not’ and I said ‘yes, actually I am’. He kept arguing with me and his justification for why I couldn’t possibly be a lesbian was because ‘lesbians are dirty, disgusting and sinful and they’re going to hell and you couldn’t possibly be all of those things.’ He was saying all of this to my face and then he spent the rest of the night hitting on me. After that, because some of the guys knew I was a lesbian, I started to get quite badly sexually harassed at work. It got to the point where I had this guy slap my ass just outside work and I shouted after him ‘you know that’s sexual harassment’ and he just laughed and ran off. The next day he turned to me and said ‘you know you can’t report me for sexual harassment because I did it out of work’. His view was that because I was a lesbian and obviously nothing sexual was going to happen, he no longer had to sweet talk me, he could treat me in any way he wanted and I basically had no rights. Obviously I did have rights but the trouble was my bosses were doing it too and I didn’t know who I was supposed to report it to in that situation so I ended up leaving.
I’ve started to pick up on things a lot more though; I tend to get a lot of people asking questions about me. I worked with my girlfriend and we were quite close friends at work. A lot of people asked her if I was a lesbian while I was off travelling and she just said ‘you’d have to ask her’. Also, I’m doing this play at school, it’s an interpretation of this really abstract play and we wanted to play the characters as lesbians. My teacher said ‘none of you could realistically portray lesbians’ I thought, no one says I couldn’t realistically play a straight person!
I generally tend to be very open about my sexuality to the point where I think it can annoy people. My mum has a problem with it and she got annoyed because I changed my facebook status to ‘interested in women’. I saw it as a last step, as a way of me accepting who I am, but she can’t see it because she’s blocked from my profile. However, a lot of her friends saw it and started asking her if I ‘batted for the other side’ and she adamantly denied it on my behalf even though I don’t care if they know or not.
I definitely get stereotyped quite a lot; my sister did it a lot when I first came out and my mum does it too. My mum said that ‘gays and lesbians have no individual identity’ because, once she went to G-A-Y and they were all dressed the same and they were all in tank tops and jeans. But it’s the same as if you went to a straight club they’re all there in their little miniskirts and crop tops. But you don’t learn to stereotype straight people, you learn to stereotype gay people or minorities. The trouble is, sometimes we conform to the stereotypes of lesbians to feel more included in the community and to help identify as a lesbian. Once you’ve identified yourself you want to fit the label to a certain extent. You want to be part of a community and dressing like them is one step towards becoming like those people you aspire to become. Society’s stereotypical view of a lesbian has helped me to come out in positive and negative ways because it’s given me something to lean on. I can create myself from that, but at the same time I’m going to get rid of that stereotype by building upon it. Eventually people will see that the stereotype doesn’t really add up because you are so many other things than that. I think a lot of stereotyping comes from TV and the portrayal of lesbians. When TV shows put a lesbian character in them, they’ll advertise it and make an effort to make a big deal out of it. The fact that they have to shout about it shows how archaic they are because it shouldn’t matter anymore than if you were putting another straight person in the show.
I try not to assume anyone’s sexuality and I try not to assume that anyone would automatically think that I’m straight so I’m very open about it. If it comes up in conversation I’ll say that I have a girlfriend. If you just don’t assume that people think you’re straight then it’s very easy to not have to come out to everyone, if you just act like you. They pretty much get it straight away.
I never really knew I think, until I was about 16. When I was younger, my best friend Chelsea and I would always play dating where we dated each other and pretended to have sex and make out and all that. And then her uncle/my step-dad [footnote: crazy situation here] would take us out to "check out babes" and we would give him our honest opinion on the girls that we looked it. (I blame him.) The other guys in the family would laugh and our moms would tell them to stop it all the time, but we never thought of it. When Rosie O'Donnell was on TV, I asked my mom about it and she just told me that it was possible to love whoever I wanted, that some girls love girls and some boys love boys and it doesn't matter, as long as you're happy. The whole checking out girls thing never occurred to me that it could be a first/early sign? I guess I never thought about it, although now I realize that I was attracted to some of these women I was looking at.
When I was in 8th grade, I had this girl Marissa sleepover at my house. We were both in my room with my sister, and then my sister was upset about something and wasn't tired so my step-mom came in to lay with her and Marissa and I slept in the living room. That night was my first lesbian experience. I was 13 and she was 11. I don’t know how she knew so much more than me, but she did. We essentially fucked each other, and I enjoyed it and I'm sure she did too, but we never spoke about it after the fact. I never even mentioned it to anyone, or thought "Oh my god I might be gay." To me it was just experimenting and having fun with a quite sexually active younger girl.
My first sort of relationship with a girl was when I was 14/15. I began cheering at my school and met this girl Kristina who I became really, really close with. We slept together almost every night, went tanning, cheered, went to parties, everything. At night we would make out and kiss and laugh, and one night we kinda stopped and had to think about it. She asked me "What are we, Wyndham?" and I just said "I don't know." We exchanged a couple of "I love yous" but it was never anything super serious. During that time I had also made my first official gay best friend, Jimmy, who invited me to sleep over the day I met him, and I did. I told him about this and he would say "Well maybe you're a cunt lover. My friend Jordan is, you can meet her when she's out of rehab."
I would talk to him about Kristina, and how I liked her, and he was one of the only people I told about our first sexual experience. We had decided one day over winter break to eat each other out, along with our friend Kristy. It was innocent curiosity, and we did it with the lights on and the door locked. We made the mistake to tell our friend Sam about our escapade, who leaked it to an older girl, who told essentially everyone in the school. Soon after word got out to Kristina's mom and she was beyond pissed, and Kristina and I were not allowed to hang out, and Kristina started dating Brad.
Once I met Jordan, Jimmy’s friend, I came out to her, and soon after, my best friend Chelsea. They we're all really good about it, and Chelsea made a comment that "Everyone is bi in 2005. It's like getting a cell phone." After that I told a couple of Chelsea's new friends, but with them I had mostly online relationships or writing letters, so they we're easier to tell. Next I slowly moved onto a couple of my close friends, and it just kinda came out like "I...like...girls." And they were all totally cool with it! I was so relieved to have friends who were like whatever. In the group of friends I had which included Jimmy and Jordan we were just referred to as "the gays" and remain to this day best friends with those people. My cheering friends didn't really care, but of course that caused a stir with the whole "Lesbian Cheerleader" thing.
My brother, who is two years younger, kinda just knew and didn't really care. He was totally cool with it, and so were his friends. My littlest brother who is 5 years younger, used to make comments all the time and I would get SO mad at him. He knew, obviously, but would say rude things at family functions just to get a rise. Zac and I would tell him quite often to shut up but clearly he just wanted attention from it. I told my sister, Raquel, who is also 5 years younger, one night when we were in our room. I think we had just watched some gay movie, or were about to, and I was like "Raquel...well...I kinda am dating a girl" and she was pretty alright with it. I feel like it was harder on me than her because I was supposed to be the older sister who dated boys and brought them home and la de da. I think sometimes I still feel bad about that. My youngest sister, Abi, who is now 10, still does not know. She used to ask when she was younger and I kind of explained it to her but something tells me she still doesn't quite get it. Over the summer I had my current girlfriend stay with me at my Mom’s house for a month and Abi got to meet her and hang out. She had seen us kiss and knew that we slept together, I also kinda felt bad about that too because I’m sure her friends ask.
I expected that everyone would be quite alright with it, and they were for the most part, well my friends were. My family on the other hand were a different story. One day when I was 16 I kind of slipped the news to my Gramma by accident and she was not so happy. As soon as I told her I went into an "oh shit" panic mode, and immediately called my dad. I called my Dad straight away to tell him too because I knew that my Gramma would tell him. I thought he was going to be mad but he wasn’t and he just said "Why would I be mad? Your Grandmother is beeping in." That was a relief when I got home I kind of got the "we already knew" speech from my dad and step-mom which was nice. When I told my mom it was also pretty easy. I told her I was going on a double date with my friend Jimmy and that I wasn’t dating Jimmy. She just said ‘Have fun’ and then my little brother, Xander, so happily chimed in "About time you tell mom you like pussy."
I don't think I was ever really like depressed about it or anything. I was always happy about who I was and never really cared about what other people thought. During my whole questioning stage I hooked up with both boys and girls, but I haven't hooked up with a boy in almost 4 years and I’m happy.
I was a very early developer in terms of mentality and physical appearance which is odd considering that I never really started having what we call 'crushes' until I started comprehensive school. Everyone in primary school was obsessed with having boyfriends and girlfriends and I used to feel slightly weird for not being attracted to anyone, but when I was twelve I began to notice boys and girls, so I realised quite young that I liked both.
My first crush was a guy called Jonathan and then I started hanging around with these two girls called Adele and Lorna. We quickly became best friends along with my friend from primary school, Sarah. Gradually, I began to realise that I favoured Adele more than the other girls even though I'd known Sarah since we were five. I got excited when I got to sit next to her and when I'd make her laugh it used to fill me with so much happiness knowing that I was the one to make her laugh like that. If you got real close to her too, she used to smell so good. This was before I realised that I liked her in a more-than-a-friend way and it's all very vague to me now, how I came to this realisation. I don't think it was a surprise to me that I liked her, maybe I'd known it deep down all along, I don't know, but it wasn't a big deal to me that I liked a girl.
I had a sleepover once with those three and another one of our mutual friends, Hayley, and I don't know how it came about, but for most of that night, I was lying in Adele’s arms just having her hold me. People were none the wiser so I could revel in being that close to her without her knowing that I wanted us to be more. So I can understand why some people are reticent to tell their crushes that they like them for fear of not being able to hug them or anything anymore. A year after I realised I liked Adele, I thought that I was gay because my crush on Jonathan had waned and all the people I fancied were women (including two of my first famous crushes, Annie Lennox and Katey Sagal) so naturally I assumed I was gay. It was at this point that I got depression because of the way Sarah had begun treating me. She would make snide comments about me to other people whilst I was sat with them and use me. At one point, I think she had our whole form not speaking to me. I became very introverted and I hardly spoke to anyone unless they spoke to me first. I generally felt like everyone was against me. I also got another crush at this point: my food technology teacher. She was smokin', short, cropped hair, diminutive, but pert, not skinny and extremely feisty. I actually had daydreams about her throwing me on the bed and, as the Faithless song goes, 'tearing off tights with her teeth'.
I didn't tell anyone for about a year and I was fine with only me knowing, but one night when I was thirteen, me and my mum were sat in the living room on our own just watching television and I thought it was the ideal opportunity to tell her. It wasn't something I had planned it was a spontaneous 'coming out' if you will. I took a deep breath, turned to my mum and said, "Mum, I think I'm gay." She didn't so much as bat an eyelid, just took a sip of her tea, turned to me and said, "Hanna, if you are, that doesn't bother me. It might just be a phase, but if not, I don't care, I'll love you all the same." I don't know why I decided to 'come out' at that particular time, but as I said, it was spontaneous, so maybe I just thought the time was right to let someone know how I was feeling. Aside from my mum, I also told my Nannan who immediately told me that it was 'just a phase'. I reiterated the fact that I liked girls to her several times and she said the same thing. She's come round slightly now, which is good, but back then that's all I was bombarded with. No support, just those three words. I also told my psychologist who I'd been seeing because of the depression.
I decided to tell my friends, one by one. I told Lorna, Adele and Sarah and they were all really accepting. Then, of course, once they'd found out, Lorna started asking me about anyone that I liked. I eventually told her that I liked Adele, but I told her she couldn't tell her. Her face fell when I told her that and she said that Adele had a right to know. After some cajoling, she managed to get me to let her tell Adele on the way home and said she'd text me when she knew. I didn't receive a text that night and was extremely anxious and apprehensive about what her reaction had been. When Lorna arrived the next day, I immediately asked her what had happened. She told me that Adele hadn't believed her at first, but once it had sunk in, she became quiet and reserved, much unlike her. When Adele turned up later on she said hello to me like everything was okay and I cried. When we were passing notes to each other in our science class at the end of the day, I asked her what she thought about it and she told me that she'd still be my friend, but we wouldn't be as close as we were. My eyes welled up with tears and it dawned on me that now she knew, I wouldn't be able to lay in her arms with her oblivious to how I felt anymore. The truth was, I'd never even thought about telling Adele that I liked her. I'd spoken to my mum about it and she said that it'd ruin our friendship, but she was more than supportive when she found out I'd told her. Shortly after that I moved forms because of how Sarah had been treating me. I made two friends, Eddie and Amelia, in my new form, they were amazing to me throughout this period and accepted me, no questions asked.
My friend Hayley was extremely harsh. A few weeks before I actually told Hayley outright the gay storyline started on Coronation Street with Todd and me and Hayley were discussing it. At one point in the conversation, I told her that I knew how Todd felt and she said to me, "I'm scared." I just laughed, believing she was joking and her attitude didn't differ around me, so I took it to mean that she had been joking and she hadn't dwelt on what I'd said. Fast forward to a few weeks later, we were texting each other and she said something to me that was quite homophobic, so I texted her asking if she was homophobic. I'd already gone and told her that I liked girls and despite my many attempts to take back what I'd said, she said, "I find the thought of two girls and guys kissing disgusting. I don't want to be your friend anymore." I texted her a few times after that, but she didn't text back and at school the next day, she sent her friend up to me to apologise for some of the harsh things she'd said to me, but that she still didn't want to be my friend. I was just grateful for the apology to be honest. That was her decision if she didn't want to speak to me. Hayley didn't tell anyone either, which I was grateful for and neither did her friend.
At one point one of the popular girls came up to me during a food technology lesson and we were talking and I casually mentioned that I liked someone. After much coaxing, she finally got me to admit that I liked Adele AND my food technology teacher. It was my own fault, but she told me that she wouldn't tell anyone and stupid, naive me actually believed her. I kind of realised what I'd done when I'd got home as I immediately phoned Connexions and regaled a lovely chap who's name evades me and to whom I will always be thankful, about what I'd done and my worry about the rumours that might be afoot when I returned to school on Monday. He talked to me and calmed me down for close to an hour. He then gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me: "Don't leave yourself open to hurt." And as I'd thought, when I got to school on Monday, I had everyone coming up to me asking me if I was a 'lemon', which is apparently slang for 'lesbian'. I kept denying it and denying it and one of Hayley's friends was surprisingly really nice to me and when I wrote Hanna Lee on my folder she asked me if Lee was my girlfriend. I wanted to scoff, but she was lovely about it all as opposed to everyone else in that class of mine, so I just smiled and told her that it's actually my middle name.
Anyway, I eventually conceded to the rumours and so I was bombarded with comments like 'lemon' and such for the next year and even got a milk carton thrown at me by a 'popular' girl who thought I was staring at her arse. She missed, but that's not the point and the teacher didn't even do anything about it, which pissed me off royally. I also received a phone call from a guy in my old form, which basically involved him calling me 'lemon' and trying to get me to admit it again and again. My dad found out where he lived though and had a word with his mum. I haven't got any idea what she said to him, but he never 'harassed' me again. Even when I spotted him in the corridor at school, he didn't say anything to me unlike his mates. So, as school wasn't a very pleasant place to be at that time, I needed someone to talk to. Unfortunately, my psychologist that I'd been seeing as a result of the depression had left to work somewhere else, so I texted a girl that I knew at a stage school that I attended every Saturday. I hung around with her there and always had the impression that she was gay, so I texted her, asking her if she likes women first, just to be sure. She told me that she did. I texted her a few more times after that and got no reply, then I got a phone call from someone that I didn't know (it turned out to be this girl's friend) and she said to me, "Look, stop texting Laura, okay? She's not a lesbian, so stop stalking her." I then got a text from Laura a few days after that telling me that another girl at stage school had nicked her phone, seen the text messages and now everyone in the stage school knew about me liking girls. I quit shortly after that not being able to deal with the depression and another environment where I would be subject to humiliation and as talking to Laura hadn't helped one iota, I discovered the internet and began talking to other girls who were going through the same thing. I also met one of my closest friends now in this period.
The depression was slowly easing when I got to fourteen. I still wasn't one hundred per cent, but I'd moved forms because of it, made another little group of friends who were all really nice about me liking girls apart from one, Joely, another girl whom I'd known since I was five. Back when the tAtU song came out, we watched the video and I'd asked her, "Would you still be my friend if I turned out to be gay?" She said to me, "I don't know." So, I definitely had second thoughts about telling her. I told her though and she seemed fine, her distaste became apparent though every time I went to hug her. She would even go so far as to stand 30cm away from me, which upset me as everyone else who she hung around with was nice about it. I eventually lied to her and told her that it was just a phase and I didn't like girls anymore, just so she'd treat me like everyone else. Of course, that meant I had to lie to everyone else about it too.
It wasn’t until last year that I told Joely yet again that I'm bisexual. She seemed to have grown up though and could let me hug her and things that she didn't do before. During the last few years of my comprehensive school years I was able to open up to my true friends and tell them the truth and Hayley had even started speaking to me. Even though it was only to do with school work, it was still nice to have her interacting with me again. It was around this time that Franz Ferdinand came out, too, and I got a crush on the lead singer, Alex Kapranos. It's not until now that I've realised that sexuality is fluid and slightly more ‘complicated’ than that as I know some women who identify as gay, but find a certain guy hot. I know there’s a lot of people who are exclusively heterosexual and homosexual, but sexuality for some people is fluid. That’s why I prefer to just tell people who I like instead of defining my sexuality ‘cause I wouldn’t want to rule anyone out.
I'm very close to my grandparents, parents and brother, so naturally, I thought they should be the first to know. I told my mum first though 'cause she's always encouraged me to talk to her about any sorts of problems I'm having. I told her to tell my dad and he basically said the same thing to me. My brother was nine when I told him and he just said it's no big deal. My brother is sixteen this year and thinks he's gay, but because of my experience, he's been sensible, hasn't told anyone and has a great group of friends who I know will accept him when he decides to 'come out'. I then decided to tell my friends as when they discussed who they fancied in class, I wanted to be part of that discussion, I suppose. It also felt like the natural step to take after telling my family. I haven't got the slightest idea why I decided to tell one of the popular girls. I didn't have much will-power when she kept asking me who I liked. I am now the complete opposite and if I don't want to tell you something, no matter how much coaxing you do, I cannot be persuaded into telling you.
I think most people say this about their mum, but my mum seriously is one of the most beautiful, generous people I've ever met. She's always encouraged me and my brother to be ourselves and if we have any problems, to talk to her about them. Of course, there's that nagging worry in the back of your mind where you think they might not be as open-minded as you thought, but I thought I knew my mum well enough to know that she'd be okay with it and she was. As for my friends, I honestly just went in and told them, not knowing what to expect. I knew they could go either way and after Hayley's reaction, I knew that one of them might act like that, so it wasn't that big a deal telling my friends.
My aunties, uncles, cousins and granddad don't know. My granddad would probably take even longer than my Nannan to accept it even though he's mellowed over the years. I had the ideal opportunity to tell one of my cousins the other day, who isn't homophobic, but we were talking and she said, "I don't know how anyone can be gay. I mean, could you be with a woman?" I basically clammed up and just said, "It depends on the person." I kicked myself afterwards. I could've said, "Yeah, Kate, I've actually got something I've been meaning to tell you..." But, I didn't. I doubt the opportunity will come up again anytime soon, but when it does, I will tell her. The same goes for the rest of the family: when the opportunity arises, I will tell them.
I remember I knew from a very early age that I had an interest in women possibly from as early as 5. I remember sneaking downstairs at night to watch TV when I stumbled across a female porno, I remember being transfixed and in complete awe. From the age of 9 I knew my sister was gay and seeing her with her girlfriends I knew that was what I wanted. When I was 12 I knew for definite and considered myself 'into women'. I had my first puppy love for my best friend and we experimented sexually. I thought this would lead to something but for her it was simply an experiment, I was heartbroken.
I didn't tell anyone about my first incident but I told my sister after my first proper kiss with a girl when I was 13. I told people because I was proud of who I was. I’ve been brought up in a very open family and I knew my sister was gay. I also found out when I was 12 that my dad is gay and so was my late mother so for me it was easy to come out to my family and my friends were all very open about sexuality so it was easy to tell them too. I didn’t come out to them in a big way we all knew what we were like.
I have two sisters, the straight one was the closest person to me so I always told her when I thought a girl was pretty so there wasn't really a 'coming out to her' or my friends. My friends were so close it was kind of implied. I told my gay sister first because we were also close but there is 5 years between us so we’re not as close as I am to my other sister. I wanted her to know I was like her I guess, for support and guidance. I told my sister over the phone when we were on a family trip to Italy when I was 13. I thought this was too early to tell my dad because he still saw me as a child and anyone I was interested in was 'just a friend' in his eyes anyway but he always knew. I told my Dad much later on, when I was about 16 when we were in London. We were talking about sexuality and he turned to me and asked ‘what about you?’ knowing that I’d had boyfriends before. I said ‘yeah I’m more into women’ and that was that really.
Telling my grandma came much later at the age of 19 but that was once I started getting proper girlfriends so I went to her house for tea and told her I had a girlfriend. I told my grandma last as she had had problems coming to terms with my sister being gay so I didn’t want to upset her. She knew about my sister’s boyfriends/girlfriends so I thought as I had a long term girlfriend who was around most of the time I might as well come clean and be honest. I thought she would have a hard time about it but she was fine with it and said it didn’t make a difference, since she had been through so much to accept my sister she was now a lot more open minded and accepting .
The only bad reactions I had were from people in my school when they found out and a lot of the 'chavs' would have a bit of a fit in the changing rooms for attention. They would say things like 'urgh you’re looking at me, lesbian!' that type of thing but I just brushed most of that off as they weren’t worth it. I never had a bad reaction from any of my family or friends though and I didn’t expect them to react badly because once you meet me I’m an open book, I talk about everything I like and dislike. I keep no secrets so most people knew before I had to tell them.
It was always clear to me that there was something not quite right about my sexuality. I was married to a man and we had gotten married about 2 years before I realised. I’d always had crushes on women but I always discounted them. I had a lesbian experience when I was younger in college, a girl asked me if I wanted to join her and her boyfriend and I just thought, why not? But I didn’t really like it because there had been a man around. Looking back, it was very straight sex, even though it was with a woman, it was all for the guys benefit.
About 5 years ago I had a close friend who was a lesbian and I was in love with her in a really powerful way and I thought ‘well how can I be in love with her, I’m not gay?’ It was something that I tried to ignore or downplay or discount and then she became disabled so we started to have more contact because she was very isolated and I didn’t like that. It became more apparent to me that it was going to be an issue that I was in love with her but also married to a man. I was sexually abused when I was a child so I was seeing a therapist and I was starting to realise that I was doing things that were harmful to me and that was related to the abuse that I suffered.
Me and the woman I’m in love with, Karen, were on the phone as I had recommended that she read Lady Chatterley’s lover and she hated it. She had some questions about heterosexual sex because it didn’t make sense to her, she asked me all these innocent questions. Something about the innocence of her sexuality, how it was unimaginable to her that someone would have sex that they didn’t want to have and me being in love with her just made the stars align. It felt almost cosmic, like the sky had gotten really big and the ground started to shake with an amazing beautiful earthquake. I felt the world move around me and for the first time I thought ‘I don’t want to have sex that I don’t want to have’. And my next thought was ‘oh my god I want to have sex with women! I got off the phone and I was really scared, I started meditating a lot and started processing things but that was the moment when things became clear.
I’m out now, not totally at work, but everywhere else. Karen was the first person I told because it was relevant in our friendship and I needed to get distance from her because I was married and I needed to handle it. I basically told her ‘I’m gay and I’m in love with you and we can’t hang out for a while’. The next person I told was my therapist who didn’t believe me, despite the fact that she was a lesbian herself. I don’t think the therapist believed me because I think she thought I was using a diversion to deal with the problems in my marriage. After that I told my husband and he was extremely supportive about it. He wasn’t threatened at all. He’s very active in gay rights and he’s a very feminine person himself. The men I’ve been attracted to have mostly been gender alternate themselves. Then I started telling my friends, I didn’t really come out until after me and my husband divorced because I wanted to see if there was any way for us to be together with my sexuality the way it was. But we couldn’t make it work and when we divorced I started telling my friends and asserting it in a more powerful way. I’m in contact with my brother and he told me ‘well this is good because all the guys you’ve dated are assholes’. My brother is in the military and he says ‘I can’t believe my sister’s gay, are you going to go back to men?’ And I say ‘no’ he’s ten years younger than me so I’m not sure what he’s thinking.
One good thing about my coming out was that, being in my 30s, I already have a very positive social group set up. My family are very abusive and my father is very homophobic so I’m already distanced from them for other reasons. The friends I had who were homophobic I managed to drop quite quickly. The social group I have are very liberal and progressive. I haven’t had any problems with them on a surface level but on a more subtle level I’ve had problems. The way I see it, is that even if you have very progressive politics it doesn’t necessarily mean that you see how gender is regulated or how homophobia works in interpersonal reactions. Even my therapist, who is fine with it now, will use ‘normal’ to refer to heterosexuality. Also the women at my church, who are a great group of people, all have the right politics so they think it’s no big deal. Still, they’ll talk about gender or sexuality in ways that are very exclusive but it’s very subtle. So on the outside I haven’t experienced violence or overt hostility and all my friends are fine with it and happy for me but it’s still very confusing. I can still feel very isolated because they’re all straight, they’re not tuned into the ways that hetero-sexism gets played out.
The trouble is that ‘straight’ is the assumption, there is no question. What it’s like to be straight is what it’s like to be a human being. One thing that’s come up with Karen, who I’m now in a relationship with, is that we’ll get treated differently. Men will flirt with me in front of her or people will act like we’re just friends. So I’ll talk to my friends about how upsetting that is and they say ‘that’s just a relationship issue that everyone faces’ but it’s not at all. Straight people don’t see how far you have to go just to defend your right to exist. When I identified as straight I didn’t see that and so my straight friends don’t see that.
I’m still trying to locate my own queer identity. I think I had a lot of ideas about how lesbians acted and how they thought and obviously there are a million different ways to be. I’m still trying to locate who I am in all of this, who is my queer person. At work it’s so public because I’m an academic so it’s so exposed. I want who I am as a queer person to be very solid so that’s why I’m not out at work. It’s also quite sexist because I work in a very male dominated field. It’s something that kept me straight for a long time because I had this idea that being sexually available or attractive to men is the price you pay for being part of this ‘club’ and being able to do the kind of research that I wanted to do. I had this idea that this is what I had to do to be a full participant. A lot of gender harassment in academia is very subtle, people will flirt with me in response to my work and presentations and I never had the confidence that I needed to shut that down. Now I’m trying to navigate a way to stop that from happening.
I see a lot of sexism against lesbians in the gay community too, it upsets me that male homosexuality sets the standard for what homosexuality is in a lot of places. The thing I like about the word ‘lesbian’ is that it’s a word about women and what they do with each other and it doesn’t make reference to men or the male gaze in any way. I think the negative stereotypes that are brought up with the word ‘lesbian’ are about sexism. It’s the same with the word feminist, people don’t want to be known as a feminist. I don’t feel as worried about being stereotyped now that I identify as lesbian, I felt it more when I was straight. I was actively trying to conform to a stereotype by watching other women and copying how they acted but now I’m not trying to fit myself into anyone else’s category. I think the only time it really comes up is at my church and I get really upset about the way they talk about LGBT issues. In my mind I imagine that they’ll think ‘she’s just the hysterical, angry lesbian’. When I was straight it wasn’t authentic, at one point I tried to have sex with my husband the way I wanted to have sex and he started saying ‘it’s so scripted’ and I laughed because it was the first time that I was having sex that wasn’t scripted. So for me that’s the definition of a stereotype.
The stereotype about lesbianism that I had to get over was the idea that sex between women wasn’t real sex or that its less than heterosexual sex. So that upsets me and it mostly upsets me having to think of all the girls who might be queer and kept from knowing that because of all these messages that they’re being sent. That real lesbian sex doesn’t exist or that they’re only there for men’s pleasure.
When I had my first sexual experience with a woman in college it was the most unsatisfying thing. I didn’t enjoy it and because I didn’t enjoy it I thought that must mean I’m not gay. But when I had sex with a woman, when it was just about us and it wasn’t for the benefit of a guy, there was no comparison. Once a guy gets involved we’re in the realm of hetero-sexism. In my experience the fact that it was with another woman just made it lesbian sex for the benefit of a man and it confused me. I just wish that I’d never had that experience. Now I see that as one more way that I got distracted as seeing what was real for me.
One thing that’s been difficult for me is worrying about whether gays or lesbians who came out when they were younger would think I’m not really queer. I get some of that from my partner, at the start she had that worry and she had that feeling that I’m not the real thing because it took me so long to figure it out. I have a whole life before I came out; I was married and I had a lot of significant relationships with men. One thing that is confusing is I feel like I have to re-write a lot of those stories about what those relationships were. I have 15 years of relationships with significant men where we cared for each other and one of the things that’s been difficult is figuring out the meaning of those relationships. They were real relationships but there was also something false about it and what does it mean about how I was treating that person? Mostly it’s been a positive response from the men I dated but it’s something that I worry about.
There was something wrong with how I was approaching it in the beginning. Karen is extremely out and she has a very low tolerance for homophobia or hetero-sexism. She’ll call people out on it and I know I can’t really be with her if I don’t take that on myself. She is definitely my role model because she’s really strong, she has a lot dignity and she’s really perceptive. Despite the fact that I have all of these past relationships and my own identity to deal with I am happy and I finally feel comfortable. I’m not trying to fit into a stereotype anymore, I’m just being myself.
I resisted it for ages not for any moral reasons but because it seemed quite passé by the time I came round to realising it. It was when I was at university and I was in quite a social, feminist sort of crowd and of course all the girls were going out with each other. So being the last person who came round to it seemed quite naff. I eventually caved, I had been dating a girl for quite a long time and I used to say ‘no I’m just Becca-sexual’ and all my lesbian friends just said ‘that is the most bisexual thing I’ve ever heard, just get over it!’ and finally I did. In my third year of University I was about 23, but looking back I realised that I’d had crushes on women since I was very young.
The first people I originally admitted it to were the friends I told when I was dating another woman. I told my friends first but my parents weren’t far behind. My parents also pride themselves on being very liberal but there was a millisecond of being incredibly fifties about it. I called my mum and said ‘I think I might be bisexual’ and she said ‘oh no dear I don’t think you are’ and I said ‘no I actually am and that was quite homophobic of you’. So she said ‘yes you’re right, sorry that was generational. That’s fine I’ll tell your father’. Then when I told them that I was going to come home with my new partner she said ‘oh great is it a lovely chap?’ and I said ‘no not a lovely chap’ she said ‘oooh a lovely girl is it?’ I said ‘yes’ so she was fine with it, ‘okay great we’ll get your room ready’. So she then had to go and tell my little brother who’s about 9 years younger than me, he was maybe 11 at the time. He was playing computer games and my mum thought ‘how am I going to explain this?’ so she said ‘can I talk to you for a moment?’ he didn’t stop gaming he just said ‘yea, what?’ ‘I just want to talk to you about something, Becca’s bringing her new partner home’, ‘that’s great, whatever’ and she said ‘I think you should know, even though we’re all fine with it, because she’s in love and that’s great. It’s not a guy, it’s not a boyfriend’, ‘oh right, lesbian is she?’, ‘No not exactly a lesbian actually’, ‘oh right yea she’s bi’, ‘yes she is’, and he just said ‘oh right cool’ and that was it really.
My parents were so excited that they went round telling everyone. They told one of my aunts and she wasn’t very happy about it and that made me quite sad but my other aunts and uncles just sort of got on with it. I think they were probably quite relieved when I ended up with Adrian. I would have struggled to come out to my Grandma, she would have been so unhappy. I was aware when she was getting older and more delicate that I was being less and less like myself around her. I would have told her because I would have been living with my girlfriend and she would have been part of my life but I would have been anxious about it. She’s really the only one that I’ve been anxious about though. The only difficulty that came up with my parents, the only point when my dad had a serious chat again, was when I’d stopped going out with this girl and started going out with Adrian. My dad took me to the side and said ‘I just think that if you could go out with women why on earth would you go out with anyone else? I just don’t think you’ll be happy, women are so much nicer than men.’ I had to assure him that my new partner was very much a lesbian with a penis and he would like him as well. I’ve been with Adrian for ten years now so it’s been completely wasted on me. If I go into a room I tend to fancy more of the women than men and I still identify as bisexual but I don’t live any of the challenges and frankly my wonderfully accepting family were kind of wasted on me.
There were definitely issues with it on the scene, I had some very good gay friends who basically said they didn’t believe in bisexuality. I would say ‘well I’m right here, I’m not a unicorn. I exist’ so there is definitely that side of it. I totally understand why people have trouble with the idea of bisexuality. You define yourself as gay and align yourself with people that face those specific challenges and oppressions and get a sort of status out of it but you actually live your life with a partner of the opposite gender. These days I’m quite careful, I don’t talk about my sexuality a lot on the scene. I obviously still know what my sexuality is because I fancy both men and women but I don’t make a big play on it. I don’t see it as a big battle for me to fight as far as gay rights go. I try to stick to my corner, I understand that there are issues about it and I understand why people end up with someone of the opposite gender because society pushes us that way. I also understand why there’s animosity towards bisexuality but there definitely is an old fashioned way of thinking; either people don’t believe in it or people get a bit weirded out if you’re in their clubs. If I were bisexual, but with a woman, they wouldn’t have an issue with it because I would be facing the same challenges as them. I feel quite understanding about the rationale behind it so I try and let most of it not bother me.
The other attitude you get from both gay and straight people is that you’re really greedy. They don’t believe that you just have your type and it doesn’t matter what gender they are. They automatically think that you just fancy everyone. That is probably what I find most tiresome, especially as a woman, because straight men really get off on that. When I was dating women I did have people come up to us and say ‘oh can you get it on in front of me?’ and I’ve even had potential male partners say ‘oh you’re bi can you get off with another woman for me?’ As if I’m not really a person and the other woman isn’t really a person and my feelings for the girl wouldn’t somehow be as strong as they are for the guy. Actually, if I was getting off with someone else then my partner should be worried. One of the first things that my current partner did is take me seriously and he never had any of those corny, crappy issues about it. I definitely wouldn’t try to chum up with a lesbian couple and say ‘oh god isn’t it hard?’ because it’s just not the same position.
My job is acting so I find it’s much easier to be gay at times but I do think that you have to sense your way. When you’re in a girl’s changing rooms you have to be careful because if you hide it too long then it’s like you’ve been watching them or something. But equally, if I don’t say anything then I think I’m masquerading as straight and abusing their trust. I’m sure it’s more in my head than anyone else’s especially because I’ve never looked like anyone’s archetypal idea of what a lesbian looks like. I’ve always looked very straight and now obviously, looking very straight and having a relationship with a man for 10 years, it does tend to blow people’s minds when they find out I’m bisexual. I think that’s very healthy though, people’s ideas should be challenged so I quite like that. I don’t mind having to judge it or introduce it but there’s a social politic of when is the right time? and when is it useful? Also I’m not a very closed person so things just tend to come out of my mouth.
It must seem strange to someone who is gay but I’m just like them. It’s been ingrained in them that they are gay and they must find it strange that I still identify as bisexual even though I’ve been with a man for 10 years. But for me, I know within myself that I’m bisexual regardless of how long it’s been since I had sex with a woman. It’s like having bleached blonde hair, you’d always know you were really a brunette.
There are some ridiculous stereotypes of bisexuality in society. It comes directly out of a big porn aesthetic. You very rarely see sexy shots of two men getting it on but you very regularly see sexy shots of two women. It really doesn’t help in terms of having relationships with women because men think they can hassle you to do things for them. I think that’s very comfortable for men when the alternative is ‘oh they’re actually leaving me out altogether?!’ I do think there are very few female relationships in the media and often it’s women who are just experimenting for the camera which is basically the male gaze. There are very few older lesbians aren’t there? but there are tons of young experimental bisexuals with their boyfriends watching.
It would definitely be easier for everyone if there were more out people in the public eye. It’s how I feel about storytelling in general. If you’re excluded from your own stories then you don’t get to play all the options, you don’t get to play all the roles which is my issue with the way women are represented in the theatre. There is now a small movement in our very highly glamorised setting to allow for some lesbianism as long as it’s very heterosexually sexy, like the L word. Some presence is better than no presence but I think it’s better to have all the stories.
I wasn’t worried about being stereotyped myself because I look so not gay that initially I struggled with people not taking it seriously. But now with the glamorisation of the media, being a bit bisexual or lesbian gets a bit of attention. It’s a bit of a challenge on the scene too and I don’t think I’m anymore comfortable with that than when a guy comes up to me.
I was so surrounded by other women doing it and I think that was very healthy. The healthiest thing for me to do was to go out with a woman as I’d been with men who didn’t treat me very well. With a woman it was very straight forward and you could absolutely ask for the same kind of goodwill, emotional common sense and kindness that you gave yourself. It just meant that I never, ever went backwards again, never compromised again about how I was treated. So being in an environment where people just dated whoever they wanted no matter what the gender was very helpful to me. I just think if we were all able to do that people would have so many more healthy happy relationships not just with other people but with themselves. I think we’re all very cheated by a homophobic culture because it just literally cripples people emotionally. When I think about how fortunate I was to be in a position where I could go where my instincts took me I think it’s wrong that not all people are allowed to do that. We should all be allowed to find out where we’re comfortable.