Tag Archives: Coming out

The World as I know it

Ok, so I am coming up to my 24th birthday. Exciting, right? When I was little I had always imagine that my 24th year was going to be my best year. 24 has always been my favourite number: my birthday, the age my mum was when she got married. I was convinced that by 24 everything was going to be settled. I’d be married, a house, a cat (several cats), and a perfect job. As a little girl, with no particularly object of marriage in mind, I had not even thought about the fact that the law in my country would not allow me to marry!

At every age there are different challenges, I feel like my 20′s have been a time of big change. There have been tons of firsts. First smear test. First moving in with partner. First serious thoughts about marriage, pets and children (mainly pets). First full-time job. First spell in hospital. Some obviously more exciting than others… I have chosen, decided, prioritised, and taken full ownership of my future. With this also came  worries about rent, food, impending unemployment and it’s all been a bit much!

This is how I feel! Photo by Popitz: http://tinyurl.com/jw4psrh

This is how I feel!
Photo by Popitz: http://tinyurl.com/jw4psrh

I was delighted therefore to see the publishing of Stonewall’s ‘Gay in Britain’ report (http://www.stonewall.org.uk/documents/gay_in_britain.pdf). The report surveyed 3.7 million lesbian, gay and bisexual people across the UK and asked them about their perceptions and expectations of public life. The conclusions were bleak. People are considerably concerned about homo- and bi- phobias across virtually every area of public life from medical care to social care, from housing to their working environments, and most upsetting for me, in education. A huge 83% of people worried that their sexuality would put their child at risk of being bullied at secondary school.

This report has left me with a lot of thoughts, feelings, but mostly unanswered questions. Obviously, it is awful that a huge proportion of our community is concerned about such vast parts of their lives, that people may be making choices in response to these concerns and therefore limiting their lives. I wonder the strength of these concerns. I want to know what has fostered them, if they are based in experience, sensationalist media headlines or anecdotes shared between friends. I think the homo- and bi- phobias in school have a huge amount to answer for. Not just because school is hell for a lot of us, but because those hellish experiences go on to shape our expectations and taint our perceptions.

From my personal experience, although I have had isolated experiences of homophobia, this picture of Britain thankfully does not match my own experience. I have spent the last six years coming out in various different contexts and if I am honest it has not often been public authorities where I have faced discrimination, moreover individual idiots (in the street, friends of friends, etc.). From friends’ anecdotes, I am aware that I am in a fairly privileged position to say the least. but this is my experience. This is not to say I’ve not worried about a number of the things highlighted for concern in the report. Of course I have, but it is just worrying because I am a champion worrier, not from negative experience. And, I guess this is why research like this somewhat disconcerts me. It convinces me that I have something that I should  be worried about, and this I don’t like!

I hope that this research will soon enough be followed with some further qualitative research to work out where these worries are coming from so we can begin to tackle them. But, for now, I want to say to the little me’s of the world that worry themselves sick about coming out, about what life will be like as a queer and about how people will judge me, that life is often not as difficult as we imagine in our most anxious moments. Yes there is discrimination. Yes some people are horrible. But, things can be fabulous. Every complaint made. Every person willing to teach or stand for office. Every child born. We slowly break down this discrimination by saying that we will not tolerate it and in doing so we change society piece by piece.

Photo by The Green Gables: http://bit.ly/17e0W77

Photo by The Green Gables: http://bit.ly/17e0W77

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , ,

Heteronormativity: The Invisibility Curse of the Bi Person

One of the things some people in the closet may not realise is that once you’re out, you have to keep coming out. All. The. Time.

Really, this is true of any sexual identity, even the 100% straight and the flamboyantly gay stereotype. And really, in the long term, it’s a good thing if everyone has to do it. It shows that we’re moving past our assumptions, like we are by asking people what pronoun they would like to be referred to by, or whether or not they like chocolate cake (you’d be surprised how often that’s an assumption).

Photo by: 'freakgirl': http://bit.ly/1bixI8t

Photo by: ‘freakgirl’: http://bit.ly/1bixI8t

And you know, heteronormativity isn’t just an inconvenience. It hurts. It hurts because the erasure of parts of your sexual identity shows on your friends’ faces; that they don’t recognise parts of you, like that part belongs to an imposter, or worse, a poser. I imagine this experience is not unique to me, and not unique to identifying as bisexual, but I’m just going to speak for the experience I’ve had.

Heteronormativity hurts all the more for the femme, bi woman. Or just that bi person who doesn’t dress towards the gay stereotype for their gender. Why? Because the ability to participate in society, in your family life, in your social life, as a person attracted to the traditionally opposed gender makes you (the real you) feel all the more invisible to those you love, all the more guilt ridden, all the more fake, all the more closeted, all the more sidelined in the event you make yourself explicit.

guilt

One of the symptoms of this, which many bi women I know suffer from, is Man-Guilt: the guilt you feel from seeing, dating or sleeping with someone who identifies as a man, because of the conviction of self-imposed erasure you place upon yourself. You feel like you are betraying all the effort you’ve put into coming out. Personally, I don’t suffer heavily from Man-Guilt thanks to the loving long-term relationship I’ve been blessed with, and all the support and security that has come with it. However, this is not a mild symptom; I have comforted some friends through seriously depressing periods of this guilt, which, coupled with the insecurity of externally imposed erasure, can come out pretty debilitating.

Having part of your identity placed as subordinate to it’s other half, in my opinion, is worse than having that whole aspect ignored completely. I would rather be viewed as a puritanical victorian prude woman (read: does not have a sexuality) than as simply straight with that extra bit that we don’t talk about (ssssssh).

So when you’re next faced with a heteronormative challenge, whether it’s coming out to whom feels like the millionth person, again, or having your family ask you when you’re going to bring a nice <insert traditionally opposed gender here> home, spare a thought for those who might have less certainty, less security than you in that same circumstance; I know I’m sparing a thought for you.

 

Tagged , , , ,

The Gay Agenda is Proud: Brittany

This week, in the lead up to Glasgow Pride, we decided to interview some of our writers to find out what Pride means to them!

What’s your name, age and where do you come from?

Brittany – I was born and raised in Devon, UK. I’m half German and also I’m part Scottish/English and I’m 19.

Why did you get involved in the Gay Agenda?

I love to write, it seemed like a fantastic opportunity to write about something I feel really strongly about. I want to become more involved within the LGBT+ community as I was never able to before having grown up in a somewhat homophobic area.

What do you write about?

For the Gay Agenda, I tend to write about gender and sexuality, however, I am more than happy to widen that to include art, music and religion, as I am pretty involved with all of that.

What do you do in real life?

I am an artist pretending to be a scientist. I am studying Developmental Biology/Biochemistry. I work in a museum, I write for the Gay Agenda as well as short stories and novellas. I’m an artist and I do take commissions for virtually anything and I’m an archer and I compete for the University of Edinburgh. I have absolutely no idea what I want to do with this life, but I’m going to keep as many options open as I can. I’m just trying to make my way in the world and stay as far away from the past as I possibly can.

She really is an artist, look!

She really is an artist, look!

Why is Pride important to you?

Having never been to a Pride, the following questions aren’t as easy to answer, however, I’d say that the meaning behind it is particularly important – the message that we should be proud, or at least happy, with being who we are and not having to hold back or hide ourselves from the world. It would be idealistic to be able to not have any worries about not being straight and I only hope that Pride and anything to do with that will help us move in that direction, as I’m sure we all know, we are far from that. I think Pride is potentially a fantastic way of allowing people to accept themselves for whom they are and what they want to do – or at least, that’s what I’d love to get out of a Pride.

What is your best and worst part of pride?

I’d say that the best thing I’d like to get out of going to Pride would be to meet more people of varying sexualities, I don’t know how I’ve managed to do this, but I literally do not know anyone that isn’t straight. It would be so refreshing to meet some people that I can relate to, especially in regard to actually coming out (I haven’t really come out to anyone and so I’m still trying to figure out how to go about that.) I’m sure just being able to not have any walls up around other people would be lovely as I have never been able to let my guard down too much. The worst thing about a Pride? I can imagine that you can come across some people that are narrow minded about being something other than completely gay and that would worry me, as I identify as one of the many sexualities in the middle. I’m sure they’re relatively few, but I have known of (at least) in the past a few people that are “straight/bi/pan-phobic”.

What’s your must-have item for Pride?

I’d definitely say that I’d like to have either a camera or a sketchpad and graphite. I’d love to keep photos of whatever happens as I’m sure it’d be such an amazing time, but if that doesn’t work out, if it doesn’t irritate too many people – I’d sit there and sketch people as they’re having a drink (or several).

If you had a placard for Pride what would it say?

I’d have to really think about that; all I know is that I’d have to include “Never be defeated” in there.

What’s you Pride soundtrack?

Roses – Poets of the Fall, it may seem a little random, but it is one of my favourite songs (and bands) and it’s always managed to brighten up my day.

Best ever Pride you’ve been to?

We’ll see soon, I hope!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lesbian Misogyny

So same-sex marriage has just been granted in England and Wales and hopefully Scotland will be soon to follow. I know that the bill is far from perfect and there are a lot of improvements which could have been made here, but that’s a subject for another blog. In light of this turn of events, I think it’s appropriate to congratulate everyone who has been involved in making this important piece of history possible. Especially the many strong, amazing and inspiring queer women, who have been tirelessly campaigning to make marriage equality a reality. After all, we are one big united community… gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, queer and trans* women. However we wish to identify ourselves, we all stand together, supporting each other in the face of discrimination we experience in our everyday lives. We are welcoming and accepting. We don’t belittle or judge each other, and we embrace and celebrate the things that make us different… right?

Wrong!

You only have to look at Diva magazine’s blog, Everyday Lesbophobia (http://everydaylesbo.com/) for a plethora of examples of women being harassed in the street, jeered and intimidated for daring to express who they are. If you want to depress yourself even further, check out the twitter page @EverydayLesboph. However, the even more worrying fact that has come to my attention recently, is that some of the ugliest examples of persecution and discrimination come from within our own community. Yes folks, the ugly truth is that in reality, lesbians can be misogynists too! Recently I’ve heard so many disturbing stories from friends and acquaintances that it’s really starting to make feel sick! Over the last few days, I’ve been asking women to share their stories and experiences with me, and here are the results.

Across the board, the most common example was of women being verbally harassed by nightclub door staff and other lesbians for “not looking gay enough!”  I know that society likes to perpetuate a certain stereotype that we are all big giant hairy man-haters who dress like blokes and swig beer (and for those of us who do fit that stereotype, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it), but excuse me for being naive in thinking that our community was a bit more open minded than the rest of the general public.

Two friends shared similar stories from living in different cities (London and Manchester) with supposedly large, vibrant and diverse LGBT scenes. Groups of more feminine looking women being refused entry to a gay bar and being subject to comments from the bouncers such as “are you lost?” “Do you know that this is a gay bar?” “You’ll be eaten alive in there,” and “We don’t do hen parties” (I know… what the fuck?!?) among some of the particularly lovely ones. On both occasions, the groups were only allowed entry to the venues when a “gayer” e.g. butcher looking friend/girlfriend appeared to question where their friends had disappeared to. Some examples I heard were just plain ridiculous e.g. you’re not a “proper lesbian” if you’ve never seen the L word. Even more bizarre in my opinion, “I once dated a woman who always introduced me to her friends as straight – because I didn’t look gay!”

Then there are the more sinister examples. One quote I received disturbed me even more…

“I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been verbally abused for not looking gay enough… then there was the time I was punched in the face.”

This type of behaviour is degrading, wholly unacceptable and disgusting!

Am I misunderstanding the point of open and friendly LGBT inclusive spaces? I didn’t realise that femmes were second class citizens who need to be chaperoned by a butch daddy in order to enjoy a night out on the town… as a lady slightly on the butcher side, I don’t experience this problem, but I still find it incredibly offensive. This opinion feeds into the idea that two feminine women who are part of a couple aren’t “real” lesbians; that they are teasing, only there to be ogled for the pleasure and titillation of men. This therefore gives men the right to harass them, make inappropriate comments and ask if they can “join in.” Reading many of the comments on Everyday Lesbophobia, it would appear that many of us have come to expect this sort behaviour from men when out in public. However, I find it sad, confusing and even more surprising to learn that such ignorance can sometimes be perpetuated by other women. This type of prejudice is experienced by some women in our community to a greater extent than others – in particular, those who identify as bisexual or pansexual.

femme invisibility can fuck off

Those who identify into these groups have told me that they are often eyed with suspicion from within the community, and as such find it difficult to fit in. These women are often not taken seriously as it’s assumed that they are only “out for a fling” because “being straight has got a bit boring this week.” A few women told me that women they speak to on the scene think they must be in the closet, since “all bisexuals are just afraid to come out,” either that, or they’re all just “in denial.”

One of the most striking examples comes from a good friend of mine, who brought her boyfriend along to an equal marriage campaign event. “How can you fight for what you’re fighting for when you have a boyfriend?” she was asked by a complete stranger. A complete stranger who knows nothing about her circumstances and experiences, and who really has absolutely no right to make comment. I mean, why would a woman with a boyfriend want to campaign for equal marriage? Aside from the fact that she might think it’s the right thing to do, what does it matter if she happens to be with a man and happens to have the right to choose if she wants to marry him. However if she equally happened to be with a woman, that right would be denied to them. Why should something as trivial as gender have such a massive impact on the outcome of a person’s relationship, especially when gender doesn’t matter in that person’s heart?

Coming out as L,G,B,T, Queer etc. is not the same experience for everyone. However, many of us find it frightening and intimidating, especially with the prospect that we might be rejected by those closest to us. As a 25 year-old that came out at aged 13, a lot of that process seems like a distant memory, but I still remember the first time I went to a gay bar. I was underage, it was during the day and there were a grand total of about 8 people in there – most of them middle aged men. Regardless, I still remember it to be one of the most frightening and intimidating experiences of my teenage years. I’m now trying to imagine how frightening and traumatic this experience might have been, was I a young feminine lesbian, barely out of the closet, going for my first night out in a lesbian bar… only to be heckled at the door and told I wasn’t allowed to come in because I didn’t “look the right way.” After all, many of us want to experience that feeling that we belong somewhere, be it in our families, homes, friendship circles and wider communities. However most of us have a greater expectation of finding that sense of belonging among our LGBT communities.

Speaking of LGBT spaces not being inclusive, I (perhaps controversially) think that this should also apply to straight people. Yes, I live in lesbo land, but many of my nearest and dearest do not. However, if for example it happens to be my birthday, and I want to go out and celebrate in a gay bar… how dare my straight best friends want to come along and celebrate with me? Naturally, depending on the door staff, they are not always welcome.

Maybe this big happy queer bubble only exists in my head, where everything is a bit like pride. Everyone is happy and smiley, there’s lots of glitter and everyone looks fabulous and embraces each other. Why can’t we be more inclusive and welcoming of everyone who wants to be associated with our community? Why can’t we welcome each other with open arms? When we experience such persecution and discrimination from the wider world, why do we feel the need to propagate it among ourselves? This is particularly important for the younger members of our community who might not yet feel so certain about how to define their sexuality or gender identify.

None of us are the same, but our differences are something that I think we should be celebrating! We need to look past all the labels and remember all the things which we do have in common. It doesn’t matter if you’re straight, gay, lesbian, bi, pan, trans*, queer, asexual or any other minority identity. We all have a slightly different experience to bring to the table and we all know something about experiencing prejudice –especially if you are a woman. We should be working together to tackle homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, queerphobia, lesbophobia sexism and misogyny – not excluding each other on the basis of meaningless labels.  Inside, we are all strong and fabulous – isn’t that enough?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Born this way?

Coming out is a process, I admire those who have – I can openly say that I most certainly haven’t. We struggle and struggle, often in silence, and then we have our moment where we just know. Whether gay, straight, bisexual, or whatever, we are born this way and we will die this way. Or maybe not that’s not quite right? Surely this can’t be the only explanation.

I believe that sexuality is fluid.

 When you are discovering who you are and who you want to be with, you go through phases of trying to find exactly what you identify as. Trying on different labels until we find the one that fits. It’s not that our sexuality is fluid, it’s that we haven’t found the right label yet.

But what if our sexuality could continually change throughout our lives. I mean everything else does: our tastes in clothes, or music, or food. But more to the point, our own personalities change throughout our lives – I believe that our sexuality is one of the biggest aspects of our personality.

I always knew from a young age that I wasn’t straight – and that was fine, more than fine! As I had an interest in both men and women, it was right to assume that I was bisexual, right?

fuck gender norms and barriers

And I was bisexual. For a while. As I grew up something started to not feel quite right. I had fully accepted myself  as bisexual, that had felt like a perfect fit, but now I wasn’t so sure. I had completely returned to square one of the ‘Who am I, really?’ path. Upon much more contemplation of what I potentially am, I completely broke down. It drove me nuts as I, like so many of us, had to deal with such disgusting discrimination. I felt dirty, I was hurt – I could hardly look at myself in the mirror. It took me over a year before I spoke to anyone about sexuality again, even now; most people have no idea that I am not straight.

I think that sexuality is something that changes and develops as we get older.

Our needs, wants and desires change throughout our lifetime – once again, take this with a pinch of salt (or perhaps a bag). Some people’s needs, wants and desires change little throughout their lives and then other’s change so dramatically. I think this is a really normal thing to happen to everyone who is ‘queer’ in one way or another. After years of wondering, ,  questioning and after many tears were shed, I identify as a pansexual. It was after several years of meeting new people of new genders and sexualities, having seen their beauty individually I began to notice things like gender less and less, it is now something that doesn’t even occur to me. Ever since trying on the pansexual label, I’ve never felt more comfortable in my own skin – even if you and only a few others know it.  Who knows – my sexuality could change in the years to come – I highly doubt it though – I think that my preferences might shift to a certain extent, but within the pansexual umbrella.

Sexuality, along with so many other aspects of our personality change and develop with time. If you are lucky enough to just know, and understand who and what you are, then I am rather envious. For those of you who are still searching for yourself, it’ll come with time.

Keep talking.

Keep reading.

Keep thinking.

You’ll get there in the end.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements