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I haven’t got a stitch to wear

clothes

With the new me on the inside, came the new me on the outside. I wanted to blend in on the gay scene. I’d be out to gay bars with my gay male friends a lot. Gay bars were not new to me, but the gay bars just for girls (it turns out these rooms are often in a separate room downstairs near the loos). The most unglamorous hidden away spot.

It sounds a cliché, but I cut my hair. Nothing drastic, but it went from long to a choppy bob fairly quickly. Next I scrutinised my clothes. In my mind I needed to look edgier and cooler. That was my new gay look. With my short hair and new Super Dry leather jacket (a la Frankie in Lip Service) I was ready.

I went to First Out Café in London (sadly no longer there) ordered a coffee and flicked through Gscene magazine. I wondered if the person behind the counter thought I was gay. Did the other customers think I was gay or straight? Was I fitting in? It consumed me. It was all I could think about the first few times I went.

How do you look gay? Well unless you walk down the stereo-type path then there is no sure way. I was still me, just with shorter hair and a leather jacket, but it didn’t scream dyke when I walked in a room. It turns out I don’t really look gay but it took me a long time to accept that was ok. You see weirdly, sometimes when you tell someone you are gay, they will tell you that you don’t look gay. To me it always feels like a bit of a slap in the face. In my mind it became a bit like me telling you my favourite colour was blue and you telling me it wasn’t and that I didn’t look like a blue favourite colour person! I love blue ok. Get over it.

There are two rules of thumb here. One you have someone like Ellen Degeneres. She looks quite stereotypically gay. She has short hair and dresses in quite a comfy male style often associated with a ‘classic’ lesbian style. Then you have Portia De Rossi, Ellen’s wife, who is quite girly and mainly dresses more conventionally. Then you have P!nk who is awesome, dresses how she wants even if everyone thinks she looks super gay (despite being married to a man.)

Alot of people’s point of reference to how gay people dress is down to coverage from Pride events and the media. News flash, all gay men don’t dress in leather thongs and lesbians in XL checked shirts!

Of course what I realised is what I wore as this new authentic me didn’t change who I was and didn’t matter. Some people look ‘text book’ gay and some don’t. We know what we are inside. If I’m honest sometimes I like it when I out myself to someone and they never saw it coming. That’s taken a while and a lot of outings to get to that point.

 

When you know, you know. You know? (Part 2)

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So where were we? I was a bi-sexual woman, yet I had no experience with the ladies. What is a girl to do?

Stage 5 – I put a profile up on a popular dating lesbian site and waited.

  1. They aren’t keen/are suspicious of bi-sexuals and challenged me on it a lot.
  2. The best time to go on the site was Monday nights. It seems single lesbians for the most part stay home on a Monday night.
  3. Some of them call you a tourist when you tell them you are ‘new’, which isn’t very friendly when you are joining a new club.

You see that was what I wasn’t banking on. Once I’d be around the lesbians I’d be one of them right? Well yes and no. It turns out once you have made the decision to join a new club, you have to then decide if you want to tell them you are new. You are basically saying yes I am a lesbian virgin. It ain’t cool and it ain’t sexy and you get questioned a lot about why you didn’t realise sooner.

Stage 6 – I’d be lying if I didn’t say the comments on the website about my ticking the ‘bi-sexual’ box on my profile didn’t start to have an effect.  They didn’t like it. They wanted my sapphic loyally and it made me wonder was I bi-sexual or gay?

My issue was, if you haven’t even kissed a girl, how do you know you prefer it to boys and you’ll never return to them EVER! (more or less.) But the universe has a funny way of helping you when you least expect it.

It happened and it happened big. I worked on a new event (I’m a freelancer). I met some new people I hadn’t worked with before. I met a girl and I fancied her straight away. Really fancied her. I knew where she was in the room at any given time. I stumbled over my words talking to her sometimes and made a few dorky comments in trying to impress her and appear cool. At the wrap party on the last day I ended up being one of the last people there in the bar with her. A young guy clearly interested in her sat on one side and me on the other. I didn’t know how to talk to her about my feelings and I felt 14 again. She wasn’t interested in either of us though. Turns out she had a long-term girlfriend at home.

When I found out she was gay, this was huge for me. Of all the people on this job (a large team) I had fancied the one (that I knew of) gay chick. Had I developed a new gay sense. Was my gaydar programmed, on and functioning?

Bigger still was the fact that I had experienced feelings for a woman. A real woman, not one on TV. For me it settled things once and for all. I wasn’t bi, I was chuffing gay.

The next day, I logged onto my dating profile and un-ticked ‘bi-sexual’ on my dating profile and ticked ‘gay’.

When you know, you know. You know? (Part 1)

passing place

When I came out to friends and family one of the first things they asked me was how did I realise I was gay? When did it happen? Well the honest answer is I’m not sure. There was no one defining moment when the lightning bolt struck and that was it. For me it was a slow burn, a series of things in stages and by the last stage I knew for sure. Let me try and explain it best I can to you.

Stage 1 – Less of a stage and more of an observation, but let’s start here. It was no secret to myself that I loved watching strong independent female characters on TV. From my younger years with Nancy Drew to moving onto all the stereotypes such as Harriet Makepeace, Christine Cagney and Dana Scully. I noticed however over the years it was more than that. I really like the female parts so much; if I was re-watching something I’d often skip a lot of the male character scenes to focus on the women. I didn’t feel at the time I fancied them, but I gravitated towards them. I wanted to hang out with them. I wanted to be like them.

Stage 2 – Getting into the specifics now, I asked myself the question in my head one day while I was walking up to the train station in Crystal Palace. ‘Are you a lesbian?’ I shuddered at the word lesbian. Sorry, but I just don’t like it. The word itself isn’t pretty. It’s not an enjoyable word to say like kerfuffle, skedaddle or collywobbles. As stupid as it sounds, if I was going to consider joining a new club the name was important. I also knew that lesbians were the butt of a lot of jokes (something I would come to challenge in the future). For now though, if this was to happen at all I’d be joining the gay club.

Stage 3 – So far this was just amongst me myself and I. I was noticing over time I started to think maybe I was bi-sexual. I felt I was getting more and more into women. It sometimes felt a bit like crushes. But so far these were always people on TV and in films. Never in real life. I needed to get a second option. I needed to tell someone. I told a close friend on a boozy night out. She listened, told me a story of when she once kissed a girl and said maybe I was mistaking fancying women to admiring them. I disagreed. I was arguing about my potential new self. Suddenly this felt like a big deal. Saying it out loud suddenly made it feel more real. It was existing in language, so was it existing in me? Was this really happening?

Stage 4 – As time went on it felt like it was real and it was starting make sense and settle within me. I felt happy about it and excited to explore all the gay culture I had missed and more than anything I wanted to go on a date with a girl! In expressing how I felt outloud I had suddenly turned a corner. I felt 100% sure I was bi-sexual, but if I scratched the surface would that be my transitional phase to gay? Was it easier to bolt-on liking girls too as opposed to just liking them exclusively. Maybe I wasn’t ready to be exclusive with gay.

Society says put your hands on your head

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Society, according to Wikipedia is ‘a group of people involved in persistent social interaction….. typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations.’

Society spends alot of time with their friend culture and together through interactions, they gather data on us and decide what the masses are doing. The masses are living the way they are due to a number of factors. Family history, beliefs (religion), education, politics, their peers, the friends down the pub. Book group. Zumba.  Everyone.

Society dictates the norm, builds stereotypes and shapes our behaviour. We are fed straight into this belief system from birth. Normal is established and sits in the background as an unconscious bias. Normal means what the masses are doing. The masses wear clothes in public places, queue up at the post office, pay their taxes, go on one decent holiday a year, recycle, vote and try not to be addicted to their mobile phones. The masses are right-handed, straight, get married, have children, have grand-children, lead a normal life. Right?

If you aren’t these things you are not normal. I am left-handed. This was my first little glimpse into being a minority. At school I’d be the last to sit down at the beginning of our music class at school as I had to find one of the only two left handed detachable book rests, in a sea of right-handed ones.

Next there is choosing not to have children and how society dictates we aren’t complete without them. People tilt their head when they discover we don’t have them, assume we wanted them, feel sorry for us, while they try and survive on 2 hours sleep a night and food/vomit/unmentionables stuck in their hair/car/everywhere.  And please don’t get me started on the phase ’empty-nester’. Really?

Ever since I realised I was gay, joining 2.5% of the population in the UK (10% of the population of Brighton), I have kept thinking about when I was younger, growing up. If society had told me I could end up with a boyfriend OR a girlfriend, a husband OR a wife,  would I have found my true self sooner? It makes for interesting food for thought.

The great thing though is normal is changing. I am hearing more and more that kids at school now really do discuss both options. Going out with a girl or a boy is on the cards. Either one is ok and that is 100% ok by me.

 

 

 

The young years

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I had a fun happy childhood. I relished the outdoors, for the fun and adventure. Out on my bike with the neighbour’s kids (boys on both sides) we explored the woods, rode our bikes too fast, crawled around in the dirt with plastic toy soldiers, or kicked a football about and talked about sports, tv and how cool Evil Knievel was.

Looking back I was far more interested in Nancy Drew than the Hardy Boys, but it was because she was the best character. She was the smartest and I wanted to be like her a smart girl that wasn’t interested in dolls and a weak female disposition. She was as good as the boys.

I disliked female weakness of any sort and I hated the dolls, prams, dolls in prams, cats in prams, anything in a chuffing pram! I wanted my eagle-eye action man, my blue plastic wheelbarrow and my football.

I remember often getting mistaken for a boy which I hated. I couldn’t blame anyone, since that is how I dressed, but I would immediately go bright red. I wanted to be a girl.  I wanted to be me.

Junior and Middle school for me was filled with sports. I would get to school early to play tag with my friends (all girls) and we always wore our PE kits under our uniform and we’d be ready to play sports in 5 seconds flat. Other classmates hated sports and held us up taking an age to get ready. Moaning throughout the process. They frustrated me. Why didn’t they like sports?

I was on the hockey and netball teams and I participated in a lot of Athletics.

Birthday parties always filled me with dread as it meant wearing a dress. I hated it and there exists somewhere a handful of photos of me standing in the front garden with my bottom lip out casting a shadow large enough to park a small car. As soon as the party was over, I was straight back in my jeans and often took a change of clothes so I could change in the car on the way home.

All my friends at school were sporty girls that could look after themselves. The girly girls into make-up and fashion held no interest and I am sure the feeling was mutual.

I was a Brownie, but I never really felt a sense of belonging. Years later after a brief dalliance as a Girl Guide I joined the Venture Scouts. Much more by bag.

My tom-boy phase continued into secondary school along with the sporty side. More hockey, more netball. More athletics

Looking back I think you could have a hint of where my sexuality was heading, but that was not something I would discover for another 20 years.

In the beginning there was the end

IMG_0559This is a blog about change. From realisation to turning a corner and striding in another direction towards a new adventure. It’s about being the truest most authentic version of yourself. And being ok with it and hoping everyone else will be ok with it too.

To start at the beginning we first need to mention the end. Or at least the end of the current chapter and the beginning of the new one. On Saturday I married the love of my life. Yes, it’s that ‘and dear reader I married her’ moment. That ‘skip to the end’ tale. She is everything I wanted her to be and she makes me be the best me.

This blog is about her being a woman and me being a woman too and how I went from a question in my own head one winter morning as I walked to the train station to standing in front of all my family and friends and declaring how much I love this woman and want to spend the rest of my life with her.

It’s about leaving my hetrosexual life (my ‘het’ life), hence the name ‘ex-het-ra’.

I want to share my stories and hope it may help gay women coming out (especially those late to the party like me). I’d love straight people to read it too. I want to fill the gap between the lesbian stereotype and the real us.

I want to share my journey into the gay world and I also want to start a conversation about what it’s like being a gay woman at the moment. How society, films, music, friends, colleagues treat us. Good, bad and ugly. I won’t change it for the world.

Dip in and out of the stories or read all of them, I hope you find it interesting, inspiring, funny (in parts), telling the story of the straight girl who realised there was a more authentic life to be lived.