I’ve been through the works: exaggerated queerness, the anti-establishment queerness, the “I’m so different, I don’t fit in with anyone”, solitary kind of queerness. I’m sure there’ll be more to come because identity is so different for everybody. Through all of this though, it’s in discovering how big of a part of me my identity is or may be — whether I talk about it a lot or never — that’s helped me to be me. June is Pride month and it’s so important. All of our stories are different, and this is a bit of mine…
A few years ago, I was sitting in an uncomfortable chair across from the counselor I’d sought out eight months before. She was the next in a line of many I’ve had in my adult years, and as bad as the wait time was, I feel lucky that I had the option at all.
“Do you have any friends around you?” She asked.
I’d mentioned my friends before. I’ve not had many, but my best friend and I met online in the early part of the new century and still talked to that day. I didn’t know how to answer because the answer was no and I knew she’d say it was on me.
I shook my head instead and probably cried. When someone’s telling you to brainstorm your own thought process, it’s hard not to cry.
“Do you go out? What about college?” She continued quizzing me. I suspected these were questions from a line of questioning in Chapter 5 of You Have A Psychology Degree: Now What?
Yes, it is. And yes, I knew that. Except — and I realized this in that little room, rewinding to every other time I’d been in a little room like that avoiding it, that I’d never told any of them — I’m queer and weird and I don’t know where I fit in or where to go about fitting in.
I wonder sometimes if I’d said that to any of them, their reaction to my admittedly shady death-stare would have been different. Hers, with a smile of superiority: “That’s how people meet people.”
I wasn’t in college and I didn’t have the money to go out. Not to places where people like me were, and the barrage of questions on how I could travel and make friends in different cities or at concerts if I couldn’t make friends in the town I grew up might have been able to be avoided if I’d said it. I hadn’t wondered before whether or not the fact I’ve been gay pretty much since I was born (I used to sing 4 Non Blondes in the tub when I was 6 and became obsessed with Brookside’s lesbian storyline at 9) or noticing around 17 or so, as a teenager, doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve owned it as part of my identity.
I could talk about it online but my actual coming out in person involved being on the verge of death and being asked by a doctor if there was any chance I could be pregnant. My mother laughed and said, “No, she’s a lesbian, aren’t you?” (That was largely the extent of my coming out.)
Inside I was a pot of stewing pain. Partly to do with my mental health that I couldn’t control but, now I’m older and now I know what I know. I’m pretty positive the not fully opening up about something within me that’s such a big part of myself contributed to the endless pain.
I was alone.
It might have been my fault. (Thanks, social anxiety). But I was alone.
In 2014, my small town had their first Pride. The university organized it and I didn’t actually know about it until I went to the cinema and accidentally strolled into a row of rainbow stalls. Turns out, being at Pride on your own if you can’t bring yourself to talk to anyone, is isolating as fuck. My first Pride was spent on a riverbank feeling sorry for myself.
Was it because I passed as straight or something? Was I invisible? Ironically, I felt it. If I didn’t fit in with the people around me and I didn’t fit in with the people I was supposed to fit in with… Was there a place for me?
That afternoon I went home and polished off half a bottle of whiskey because it was there and because I was empty, and I held a knife to my wrist while cowering in a corner and it wasn’t the first time.
In ways I was lucky. I came of age when The L Word was on TV. Much shit as it might get, that show shaped so many queer girls from my generation. Around the same time, I discovered Tegan and Sara, Peaches, and all of these incredible queer women I could look up to and, because of the Internet, I even knew existed. I got to binge watch Bound, All Over Me, High Art. So many films about queer women. I was lucky.
And I don’t mean it to sound disparaging or “woe is me”, but back then I never really understood that because I might’ve been living as me and out and proud and queer as a John Waters movie marathon overdubbed with the Indigo Girls to those I knew online, I wasn’t actually doing it in — let’s use quotation marks for effect and not because I believe it — “the real world.”
Last year was the year it all started changing. In the last few, I’ve made new friends and maintained old friendships with those I treasure. Each, regardless of their sexuality, identity, or gender, has remarked on how much I’ve come out of my shell in that short space of time.
They aren’t wrong. I’m proud. I’ve given up things that chained me to do what I love and I’ve been unapologetically me in all of my snarky, weird, spooky glory. I attribute a lot of it to those friends who’ve been kind enough to take me as I am (who I was meant to be- what’s queerer than an article with RENT lyrics? You know, besides one with Wicked lyrics) but the mere act of allowing myself to be all of those things has been life changing and it’s because I’m queer. I am part of this glorious, beautiful, tragic, strong, intensely unique and loving community and the rainbow of infinite possibilities under which it stands.
In the last year, I’ve laughed until I’ve cried, cried until I’ve laughed; I’ve dressed up as Dale Cooper for Halloween at Dalston Superstore after a last minute invite from somebody who is now one of my closest friends and their family they love and who loves them and who were so warm and caring toward me I felt overwhelmingly happy. I’ve spoken to people in the smoking areas of queer parties all around London, been told I’m beautiful for the first time in my life and worth something and cool by so many wonderful, inspiring, humble, incredible and fascinating people whose paths I got to cross for even a second.
I had my first New Year’s kiss (and then some…), harbored my first crush. Played with candles when our table wasn’t lit, spoken to a girl with flashy shoes and her Irish best friend. Met boys into the same music as me, girls into the same fashion; boys with better tits than me, girls without tits, a beautiful nonbinary amalgamation of unicorns. The best types of humanity in one place (because there are so many different ways to be ourselves). I’ve made a part-time home in the ‘treehouse’ of Dalston Superstore and had a ‘bois’ night out where we talked about everything under the sun until the bar (literally) flooded.
All since I was given the chance to embrace that side of me.
Being and identifying as a queer woman is so important to me and this year, I’m going to be marching with my friends and my family of people I’ve yet to meet but am bonded to in all of our rainbow glory, with Stonewall at London Pride. A far cry from the lonely kid by the river crying their eyes out who never would have dreamed they’d have found their place.
In the wake of all the tragedy the LGBTQ+ community have faced over the entire span of our existence, the same span as every single other human being’s, including the more recent atrocities in Orlando and the fact gay men in Chechnya are being sent to fucking death camps, the idea that we’re still marching in the face of this adversity for love and acceptance is so uniquely us. And I am so PROUD to be a part of it.
I’m PROUD to be me.
And as RuPaul says, if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen up in here?
Happy Pride month to all our LGBTQ+ readers. We’ve got some cool Pride spotlights in store!
Remember: You are loved for you.