Members of the Leeds LGBTQ community talked to Features Editor Brigitte Phillips about living with their identities, and their misunderstandings and misrepresentations that come with it.
“Thanks Mister Hetero Drunk Man, really glad we could have your assurance that we aren’t fucked up after all.”
For as long as I can remember, I have never identified as straight. I dated mostly boys throughout high school, with the exception of one girl when I was fifteen. When we started dating, I did not think of myself as ‘gay’ all of a sudden. I did not feel like I had to come out of the closet to anyone. I was just dating a girl. Gender is fluid, sexuality is fluid. I knew this, though I didn’t have the language to say these things. I certainly never identified with the term ‘bisexual’ either. There is a myriad of different genders and the word ‘bi’ never seemed very inclusive to me. When I was fifteen, telling my parents I was dating a girl was awkward, at best. They asked me what I meant. I didn’t know how to answer. No one (including them) had ever asked me to clarify what I meant when I stated that I was dating a boy. Why was the idea so difficult to understand when it was someone of the same gender? I didn’t know how to explain it, so I didn’t. I closed in on myself and hid our relationship as much as I could. Like many high school loves, ours didn’t last. We broke up, and dated other people. Now, some seven years after my first girlfriend, I feel much more comfortable telling people about my wonderful current partner, who also happens to be a woman. I have learned the language and gained the skills and tools to be a queer person dating another queer person in this world. Unfortunately, this often involves dealing with confused looks when I say the word ‘partner’ casually in a sentence. It involves people looking away and changing the subject when I later refer to my partner as ‘she.’ I could say ‘girlfriend’ and maybe ease their confusion a little, but honestly, neither me nor my partner likes the term or identifies with it. Why is it anyone’s business what gender my partner identifies as? Recently at a pub, my female friend and I were chatting about our respective love lives, which involved my friend’s ex-girlfriend and my current partner. The pub happened to be small and cozy, with the tables closely set near each other. There was a somewhat inebriated man sitting near us and many times he interjected to ask us questions about ourselves, such as where we were from, and how we knew each other. It was hard to say whether he was overhearing our conversation or not. When he was leaving, he uninvitedly clasped his hands onto my friend’s shoulders and told us that we talk very loudly, and that he could hear all we were saying. We were both like, “Yeah, what of it?” And then he went on to (somewhat drunkenly) assure us that we should not be ashamed. With heavy sarcasm, we tried to convery to him something along the lines of, “Thanks Mister Hetero Drunk Man, really glad we could have your assurance that we aren’t fucked up after all.” My experiences in navigating the world as a cis-gendered queer woman have often been frustrating and upsetting. However, my parents are now, as far as I can see, mostly accepting of my sexual orientation, or what they understand of it. I have a small network of lovely, supportive, queer, and queer-positive friends. For these things, I am grateful, and I wish all the queers in the world could have support like this. I know this is not the case. I hope that someday, we can work towards a world where it is.
Photographs: Ruby Lott-Lavigna and Sam Broadley