Making my mark

It just felt right. I know, everyone has a tattoo. It’s hardly even worth a mention these days let alone radical. Maybe it was on the bucket list of my subconscious or maybe I just wanted to shock myself and do my own version of teenage rebellion twenty five years too late, but I knew I wanted it. 

But what? No rash decisions. Nothing too trendy or current. It’s an enormous commitment so it has to be right. I knew where- on the right of my lower back where I can touch it and catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, but I didn’t know what. 

Ever since my big moment where it all became so obvious, I’ve come to connect with the symbolism of snowdrops. It was that time of year after all when it all happened.  They push through the snow in the bleak times, green shoots signalling the end of the struggle and the relief of the springtime ahead. Pure, simple, unassuming, and perfect. 

I googled. Lots of images that just didn’t work.  I don’t want to walk round for the rest of my life with a random bunch of flowers sprouting from my backside. And then there it was. Stylised into a figure of eight hinting at infinity,  two snowdrops entwined like a celtic knot, like two women holding each other in close embrace. As soon as I saw it I knew. 

I found one of the best studios in London. I had a consultation then waited a month. Cooling off time. But I was sure. 

It’s something I never thought I’d do and it’s incredibly meaningful. The process was painful but yet so much of this has been. The pain was cathartic and made sense. The snowdrops signify that this is me, my achievement that I own, my new life, and the start of my renewal – my own springtime. The mark is physical for those I choose to show . I am the same outwardly – they are always hidden-  but for those closest, they can see I’m different forever.

And unexpectedly, a few weeks later i realised that looking at them from a distance, instead of two snowdrops, I can see a dancer,  arms above her head in celebration and the joy of the moment. I love that. 

You can call it my mid life crisis if you like. But every once  in a while I get a glimpse of my girls in the mirror and I smile and smile.

Lil x 

The lottery of life

Cecil Rhodes is not someone I’d choose to align myself with, him not having the best track record in appropriating other people’s countries, treating the people who live there with utter disdain not to say abuse and stealing all their stuff. He once said something like “Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life.” Arrogant, huh.

Well let’s get this straight. I am neither English nor a man. However I did, by sheer luck, happen to be born a citizen of the UK, into a family which had worked and educated itself into a liveable level of prosperity, who believe in education , equality and fairness. That in itself is more than large proportions of the world’s population have the privilege of . And I never forget for a minute that I am lucky by the serendipity of birth and the graft of those who came before me –  people who believed that studying , paying your own bills, and working hard was the way to get on.

So now, in a country (living now in London) which finds itself in an unprecedented state of turmoil, I find myself worried for the future. The recent Brexit vote still leaves me speechless. I was brought up an internationalist, believing that the world is made my people of all races, speaking all languages and bringing all sorts of ideas, and that helps us understand how we can make the world safer and better  for everyone. The language of introspection and xenophobia is terrifying. For the first time in my beloved London, I worry what the future holds. I remember the joy of 2012 and the Olympics. We welcomed the world open heartedly and loved what they brought to our city and country. I worry maybe we will never see those times again, and that breaks my heart.

The vote was won because people not  as fortunate as myself feel dispossessed and removed from the affluence and prosperity of others, and who blame that on those they think of as “other”. Not just people from elsewhere in the EU- scratch the surface of the Leave voters and its a vote against central elites and anyone perceived to be taking something whilst leaving other behind . Whilst I remain devastated , I can see what has happened. It is all of our fault for allowing it.

But in all of this I remember that this is still a place where you can take the journey I have, from confusion and despair about myself, though the awakening of an idea, to developing a relationship with someone the same sex as myself, having that accepted by my family , and  work, and by and large being able to walk hand in hand, and feel the freedom that brings. In a year and a half now, no-one has called me a name and only rarely has anyone done a double take. Sure we’re careful sometimes. We drop hands when we approach a crowd  of kids at a street corner at night. A peck on the cheek on the bus is probably OK but no great public displays of affection. We sometimes check with hotels so they know we’re a same sex couple. In small townsville, we’re even more discreet  and careful than that. But by and large we’re free, which is as it should be, and it’s  a precious gift we should never take for granted.

So in all of the change that’s happening, I have to remember how lucky  am. I can’t help but  think about the hundreds of thousands  of women and men like me who never had this chance,  and who still do not have it now. Those who stayed on their own because anything else was unthinkable , or who ended up in  sterile heterosexual relationships they didn’t really want to be in, or who had to hide their relationships away for fear of the consequences of being found out. Or worse, those who were humiliated, “treated”, disowned, imprisoned, or discriminated against. I owe enormous debt  those who at sometimes great personal cost fought for the right I have, and for the cultural change which means we can live our lives without fear or shame.

I will never accept that we  are better off looking inward. I hope I can play my part so that in all of this we remember we an indivisible part of Europe  and the world. But I also remember  in my despair  at the state of affairs we find ourselves in ,  that this is the country that has enabled me to be who I am and has lifted me up and carried me forward.  Surely that still remains. There must be hope there somewhere.

Lilx

My new normal

It’s been a long time since I posted here. Nearly a year in fact. Since then, almost unbelievably I find myself pretty much hitched. Gf#2 and I are in what we have come to recognise to our surprise as a Long Term Relationship: the thing I’d been looking for for so very long, and which I had come to think would just never happen to me.

Before it become blindingly obvious that women were going to be a better bet for me, I’d come to think that there was something wrong with me. Somehow everyone else, it seemed, even the most socially inept seemed to manage it. But not me. I’d just have to accept that life for me, was going to be on my own because I just couldn’t do it, and no-one wanted me anyway.

Having dipped my toe ( well not my toe really but lets not get too graphic about this) into lesbian waters, and branched out into the terror of internet dating, I never expected for something to come of it quite so soon. Or ever really. It was more in hope than expectation. And yet here I am, more than a year in. A year of lots of ups and downs, of times where it’s felt really right and times where it really has not. But we’re here, we’re together and we’re tentatively planning a future.

Maybe some  people really know they’re gay. I didn’t. I still wonder about many things. but sexuality is an awful lot more complicated than  whether you fancy men or women. Fact is  I’m not straightforwardly attracted exclusively to one or the other. I am attracted to bits  of both, which mean that for so many years it was never a serious consideration that actually I might be queer although i played with the idea.  And now, a year plus on, the thought of being a lesbian still doesn’t quite sit right in my head but the thought of being with a man is frankly just odd. For a long time I was just relieved that I never had to face having sex with a man again. Now I just can’t really imagine why on earth I’d want to even think about it.

So this is my new normal. I’m completely out at work and with my family. When I get the inevitable assumption that the partner I’m referring to in conversation is a man it seems odd and a little bit rude that people would assume I’m straight. When I’m in the hairdressers killing time reading the endless range of glossy magazines the heteronormativity  I see is staggering. They’re clearly not for me any more. I really don’t do men and little by little, my perception of myself in my head is changing.

I don’t think I’ve spoken much about my therapist here before. When I first started seeing her nearly three years ago, and I found myself handing over an eye watering amount of cash every month for what seemed like her saying pretty much nothing at all, i wondered whether it as all a pile of hokum and maybe I was desperately clinging on to some hope that something somewhere might help. Well maybe it is a pile of hooey, but she’s been my scaffold and my handrail, my grounding point, my kick up the backside and my ally. I have no idea how I’d have managed without her and in fact I suspect I wouldn’t have. It’s been, and continues to be, the best money I’ve ever spent.

Lil x

 

 

 

 

Nerves

Sitting on my own in a bar waiting for #gf2 and my sister to show up. It’s our first meeting together. The first time any of my family have met a female partner of mine. Not been this nervous for a while. 

Who will come first? Where should I get them to sit? Should I sit between them or next to one and not the other? Should I touch #gf2 when my sister is here? Should I not? What if my sister arrives first, should I kiss #gf2 when she arrives, in front of my sister? Will that be weird? 

I have no rule book for this. I feel incredibly awkward . 

My sister arrives. She gives me a big hug. We have ten minutes to talk. #Gf2 arrives. She looks nervous too. We don’t know where to put ourselves. We kiss on the cheek. My sister moves up so #gf2 can sit beside me.

We drink wine. Lots. Quickly. We all talk more than we should. The nerves I expect. It’s all convivial. My sister goes off to meet her friends, as planned.

#Gf2 and I get very drunk. 

Another step onwards. 

Lil x

Fishing in the lesbian internet dating goldfish bowl

I have done more internet dating than anybody should ever have to in their whole life.

I’ve gone with serious profiles (forget it), poems as profiles (lots of interest but rarely suitable) and funny but slightly obscure profiles (if they don’t get it, well, reality is we won’t get on anyway).

Suffice to say none of these has been staggeringly successful . In fact the most successful was much more of a cut to the chase quick meet off a site which  might as well have been called fancyashag.com, which ended up lasting a year. I’ve met them all- all fellas, all shapes and sizes, with increasing desperation at the futility of it all. 

The thing about internet dating is that it’s so throwaway. Quick look. No? Flick. Next. No. Flick. You don’t know them. They’re not people, just commodities to browse like an estate agents window .   There are hundreds, thousands more . Meet one in the flesh and your fate is decided  in the first two minutes. Not perfect? Hundreds more to try. Flick. Flick. Flick. 

Embarking on internet dating lesbian style,  it’s a different game. Profiles number in the hundreds not the thousands, and only a handful realistically in the running. It became abundantly clear that you  can’t afford to chuck people away for spurious reasons  – there just aren’t enough of them.

The question  was how to approach it. First off, the crucial matter of photos. I settle eventually on me looking intrepid half way up a mountain, me looking cultured  at historic sites of interest, and me in a dress looking quite hot actually if you don’t mind me saying so, just so you know yes I sometimes wear a dress. Right. Well that took about four hours longer than it was supposed to. 

Then the words. First try- too flippant. Next one, too wordy. Keep it short, keep it witty I thought. Pique their interest. Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly – come, come, my pretty. 

Finally, five versions later, unleashed upon the world I winked,  smiled and fairly regularly hid.

In the big heterosexual internet pond there is always another. Flick flick flick. In the small lesbian goldfish bowl, even in one of the biggest and most diverse cities on the planet, you can’t afford to be throwing any of the decent ones back in. 

It worked. I think I hooked a good one. I can’t remember who winked first but we’ve  reeled each other in nicely. Enough fishing analogies? Perhaps. 

I take it back, internet. Not as futile as I thought.

Lil x

Coming out – the end of the beginning

They say coming out is a lifelong process. Unless you have  I’m a lesbian tattooed on your forehead (and maybe even if you do) then people assume you’re straight.  At a women’s professional networking event I went to not too long ago – not a gay  thing- someone asked me what my husband did for a living . I nearly choked on my carrot stick. On so many levels, just staggering. 

I’m not quite sure what the best approach is. If I’m with people I don’t know that well and we get into conversation about partners, do I just casually use the “she” pronoun and carry on nonchalantly? Or do I blur the edges round a gender inclusive “partner” or do I upfront it and say by the way my partner’s a woman, just for the avoidance of  confusion?  

For the last nine months I’ve been letting my friends and colleagues in on where things stand. All have been great, barring two who chose to tell me they couldn’t quite cope with the idea of oral sex with women, whilst wrinkling their faces up. For the record,  not helpful. 

A few maybe didn’t believe me, but if that’s what they thought, they weren’t so rude as to tell me.  Most said not to label myself and to do whatever I want- whether it involves men, women or whatever combination of the two. Two asked if it was because I can’t get a man. Again ,thanks for that. If you’re wondering,  no, it really doesn’t work like that. 

So here in the heaving diverse metropolis of London my friends all know. My family, hundreds of miles away, have  remained out of the loop, aided by studious silence on my part on social media on this particular topic. My friends, I suspect, are waiting with sparkly rainbow statuses at the ready for the moment I choose to make my lesbian facebook debut. 

At a family event in August I felt it acutely. Everyone else there with partners, all heterosexual. Me as the token hopeless middle aged single person who can’t get it sorted. 

At the same time as I was realising what a secret I was keeping from them, I was also feeling the weight of trepidation of telling them. It’s one things telling mates  in London who would barely bat an eyelid before moving on to did you see that chocolate soufflé on Bake-Off last night, and quite another to tell these people who’ve known me all my life, well before any of this was something any of us could talk about or admit in public let alone be proud or happy about. 

And one thing to have a relationship with a woman and change my mind,  with friends who wouldn’t give a shit,  but another thing to tell my family I’m a lesbian and then say oh no I’m not. The thought of being the amusing family anecdote about dotty cousin having a lesbian mid life crisis appals me.

So I had to be sure, but the longer I go on, the more I feel I’m lying to them, and the more I worry that they might be offended that I told everyone else before them.  So last night, after working myself up to it for about a week, I told my big sister by phone. Face to face would have been preferable but not practical. Deep breath…

Of course she was great about it. Of course she had wondered. Of course she just wants me to be happy. She asked politely about gf#2,  her name and what she does, how long I’ve been seeing her. I said I’d known for a while. I said I worried about telling some of our family. She said it’ll be fine and if not it’s their problem not yours. 

And then we talked about Bake-Off. 

Not the end of coming out. Not the beginning of the end. But, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Lil x