These are questions I didn’t realise I was asking myself, and for a long time, I think the answer came from others rather than deep within. But when I truly think about it, I think my younger self would have confidently said, Shania Twain. I just didn’t consider what this meant.
I think I have always admired women. I’ve always found them captivating, in a way that media didn’t capture at the time. Of course, I was a fan of Britney Spears and her music videos which I used to watch on repeat, but this always felt disingenuous. I felt as if ‘attraction’ was sprawled across these perspectives of women in bold writing, screaming for the audience to pay attention to how a woman looks. I was paying attention, do not get me wrong. There is a difference when a woman makes a choice to express her individuality in whatever way comfortable, and when those around her take over.
I had a few memorable introductions to beautiful women throughout my childhood to the likes of Halle Berry as Cat Woman, Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago and Jennifer Anniston in… well pretty much everything I watched at the time – I swear she has never had a break. These early crushes were smothered in the media’s perceptions of what ‘sexy’ meant and told other women that this is who you should aim to be. This was certainly confusing as a child/teen. Do I want to be with these women? Or do I want to be like these women? I found these women most attractive when they were shining their talents or sometimes their flaws. Feminity, for me, didn’t show itself on the glamorised and glossy front page, but instead in the words written beneath. Or at that point the excitement from a girl wanting to braid my hair.
I didn’t understand then, but this was my first encounter with how the love for women has been sexualised and encaptured through the male lens, leading me to believe that loving a woman meant something very different. How was I supposed to understand how I looked at women when the view I had was warped and inauthentic, built by others and not by women like me? This has of course changed and I implore you to watch ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire‘ to see the female gaze in all its glory.
Identity questions filled my head from a young age, I was quite concerned with knowing who I am. Maybe I watched Eat, Pray, Love too early in life? Either way, I was obsessed with learning more. I was a regular horoscope checker, an avid future job hunter and worst of all, a frequent teen magazine quiz taker. Those terrible yes or no quizzes with the latest teen boy ‘heartthrob’ and dream house result were my routes to reassurance. I always hoped for Zac Efron. I was very strict with my answers, and when I doubted my honesty, I would drag my finger back to the previous question to try again. I took this very seriously. And yet, I did not end up with Zac Efron. I ended up with an auburn-haired singer/songwriter who bites their fingernails and thinks having a cup of tea and a hot meal is socially acceptable. They also happen not to be a man. But I’ve never been happier.
So how did I get here? There was no lightbulb moment. There wasn’t a dramatic coming out story. I was privileged enough to have a safe and accepting story, but one that is fairly boring. I came out to my friends in my first year of university, identifying as Bisexual after an open conversation about all things sexuality. I felt as if I had put on a new layer, it felt comforting but a new weight to play with. I started to explore my sexuality before coming out to my parents the following year by text message. Again, very dull! But this kind breath of dullness felt in itself as it should. Coming out doesn’t really need to be a thing and I hope it becomes a completely mundane openness over time.
Over the next year, my new layer started to itch. I changed my look a couple of times, educated myself on LGBTQ+ and I found the Lesbian Masterdoc (you can read more about this here). I really started to understand myself and understood that the comfiest layer and label I found was Gay/Lesbian. Reminder: labels are not important and if you are a person who is new to this community, there is no rush or a necessity in labelling yourself. Some find comfort in doing so, and others don’t. I also want to make it apparent that Bisexuality is not a stepping stone, I may have changed my label but that does not render this identity in its validity.
The realisation truly happened once I found similar people to me and discovered a whole other world of people, some that have been right in front of me. I was empowered instead of ashamed, and this truly helped me find myself, quiz or no quiz. These questions are not a simple yes or no. Although, most ‘Am I gay?’ quizzes happened to be quite accurate in my case. It was a complicated affair for me, but when you meet the right person, everything sort of falls into place. I describe the moment as very much out of my control, a force like gravity and I just knew.
I’m incredibly proud of how I identify, but this doesn’t mean it is always easy. I’ve had the dirty looks, the muttered comments and what I have always described as polite homophobia: “I’m all for it, just not, you know… in front of me.” Navigating life as a same-sex couple has had its moments. Thinking towards the future, I know there will be an extra expense for family planning known as the ‘Gay tax’ despite NHS involvement as well as educating myself on my rights when thinking of purchasing my home. The world is growing and evolving and I know there are positive movements for change. Just recently, Scotland has become the first country to include LGBT inclusive education within the curriculum. I work for a company that does seek to make a difference and has been incredibly supportive of who I am. But I have also left jobs in the past because of the environment and discomfort and mostly the loneliness for expressing who I am. Tits for tat, excuse the pun. Either way, I’m happy and proud to walk down the street living my truth… just sometimes I might have to drop the hand I’m holding to avoid altercations and of course hail a bus if I’m alone and a policeman approaches. Mustn’t forget this tip!
Even this post is something I hesitate to share, and there’s guilt towards myself that comes with this. Younger Hattie never had a second thought on someone being different, and as most children do, embraced everything with open arms. So I suppose, she would press the publish button. I’ll give her permission to do so now.
Looking forward to our next chat,