Seeing as we’re in Pride month right now, I thought it might be a nice time to share with you some of my own stories and journey as a queer gay woman.
I haven’t ever felt closeted, I also didn’t feel like I was gay when I was younger. As a child and young person, I had a strong sense of my own sexuality and sexual energy, but I would have said at the time that it was the person/energy I was drawn to, rather than their specific gender identity or sex. I suppose, if I had been given decent sex and relationship education when I was growing up, I would have had a better idea about the range of sexuality and relationships that were possible as part of the human experience, and I may have identified as pansexual for example. But, because my schooling happened during the Section 28 era, different sexualities and identities were completely erased, sex ed was rubbish, and there was so much general homophobia and transphobia and fearfulness about these things, that I had massive language and knowledge blindspots as a result. I sincerely hope it’s better for young people now, I believe that it is, and certainly it is in the settings that I work in.
I did know that people could be different from just the heteronormative model, because my own close family was more diverse than that which I am grateful for, but I didn’t have the experience of growing up in a proud queer family, or remember having affirming and open conversations about these things (my family situation was very complex). So, I was largely living in a super straight world, with a super straight youth experience and peer group. Even girls kissing girls was framed within a male gaze and as a part of a provocation for the boys. There was no queerness to be found in my peer group. No one was out, in fact, from school through to the end of uni, none of the young people around me were out. It wasn’t until after uni that some people I knew dared to come out – it makes me sad to think of what they might have lost because of that, but I understand that it was for their own protection.
Anyway, despite feeling that it was the ‘person’ that I was attracted to rather than a sex or gender, there was definitely a bias in my sense of attraction when I was younger towards masculine cis men. I wasn’t holding out for the girls at all, and I didn’t know any gender queer folk, which is probably also why I didn’t feel closeted. If had been in a more queer context, perhaps I would have explored more or noticed more, but I was happy dating and being in relationships with cis men, and straight relationship felt good to me and compatible with the sense I had of myself at the time and in my perceived future. From the age of 17 I had relationships with straight men, including getting married in my 20s.
I would say that it wasn’t until after my youngest child reached just about 3 years old, that I started to question my sexuality, or how I was experiencing it at that point. Around the same time as this, but for reasons separate to it (believe me), my marriage was falling apart. This was truly devastating, and not something I had ever imagined or wanted to happen. I was desperate for my marriage and family to remain intact, but it seemed that that was an impossibility, which will always be one of the the greatest traumas and tragedies in my life.
At that time, I was in a process of questioning many things. I had already been on a de-schooling journey for quite a few years by this point, and was questioning almost everything in my life, and in culture and society. It was a time of a lot of flux, reconsideration, opening up and falling apart. My work around consent and consensuality was also really reaching a peak point too, which had a massive impact on my sense of my own lived experience, and led to me questioning how much of my current lived experience felt consensual to me. The answer was, not very much!
Some way into this, I met an amazing gay woman, who I felt totally attracted to in a way that woke up my whole sense of myself and life. After years of sliding further and further into a lived experience that didn’t hold me, meet my needs or nourish me, I started to feel alive again. I started to wonder whether my sexuality was undergoing some shifting process, and that honestly is what I think was happening. I’m inclined to believe that for me, once my youngest child was no longer breastfeeding or so dependent on me in a physical way any more, that something in my system did start moving and evolving, and that this included my sense of and experience of my own sexuality and attraction. I was in relationship with her for just over 2 and a half years and I am so grateful for that time.
I felt very much as though my own sexuality swung far away from straight cis men. Perhaps some of this was a reaction to my marriage breaking down and the experiences within that, but it also felt true in its own right. I strongly felt that I was gay, a queer gay woman. I would say I was also feeling more gender queer than I had before, I think the early years of motherhood and maternity had pulled me into a strong feminine energy. Now I feel like I am in a feminine and masculine energy balance, where at different times I lean more into a feminine energy, and at others more of a masculine energy, some times it feels very balanced between the two. Again, I don’t feel like I’ve been in any kind of gender closet, I just think that my sense of myself is growing and evolving over the course of my life in a way that feels really natural and empowering.
It’s wonderful to feel that my whole energetic range is available to me in this way, through shades of masculine and feminine energy, and that I can play with it and explore it as feels right to me and to the situation or environment that I am in. In terms of my sexuality now, I would probably still say what I said as a young person, that it’s the person/their energy that I am drawn to, so perhaps pansexual is the right label for me. But, in some ways it doesn’t feel like that label says enough. I do think it is the person, but think I also do need that tension, or friction, I’m not sure what the right word is for it, of same sex/gender bending queerness. I can describe myself as a gay woman and it feel like a fit, but I don’t think it quite says enough either because my gayness is a more queer than that! So maybe queer gay woman, or even queer gay person, is the best mash up – it can depend on how I’m feeling or what is happening at a given time.
What I know is that I am really happy for myself, to have this experience, to be queer and in a queer, gay relationship. To be able to live my life publicly and in a proud way – something that has only so recently become possible for people not in heteronormative relationships, and can still feel and be out of reach for many. I am so grateful for all the activists and change makers of the past who have pushed and fought for social change that has made my experience today possible. Who have made it safer for me and my family, and for other people that I love and work with – I am committed to the continuation of that work. I have the joy of living with my partner, Max, who is brilliant and wonderful and so good for me, who I get to love, live life with, be creative with, collaborate and work with. To be a family with. I am so proud and happy to be with her, to be queer, to have a family that I love. To have what feels like broken free of the shackles and barriers that confine traditional notions and lines of sexuality, gender and relationship. To be in a liberated space where I get to live an expanded life every day.