The Rainbow Reality

"You'll never find a rainbow if you're looking down."


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A closeted relationship: The hasbian perspective

Hey

Hi

So, can you just introduce yourself a little bit…

I’m Claire, I’m 20 and I’m waiting to go to University to study Children’s Nursing. I’ve been in a straight relationship for a year and a half and I am now engaged. I was in a relationship with a girl on and off for around two years and our relationship was kept a closely guarded secret from everyone but our closest friends for the majority of that time.

I don’t want to focus too heavily on labels, but I did find it interesting that you described yourself to me prior to this interview as straight, but you have been in a long-term relationship with a girl in the past, why is it that you wouldn’t identify with being bisexual?

I guess to me saying that you’re bi or gay or straight to somebody is like saying who you would be in a relationship with. So I would say I’m straight because I would only now be in a relationship with a guy.

Why would you now only date guys?

Because a lot of the things that I personally want from a relationship, I don’t feel that I could get if I was with a girl.

What sort of things do you want from a relationship that you don’t feel you could get from a gay relationship?

Hmmm. I guess I’m just really traditional and so I want to be in a relationship where there’s a guy to look after me and protect me. And I’d want marriage and kids.

So you wouldn’t feel comfortable marrying or having children with a girl?

I guess a big part of it, is that I’m scared of other people’s reactions….. And having a baby wouldn’t be the same because it doesn’t happen in the same way, it isn’t biologically a part of both of you.

Do you think it would bother you to raise a child as your own that isn’t biologically yours, or is biologically yours but not your partners?

Hmmm, no. I don’t know why it is that [having a child as a gay parent] would bother me; it’s not really something I’ve thought about. I just know that I wouldn’t want that. Maybe I just assume that a child with two female or male parents is set up for pricks to pick on and then if that happened it would be my fault, so maybe I’m just trying to prevent that.

So you would, for example, adopt with a male partner but not with a female?

Yeah, I was having a conversation with my fiancé about adoption yesterday and yeah it’s something that I would do. It’d be nice to be able to provide and be parents to a child that otherwise might not have had parents.

Yeah, I agree. Do you think that gay parents couldn’t provide a secure family for that child?

They could. It’s not that I don’t think that gay parents could provide or care for a child. I just think that you get different things from your Mum and your Dad, so where possible a child should have a male and a female there to be those different things.

What are those things?

I don’t know…

……

I think that most kids look to the mum for more of the caring side of stuff and then Dads are the ones that are meant to be there to protect. Stuff like that.

You said you would be scared of people’s reaction if you tried to have a traditional future with a girl. Whose reactions would you be scared of? And what sort of reaction do you fear?

Everyone’s. And any bad reaction at all I guess. People having a problem with me being with a girl, or that I’m in a long term commitment with them, or that I’m raising a child with them, I guess there’s a lot of things for people to have a problem with.

Were other people’s opinions and reactions a problem for you when you were in a relationship with a girl?

Nobody knew. I mean, that doesn’t really apply, because I knew that the people that we told wouldn’t have a problem with it, that’s why we told them.

How did it feel for you to keep your relationship a secret?

Pretty shit.

Did your family know about the relationship?

My cousin knew and apparently my Mum knew.

What were there reactions?

My cousin was fine with it, which I knew she would be which is why I told her. And I don’t know about my Mum because I didn’t know that she knew. I hadn’t told my Mum that I was in a relationship with a girl, because I didn’t know how she’d react to it, and I knew that my dad wouldn’t be happy about it. But when the relationship ended I found out that my Mum had talked to one of my friends about it, and so she had obviously known what was going on. I only found out when I started seeing somebody else, when my friend told me that my Mum had commented that at least she hadn’t had to worry about me getting pregnant when I was with a girl. It pissed me off that I didn’t know that she’d known, because at the time it had worried me wondering what her reaction would be.

How did you know your dad wouldn’t be happy with it?

Because I know his opinions towards being bi or gay, because of things he’d said in the past, just comments he’d made about people.

Do you think hearing negative opinions towards being gay from your dad made you more scared of people having negative reactions to you dating a girl in general?

Yeah. I think hearing negative things from someone related or close to you shows that they wouldn’t support you. So if the people that are meant to support you in whatever circumstances don’t, then why should strangers or people you meet.

Do you have any advice you would give to anyone who was dating a girl but was worried about negative reactions from their family or have family members that they know have homophobic views?

Erm, well in my case, I just stopped dating girls, so I don’t think I’m really the best person to be giving out advice. I never dealt with my situation, so I think that I need the advice!

Ha. Ok, if you could go back, would you change how you dealt with the situation in any way?

Looking back I know that I was meant to end up where I am in my life now, in a relationship with who I’m with. So I wouldn’t go back and tell everyone I was with a girl and have to deal with everyone’s reactions, because I’d know that I wasn’t meant to be with that person.

Do you think society is accepting of gay relationships?

Half and half. I think it’s a Marmite situation, people either have no problem with it at all, or they are really opposed to it.

I like the marmite metaphor. Ok, one last thing, did you have any gay role models?

No.

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When your daughter comes out: A father’s perspective

paulpaul

Hi dad

Hi Laura

Do you want to just give yourself an introduction…

What sort of introduction?

Just, you know, your name, what you do, that kind of thing…

Hi, I’m Paul Roberts and I work with various universities, University of Birmingham, University of Worcester, North East Worcestershire Collage and various trusts.

So when I text you and said ‘oh, by the way, I have a girlfriend’… what were your initial thoughts?

My initial thoughts were that that’s fine, because it means you’re in a relationship, hopefully a loving relationship. I don’t have any set criteria, or whatever you want to call it, about who you have a relationship with. I mean, over the years, obviously I have had friends who are gay, I’ve never had a particular interest in being gay myself, but I’m quite an open-minded tolerant person, I could see that their relationships were good for them and I didn’t have any particular stance on what my daughters can or can’t do, in terms of how they relate to people. But also, I was aware that there is stigma attached to gay relationships. So obviously I’ve been very supportive and I’ve just pointed out some basic things like don’t shout it off the top of the houses because there will be some people, like when you were at school, who would perhaps have reacted in the wrong way really.

A lot of people say that a parent might already know that their child is gay; do you think it’s something you can tell? Did you have any suspicions that I might be gay before I told you?

Well, I suppose there are obviously ways of thinking people might be gay, if they’re holding hands on the street or whatever. But, no, I wasn’t aware how you were in those terms. I hadn’t really thought about it, I thought you were just happy being at school and yeah, I hadn’t really thought about it. Of course people do tend to be more secretive about relationships when they’re younger. So no, I had no conception of it really.

You sort of touched on this earlier, but is my life and my future something that you worry about if I’m dating girls?

No, I think there are a lot worse countries you could be living in in terms of discrimination and prejudice and stigma against gay people. So no, and I think maybe in this society because it’s still male orientated and dominated in a way, that gay men suffer more perhaps than gay women, that’s just my perception. I don’t think men worry so much about girls being gay as other males being gay, I don’t know why that is. When you think it was illegal to be gay until 1969 in this country you can see how much things have moved on. And gay men are seen to be more handsome than straight men and they’re seen to be the life and soul of the party, not everybody of course. And celebrities have come out over the years and professional footballers and rugby players which are seen to be very macho sports cultures. We do live in a very tolerant society really, as I say, unlike other countries, where it’s more than frowned upon; people have got killed over it.

If hypothetically, you were in my shoes growing up and you came out to your parents, do you think you would have a got such an accepting reaction from your dad?

No. Times have moved on radically. No, my parents were working class and gay people were referred to with contempt really, as being something that is not quite ‘the real thing’. It would have been difficult really. Thinking back, I knew gay people who really suffered, their parents disowned them basically. Again, I’m thinking about gay men, I never really knew any gay women way back then. Maybe there were relationships but I hadn’t really thought about people in those ways, I mean we’re talking about forty years back now.

If I ended up having a child with a girl in the future, would you be concerned about your grandchild growing up with gay parents and the prejudice they might get?

Well, yes, I’d always have concerns about grandchildren. Erm, but I don’t know really. I guess that’s like thinking that the grandchild would suffer from the fact it’s brought up by two women and obviously they would still be in the minority in this country in that sense, but then of course it would be normal for the child being brought up in that scenario. I think the main thing is that a child is loved by their parents. I can imagine in some ways being brought up by a gay couple is probably more valuable than being brought up by a single parent. There’d be greater support.

Can you understand why a parent might react badly to their child coming out?

Well, I appreciate that I’m from a more progressive attitude really. I do accept that not everybody is as tolerant as I am.


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Stepping Stones to Sunlight: A fresher’s Guide to Coming Out

My first year living away from home and studying at University was probably exactly what it was meant to be: the most confusing period of my life. I would spend my regular hung-over Sunday afternoons, wrapped in a cocoon of duvets, hiding from sunlight and tentatively nibbling dry toast, wondering who I was and who my friends truly were and what did I want in my life and why does vodka hurt me in this way. It was during this first year of University that I did something, which looking back on, I can’t even begin to comprehend the possibility of, I convinced myself that (even though I had dated a girl before University), maybe, I might be straight. My endeavours into being straight lasted around six months, in which I attempted to overlook how boring and regrettable the confinement of the closet was for me. It was when I met a beautiful and intriguing girl who flirted with me all evening that a crucial concept hit me: there are interesting and attractive girls out there, who are interested in girls, other than my ex-girlfriend. It turns out this was a mind-blowing revelation to me, and once this epiphany had struck me, I really didn’t want to hide in a closet when there was a whole exciting world of lesbian out there. (I would add in hindsight, that if anything, I think I spent my time back in the closet to shelter for a short while, whilst learning to fully understand and accept myself so that when I re-emerged from the closet, I would be ready for whatever reaction came with that.)

After I finally realised that I was, in fact, possibly the gayest thing ever, I just had to work out where I could find these lesbians. Considering I went to a University of 25,000 students, even taking an unconvincingly low statistic from a newspaper article- such as ‘1.5% of the population is gay’- and applying it to my world of students (and presuming the male: female ratio of students is around fifty-fifty), I was still left with one hundred and eighty seven and a half lesbians to potentially meet, which was considerably more than the two or three I had met previously. It turns out the gay scene in my area wasn’t subtle or hidden or exclusive at all, I’m really amazed that I’d missed it in my first year of University, event names such as ‘the big gay bar crawl’ made it fairly easy to spot. ‘The big gay bar crawl’ was my first gay night out at university, as well as the best night out I’d had at university. It provided me with the best dilemma that a brand new lesbian can be faced with, which really attractive lesbian should I kiss? Somehow, I seemed to be at the centre of some sort of fantastic lesbian web, where I could look around in most directions from where I was dancing and have eye contact and exchange smiles with several attractive lesbians. I realise this all sounds shallow, as well as arrogant, but at the time, it was just the most excellent thing to have any chance with any of these girls, and I simply didn’t know them better in order to make good judgements on their personalities. My drunken reasoning seemed to lead me to kissing the girl who had just had her purse stolen, because she seemed to like me and she’d clearly already had a bad night.

I unsuccessfully tried to resist the inevitable pull of a relationship with stolen purse girl for a few weeks. To me, it seemed far less risky to present girls with a charming and interesting side that I felt I could only keep up for a few hours whilst fairly drunk than to get involved with someone more seriously (this would surely result in them seeing my many flaws and insecurities). There were lots of thoughts and feelings and pros and cons about relationships circling around my head at the time, but in short, I was scared of them. So I continued to go out and drink too much, and meet girls in clubs, and kiss them, which was mostly nice, and sometimes terrible. The problem with all of this was that I still couldn’t forget how nice it had felt to kiss stolen purse girl, or how lovely her posh English accent was, or how much it made me laugh when she told me about her lengthy debate with her straight best friend as to quite how gay she should dress for the ‘big gay bar crawl’. It occurred to me that drunkenly kissing girls in a club was not going to lead to me truly knowing anyone, or them knowing me, or me feeling less lonely. And although I concluded all of this at six in the morning, outside a gay bar, alone, it stuck. By means of some fantastic lesbian miracle (also known just as ‘miracle’), stolen purse girl seemed willing to overlook the fact that I had originally ignored her, and I happily dated her for several months. When I ended up texting my best friend to tell her that I thought I might love stolen purse girl, I simply got the response “Oh, so your lesbian player phase went well then.”

The reason I wanted to tell you all this, is because I spoke to a friend of mine who was telling me about her confusions over her sexuality, and her flatmates badly concealed conservative views on being gay, and maybe she doesn’t even like girls that much anyway, I mean guys are ok I guess, and all I could hear in all of this was me a year ago. Frustratingly, listening to her made me realise that there are probably lots of mes a year ago, walking around a new campus in fake leather shoes, and I thought they should know there can be a lot of light at the end of the tunnel.