I wholeheartedly believe that I, Carley, am out. When thinking about closets, my mind immediately goes to coats and to shoes, not to secrets and fear. I’m unafraid to walk along at pride, enjoy a ‘BGNO’ at our favourite gay clubs or put pictures of my girlfriend and I on Facebook. I’m happy and secure in who I am, and thus out to everyone… Only that’s not quite true. I’m out to everyone… in Edinburgh.
In the past I’ve blamed my hesitance in telling certain people about my relationship, my sexuality, because of my confused and complicated self identity. I’ve talked before about trying to work out when I knew, and I think that because I had these very intense relationships with girls but dated guys I never quite trusted my same-sex attractions. I’ve mentioned before that Stacey is my first girlfriend (I’d been on casual dates with other girls before before, and even *shock* slept with some of them before Stace) and when we first got together, I wasn’t sure how serious she was about me, or even how much I liked her! I guess that’s why I kept my ‘new’ relationship from a lot of my friends and family from home to begin with.
I told my mother about Stacey the weekend after I finished my last set of exams at St Andrews. It was early summer in 2010, and Stacey and I had been together for about 6 months; we were talking about moving in together because it was the only way that we’d be able to stay in the same place once I graduated. I’d been putting off telling my mum for months – I was absolutely dreading it. I managed to get myself down to Essex by booking first class train tickets – hoping to make the journey less traumatic than it could have been. I can remember the whole evening so vividly.
I arrived home and my mum picked me up from the station; I’d spent the whole journey from London to our local station shaking and feeling sick. She took me to the local pub and we sat in the beer garden, a bottle of rose wine between us. The weather was warm and I remember feeling so petrified. I told mum that there was something I wanted to tell her, something that I’d been keeping from her, before stumbling over my words as I told her that I’d met someone – a girl, Stacey – and that I’d fallen in love with her. I remember trying to express that it wasn’t that I liked girls per se, but that this girl had somehow managed to get me completely in a spin. And that’s why I was sat outside the pub trying to convey how difficult this was for me to her.
My mum’s response was better than I ever could have expected. She listened to my stuttering confession, and responded appropriately; she told me she’d always love me and always want me to be happy; that whilst it wasn’t the life she would choose for me she knew that that it was my life to live; she told me she was still annoyed that she hadn’t got a mothers’ day card. It wasn’t perfect; but at that point I was a bit of a shit daughter and my mum and I still had a whole lot of stuff to work out.
When it came to my younger brother, I didn’t tell him when I told my mum because (despite being 18) he was a little immature and often prone to gay jokes – and he and I were not particularly close, after my four years away at uni. It was actually only this summer that my brother found out about Stacey and I – when Stace and I stayed at my mum’s over World Pride weekend, he seemed to cotton on, and asked my mum once we’d left. Two years and a more-mature girlfriend has made a world of difference, and I know now that he just wants to see me happy too.
So I’m out to my mother and my brother – and the group of girls I was close to during my two years at sixth form – but that’s all. I am not out to any of my extended family – not my grandparents, who I adore, not my cousins who I spent every summer with during my childhood – and certainly not my dad. My father is another story altogether – but it does sting that I’m not out to any of my mum’s side of the family, especially after I attended my cousin’s wedding early this year. Why am I not out? It’s not really that complicated – my mum has asked me not to tell my grandparents, and I feel like I cannot tell the rest of the family if I’m also going to have to ask them to lie to my grandparents for me.
I’m not entirely sure that my mum herself knows why she doesn’t want me to tell my nan and granddad – I think it’s a combination of not wanting them to be disappointed in me, not wanting to upset or antagonise them – to protect both them and me. It’s something that mum and I have spoken about a number of times; sometimes I’ll insist that they need to know, and sooner rather than later – and other times I’ll be able to see her point of view. But the truth of the matter is that the longer they don’t know, the bigger the shock will be for my whole family when Stacey and I get engaged, or get married, or decide to have children. And in the meantime, I have to lie to them, to my aunt, my cousins and the rest of our family.
This stalemate may change in the next few months. Not only is Stacey coming to stay with my family and I over the Christmas period – a time when our family is always dropping in on one another – but my mum and my grandparents are coming to visit us at the end of this month too. My grandparents have never been to visit our flat in Edinburgh, and whilst they’ve spoken to Stacey on the phone numerous times, they’ve never met her either. Whilst I don’t plan to thrust our relationship in their faces whilst they’re here, I’d be surprised if they didn’t notice anything, considering how close we are and the fact that we share a room. So maybe my see-saw of in-then-out will change in the next few months – but I have to admit, I’m not holding my breath.
To anyone who’s managed to read all the way to here – well done, and thank you. My coming out story is one which is still being written, and one I’m not entirely comfortable with telling, because I don’t always believe that I have done / am doing the right thing. However, if this helps anyone out there who is worried or feeling alone due to their sexuality, then I believe that it’s a story worth telling.Carley