Tired of Pride

Carley outside Ladurée patisserie Champs-Élysées, Paris

I’d like to pre-face this post by saying that I really like who I am; after years of insecurity and worrying about my future and trying to balance who I wanted to be with who I thought I should be, at age 24, I am happy, healthy and settled. I could not be any more in love with Stacey, a girl I met completely randomly and who has truly made me believe that sometimes things really are ‘meant to be’. And more than that, I like my life. I enjoy my job, I have really good friends and I live in a city that makes me very happy. And yet… there is one thing which is currently driving me mad.

I’m not going to beat about the bush; I am tired of constantly having to be loud and proud about my sexuality.

Google at World Pride London 2012

I do not like labels. I use the terms ‘queer’, ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ when talking about myself, but if I’m being honest, the closest I get to my own identity is when I direct people to the Kinsey Scale, where I comfortably self-identify as a 5; Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual. I’ve dated boys (I even fell in love with one), but it wasn’t until I started dating girls that I realised that the thing which had always felt like it was missing was in me, not in them.

When I did first start dating girls, I did that thing which lots of ‘new’ lesbians do; I cut my hair short to look more edgy, I had a few ill thought-through piercings and vetoed the vast majority of my wardrobe. I figured that the only way to be gay was to be stereotypically gay; so that gay girls would be able to tell that I was ‘one of them’ and straight boys might leave me alone, most of the time.

Girl sat on doorstep feeding two ducks
Me, back with short hair and ill-judged slogan t-shirt

It didn’t take long (just a few gay-but-not-obviously-so friends) before I realised that I was exactly the same person, even if I was dating a different gender. I started growing my hair out again, pulled out my favourite dresses and heels and hair curlers, and for the first time in years, started feeling content and confident in myself, in my life. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that just a few months later I met Stacey, and fell pretty hard for here. (you can read all about that in Our Love Story posts).

Since then, I’ve graduated from university, joined an internet marketing agency and enjoyed a couple of promotions, Stacey and I moved in together and endured the hardest year I’ve ever had (2010) followed by one of the happiest years of my life (2012). And along the way, my wardrobe and my style has grown up a little – that’s what happens when you need to be able to go from walking to work in the rain through to a client meeting and right up until drinks with friends before heading home – but in general, nothing much has changed. I’m still the girl who loves mini-dresses and ballet flats and French chignons and pearl earrings.

Stacey and I on new year's eve
Carley: most comfortable in dresses and heels.

And here comes the rub about being in a relationship with a girl, whilst still wearing all my favourite clothes; I pass as straight. For so many people, and in so many situations, this is a benefit. I’m not going to talk about the ins and outs of femme invisibility – there are other people who are far better at that than I am – but I am someone for whom femme invisibility is a day-to-day reality. Very few people (who don’t know me) look at me and guess that I’m in same sex relationship, and most of the time I refuse to become frustrated by that; but recently, I feel like I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t.

In the most part, if I’m in a situation where someone asks me if I have a boyfriend, I don’t have a problem correcting them. Saying ‘no’ may be technically true, but saying no and nothing else feels like lying by omission, like denying both my own sexuality and my relationship with Stacey. At an interview for a new job a few weeks ago, I barely even paused when I told my new boss that my other half was a woman. For anyone who I like, who I’m going to have a relationship with in the future, who I feel like deserves to know about my life; I feel like they deserve a certain level of courtesy, of honesty from me.

Me with my mum and stepdad about a year before I met Stacey - let alone came out to them
These people deserve honesty and openness from me…

But other people? The guy in the sandwich shop who pseudo-flirts with me when he’s making my lunch order? My dentist, who I visit once every six months? Client contacts from work? I’m not ashamed to say that actually, I don’t always correct them when they ask me about my boyfriend, because I am tired of having to explain my sexuality to every person I walk past on the street. I am proud about who I am, but I don’t feel like I consistently have to broadcast it.

Yet, I often feel like I am ‘letting the side down’ when I don’t immediately correct people who assume that my other half is male. In fact, a friend actually asked me why I didn’t correct a barman in a bar when he made a comment on my relationship status, and I felt dismayed. My sexuality is exactly that: mine. Whilst I would never actively hide my sexuality, I feel like it should be my decision as to whom and when I out myself and my sexuality. I am absolutely exhausted by constantly having to deal with the same questions whenever I come out to a stranger, and because of this, sometimes I’d just rather not.

… but the rest of the world can forget it.

I am proud and secure in who I am, and who I love. I am secure enough not to have to announce that I am ‘predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual’ to everyone I meet. So what if I don’t come out to every single person I interact with in my life; it is not my fault that the world automatically presumes that I am straight, and I am fed up of correcting people.

Rant over.  


7 Comment

  1. kirsty says: Reply

    my view is just be who you are ….. :) it is noone elses business really…. cos behind everything, you are just you…. I don’t agree with labels. as soon as you label something or someone is creates separation… I have long hair, sometimes wear make-up and dresses. but I don’t agree with the whole Femme Visibility thing some people harp on about… I think it is another way of creating discrimination…. xxx

    1. Carley says: Reply

      I agree with what you said about labels – I like who I like, and in the most part I refuse to place just a single label on myself. In terms of femme visibility / invisibility, I understand that it’s a concern to some people, but for me, a wider concern should be that society as a whole automatically assumes that everyone is straight; and that hetronormative assumption is what needs to change, not the visibility level of feminine lesbians. x

  2. Susie says: Reply

    I absolutely agree and I find the same thing. Unless you conform to the stereotype then most people are not going to be able to tell weather you are gay or straight. Surely the point that we all want to get to is that who you are with isn’t an issue and there is no need to continue to out ourselves on a daily basis. I tend to be like you and say, no I don’t have a boyfriened because I can’t always be bothered with the long discussion that ensues. It’s not that I am ashamed at all it’s just it tires me thats its a continued issue. I think things are improving but I look forward to a time when labels are a thing of the past

  3. Oh honey, I could have written this post word for word. I experience many of the same things and it gets to be beyond frustrating from time to time. While I do LOVE Pride (because it’s just so much fun), the constant need to explain myself, my sexuality and my family to the random people I encounter gets old quick. Great post!

    1. Carley says: Reply

      Thank you – I’m glad it’s not just me! I was worried this was a bit of a whiny post, but it is something that’s hard, when you get the same questions all.the.time. Cx

  4. Sometimes I feel an *eensy* bit invisible too. Thus the problem with still looking girly but walking the lesbian line.

    And I don’t blame you for not outing yourself to every Tom, Dick and Harry that wants to flirt with you or ask about your relationship status. Sometimes, it’s just too much bother. And why is it that when you mention you’re a lesbian, suddenly there are a million follow-up questions? Why can’t it just be the end of it the way it would be if you mentioned you were straight?

    You’re not hiding… and I’d say that’s all that really matters!

  5. […] why people like me need to come out over and over and over again – just like I wrote about back here. And it’s the thing that straight people just don’t understand. When you come to an […]

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