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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Carley femme invisibility, gay, kinsey scale, lesbian, LGBT, Pride, sexuality