Pride month

When I think of pride, I think of Pride festivals…. I remember going to the very first Pride in Hull which was held 20 years ago. I cannot believe I was only 14! We marched through the streets of Hull, and I remember feeling liberated and happy to be part of this occasion. However, it was tainted for me by a member of the public who decided to hurl abuse at us. Maybe this is why I didn’t return to Hull Pride again until 2 years ago when I went with my best friend and our girls. I love the fact that she was happy to come with me and did not care what people thought. Due to Covid restrictions it wasn’t held last year and has sadly been cancelled again this year, but fingers crossed it will return next year.

I clearly wasn’t put off Pride festivals as I decided to be a rebel and went to London Pride aged 16 on my own!!! I didn’t know anyone who was going or in fact anyone who lived in London but that didn’t put me off. I think I would be more anxious now but then I just went to enjoy the atmosphere, be surrounded by like-minded people and to have a good time.

I know that times have changed (well…mostly) and that being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is more widely accepted but I still find it hard. Being a lesbian is a part of me, but it does not define who I am.

I first knew I was a lesbian when I was 14 years old but going back 20 years the internet wasn’t how it is today so I couldn’t google, ‘am I a lesbian?’ or find support easily. Being home educated and not seeing many people my own age didn’t help either. I remember being told as a teenager that being a lesbian was no doubt a phase. I struggled not having people to mix with or talk to about it and ended up turning to the internet to try and find people.

It is funny what seems important to us as teenagers/young adults and for as long as I can remember I knew that I wanted children. At that time, I also dreamed of a white wedding and being the blushing bride. At a time where it was difficult to meet people and knowing that I wanted to ‘fit’ in caused me internal conflict which led to some dark times. I spent a few years trying to convince myself that I was straight, telling myself it would be ok as I would ‘fit’ in and could be the blushing bride and have children.

And I ended up meeting someone who I was in a relationship with for quite awhile during that time and he was lovely, the perfect gentleman. I knew I loved him but more like a brother or a best friend than anything else. This made it easier in a way as I genuinely enjoyed his company and my family adored him, but it was also hard, as despite my best efforts I could not live a lie and so I had to end the relationship. By the age of 21 I could not hide the fact I was a lesbian any longer despite knowing at the time that this meant forgoing the possibility of being the blushing bride and not knowing if I would be able to have children.

I am pleased that I had the strength to follow my heart despite it not being the easiest decision.

For some reason I still find it hard to be open about my sexuality which in a way frustrates me as I know in the past it has become more of an issue because I have tried to hide it. I know this is because I am afraid of judgement. Although I know that I would not want to be friends with people who are homophobic I also like to be liked.

When I was married, I used to struggle when people asked me what my husband was called or what he did and so I used to talk about them as ‘they’ to try and avoid the fact that I actually had a wife. Starting a new life, after leaving my abusive relationship, has given me opportunities to change how I present myself and so I am trying to be more open and honest with people. So when people assume that because I have children I must have been with a man or that I only came out after having children, I correct them.

I sometimes wonder if people would make the same assumptions if I looked like a lesbian – not that I am saying there is a look, but I know some people assume that all lesbians are butch and so because I am feminine people may assume that I am not a lesbian.

Now that life is returning to some sort of normality I would like to try and meet new people but when it comes to joining events, I get nervous and despite wanting to go I struggle to put myself out there, after all, who knows what opportunities there may be or who I may meet. I know this is something that I need to get over and I would like to learn to be proud of who I am.

I truly hope that people are becoming more accepting, open minded and less judgemental. I remember someone saying that the worst thing that could happen to their child is if they were gay, I wholeheartedly disagree. As a parent, I hope that my daughters will be happy in their own skin, and I will love them regardless of their sexuality.

After all,….

Dating

When I got married, I thought I would be with my wife for the rest of my life and I never imagined that I would be single again. The last time I was single I was 20 years old, more than a decade later I was separated with 2 under 2s and a lot of baggage!

Being in a long-term relationship with a full-on career, going through 2 pregnancies 2 years on the trot (alongside the restrictions of the controlling relationship itself) it was fair to say that fashion, looks and keeping up with beauty trends was not on my radar! The most I ran to on a day-to-day basis was maintaining my eyebrows and underarms…as for anything else that was far too much effort!! Unless it was summer, the only time I shaved my legs was if my hair was that long it was irritating me!!! Becoming a single mum, having to start my life from scratch, having a lot of baggage and now being in my 30’s, aside from not particularly being interested in the idea of dating, I couldn’t imagine that I would appeal to anyone.

Added to that being a lesbian and not really knowing anyone (having moved back to the area where I grew up) it was never going to be easy to meet other single lesbians unless I had a tattoo on my forehead that said single lesbian! I have met previous girlfriends through online dating which has its pros and cons, but I have never really dated a woman I have met any other way.

As much as I was heartbroken to be single, part of me also knew that I had felt single for the past couple of years. I remember my best friend encouraging me to dip my toe into the water even though I didn’t necessarily want a relationship right now. So, after being lovingly pestered I decided to sign up to an online dating site with the hope of meeting people to chat to and being open to new experiences.

It had been a long time since I’d filled in a profile for a dating site, but a glass of wine helped give me the courage to complete it. Some questions don’t take any thought such as height, ethnicity etc but others weren’t as easy…desire to have children? What I’m looking for in a woman? etc. But the hardest one was writing the part about myself. I’ve never felt comfortable talking about myself and it feels like it’s a sales pitch!! Do you admit that you have children and that they live with you? Will that put people off? But if it does put people off does that bother me?

Choosing a photo to put on my profile was another dilemma! I don’t take many selfies nor have many photos of me especially looking like anything other than a mum – meaning knackered, hair a mess, no makeup, ‘mum’ clothes etc! Maybe I was taking it too seriously, but I thought if I’m going to give this a go, I want to do it properly, so I had to be practical and think how far I was willing to potentially travel to meet someone however most people seemed to live in London or that neck of the woods which I felt was too far.

Then I had to sit and think about the age range I was willing to consider without completely limiting my options. Initially I thought I should consider 10 years either side, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about potentially dating someone in their 40’s especially as I want to go on adventures and live my life and had it in my head that older people may not be up for that (probably because my ex had no desire to do anything or go anywhere and they were the same age as me). However, the idea of dating someone in their early 20’s somehow felt wrong! I also thought of myself at that age, just starting out, not being tied down…why on earth would they want to date an older woman who was still married and with children!! In the end I decided to go for up to 5 years younger and 8 years older to begin with but ended up going to 10years + older than me as I decided to try and be open minded.

It’s really hard when looking at profiles as you’re potentially swiping yes or no for someone based on 1 or 2 photos, but I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t admit that although I am very open minded, I do have a preference of more feminine women so couldn’t personally envisage dating a woman for example with a shaved head and who dresses in a very manly way. I appreciate that they could be the loveliest person in the world, but I would be lying if I said I would be physically attracted to them. I acknowledge that chemistry can potentially grow when you get to know someone, but I guess at this point I was just really wanting to see who was out there and trying to be honest with myself. Using dating sites, I also feel you need to be drawn in by something, be it their photo or what they say about themselves.

I felt like a teenager whenever I got an email saying someone had liked my profile and got butterflies when someone messaged me. What do you talk about? How honest are you? Having not dated for so long I had no idea what to expect or if there were different expectations to when I was previously single. Do people message regularly? Do you ever exchange personal emails or mobile numbers? If so, at what point? If they ever want to meet how does that work? When I was in my early 20’s I was sensible but pretty carefree and didn’t necessarily think about or worry about meeting people but now I found myself being more cautious.

So, when someone asked if we could meet (after numerous messages, emails, and conversations) I didn’t know what to do. In the end I decided to go with the part of me that said, go for it, why shouldn’t I go and meet someone? They’d suggested meeting in York which anyone who knows me knows I love it there and I hadn’t been in years. As it got closer to the day I started to panic – what do I wear? (I only had ‘Mum’ clothes), what make up do I put on? How do I do my hair? I think I spent most of the day before preparing myself! Of course, I want someone to like me for who I am, but I wanted to feel good about myself and wanted to make an effort.

It had been years since anyone had given me any compliments (apart from friends/family) and a long time since I’d felt like I looked good.

I was a nervous wreck the day we were to meet even though I was looking forward to it, but I remember getting cold feet and ringing my mum and best friend to make sure they didn’t think I was being silly by meeting someone I’d never met on my own. However, they both encouraged me to go, let my hair down and have a good time! After all, I was meeting them at the railway station in York in the middle of the day and I couldn’t let my head think of worst-case scenarios!

Despite the nerves, I survived the first date I had been on in over 10 years and I did allow myself to let my hair down and enjoy myself. I don’t recall a time in my life where a woman has offered to take me for a meal or who has turned up with a gift on a date. It gave me a glimpse of what life could be like and gave me a much-needed confidence boost.

When researching about dating, a lot came up about dating during lockdown, including ideas of things to do on virtual dates and some of my favourite suggestions include: –

  1. Playing ‘Never Have I Ever’. (I hadn’t heard of this game until I saw it on The Big Bang Theory!)
  2. Looking to the future: coming up with ideas or planning an experience you can share together when this is all over – be it going away for a night, going on holiday, or starting a venture together.
  3. Sex Bucket List. (I’d not heard of such a thing but hey, why not?! Regardless of if you’re in a long-term relationship or a new relationship it would certainly be a way of spicing things up!)