‘Have You Always Known?’

I’ve been thinking a little more about my last post and how people react when they find out that I have a girlfriend. The more I think about it, the more I realise that even some of the people who appear to take this little snippet of information in their stride still have a lot of questions once it comes up in conversation.

Don’t get me wrong, questions can be good. Questions show curiosity and can demonstrate an open mind and willingness to learn about things that you don’t quite understand. However, it is the same questions that keep getting asked over and over again, therefore you can understand why I’m beginning to find them a little bit tedious.

When someone wants to ask me about my sexual orientation I can guarantee that they will start by asking:

“Have you always known?”

I tell them that no, I haven’t always known. At this point they look at me searchingly before proceeding to ask me a question which, essentially, requires a brief rundown of my past sexual relationships:

“Have you ever been with men?”

When I say that yes actually I have been with men, a look of understanding will fill their face and the little light bulb above their head turns on as they exclaim:

“Oh, so you’re bi?”

This is where I tend to upset people because I really prefer not to label myself as anything. I extinguish the light bulb that was shining so brightly by responding with “I’m just me,” when people demand to know exactly “what” I am.

I think there must be some kind of lesbian chart that has been kept a secret from me and people are trying to work out whereabouts I stand on it. Am I just a little bit of a lesbian, more confused than gay, or am I a full blown lezza completely past saving?

We seem to have this incessant need to know all about a person’s sexual identity so that we can label them accordingly and slot them neatly into boxes.

What I truly want to know is this; why does it even matter? How does hearing about a boyfriend I had six years ago effect someone’s understanding of the person that I am today? Let’s face it, it doesn’t. These questions are completely irrelevant yet, for some reason, people keep asking them.

Image via Instagram.

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What You Don’t Realise About ‘Coming Out’

When we talk about the way that gay people “come out” it almost seems as though each individual will gather all their friends and family together in a room, make the announcement that they are sexually attracted to people of the same sex and be done with it. There, they have “come out” as gay to everyone that they know. Job done.

Except, it really isn’t that simple at all.

Not only do you have to first “come out” to yourself, (something that I really struggled with), but then you have to find a way to casually drop it into conversation with close friends and family. After that, if you feel comfortable doing so, you then have the exact same conversation with the other people in your life, such as those friends you aren’t particularly close to and your colleagues, etc.

Guess what? At this point, you still aren’t done “coming out.” Pretty much every time you meet a new person you have to go through the process all over again. That’s right, another chance to be rejected by or receive a disgusted response from each new person that you will ever meet in your entire life. Yay.

I rarely bring up my sexual orientation when I first meet new people, not because I’m ashamed of being a lesbian but simply because I don’t really think it matters. However, even though I don’t introduce myself with, “Hi, I’m Natasha and I’m a raging lesbian,” I often find that the fact I’m in a relationship with a woman does crop up in conversation.

Every time I’m participating in small talk with a new person and they ask about my life there is a chance that the word “girlfriend” will leave my mouth. If they ask what I did at the weekend, the chances are that I went on some kind of date with my girlfriend. If they ask what I’m doing that evening, there is a chance that I’ll be seeing my girlfriend. If they ask about any upcoming holidays I have booked, the chances are that I’ll be going with my girlfriend. The list goes on.

I’m pleased to say that the majority of people I meet take this little snippet of information in their stride and don’t react. Others are taken aback by the news and clearly haven’t met enough gay people to realise that we look the same as everyone else. They will usually stare at me with an open mouth for a few seconds or laugh awkwardly once they discover that I’m in a relationship with a woman. This doesn’t bother me too much as I understand that some people do still have a stereotypical image of a lesbian in their head and I just don’t fit it.

What does bother me, however, are those few people who just can’t actually grasp the concept of me being with another woman. Occasionally there will be one person who is so fucking shocked by this fact that it is all they talk about for the next ten minutes.

So you’re a lesbian? Yes. Are you really? Yes. Are you joking? No. So, you’re like actually with a woman? Yes. Wow, I wouldn’t have thought that.

Seriously, why is it so difficult to understand? Although over the last few years society’s acceptance of the LGBT community has widened enormously, the reactions of some people when they find out that I’m gay demonstrate that certain stereotypes remain and that we still have some work to do.

I can’t wait for the day that I can drop the words “with my girlfriend” into a conversation with a new person and don’t feel the need to watch them to see if they flinch. I can’t wait until the need to “come out” no longer exists.

Image via Instagram.

Bad Feminist: Take Two

“At some point, I got it into my head that a feminist was a certain kind of woman. I bought into grossly inaccurate myths about who feminists are – militant, perfect in their politics and person, man-hating, humorless.

I bought into these myths even though, intellectually, I know better. I’m not proud of this. I don’t want to buy into these myths anymore. I don’t want to cavalierly disavow feminism like far too many other women have done.

Bad feminism seems like the only way I can both embrace myself as a feminist and be myself, and so I write. I chatter away on Twitter about the small things that make me angry and all the small things that bring me joy. I write blog posts about the meals I cook as I try to take better care of myself, and with each new entry, I realize that I’m undestroying myself after years of allowing myself to stay damaged.

The more I write, the more I put myself out into the world as a bad feminist but, I hope, a good woman – I am being open about who I am and who I was and where I have faltered and who I would like to become.

No matter what issues I have with feminism, I am a feminist. I cannot and will not deny the importance and absolute necessity of feminism. Like most people, I’m full of contradictions, but I also don’t want to be treated like shit for being a woman.

I am a bad feminist. I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”

 

 

 

 

Dress Codes, Responsibility and Rape.

I’ve been thinking recently about the way that society regulates the female body by dictating what is considered to be appropriate clothing and what isn’t.

More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the way in which young females are policed at school through the use of a dress code that only seems to apply to one sex.

I understand that uniforms serve many purposes and that it is beneficial for students at a school to wear the same thing for various reasons. I also understand that schools want all of their students to dress “appropriately” for their age and that they do not want to contribute to the growing sexualisation of teenage girls.

What I don’t understand, however, is the long list of rules that dictate the appropriate dress for female students. I don’t understand the downright ridiculous uniform policies and I certainly don’t understand the reasoning behind them.

In many schools, fitted trousers are not considered to be appropriate because they show the female’s shape. In other schools showing your collarbones is not allowed. In most schools girls are not allowed to have their bra straps or bare shoulders visible, meaning that a basic vest top is considered to be inappropriate and too revealing for female students to wear.

Why aren’t girls allowed to show their shoulders, might you ask? Well, it’s because they will apparently be a distraction to male students.

Instead of teaching women from an early age that they must keep their body covered so that they do not distract boys, how about we start teaching boys to simply not sexualise every single inch of female flesh?

By imposing strict dress codes such as these, women are taught that keeping themselves covered so as not to tempt boys is the norm and that, essentially, the way that they dress is directly responsible for boys’ behaviour.

More worryingly about these dress codes is the fact that, in addition to leading women to believing they are responsible for the behaviour of men, they let young boys believe that they are not responsible for their own actions.

The behaviour of boys who objectify young girls based on what they’re wearing is commonly justified with phrases such as “boys will be boys” or “you know what boys are like.” This implies that boys have no self control and that it isn’t their fault if they falsely interpret a woman’s clothing as an invitation for sexual activity.

This message sticks with women into adulthood and feeds directly into rape culture. It is the woman’s job to ensure she does nothing to provoke sexual harassment or assault from a man. She should not go out late at night. She should not walk the streets alone. She should not wear revealing clothing. If she does, isn’t she kind of asking for it?

Instead of regulating women’s behaviour and clothing and holding them responsible for the behaviour of men, how about we start holding the men who objectify and attack women accountable for their actions?

Image via Instagram.