Rather apt for Valentine’s day…

The next story in the Unlabelled Collection is now available for Kindle. Called Betrayed Hearts, this short story takes a look at her true feelings on her wedding day.

The Valentine’s day release was pure coincidence. Amazon took their time approving it!

Go on, help a penniless writer out and help me buy a pint of milk (next stop: a loaf of bread. Oh, the dizzying heights of writing fame).

You can find it here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Betrayed-Hearts-Unlabelled-Collection-ebook/dp/B00BFR58ZY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1360845559&sr=8-1

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The working lesbian

I’ve just read a great short piece at Diva and was reminded of my outing experiences at work…

I was very wary. Especially soon after I’d split from my fiancé – the dreaded ‘What happened?’ question was met with the usual ‘We just wanted different things’, which of course felt like the biggest lie in the world. If anything it was our mutual interests in breasts and all things related that broke the relationship apart. So when at work, in my previous job, I kept quiet. Everyone had known me as straight and it was very odd trying to come out. It wasn’t until two weeks before I left the job that I felt confident enough to say in response to the ‘Up to anything interesting tonight?’ question with a casual ‘Oh, I have a date with Marty”. This of course was followed by the excited ‘Ooooh who’s Marty? Where did you meet him?’.

The look on their faces when I revealed I’d met HER ages ago through mutual friends. We’d always had our flirt on but it wasn’t until I was single and she was single that we both realised the other was a then-still-closeted lesbian.

 

Cue new job. New scenario. By this point, I was more comfortable with who I was. But the reactions of previous colleagues (who went on to ignore me/not pass work to me/have a generally uncomfortable air when I was around for the last fortnight) had made me incredibly cautious about who I came out to.

The decision: don’t label yourself. Don’t actively proclaim your sapphic tendencies, but don’t hide it if asked.

This worked surprisingly well, at first. Nobody gave a damn and all assumed I was straight. Until I met Him. You know who I mean: the one colleague you get on with best. You take lunches together, buy reciprocal drinks on Friday nights, build in-jokes quickly.  Doesn’t help that he (let’s call him Office Boy, or OB) is possibly the most attractive man in the office. I say this with clear unbias. Charming, intelligent, funny and a cheekbone/jawline combination you could shave cheese on. Of course, the gossip started.

Then tensions rose. Turns out if you have a female boss who liked her status as Top Bitch and enjoyed the over-flirts with OB, you can step on toes unwittingly. Gradually, team members found out through mine and OB’s not-so-subtle in-jokes (which was absolutely fine). Top Bitch had a marvellous knack of never listening to anything, whether work related or not, so clearly didn’t pick up on this.

It got to a point when the two of us (Me and OB) were getting into trouble for mistakes that didn’t even happen. Another colleague admitted that Top Bitch had said more than once she thought that OB and I were having a fling (the idea disgusts me; in my mind it would be close to incest). Eventually, I went to HR – I would have gone to Top Bitch but I rather liked my job – and mentioned that this tension was ridiculous because I was a lesbian and clearly therefore wasn’t having a thing with OB. HR immediately spoke to Top Bitch and tensions eased. But it often got awkward in downtime-chat (when Top Bitch and I had established some kind of unspoken mutual agreement to get along) when the team were discussing their partners/dating habits/relationship woes. Each would have their say, with a response from Top Bitch, but it came to my two cents and the conversation got shut down.

It was interesting to me that the rest of the team, all much closer in age to me, were completely accepting. They even liked the novelty of a girl admiring the new girl’s choice of dress more for skirt length than fashion critique, but that I was also a softie when it came to emotional discussions and am a girly girl at heart. But Top Bitch just couldn’t get her head around it, dodging any questions relating to personal life in case it was against some lesbian-specific policy and I was ready to sue her for discrimination.

I refer to a previous post, that it shouldn’t matter to anyone who you are getting your jollies with. But at the same time, it matters to everyone else and life gets a lot simpler without having to juggle the white lies.

Generally, now, I go on the assumption people know. Having a shaved head (through chemo, not choice) helped break down those barriers – but that opens a whole other Pandora’s Box of irritations surrounding stereotypes. I think this blog is long enough – let’s save that one for later…

 

Justifications

I have a confession to make: I’ve been confused. Mayhap it was due to hotboxing menthol vapours under my super kingsize duvet to try and rid myself of this annoying chest infection, but I think that’s just an excuse.

I’ve been pondering on how to follow up my last post. Why it’s the business of nobody except yourself of what your orientation is and, generally, I do agree with this. However, the more I’ve been pondering/high on Vicks, the larger the list of reasons people SHOULD know has become.

For a start, and for the most obvious reasons, it’s incredibly liberating. You can go to gay clubs without fear of people ‘finding out’, your social life may broaden when you start moving in these circles as you meet new people, with common interests. I’m not saying you should be friends with people just because they’re gay, oh no no no – but they will understand the difficulties of being so in what is still a hetero-normative society. The best moments for me came when I started to meet other people with non-straight sexualities – all of my friends (bar two guys, including a school friend who was my first ‘boyfriend’, oh the irony) are straight, which limits dating opportunities as they move in straight circles. I am still the ‘only lesbian in the village’.

Which can be a delightful novelty. I’ve naturally always had more male friends than female friends, just the way it is. Which, when I was younger, obviously meant I was sleeping around with all of them, if you listened to any gossip going. But when I came out, there was a brilliant reaction from my male friends: relief. Suddenly, standard barriers between male/female relationships dropped – no longer did they censor themselves, no longer were they acutely aware of any tactile moments in case they ‘meant something’: playfights, bear hugs, dead legs abounded. They love that they can talk about women with me as if I were a guy – but bringing a female perspective to it. I’ve become a wingman: she’s either going to be interested in them or me, and either way the other friend can big them up to ensure success, safe in the knowledge there’s no competition. Except when it comes to bisexuals, but that’s a whole different ball/nonball game…

I have freedom within myself, to be myself. I used to be annoyed by the gossip, I used to worry what people thought of me, and this is a strong reason I held back from coming out. But then, when I did, I realised it was the false gossip about which boy I was taking home that had bothered me the most precisely because there was no truth in it. I wouldn’t mind so much if there were rumours that I was dating someone like this:

 

 

But alas I am yet to hear of those.

In the end, you should never have to justify yourself to anyone but yourself. But in doing so, you need to realise why you are making justifications for not being yourself to everybody. My relationships with people have massively improved, because I am no longer hiding this huge part of who I am. Some may say orientation isn’t your identity and to an extent I agree. But while there is still a hetero-normative society, where even the state continues to sanction semantic differences in legal unions between straight couples and same-sex couples, there is a need to normalise non-traditional orientations. And to do that, we need to be out of whatever closet/duvet/hermit hole/false relationship we are in. It is not to satisfy others: it is to satisfy yourself.

Christ, leave me alone

I had a very interesting moment recently. I was walking home, avec une tres jollie belle, after a rather successful date. (I say after. We were clearly mid-date, but that’s not for telling here…oh, alright. We had a really hot, steamy…mug of chocolate before I wished her farewell and moseyed to bed on my own). I have to walk past my local church in order to get to my street, and we were wandering past just as an evening ‘session’ had finished at the church. (Not being of institutionalised faith, not sure what this should be called. Mass? Prayer time? Show?).

Now, I wear a very small crucifix around my neck because while I am not of institutionalised faith, I hold hope for a deity and identify most with this shape of talisman. It could be a Wiccan pentagram, an all seeing eye, whatever – it is what comforts me to have as my touchstone and that is my own belief to be held to myself.

I do not expect to be questioned – nay, reprimanded – by members of the church as I walk by. When I say this is a small crucifix, it is precisely that – no more than 4cm tall. You have to look hard for it. An elderly woman and not-so-elderly man were leaving the church, and saw my date and I holding hands.

“Disgusting.” Said she.

We continued on, ignoring the ones who wish not to change with the times (and yet were quite ready to jump into their 4×4, but oh no, technology doesn’t count as ‘changing times’).

“Excuse me, deary. Excuse me.” I was being tugged on the sleeve. I looked down to see the old lady had followed me. “Are you a Christian?” She jabbed at my necklace.

I hate this question, especially from religious types, because it’s a difficult answer to give.

“I don’t believe in organised religion but I hope there is something guarding and guiding me to the be the best person I can be.”

She tutted. She actually tutted.

“You are a disgrace to all things holy.” This was said with accompanying finger-wag.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“No need to apologise to me, you should get inside that church and apologise to God for being such an abomination with this piece of skirt.”

At this point, I could have done one of a few things:

1. Hit her over the head with my handbag, the old lady equivalent to throwing down the gauntlet.

2. Smiled politely, and walked away. (Which is, by the way, the wimp option. Of which I am not).

3. Told her to mind her own business.

What I probably should not have done is this.

I should probably not have launched into a rant about gay marriage, to a woman who clearly could not even comprehend that I would want to even hold hands with another girl in public.

About halfway through, when I was on the point of ‘it’s all about the semantics, really’, the elderly woman starting moaning. As in, actually moaning, like I was tormenting her. Her male companion, who was probably with her as her escort from whatever place of mental peace she usually resided, stepped in.

“Her husband was a vicar.”

“Why does that – ”

“Her son left home not long ago.”

“Again, how – ”

“To be with Pedro.”

Ah.

Turning to the woman, I tried my best I’m-really-sorry-for-you face.  I could have been gracious, understanding. I could have delved into whatever guiding deity I claimed to believe in to find the right words.

But no.

Before I knew it, this came spewing forth:

“Ha. Gutted.”

My hand flew to my mouth, while my date just giggled. (This, dear reader, is why the only hot steamy action was hot chocolate-related. I hate myself for my response which, while entertaining now, was completely wrong and incredibly rude, and was not said to impress or entertain her in any way. Lady, if you’re reading, feel free to call me…in a few years).

I tried to backtrack, to apologise, but it wasn’t working. So I bowed (actually bowed), backed away and left this poor, judgemental and confused old woman to be led away by her sniggering companion. (He too, found this hilarious).

If I see her again (likely, she’s a regular), I’ll be sure to apologise. But it did make me think a lot about the whole gay marriage argument. I realised that my view might not fit entirely with others of my persuasion – because I actually understand the Church’s protection of the sanctity of marriage based on the traditional use of the term.

What I do NOT agree with, is how it currently stands – hetero couples have marriage, same sex couples have civil partnerships, but neither can have the other. I understand the tradition and semantics behind marriage within religion – and consequently the difficulty in having a religious ceremony when (most) religions believe that homosexuality is a sin.

Why not give straight people the option for civil partnerships? Give us ALL some equality by recognising that marriage no longer has to be within a religious context in order to be recognised by the state. I do not believe in organised religion, and one of these reasons is very much because I could not reconcile my orientation with holy scripture; I realise that in order to follow (most) organised faiths I would need to deny much of what is in my very nature. I tried being straight, for a long time, but I have absolutely no interest in men. To deny myself would be denying the essence of being on this earth – to live, to enjoy life and to be free.

At the end of the argument, what it all boils down to is semantics. Marriage is associated with religion – fine, they can keep it. But at least give hetero couples the opportunity to not be locked into a religious contract if they do not wish to do so, and provide us some equality at the same time by making civil partnerships universal. (It should be noted, particularly to non-UK readers, that we DO have ‘civil ceremonies’ for hetero couples, which are non-religious, but as I understand it, the union thereafter is still referred to as a marriage; civil partnerships are not, for the sake of definition by the state).  There is deliberate segregation of hetero and same sex couples by the state by this simple wordplay, and it needs to be resolved.

Otherwise how else am I going to explain to the old lady why Pedro and her son are still living in the States?