Hi guys. So this is the first blog post you’ll read from me on here, and guess what, it’s got absolutely f**k all to do with design! I wanted to use this platform to share a little of my story that I sent in to a new magazine. In February, I saw a shout out and opportunity to contribute to a feminist magazine launching in spring, with content brought to you by artists, designers and musicians and so on. LGBTQ+ was listed. My (undefined) sexuality does not define me, or influence what I do, but here goes!
Enough of this.
I’m 32. It was over 10 years ago when I was at university now. But I remember one night in second year, kissing a girl in a club. It wasn’t part of the scene. A male member of staff tapped us on the shoulder and proceeded to march us out of the premisses. We sat on a sofa in silence, drinking cans of coke in a cafe round the corner. Stunned. It’s not the only time I’ve experienced homophobia. And in fact, all the instances (and there are quite a few) I could recall are from men, stretching from school right the way through to 2016 in hippie Moseley would you believe.
Fast forward a couple of years from second year at uni, a new city, a new scene. I was walking with a group of people heading for a gay club, and one of the gay guys asked, “Are you gay?” Yes, I replied. “Are you sure? You look way too straight.” He kept pressing. You would think the prejudices you experience come from “straight people”. They don’t. Thing is, do they all (I’m talking anyone here) realise how hard it was for me to get to that point? I was a child of the 80s and 90s, a time when I would say you still grew up believing you had to fit life into neat little boxes. And in doing so, I put a lot of pressure on myself and made myself so unhappy trying to figure out who I was. Depressed at 18, I turned life around and embraced the scene. I wasn’t however going to change the way I looked. I loved femininity, my long hair, makeup and wearing dresses and heels out, or the skirt with comic-print tights and leg warmers look I went for. I didn’t want to conform and cut my hair, wear baggy trousers, boxers, a t-shirt, studded belt and Toms. There’s nothing wrong with that look, but it wasn’t being me.
For several years I identified as being gay (I did put thought I was, some hang up of explaining myself), but I still wasn’t entirely happy. A few years on and I moved to Birmingham in 2012 for a new job in a design agency. By then, the scene didn’t matter to me. Like now, going out out isn’t something I enjoy. We change. I’ve only ever been in relationships with women, but I was curious mid way through the five years I lived in Brum. I was noticing guys. It was like coming out to myself, but the other way around. I went on a couple of dates with guys I spoke to online. They weren’t for me. And I must add, being honest, I said I’d only been with women. For me, this was a way of saying go easy, I’m scared… Of course they were straight away infatuated with that image. One guy even sent me a dick pic. Great…
Those dates were a drop in the ocean of my life so far. I don’t care for those memories. But it was an element that surrounded them which got me. When I told “straight” male friends I’d been on a couple of dates with guys, they were in disbelief. You are lesbian Ali. Why aren’t you staying in your box? I’ll even admit, I never told two of my close male friends because I knew they had me in that box firmly. And one of them is gay. I remember many years back, he told someone I didn’t really know that I was gay. I was so uncomfortable. Like thanks. Thanks for deciding who I am. I told all of my best girls of course as we are all honest with each other. No problem there. They have always encouraged me to be whoever I want to be.
So I always felt uneasy about the LGBTQ acronym. Another label. And my story is largely around the verbal things, but I do remember a drag queen grabbing my boobs once, and when I was with my then girl friend, a hand coming up by dress between my legs on a gay night. I turned around to see some unknown predatory guy. One of probably two times in my life I’ve felt my blood boil. This body is mine!
I can whole heartedly say now, that I am content. I am single, living in the countryside with my dog, and I love what I do. I don’t want a label. If I fell in love, it could be with someone of any gender. It comes down to the individual. It has taken me 30 years to get to that! If I could say to my 20-year-old self, your sexuality will not matter to you one day, maybe I’d have saved myself a lot of grief (and money for counselling).
I don’t hate men at all. But so many of my negative experiences have been at the hands of guys because, even in a “minority” world (which today is probably a majority with that spectrum), you are a threat.
Forget about them. Forget about everyone. I went to a wedding in 2017 where the vicar spoke of a woman who once said, “I love all of my husbands.” “Excuse me?” he said. Her message was that who we are today is not who we were yesterday, or who we will be tomorrow. This will stay with me forever. This is the truth. We should stop expecting people to be one thing always. Living in the countryside, naturally I still get those old boys assuming, saying, you’ll meet Prince Charming. Well sod Prince Charming. And those all-male Disney animators from back then. I’m happy and after all this time, I don’t feel like I need someone else to make me happy. I don’t need a man for that happy ever after. Nor a woman. This is me. Strong and independent. Even feeling strong enough that a few years from now when I’m happy my business is strong enough, I could foster. A proud, single mum. My last note would be, just be you, for you. And what we women now do, will be tomorrow’s history. Not erased when you don’t fit in some box.