Tag Archives: East of England

Jenny the Worrier Princess

I’d always been a tomboy growing up. My mum often recalls that, for my first birthday, I was brought a doll and pram and my response was to throw the doll out, load the pram with building blocks and pretend it was a car.

Aged six, I asked my mum one day ‘Mummy do you mind if I am a boy type girl?’ and of course being the understanding woman she is she didn’t mind one bit.

I chose to bury my feelings and carry on trying to be like everyone else

As I progressed through school I realized my friends were nearly all boys and my crushes were almost always on girls (and Wonder Woman). At the time the only representations of gay men in popular culture were camp stereotypes and lesbians were nonexistent so I felt very, very different from the norm. Knowing I wasn’t like the other girls around me, I chose to bury my feelings and carry on trying to be like everyone else.

At secondary school the only thing we were taught sexuality wise was reproduction in a very clinical way. In the late 80’s the government, then led by Margaret Thatcher, brought in a law to prevent the promotion of homosexuality (Section 28). This meant that it could not be taught in schools and you couldn’t go to a teacher for help or advice.

I had a series of boyfriends

Ironically quite a lot of my school friends were also gay but we were all deeply in the closet, partly because it was a small town and partly because we didn’t know what people’s reactions would be.

I had a series of boyfriends that were, in fact, friends that had asked me out, as I probably would never have dreamed of thinking of them in that way otherwise. The few boys that I was attracted to were usually quite feminine looking.

Then one day, when I was 18, I got a call from my best friend needing help. Her girlfriend’s parents had found the secret love letters that she had written to her (this was the pre-internet age so emails or text messages were not a possibility) and had banned them from ever seeing each other again. I felt really stupid, having a best friend for all these years and not even realizing she was gay too. As I had a boyfriend at the time I chose to keep quiet about my confusion and help her through her situation the best I could.

I continued to have long term relationships with men, again because they made the first move and it was easier to go along with it. I loved them not for their gender but for them as people. However, throughout these relationships I continued to have secret, painful crushes, on female friends and again I chose to bury them.

I didn’t have much chance to explore my sexuality

On occasion I used to frequent gay bars in Soho, with one of my close gay male friends, but didn’t have much chance to explore my sexuality as there were hardly any places to meet women.

Things started to change once I began studying part-time for a technology qualification in London. I got my first PC and internet connection and looked for an online place to be myself.

I really was very gay and couldn’t go hiding this part of myself

Then one day I had an epiphany. It was 1997 and I saw an advert for a new television channel (at this point in time we only had four TV channels in the UK) Channel 5 was being launched very ceremoniously by The Spice Girls and the channel was showing a promo for a new series called Xena Warrior Princess. I looked at Xena and her sidekick Gabrielle and over to my boyfriend and the penny dropped. I really was very gay and couldn’t go on hiding this part of myself indefinitely or I would never be truly happy. I watched the programme avidly, savouring every subtext reference to their relationship, and I joined a Xena group on AOL. From there I met a straight girl (my first ally I suppose!) who invited me to a regular Xena night in a sci-fi bar in Westminster. I had never been around so many gay girls and my friend even tried to match make me with someone at the group but I was too shy and I still had a boyfriend to contend with.

I plucked up the courage to end my long term relationship

I was still in the closet at the company I worked at but plucked up the courage to end my long term relationship and decided I really needed to explore my sexuality at last. We had a new temp receptionist at work and one day, as we went for lunch, she advised me that if I wanted to come out and didn’t know how to do it, then telling everyone I was bisexual may be the way to go because of my history of long term relationships with men. I was shocked; I couldn’t work out how she had picked up on my sexuality as I had tried to hide it so carefully. She then said that her gay flat mate was moving out and she had a spare room in her flat on Charing Cross Road in Soho If I wanted it. I snapped up the room and finally began to explore my sexuality. It wasn’t easy as there were no real places to meet women (and sadly that is still the case) so the majority of my dating adventures began online. Eventually I began to build up a network of friends and in the end met my current partner Claire. We have been together for thirteen years now, my longest relationship to date.

I have now gone from quietly in the closet to a new member of the global leadership team for my current companies LGBTF network. I present and educate on LGBT issues whenever I can and I was also one of the mentors for this application!

Starting testosterone

My mum came with me, not because I felt that I needed her there, but because I thought it would be useful for her. She has a lot of questions, as I do, and I wanted to give her the opportunity to ask them. The appointment went well, the ideal outcome as far as I’m concerned: I’m walking through reception with a prescription for Testim gel clutched in my hand. These little tubes of magic will allow the world to see me in the same light as I see myself.

These little tubes of magic are going to change everything for me.

A friend of mine told me not long ago that I never seem happy when I get what I want, but things are never really that straight forward are they? These little tubes of magic are going to change everything for me. Don’t get me wrong I want that change so badly I could burst, but gains come with losses, and the great landscape of the unknown lies right out in front of me, and I certainly don’t have a map. I know how the world needs me to be as a ‘woman’. How people want me to behave and how habitually I take up those roles. But I don’t know how to be a man, and I certainly don’t know how to be a good man.

The future is laid out with far more questions than answers, and there aren’t that many people to ask anyway. I have many caring supportive people beside me, but I still feel like I’m going at this alone. As much as I may feel like a thirteen year old, I’m not. I’m a thirty two year old with a job, responsibilities, and friends who are miles away from puberty. Yet I’m about to have mood swings, acne, and god knows what else.

Can I really step into the vast unknown with no stabilisers and no control?

It’s the anger I fear, how my emotions may change. Will I turn into my father? Will I become someone I have tried so hard to separate myself from? Can I really do this? Can I really step into the vast unknown with no stabilisers and no control? I’m overcome with the need to hide away, to take myself away from the world, to feel safe.

Its takes a few days to cash in my prescription: Testim gel is not the most commonly requested product, and it has to be ordered in. When I arrive at the pharmacy to pick up my little tubes of magic I’m yet again accompanied by tears. ‘Happy tears’, I tell the person who asks me if I have used said product before. ‘I’ve been waiting a long long time for that little box’ I continue ‘Today is a good day’. They pass me my box as I am consumed by more and more tears. I walk through the shopping centre with pride, joy, and a sense of adventure. I can face the challenges that are coming, I have more strength than I realise, I just need to harness it. As I continue to walk through the shopping centre I realise how close I’m holding my box to my chest. ‘My box….my little tubes of magic…my future.’

I am honoured by the knowledge and privilege that this is not a journey that I embark on alone.

I have to wait till the next morning to apply it, that’s the instructions I have been given. I feel giddy and high, I can feel my heart beat strong in my chest. I attend for uni classes and various people there know how much of a significant day this is for me. We break for coffee and my friends mark this turning point with me. ‘I have a man bag for you’ my friend tells me. ‘Full of manly things’. I am honoured with Mens Health magazine, Yorkie chocolate, Lynx body spray, tobacco sauce. I am honoured by the knowledge and privilege that this is not a journey that I embark on alone. I have comrades and companions who are ready to get on this ship with me. Who will sail alongside me, guide me through the dark storms and help me find my way again if I have navigated off course along the way.

Even after coming out, confusion is normal

I always knew I was gay. I pretended I wasn’t until I was 14, but I always knew. I enjoyed behaving like the girls and not having to conform. I was confident in myself and enjoyed the attention of being different. At 14 or 15, I came out properly to my parents and any friends that didn’t already know and was immediately filled with excitement and a sense of freedom.

I couldn’t talk to my parents or teachers because I was embarrassed

I had always known that I fancied boys and wanted more than anything to have a boyfriend, who I could kiss and hold, be with and who would love me. I was terrified of sex. I didn’t know anything about it! The little I did know about gay sex scared the life out of me and I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. What made this even more difficult was that when I came out some people presumed that I knew everything that gay men did, both in and out of the bedroom. I found this difficult and didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. I couldn’t talk to my parents or teachers because I was embarrassed and my friends knew even less than me so they weren’t going to be helpful. Obviously the internet exists now to chat to other gay teens but that presents its own problems as well.

As I’ve got older I have realised that everyone felt like this for a while. Yes, gay teens have much less information and support but the truth is a lot of young people are scared of sex. Very few people know what they want or what they like when they are young. I realised this doesn’t make you any less gay or less valid in your feelings or your desires. I became scared of physical relationships, even though I wanted them, as I was worried I would be rejected for not knowing how to have sex and this subsequently stopped me exploring my sexuality for years.

Coming out doesn’t happen overnight

Now, I have realised the importance of being proud in your sexuality and your decisions and to never feel the need to be pressured into anything that you’re not comfortable with. Coming out doesn’t happen overnight. Just because you have told people you fancy boys, doesn’t mean you don’t still have questions and confusions about what having a same-sex relationship might mean. The most important thing is is that you do what makes you happy and comfortable and trust that others will be accepting of this.