Marvina Newton: Full Interview

Duration 01:24:03


Marvina Newton
Interview by Ray Larman
7th March 2019

RL: This is Ray Larman for West Yorkshire Queer Stories. It is the 7th of March 2019 and I’m here with Marvina who’s gonna introduce herself.

MN: My name is Marvina Newton. Date of birth is the 5th of April 1985 and I’m the Chief Exec of an organisation called Angel of Youth; it challenges inequalities by empowering young people 12+ to have a voice and influence in their community and we create project to inspire change and create a legacy.

RL: How do you identify Marvina?

MN: I am gender fluid.

RL: So, we’re gonna start with you telling me a little bit about growing up in Nigeria. What was that like?

MN: I grew up in a culture that told me, as a girl, I was meant to be seen not heard. And I had this responsibility to bring honour to my family. Also, I was born a Christian. What that meant to me, I didn’t understand, and that just meant there was a group of guidelines and rules that I was meant to follow and anything that deviated from that meant I was gonna go to hell. It was ingrained everywhere you went to, from school, from family, from friends, from anyone. It was just constantly ingrained in you. Growing up in Nigeria, there’s a lot that happens when it comes to inequality for women, and gender-based violence. So, it’s something that opens your eye, from a young age, being an FGM survivor too, at the young age of six, it’s… you already realised that your body didn’t belong to you and you were meant to be this piece of offering to a man one day and you need to do all the right things so you are wifey material. So, you grow up pleasing everybody, and you grow up really not having a voice and influence; that was irrelevant to you, you just need to know your place. So that was how I grew up, constantly not wanting to get anyone upset; constantly not wanting to fail families or friends, constantly seeking validation of who I was from other people, based on what the expected from me. And that’s you sticking in that box and not ever going out of that box. So that was growing up in Nigeria.

We moved from Nigeria to the UK in… 1999, I was, and I remember me celebrating my 13th birthday here. What a lot of people… what was interesting about that whole process is that I did have a right of [unclear], so my mother was British – I’m a looked after child, so my mum took me to her friend’s house one day, and never came back. And, well we knew she was in the UK, and her friend was relocating to the UK and she brought me down, and that’s my introduction to the UK. I never heard about anything to do with anyone that was gay or even saw anything. We were so sheltered that if you saw people kissing on TV, you meant to close your eyes or turn away.

So, even though a lot of people did know that a close family friend was assaulting me in the property, no one actually knew for a long time, so I think that only stopped when I was leaving. So in a way it was like an escape, because it started at like, when I was nine, ‘til 12 and – it was funny how that was so shamed at and you couldn’t, and I felt it was gonna be my fault if I said anything. Until this year, it’s the first time I actually said anything to family. Yeah, and that was quite an interesting thing to experience, their response. Being that, coming to the UK and living in London.

East London, I grew up in private schools. We had maids, we had – we didn’t do nothing, really: got up in the morning, went to like, your bath would be run and everything – it sounds really bad, but it’s literally liking Coming To America kind of vibe [laughs] It sounds bad, like food, whatever you said you wanted for breakfast would be made, cos there’s someone to cook, and then when you finish you get a driver to take you to school, and then you come back home. It was quite programmed. And you got a private tutor coming straight afterwards and – that’s it, you never went anywhere, you just only when your parents allowed you to go out you did.

My older brother came here before me. And my first time hearing anything to do with LGBT was my foster mum and my older brother fell out because of something that I really don’t know, but she goes, ‘we’ve not seen him or any girls, so he might be homosexual’. And I was like, ‘what’s that word?’ And I was like… again, you’re not allowed to ask questions. So, heard that, and I think that was because – I think he was sick and he told me mum he had pals, and she added pals, and not seen him with any girl, that’s homosexual. That’s how simple it was, it was the same foster mum – I call her mum so I’ll be referring to her as mum throughout this – who said, ‘if you kiss a boy you’ll get pregnant’. And I will… yeah. Not gonna damage her. I would, you can’t stay with me and – in our culture, spare the rod, spoil the child kind of mentality, and I when I said the rod, I mean the rod, literally. So, you never wanted to do anything wrong, you always wanted to be perfect.

Coming to the UK, I went to school in, called [unclear], and the first thing my mum got wrong was she got me the wrong uniform. And in Canning Town there was a rival. So as soon as I got to the school, the first thing you hear is, ‘look how freshy she is, she’s such a freshy’. And that was from actual other black kids. It wasn’t from like, anybody else, so straight away the discrimination, and because apparently I spoke proper Queen’s English, I was just a walking target. It’s almost like a privileged little girl coming down and – it was a culture shock. So, from having maids, having all these things, and then my Mum had two younger kids, so I automatically became the maid. I become the one dropping kids in school. This is someone that’s never done this, never cooked, never washed dishes, didn’t even know how my underwear got washed. I used to think that – I’m gonna regret saying this. So, I used to actually think you chucked them in the bin and they just – you’d get new ones. And when I came to the UK, I kept chucking them in the bin. I did get a nice rude awakening, when I said I didn’t have any more knickers and told my mum, she’s like, ‘how?’ ‘Yeah, they were all dirty, so they’re in the bin’… So yeah, I was a special child, I knew I was a special child.

So, again, the word ‘gay’ in, in English language, for us in school, was sunny and bright and expressing the way you feel and being whoever you are. But, I had kind of a masculine energy, but I – I was always tomboyish cos I grew up around boys and… Growing up my brothers told me that if I acted like a boy, God would give me my boy parts, and I honestly believed that ‘til five. I had to eat snails, eat mud, do all the boyish things. But my boy part never came and at six then I had FGM and I realised, ‘you’re screwed now, you’re stuck in this’ [laughs] ‘you’re stuck in this, stuck in this and you’re never gonna be a boy’. And, I remember in school, because I had this little bounce, I was an awkward, lanky – they used to call me a walking skeleton. Just awkward, just didn’t know how to fit. So, a lot of people don’t know I’m an introvert and I’m still that girl from school. I didn’t know what to say to people. Knew they were gonna laugh at my accent. Or lack of accent, so people then think you’re fake but you try and explain to them. The teachers were all white. In Nigeria it was a high-prestige school so, we weren’t allowed to even speak our language, so I don’t know how to speak my language because again, it was the, almost the colonisation of me from that time.

So, I was told – went into my first music class and the teacher said, ‘you can pick any instrument’. I was like, ‘okay’, because before we were not allowed – my mum would kill me just thinking I was going to do something to do with art or music. I was gonna be a doctor, so like, no option. That being said, as soon as I saw the drums, I was like, ‘I’m gonna be a rock star’. Again, a lot of things that, I did a lot of things that African girls and black girls shouldn’t do. So I liked Linkin Park and Evanescence and I liked rock – ‘you’re possessed by the demon, what’s going on?’ And I did go through – I tried to go through a goth, like gothic phase, didn’t really work, in Nigerian. You’re not going to exist with that at all – take you to church and get deliverance, seriously, that deep. I remember I had, my mum, I don’t know why she was so worried; she got Jehovah Witness, she never used to go to church but she used to get the Jehovah Witness people to come three times a week to do bible studies with me, because apparently, the demon is getting into me because of some of the music I’m listening to. I was like, ‘it reaches into my soul, and I can feel that I need to escape so it’s those songs that help me’.

So, we didn’t have mobile phones; you were meant to be home by a certain time. Got to this drum class and I could just see the whole rock star thing in my head. And I became the little boy again, like, which I do love, I love being that way. I hated dresses, I hated those things, or if I wore dresses I felt like I wanted to wear trainers and break it up, but I was told you need to be girly, you have to. The most puffiest dresses every single day. And it was traumatic. And I remembered the way I was acting, someone was like, ‘I bet she’s gay!’ And I’d go, ‘yeah, I’m in a gay mood’. ‘No, I mean you’re a lesbian!’… Again, for you to use insults on someone, the person needs to understand they’re being insulted. So, I do know I was being insulted, I was like, ‘no, no, my name is Marvina, I don’t know this lesbian person you’re calling’ [laughs]. He goes, ‘I mean, you like eating minge’. ‘What? I don’t know what you’re talking about’. So I, I literally did not get what they meant, at all. And that went, and then the rumours started that, ‘oh look at the way she works- she walks like a boy like, what does she think’. And I did, I have this Linwood Bop kind of swagger back then. I used to think I was a bad girl, like, I don’t know what – I literally had music in my head, it was like, some hip hop where you just like lean on it – [sotto voce] it’s ridiculous. And my mum used to buy me clothes that was like four times my size, so you grew into it.

And that was the first time, those words, but it didn’t register. And even though that I got bullied in school a lot. A lot. If I fancied a guy, I would do his homework. Oh my gosh, my street cred has totally gone now. I actually did that for a couple of years. And – I was guys’ friends; I was the one that broke the deal for a girl. I was the girl that y’know what, I could be like, ‘check that girl out; she look nice, she looks peng innit?’ And I would be the person to go and liaise and find out what the girl wants or anything. So, I was one of the lads. But that then also made it worse for me with the bullying with the girls. So there was a lot of sexual bullying where everything was ever boy or girl – you couldn’t be in between. And – it was a mixed school. But, thinking back at it, it was just hard to, I was sad every time, and again unfortunately depression isn’t a thing in our culture too, you have to pray it out. So those words were used, but it never resonated with me because I didn’t know what it meant.

I had a strict schedule when I came to the UK: wake up in the morning, make breakfast – so, I did everything that used to be done for me for my siblings. The masculine energy was always there. And… and I’m the type, I appreciate people so, probably, not in any sexual connotation, but I’m the type that, if I saw a girl looking gorgeous – cos I knew what it felt like for people not to see you. So I’ll just give you a compliment. Didn’t mean anything about it. You could get yourself punched, you’d get spat at. ‘I’m not gay’. ‘I just said your hair was nice. You did do your hair right? I like your plaits, it’s nice, that’s it’. No connotation. And, it made me stay away from girls for a very long time, cos they were the most meanest to me than guys. And then I felt, ‘okay, maybe you should just get a boyfriend now’ and – loads of guys would ask me out, but I was like, ‘you’re my dude innit? Like, ew’. So I then got this nickname ‘Let’s Just Be Friends’, so I used to – apparently, now I know what friend zone is – I friend zoned a lot of people.

And then, that then was my first time hearing the gay thing. And I remember asking my bible study teacher, these Jehovah Witness guys that used to come regular, and I was like, ‘I got called gay’. ‘You have to reject that, it’s a sin’. ‘Gay means like bright, sunshine, like y’know, having a gay day’. ‘Don’t say that [unclear], you’ll just attract the wrong people to you, and they all gonna go to hell’. ‘Ah! I thought you were saying this God was all about love, I’m confused’ – again, you’re not allowed to ask questions too much. Jehovah’s Witness you can, but again I was thinking that I can’t ask the questions, just because of the way it might look, if my mum heard that I asked those questions, so again you can’t.

And that just kind of slipped in, and then I started getting boobs and curves so – even though I was still Linwood bopping I had an ass, so the boys that used to be my friends started being like attracted to me, and it was just awkward, I didn’t know what to do with my body, I hated it. And I didn’t want anyone to look at me again. It was said, in the bible, that if you dress a certain way and a man lusts after you, you’re as guilty of making that person commit adultery. And that was a heavy weight to put on me – I didn’t want these little lumps that were coming from everywhere. I don’t want it, and now, I’m now fidgeting with my body and trying to get things to fit and I remember my mum using the word one day, I think I was just wearing a skirt, we weren’t allowed to wear – my mum didn’t like us wearing a skirt that was above our knees. And I think, I went through a growth spurt, I dunno like I used to just be that lanky, just there, and all of a sudden I just shoot up and I had a bum that just lifted my skirt up, whether I liked it or not – and it wasn’t short, it was just there. And my mum used the word ‘promiscuous’. I then went to school and I asked my headteacher, ‘what does that mean?’ And then she goes, ‘who said that? They will get detention’. ‘Okay’. And, again, those kind of things happened.

My brother was falling out with my mum a lot because my mum kept saying, ‘we keep seeing you just hanging out with guys’. And he was like, ‘they’re my friends, why would hanging out with guys equate to this?’ And my older brother wasn’t in the house at all. And then I think when I was 16 he had, he was driving without a licence and he hit someone who was quite old and frail and the person passed away, and we lived in an area called… Barking then. And, I think they stopped my benefit or something, I don’t know what happened, so I was, I’d just turned 16, now a year 11, managed to stay alive after being beaten, picked on, called gay so long, people making songs about me. I wasn’t even gay either, so I didn’t know what that was, just a normal thing. And, I remember on my 16th birthday, my brother had had this case a couple days before, and we lived in a predominantly white area. So, I didn’t know BNP meant – I thought it meant Black N Proud, but it doesn’t mean that. It doesn’t mean that. And, I think the person that passed away was known in the community, so he then became a target: got egged, had bananas chucked at us. Like, there was like three black families in Dagenham [unclear] back then. Now it’s like a whole Nigerian village, it’s just so totally like Lagos. So, got home on my 16th birthday and my mum told me to leave. But didn’t give me my passport. All I had was my backpack and stuff.

RL: So, why did she ask you to leave?

MN: ‘They’re not paying for you no more; they said you’re an adult’ – and again, I know I just flipped into the accent, cos it’s like vivid – and again, ‘the trouble your brother has put me in I don’t wanna be associated with you guys; you guys are ungrateful…’ I thought like it was a dream – it felt like it was a dream, but it was like this very bad dream. First of all, I didn’t even know anywhere, cos she’d never let me even go out and chill with other kids. I had to be home at a certain time, didn’t matter if there was traffic, so I never got to hang out at the end of anything, so I never got to, I never had friends, I really didn’t. Like I had people I’d talk to in school, but I didn’t interact with people in other, in that way. I didn’t have a phone, so there was nothing.

So – I remember just being in Dagenham and saying, ‘you know what, maybe it’s best’ – being in sorry, Barking – and saying, ‘just go in the shopping mall and wait ‘til they close’. At first I stayed outside the door cos I thought she was joking. She wasn’t. She told me she was gonna call the police on me and they would put me in care and they’d put me in care and that’s where I’d get abused and beaten and stuff like that. That was something she used to threaten us. Now I know my mum was narcissistic, and I now know that that was gaslighting, and that’s not my reality, that’s her insecurity. But I only know that now, at 33. This year, actually. So, imagine that recording of someone demeaning you all the time.

So, being homeless – no one believed I was homeless cos of how I looked like. But I had a nice lovely homeless white mum. I couldn’t get the blankets and stuff because people just didn’t believe, cos apparently I was clean. So, I stayed in the shopping mall. I would hide in the disabled toilet; I would wait for the cleaners to finish. For some reason they just used to leave the heating on. And I managed to stay there for at least two to three months. And I’d get up in the morning when they opened up, get dressed, go to school, no one knew.

RL: Did you tell anyone at school?

MN: I would just go to people’s houses until they kicked me out. But then what happens, everybody was just like, ‘how come she’s able to stay out late now? How come she can socialise?’ And then I would get clothes from losts and founds, and I was that girl that stole people’s jumpers during PE. Yeah I’m not ashamed of it, cos I’d wear loads. And they found out I was living in the… in the shopping mall, the police came. Again, when I went to housing my mum said I ran away, so I couldn’t even access stuff. I couldn’t even provide who I was, cos to provide that, that means I’d have had to tell someone in school. So I was hidden homeless, really. And then I then had to experience the streets. The mean streets.

It was hard to buy food. So, it’s cheaper to buy speed than to buy food. And that’s reality. Drugs – no one, I don’t think anyone used drugs because they felt like it. Speed made you not sleep at not cos you couldn’t sleep at night, shouldn’t as a girl. As a black girl too – you were, you stuck like a sore thumb. Weed to make you come down in a morning so you could go to school. And mellow, and to get a little bit of an appetite, cos you’re gonna get breakfast club. And a guy from McDonald’s where I used to go and clean up used to give me food. He was gay, but he was so nice to me. But he wasn’t like what they said gay guys were gonna be. He wasn’t… ‘gay gay’ [laughs] That’s how I used to say it: ‘gay gay!’ He was, quite masculine and quite like, actually thought he was hot. And then, then I saw him kiss his boyfriend, I was like, ‘oo, I’ve never seen that before’ and that was the first time I saw gay relationship. I was like, ‘uh, fine’ and it went through my head, but then I realised that, okay, I needed to keep safe.

Those experiences – I didn’t know they were imprinting on me. Because then I was thinking about the random act of kindness I got from my homeless mum who – I remember seeing her with girls sometimes, I just knew she used to be a working girl. And I also saw her with guys and, I was like, ‘what’s going on here, like, I’m totally confused’. But again, you ask no questions, you just respect her cos she was taking care of me. So she used to sell The Big Issue, because she was so high all the time, she’d give it to me to sell, and I became a don in selling The Big Issue. I would put on my African accent, I would be in my school uniform. Funny enough, I sold The Big Issue illegally for six months, and I got myself a place – I used to also work and sweep bars, chambermaid –

RL: So, how old were you at this point?

MN: 16, 16 – 16. Chambermaid, all sorts. And then I got a job in Trocadero in Piccadilly Circus and – Trocadero’s close to a place called Soho. There were just these people that kept, it was so free and loud and fun and everything. Loads of drugs [laughs] and, working in all those places and working in the bars, you saw it but then you just, I was internally homophobic, I wouldn’t say it. In my head I was like, ‘oh they’re gonna go to hell [sigh]’. And I wasn’t dealing with what I was going through and managed to get myself a place. But before that happened, I did get beaten up really badly, on the street.

I used to live inside – y’know the recycling bins, the green ones? Where papers are? It’s the safest place to be. And… One day, the bin place came early and I almost got chucked in the bin [laughs] and since then that really shook me up and so I then went to where my homeless mum used to go. And I couldn’t find her. And then I got assaulted by a group of lads who said, ‘black people don’t feel pain’. And at that process I didn’t understood what it felt like when you are in hospital and you’re not allowed to leave. Because according to my, my mum, I was an adult now. But according to the system I wasn’t, cos I was still in school, so they couldn’t just let me leave the hospital by myself after being assaulted and beaten up badly. So again, you need to then think about my encounters with men are now quite negative; my encounters with girls has been negative; my encounters with people I thought were my friends were quite negative, so… I became like isolated and like never really said anything. To get off the streets [interruption]

RL: Okay, we’re back on.

MN: I think yeah, so when you’re homeless you try and just find places you can sleep, it makes you quite vulnerable. And… getting a boyfriend was the easiest thing to do, and… Because obviously, you don’t see it then as what it is, but you just take it. You wouldn’t think – it’s funny now with the R Kelly thing we talk about stuff. If a grown man is attracted to someone in school, secondary school, you don’t think twice about it. Because that was normal in our culture like where older men married or dated younger women, and then I ended up having a boyfriend that was 15 years older, which meant I had the security of a place to stay, which meant… I was an accessory.

And it was just, like living in my mum’s house but a guy. Yeah, he was well-off, he had like an amazing property, he worked in IT, and I know his PA would tell me, ‘wear this and be ready for the car to come pick you up’. And got to go to Vivienne Westwood shows, got to go to Alexander McQueen. Got to go to like these really fancy stuff, but I was always – again, it was like school – awkwardly placed. Couldn’t talk, they put makeup on me; I wasn’t allowed to look at people. It was – in my mind there was nothing wrong. And… there were those kind of experiences, but then I remember going to see shows and I saw these, again, free people, they like where sexuality and gender just didn’t really matter, and bearing in mind I haven’t seen a black person gay. Everyone I’d seen was white, so I thought it was a white man disease, apparently, that’s what I was told. We don’t, we’re not, we don’t date, we don’t do that, Africa doesn’t, no one from Africa’s ever been that way.

Then I saw this model. Striking, beautiful woman. And I was like, ‘wish I was that pretty; she must get all the guys’. And there was something about her – and maybe that’s when my gaydar started working; at 17 my gaydar switched on. She reminded me of my tomboyish self, but still feminine. And that was beautiful. And then I saw her with her girlfriend. Again, put that in the box, never thought about it again. Fast-forward: met a guy from Hackney, asked me out – imagine I’m now, managed to get a house and now living by myself and I’m about to go into uni, and I met this guy. All the flags, red flags were screaming, but he seemed like a nice guy. The older guy I was dating was quite abusive. But that became a pattern for me, and I just kept attracting it. I remember running from his house, literally with no, nothing, and his PA helped me run. And just said, ‘I’ll pretend that I forgot to lock the door’. So, I think watching the R Kelly thing triggered me loads. I shouldn’t – there should’ve been like some trigger warning to let people know because there was so many things that are quite similar, and it was just like traumatic.

Fast-forward: meet a guy, he’s so lovely. I became polyamorous. So I just used to – I felt I had so much love to give, I didn’t, we didn’t call it polyamorous, I just used to say I love love itself. So I would have multiple boyfriends at the same time. It wasn’t about sexual, it was just the fact that I could. And I think until last year I’d never been single. Didn’t – I didn’t know what the struggle of being single was, like people – there’s loads of people outside, pick one [laughs] Like, I didn’t want them to talk to me, and they kept coming to talk to me, like I don’t want to look at their face. And I think there was that thing with guys, the fact that really I wasn’t interested – I don’t care. Yeah, you’re good looking, but you’re good looking for yourself. You’re rich, that’s your money. Maybe because I was exposed to the money in the beginning and I’ve seen those things I never got excited by it.

And then I meet this guy. He was living in his mum’s house, didn’t have a driving licence. I’d now put on so much weight, I was like maybe a size 18 or so. He was like a size f- he was like a size 42. I didn’t really care, big guys was fine, I used to think I was God’s blessing on Earth really, being a thick madame, I just used to be like yeah I’m a BBBBW – big beautiful bold black woman. You come up with this hype, and then I became my own hype woman because you didn’t have friends, so you had to kind of talk to yourself a lot. And I’d give myself some really good advice too [laughs] So it was fine, I knew I was awkward, and I knew I would never fit in and I never wanted. But deep down, this guy was just, he just made me laugh, I could watch – we could play computer games together – this was something that I wasn’t allowed to do. I could wear tracksuits and put heels on if I wanted or put trainers on. And I – I literally could just be me: good, bad, and the ugly.

And I ended up marrying that guy. We came down to Leeds one weekend to see Gatecrasher on our first date to see Tim Westwood and I fell in love with Leeds. You guys are, Yorkshire’s so special. It’s – you’ll find that that’s my favourite word if you ever – my daughter calls me special. Special can be used in different ways in my terms. And, I remember my first date – we got the coach from London. My ex-husband was boyfriend number five. Everybody knew their place. Jealousy, I can’t deal with it, really can’t. ‘Why are you jealous? I give you guys equal amount, and even if I don’t, I’m being honest’. And, I don’t know who I thought I was, but really I thought was something else, really. And he was just always so sweet to me. We came to Leeds – you guys queue for buses! Oh my gosh, you people are, talk to you, it was random, like random people talk to. Like, people just say, ‘good morning’, and I’m like, [whispers] ‘what’s wrong with these people? These are my people’ [laughs] And like… people were nice, they were genuinely nice.

And I was in uni, during that time, in Westminster University. Obviously, I’d already disappointing my mum, I was meant to be at UCL doing medicine. I did one year of medicine and I realised a lot of doctors and people in medicine use drugs a lot, so no. And they were more smart and privileged than me, so I couldn’t like – I kept attracting negative people. So even that statement there – that’s not true. But in my circle of influence, because I needed that, I attracted that, constantly. And I attracted a lot of homophobic people. Again, because subconsciously, that was what I was telling myself.

And I remember my ex-husband’s friend, and it was so weird. We, we’d come to Gatecrasher, we were in the club, there was a girl, it was his ex-girlfriend. He was going to the toilet quite, together, right? And she just kept saying, ‘you’re so gorgeous’ and I said, ‘oh thank you’. Again, I’m really slow, in the sense that I don’t pick – sometimes people’s… cues. I go to meetings and find out it was a day later on, it’s weird. But, she then leans over and – again, for girls, we sometimes – it’s weird… Like looking at, ‘your ass, your ass is this and your boobs is that, whatever’, we don’t mean anything, that’s just what girls do. So again, I’m so slow, I’m not thinking about this. And then she’s like, ‘I really wanna kiss you’, and I was like, ‘woah, woah, woah, woah’. It’s like you freeze, and you’re like – ‘you’re a friend just what? I’m on a date’. Ad it’s like, he knew something, like, ‘oh shit, I’ve left my girlfriend, or the girl I want to be my girlfriend, with my ex-girlfriend who I know likes girls. And then he knocks on the door and that’s how it – but in that moment I was like, ‘oh my God, that can happen to girls too?’ Cos I didn’t think it could happen to girls, like another girl could force her – in my head it was unreal, it was like – and this is how rude I was – what was she gonna do, like really [laughs] like, I’m confused, like, now I know what could be done, but then I was really like baffled on. Did she have something there that she was gonna do – I don’t get it, what was gonna happen here? And… laughed it – put it in that box, never to open again, and moved on.

I went back to uni and I was an assistant agronomist. I studied microbiology, I was such a nerd. I thought it was brilliant. I love bacteria, they don’t talk to you. You can figure out ways – ‘kay don’t say that – I have a dark sense of humour too, and the honesty I, it just comes out. So – it’s that bad that to the point that when I talk about my FGM I talk about it as I’ve got a designer vagina. People pay to have my vagina. That was my way of dealing with it, making light of everything. And not de-, just kind of removing yourself from it. But this guy, years later, proposes; get married; have kids – there are cracks. He used to cheat all the time, but I used to blame it on the fact that, y’know I have FGM so maybe – everything was always my fault, in my mind, and in our culture it’s always the woman’s fault anyway. And I became born-again. I went to [unclear] Church, went on an Alpha course. I got to ask all the geeky questions I wanted to ask about God.

RL: Were you still in London at this time?

MN: No. No, no – when he proposed, we moved – before he proposed I actually just left, left London. I was in Derbyshire, working as an agronomist in a place called Melbourne in Derbyshire. I’ve got a licence to drive a tractor. I was, I was ‘the only black in the village’. That was interesting too. A kid ran up to me – this is just down the, to me Derby’s just down the road – a kid runs up to me – I fell in Leeds more after that – runs up to me and goes, ‘mummy, mummy, she’s so tanned!’ And like, ‘do you think if I touch her she’ll rub off on me?’ This was 2008. I was like, ‘bra’ this is like some scary movie stuff’ and like… black girl goes to work on a farm. Again, who does that? Like I used to do some random stuff just to get away, and… that made me move to Leeds and, it kind of accelerated things cos I was meant to be on a year placement – I hated it in Derby, like I hated it so much. Cos it reminded me of school. People just isolated me and… Microaggression – that was not a microaggression, it was like blades, and you just kind of like, ‘okay, we’re going to go with the n word, okay’. And it was just like that constantly. And you were made to feel like you’re dumb, as a woman, in science. I was just like, ‘we’re just glorified farmers really’, like testing fertilisers and just making sure that there was no chemicals passing to the crops, so it meets like the standard.

Whatever the case is, moved to Leeds, worked at St James in histopathology, cutting body parts up, which was great. But for some reason the NHS had so many LGBT people, who were not out. But they were white. So I didn’t get it. I thought like… the freedom of being LGBT and white was just like, it was a norm. And I just noticed, they would say it to me, but they wouldn’t say it to anybody else, and it was like ‘why are you telling me this information, I don’t know why you’re telling me this to me’. I got married and had my children. I was doing everything according to the book. My husband kept losing his job, so I had to work double hours. Again, started becoming emotionally abusive. But again, it’ll tell you to pray… It then started getting physically abusive. Again, they tell you, ‘make sure you’re not talking so much; make sure you know your place; pray’.

And I just kept noticing, I’m the one that keeps doing all this praying and I’m the one that they’re telling to fast. And then I started thinking something was wrong with me. So depression creeps in. But again, I didn’t know it was depression. That happens, and then. I had this friend; his name is Timothy Locke. He was lanky, tall, he was married to someone we knew from church. Well me and Tim used to think about talking like we wanted to drown. And just feeling like sometimes you can’t breathe, and you don’t wanna get out of bed. And he goes, ‘that’s depression, cos I have it, cos I have Type 1 diabetes or something, and like sometimes my mood goes down’. But I noticed how, in church, when depression was talked about, it was as bad as talking about homosexuality – we don’t have it. Tim was from Drighlington, so as a white boy, we used to call him White Boy Slim, and now I know how wrong that was. But then it was just, he was my friend’s husband, but I’d just, I’d just had my baby, I was kind to him, I was a godmother to his child, and one day Tim was meant to come to my house and Tim didn’t come. And you know. And one thing Tim used to get teased for a lot was he was too soft, that he needed to man up. Anyway, him and his wife used to fight a lot. When I say fight, really it wasn’t, it was her. And Tim took his life, and that’s how Angel of Youth started.

Because I went to Timothy’s funeral when… and I was one of the only black people, again, apart from his wife. But everybody knew me, or knew of me, and I wasn’t even besties with him, like we didn’t hang that much. All I did was, I was on maternity so he could come over. I’d say, ‘I’m cooking, d’you wanna come and eat? Do you wanna watch WWE?’ Cos, that’s me. ‘Do you wanna play, like Nintendo Wii? Okay X-Box’, and then I’ll beat him at it, and then sometimes I’ll let him win, just to help him out. And that’s all we did, and it was simple, and I used to be like, he used to work in Tesco in Roundhay, and he’d be like, he hates his job, y’know, ‘I feel like I’m useless and this’. I’m like, ‘why don’t you just do what you love?’ And he’s like, ‘no, I can’t’. I’m like, ‘why can’t you, I don’t get it’. He goes, ‘you can’t make money from doing what you love’. ‘So what do you love?’ And he goes, ‘I love, I love driving’. I said, ‘get a job and drive then’. ‘Yeah, my wife, and like this and y’know everyone’s gonna say I should just man up’- I can’t say that word ‘man up’ without having a lump in my throat. ‘Everyone thinks I’m gay because I’m so soft’. I don’t know what Tim’s sexuality was, I really don’t know, and I don’t really care, it’s irrelevant.

But when he – when I got to his funeral, his nana came to me… And she said, ‘you’re that angel’. And my daughter’s name is Angel, actually. ‘You’re that angel that made my little boy feel special’. So didn’t see that as a compliment, to me that was a stabbing pain, cos I was just thinking he was surrounded by loads of people. But again, it took me to school and the perception of people seeing me a little bit masculine, a little bit, always hanging with the guys, and people just trying to put, figure me out and put me in this box.

So, I decided to – I didn’t even decide then, I was walking home when I found out I was pregnant with my son, and I had a bottle chucked at me in front of Armley One Stop. There’s a pub there, and I remember just walking into… the One Stop and I was like, ‘I’ve just experienced racism’, cos they’ve called me all the names underneath the sun, and said, ‘go back to where you came from’, and I’m like, ‘Dagenham? I could go anytime, and like, you can buy my train ticket’ – again, I should know when to talk and when not to talk but. And I said that I need to make a complaint like, somebody said you need to speak to the councillor, actually she’s here. That’s when I got introduced to someone called Alison Lowe. ‘Til now she’s now my mentor. And then I was like, ‘oh they were calling me all these kind of things; a guy was trying to talk to me and I didn’t give him attention. He called me gay, then called me the n word, then called me go back to’ like, it was like a sequence of things. And she was like – ‘and I don’t want to be associated with gay’ – and she goes, ‘you don’t want to be what? Cos by the way, I’ve got two gay kids at home’. ‘Two gay guys?’ Goes, ‘my daughter prefers to be called gay’. I’m like, ‘she’s a girl?’ And I go, ‘anyway, that’s not my business, I don’t really care what’re you gonna do?’ And she goes, ‘no, what are you gonna do about it?’ And I, she gave me access to a House in Leeds Fund, so my first ever house came from House in Leeds. And that’s how Angel of Youth started. From starting that –

RL: When did you start it, what year was – ?

MN: 2011. So, Tim passed away I think in June, July, and Angel of Youth started in September. September. And… I invited, I just invited some friends down, and I said, ‘if money wasn’t an object, what would you do? If you had all the resources, what would you love to do? Don’t tell me what you studied, tell me what you love to do’. Same question I asked Tim. The architect wanted to do photography. My investment banker friend who also is, used to be like Mr Universe wanted to do street dance. It was like, most of the guys wanted to remove all the toxic masculinity around them, and then that moment the felt safe, and I noticed when everyone talked about love they were happy. Then I flip turned its head and said, ‘tell me what you hate in society – anything’. And I said, ‘what would be great – it would be great if you used what you loved to fix what you hate, and create the change you want to see, so you can be you’. And everyone just looked at me and said, ‘you’re just thinking like a poor person, now so, it’s Yorkshire that’s making you think poor’ [laughs] Cos everything was cheap here and I used to like brag about it, like, ‘bruv, like, my whole year council tax is the same price as what you pay for a month mate’. It was bad; my travel card used to be a year council tax year. It was amazing! And I could – oh it was brilliant.

And I noticed, it was all about power, who was empowered, when it came to doing projects. And then my marriage just breaking down and was getting bad and I had these kids and my husband was stealing money from me and doing things went really bad. And I was planning my son’s first birthday and the godfather of my children said – he used to work in Superdry – and he said, ‘I’m just helping someone get something’, and there was this girl – soon as I saw her, I knew she was gay, like she was like gay gay, but she was gay gay in a masculine way, but she was black! And then I was thinking, she must be South African, because like for some reason at that point I realised there were more people from South Africa [unclear] that were gay, and it wasn’t, I didn’t associate any Nigerian or anything. So, it’s like, she had dreads too, definitely not Nigerian. She had, I was like, ‘okay’. Her muscles are bigger than my neck, like, what you’re trying to do [laughs] And I just, I was fascinated by her, but I was like, ‘I’m gonna take her to church and gonna cure’ [laughs], literally, so I was like, I invited her to my son’s birthday, and I was like, ‘it’s gonna be in church. I don’t know what your religion is, but it’d be nice for you to come’. And she just, oh she doesn’t have that much friends, so I’m like, ‘where are you from?’ And this girl said Nigeria! I died! I said, ‘you’re what?’ I go, [softly] ‘are you gay?’ And she goes, ‘yeah’.

RL: Okay, Rachel Larman, West Yorkshire Queer Stories. I’m with Marvina, and this is part two.

MN: So, I met this, this woman that – the masculine energy was… there was something about her, and I couldn’t explain it. And, again I am clueless. She was doing so much for me, like she was helping me with the kids, she was helping with like, some of the bills… Then I noticed that we were flirting. But in my head, that wasn’t flirting, because she’s a girl, like. But, I didn’t notice anything, I just thought, that’s what – I’d never really had a proper BFF and technically I was doing what I had with my BFF who was in Leeds too, so I didn’t really see it like that. And… I just noticed I started thinking about her. But then, I used to then pray at that, ‘what the hell’s going on?’ And I’d go, ‘maybe you’re thinking about her in the way of the Lord’ [laughs] Oh, I swear my life was a joke. I would literally, I would have these debates with myself, it was so – and I’d push it away, and… And then one day, I was so done.

I like, she was like, ‘do you need some company to do something’ and I said, ‘okay’... I think I asked her to come help me iron, no really like, rar… And to like, cos she was so fit, like she was so fit – and I was just Tubby Spice. So I was like, ‘oh show we how you get those arms and everything’. In my head I’m like, ‘you’re not gonna do none of those sit-ups, there’s no way in your life’ [laughs] ‘You would never be able to get up if you tried, but don’t worry about it. And that year was the first year I did Carnival actually, and… I was like, I need to look fit for Carnival, so it kind of did make sense, and that’s was the same year I shaved my blacks hair for my daughter, cos I used to have blacks long 18 inch, 18/20 inch hair, for a black girl again, and my daughter told me she wanted her hair to look like mine. Within ten minutes I was in a cab and went to Hakuna Matata in Harehills, and mummy told her that mummy wants to look like yours, and in front of my two and half year old, shaved my head.

Everybody thought I was having a mental breakdown. They called me Britney Spears, and this was before the natural hair thing of y’know, so, yes… I cut it. And I knew I was gonna upset my husband, cos that was his thing, showing off his wife’s hair, and everything like that, ‘she doesn’t have weave, that’s her hair’. For dark skin, we used to get those dark skin/light skin things, so but I shaved it and when she saw me, with my hair shaved – so at first like, I kind of wrapped it up like, feeling like, ‘oh my gosh’, and she was like, ‘why’s your hair wrapped?’ I was like, ‘you don’t know what I’ve just done’. And that was the same night she came, and she was like, ‘just show me’. [quietly] I was like, ‘oh my gosh’, and I had my onesie, obviously, I had my Batman onesie cos that’s what’s normal to me [laughs] And I took the scarf off – and she said, ‘never put the scarf on again’. Again, thinking about it, that’s some good pick-up line, but again you’re not realising these are little pick-up lines, and – I was so clueless. And we were talking about my ex and my – me and my husband had, at this point, kind of separated because he was really violent and – she came to give me a hug that lasted just a little bit too long.

And… that was the first time I kissed a woman. Yes, you heard that. But I wasn’t gay. That’s what I kept saying. And then we were intimate, but again, I said the dumbest thing! Now, looking back at it, it was so dumb, it was so heteronormative what came out of my mouth. We’ve just… got to know each other [laughs] and I found myself saying, ‘is that it?’ And she was like, ‘I don’t have anything else [laughs] there’s nothing else that I’m gonna put –‘, but again there was this thing of, this visual of what you thought it was gonna be, and it just wasn’t. But it was okay. ‘Til today I don’t actually look at any woman. That woman was three and a half years of my life. That woman made me tell my mum, my brothers, my sister, that I was dating a woman. That got me shunned by a lot of friends. That got me shunned from church. That took away my family. But that was okay. Because that’s all I needed; I wanted that love, that – that forbidden love that everyone told me I couldn’t.

And then I met this like radical – she’s* so petite and she’s got like silver hair, like, and I was working on a project called Leeds City Museum... And this woman, she’s like, again I was on a deal [unclear], in my head, no one knew I was gay, or I was dating a woman. But this woman knew [laughs] she sussed it out so quickly and… this woman was… this woman was like, my partner was so lovely – and I notice I start saying partner. So everyone, a lot of people didn’t even know I dated after my husband. And it’s so bad – I always held her hand in public and, I realised that this woman that I thought was going to go to hell was lot of a better Christian than me. She could pray better than me, more devoted than me, more kinder and supportive than a lot of people that I knew.

But I noticed that getting into that relationship really messed up my mental health, cos I hated myself. And I was – I was out, but I wasn’t out. So, discovered the gay scene… But black bodies in the gay scene – it’s so hyper-sexualised, like I mean it’s bad. Like you go in and you would get a DJ saying, ‘here comes the jungle’, just because you’ve got a ‘fro. Girls would just come up to me and touch me, like not really caring about my personal space, or like just grab me and… and I was seeing my allies, and no one was doing that to them. But this was the only place I had as an out community, cos I couldn’t be me with this woman that I loved with anyone, so… again, it was, she fulfilled everything that I wanted, cos I got loved in a way that I didn’t think I could be loved. I got spoilt, I got taken care of, I got the opportunity to leave my job that was making me quite depressed, and the person took care of my kids really well and financially supported me.

But I hated myself. And then my mental health started spiralling. And then I didn’t wanna pray. Cos I felt God wouldn’t listen to me. Then I didn’t wanna… touch the bible, cos I thought it was blasphemy. But I loved this person, but I hated myself. And then she would try and give me scriptures and tell me stuff to make me realise that it’s not that deep. But I’m like, you’re gonna say that obviously, it’s like someone to convince you to cheat on your diet so like, they’re gonna say it’s not gonna hurt. So imagine hating yourself each time you were with someone you loved. Every time. Because everything around told me this was not of us.

So, I noted how, I noticed how my partner was visibly seen as LGBT and people treated her really differently. And I passed as straight. I still pass, and I like it, sometimes. But now I just wear these rainbow shoes everywhere, just to let people know that, ‘I don’t know what you think I am but I’m just letting you know you’re safe with me, irregardless’. A lot of my young people are gonna find out my sexuality hearing this. And because I worked with a lot of minority kids, I would never actually have said this, but I feel that it’s unfair for me to know that I do have some minority youths who might not know about my sexuality and they’re going through their struggle, to let them know that they’re perfectly fine.

So, I saw how dissed my partner kept getting a lot of hate or people just treated them almost… I would not even call it hate; it was like disgust. Like, they made her irrelevant. And then I just said, where do we go to report this or do something for BAME people? And I was organising a Black History event and I met again, this fiery, amazing woman, who said, ‘I’ve got this event, if you’ – she knows how to market, she’s always giving me leaflets [laughs] she always gives me leaflets, like even if you didn’t wanna go, she gave me that leaflet like four times, and I’m listen like this is too bate like, what if one of my young people – she goes, ‘no just come, you can come and see how young organisation can come and help’, and I’m like, ‘this is just too bate’. And, it was called PoMoGaze or some – and it was like this art project where you’re talking and looking at – first of all, I’ve never been to the Art Gallery in the first place, and now I’m going to the Art Gallery and looking at people’s artwork that were all gay, or lesbian or trans or gender neutral. I’m like… okay. I go, y’know what, you’re only gonna find white people that have artwork, and she goes, ‘a-ha! I knew you were gonna say that – oh, this person is phenomenal, like, big up to Jude Woods*, seriously. We did workshop around non-conformity; I learnt a lot about the whole alphabet of sexuality, but I still can’t remember all of it. But I could ask any question, and she let me do that.

I remember we had a closet – we built a closet together, as a group, and there’s a picture floating on Facebook somewhere of me and my then on the low partner in this closet. Ironic [laughs]. And it was beautiful and, the first person I came out to actually was Jude. And she said, ‘yeah I knew, welcome’ [laughs] and it was so great, and then I forgot that she was normal and everybody else wasn’t, so I tried [laughs] another people that didn’t go that well. But I got to learn so much, and she showed me stuff about African LGBT community. My partner then took me to something called UK Black Pride – oh my gosh, there was so many black and brown bodies! ‘We’re gay! Or lesbian! Or bi! And proud. And trans’ and it was just – it was beautiful. And I said, ‘why don’t we have that in Leeds?’ Like, Leeds LGBT scene is a little bit, y’know, actually quite racist, in their little things they do, and it’s quite a drug fuelled, and people just touch you and that’s a concern.

What if we did something to kind of show that it’s really hard for BAME people to come out; they’re going through a lot of issues. And, like what Marvina does – I did it for my girl, y’know I wanted it to be safe for her. That was when one of my motives. And I also did it for my son and daughter, cos then my house was a [unclear] and a gender-neutral place, my daugh-, my son was Elsa sometimes, cos Frozen just came then, so like, like I didn’t really care. Boys could cry, they could do whatever. The dad didn’t get it, ‘til now he doesn’t get it, and I said you don’t need to. And so I really wanted to do this because I felt, if I did a project and I first – so again, Jude influenced the name, cos it was Queer Histories then. I was like, I didn’t know there was a big issue with the word queer, like. And she helped me book an event, we got, we had loads of people come down, it was beautiful.

RL: Was that at the Art Gallery?

MN: Yeah. And I was like, people actually want this, I was shocked that there were other like BAME people in Leeds who were like, [whispers] ‘oh my God, my gosh’. And again, you start attracting people and meeting people, but again we noticed we ever put anything on Facebook to say we were, but we’d hang out and we’d have a little community, so we created a safe space outside the gay scene. And then when we went to the gay scene, we went like a pack, so it was hard for people to attack. And it literally was attacks, all the time, it was not nice at all. To the point that – I started getting anxious, and it was really bad, we I had to go and hide in the toilet.

RL: So what, what places?

MN: Viaduct. Queens Court. Fibre. What was weird is that, again, a lot of people were straight too. Or they were just curious. Cos that’s what they would open: ‘I normally don’t like girls, but I like you’. I’m like, ‘please move away from me. Now’. But things like that where… it really made me uncomfortable to go out. And then I just realised, I just started counselling of people, I started isolating myself. It really affected me because – they weren’t being, they were more meaner to my partner… it was like because I looked feminine, I was like every gay white guy’s, ‘I want to be your friend’ kind of thing. And then I think, I used to resent – so when people told me I was pretty, that’s how much I heard it in the scene: ‘you’re pretty for a black girl’. That, that word now, if you say pretty to me, it literally means nothing to me. ‘Oh you’re so articulate’…

And then I met a lot of people who said they were doing projects for the BAME community that were LGBT and they weren’t really doing a lot. And we did our first Leeds Black Pride with Touchstone, with Alison Lowe, and we had like a massive, like loads of birds, or rainbow birds, and everyone just thought I was an ally.

RL: Was that on a float in Pride?

MN: In Pride, yeah. And, I remember this, I think now she’s 19 – no, she was about 14 then – and she saw me, and she – and the way she ran towards me, I didn’t know whether I was about to get punched. And she just – you couldn’t get to my costume, but I don’t know, it was like some Jackie Chan kind of thing, she just like got there and burst into tears, and goes, ‘thank you’. Because I think I had a plaque, I’ve got the post, something about, ‘it’s illegal to be LGBTIQ in… country, something understand, or whatever’. And everybody had different flags of the countries. And this young girl – young woman now… That hug, we didn’t get no funding for those projects; we didn’t get nuttin’, we just did it; I went broke. But, if it all was for that one hug, then that person did not feel like what I was feeling inside, then it was okay.

I think what I was feeling inside did break my relationship at the end of the day. And I didn’t, ‘til now I still don’t find any other female attractive. Not at all. Not in the slightest. There was something about this woman that made me want to have children for her, that made me want to walk down the aisle. But I hated myself for it. And she never got the best of me, cos I was so depressed. I was so depressed. Even though the world saw me, outside, and I was in a million of places and I was getting awards and stuff, I would come home, and I would take off the mask, and I would shut down. And the one person that loved me I never talked. And then she started resenting me, and then she started being a little bit emot- I think maybe I emotionally bankrupt her. I’m not giving excuse for how things transpired later on but, I have to be able to just talk about my part. I know that because I came from an abusive relationship and then I came to all this love, I probably took it for granted. But also, and I kept doing this thing, ‘nah, I don’t want, I can’t do this’, I broke up with her all the time. She never left.

RL: Were you living together?

MN: We did, we did. But my children knew her as just Auntie. They didn’t see, it wasn’t – Mummy’s loving to everybody, like I hug everyone, it’s normal. Actually, now looking at it, my kids are just so innocent they don’t, they don’t think that deep. They still don’t think that deep. And it was… in a way I was angry at the fact that that option was stolen from me by the lies that was told to me, by society, by religion. To make me feel like something was wrong in myself for years. And then, in 2017 – I was a crap girlfriend; I was… I was in a way like a dude. And that sounds bad in the sense of I didn’t talk. I didn’t want to share anything that was going on with me. I just, I wasn’t there. I didn’t wanna deal with it, cos of one more we went in…

I was managing a lot of BAME organisation. I was leading Black Lives Matter. And people from the community did treat me really horribly. Would I say that affected what Black Lives Matter Leeds was? Yes, it did, and my sexuality did, cos I made a mistake and I came out to the wrong people who then used it against me. And I remember that that was one of the first Carnivals I didn’t go to because someone thought it was okay to say you just need to fuck her straight…

My, I did loads of different events for Black History Month with LGBT communities. Again, everybody just… just thought Marvina was an ally, Marvina helps anyone anyway, she – that’s her job. But the weight of carrying that broke me. I put on so much weight I hated myself. I didn’t get why she even loved me, I don’t get it, I had nothing to offer, she was doing everything for me. And I wanted to work so hard so I didn’t, wanted to get all the funding, get all the things in place, be in all the meetings, so like I could repay her. Cos I felt indebted now like, I can’t give you what you need because I don’t even know what that is, but I don’t have my faith to help me deal with whatever emotion that is. I don’t have my family. I can’t talk to my friends… I can’t even show what I am, because I’m scared that my young people might think, if I’m friendly to them I might… And that scared me a lot, but that was all the time. She started treating me really different and she started getting malicious with her words. Because it wasn’t… physical. I didn’t see the impact and when she’s angry, her words can cut. But then that just made me more quiet and quiet, and sometimes I wouldn’t even go home, cos I knew I was always in the doghouse. But that’s because she fell in love with the person that I was with my husband. And that was, I’m free now. And we didn’t know how to balance it and we had a disagreement and she went away to see a friend and I packed her stuff and – even after I packed her stuff, I knew it was wrong.

And we broke up, I broke up with her, and… I’ve tried to get back. But – I still have the self-hate, as weird as it is, cos it’s 33 years ingrained. It’s something that I know I can never – even though this is going in the museum and might be listened to other people… In Nigeria it’s 14 years imprisonment. I can state categorically that the only female that I’m attracted to is that person, and that’s why I know gender is fluid, because it wasn’t about what was in between her legs, it wasn’t about, she had amazing body, it wasn’t even that. It was safety. It was freedom to express myself. It was open to perception; it was open to narratives. I didn’t have a box; I had a universe – that was worth it. Love has no room for hate at all. I had to deal with all these different things I felt, had to deal with – and I had to go to Stonewall workshops, had to confront some of my own self-hate around, around this topic. Because I couldn’t be a hypocrite. And… that might be history, but we can write more about what’s happening next.

And if this could make someone, or anyone listening to it, whenever you listen to it… loving can’t hurt. Loving someone should not hurt. At all. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re absolutely amazing. Sexuality has been fluid before, you can imagine. And if you’re Christian… God is love. He who’s without sin cast the first stone. If you wanna hear another one, 1 Corinthians 13:4: love is kind, love is patient, does not boast, does not do no wrong. You can’t be a Christian and judge someone else, it’s not your place. If you think the person right now is going to hell, the chances are I’ll probably be there with you. Because for the time you passed that judgement on me – you don’t know what I’m doing in my life. We were mums… She was an amazing mum, and I feel like I took that away from her. And she was still there, even afterwards, even though she cut me off financially like literally like. I realise that it was forbidden love, it was the forbidden fruits; maybe I should have never plucked it. And… that would be wrong. So if you’re listening to this: explore – love without boundaries. Love like your life depended on it. There’s nothing wrong with you. Yeah. That’s it.

*Since the PoMoGaze project Jude Woods has come out as non-binary and so now expects to be referred to with they/them pronouns.