Jen's coming out story
A written memoir contributed by a Leeds woman born in the 1960s, who came out later in life.
My mum tells me that, when she knew she was expecting me, she unwittingly bought blue baby clothes. She did not know what my gender would be as it was not an option to find out in 1961. I readily adopted the colour blue, favouring it above any other colour and detesting pink! My bedroom since has always been blue and I was a proper tomboy, loving sport especially football and watching westerns. My favourite film was Calamity Jane with Doris Day and I was a dab hand at twiddling those guns and wearing my cowgirl outfit! Jesse from Toy Story is one of my favourite icons.
I was fortunate in being an only child and not having any brothers, as my parents indulged me with train sets and cars. The only time this proved to be an embarrassment was when mum took me to see Santa and the toys for boys and girls were segregated. I picked up a car from the boys side and Father Christmas addressed me as a boy. Mum tells me I loudly asserted that I was a girl not a boy.
When I was about 13 years old I began to develop crushes on some of my friends. I was at an all-girls school. I was at this time very bookish. I loved history and was reading books about Edith Cavell, Florence Nightingale and all things Mary Queen of Scots. My friends were all reading Jackie magazine and trying to figure out if their sign was compatible with a boy they liked. I just didn’t get what all the fuss was about. I was also too busy having a serious crush on my history teacher. Many years later I was at the theatre with my husband and was sat behind my old history teacher. I thought that I was going to have a heart attack and my husband kept asking if I was okay. Ten minutes into the play I told him I was feeling unwell and left. I missed a very good play to boot!
When I was 18 years of age I went to Polytechnic. I met Susan and we immediately connected. We liked the same music, shared the same sense of humour and enjoyed drinking a lot! It was a very deep and intense friendship which for me became something more. I overheard her say in the kitchen one day that if we were boy and girl we would have got married. I never told her how I felt. I just could not muster up the courage and the fear of rejection was just too scary. It was a hopeless situation.
We both decided to leave at the end of the year – Susan to do nurse training and me volunteering nursing two severely disabled students. Susan gave me this Snoopy toy before she left. When someone asks what I’d rescue if my house was on fire, well, it’s not rocket science to guess what would be on the list.
When I saw Susan get on the bus to leave for the last time I had a real Brokeback Mountain moment. As the bus pulled away I started sobbing uncontrollably and I headed full pelt into a deep depression. I can even admit that I contemplated suicide. I was truly heartbroken.
Time passed and I met my husband Simon two years later. Simon and myself got on so well. He was a kind, sensitive and gentle man who was highly intelligent in both sciences and the arts. He simply adored me and that was irresistible, being both egoic and intoxicating to me. Of course I asked Susan to be my chief bridesmaid. I hadn’t seen her since that faithful departure and, when she arrived the night before the wedding, I felt a rush of excitement. I quenched the fire I felt in my heart and never spoke about it.
I lived with Simon for ten years but still had attraction to other women. Whilst I was doing my nurse training I met Sandra and we planned a walking holiday together but, two days before we were due to go, she cancelled. I asked her why and she said very delicately that she knew I had feelings for her that were not just friendship-based. She actually used the word lesbian which completely floored me. I started to reflect on this but again dismissed my feelings.
When I was 29 years of age I began working with a probation officer who admitted to me that she was bisexual. This just sounded so much safer to me! I admitted that I was attracted to her and we began an affair that lasted nearly a year. It was primarily sexual and very intense but we both had no romantic or longer term plans. When it ended I knew that I had to leave Simon. He was wanting to start a family and I knew that I could not make that commitment to him. At this time I met two gay men and I confided in them. They both gave me unconditional support to be myself, even offering me a room in their house.
I finally had the courage to be true to myself and told my husband my predicament. He was naturally devastated and tried everything to make me stay, even suggesting an open relationship. He obtained support from a group called Pastels, which was for friends, family and partners of LGBT people.
I moved in with my two gay friends and spent the next 18 months sleeping with as many women as I could. I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do at the time but, in hindsight, it’s not really a period of my life that I’m proud of.
I’m now 56 years of age and have had three long-term relationships with women.
So what advice would I give to myself at the age of 18 years now?
• Take a chance and have courage.
• Be true to yourself.
• Be authentic.
• You deserve happiness; it is your right to be able to express yourself.
Telling My Parents
When I told my father he said, and I quote, “I’ve watched that programme on Channel 4 about lesbians but I can’t work out what you do without a penis.”
My father was cool about the whole thing. In fact he had flirted outrageously with all my girlfriends and relished being the only man in my life.
When I told my mother she cried and then blubbered out, “As long as you are happy.”
Unfortunately I’ve not had such a welcoming response from some family members on my mum’s side. I don’t get invited to family functions and my aunt and uncle wrote me out of the will.
Photo on Stories page from pxfuel.