Why I Never Really ‘Came Out’

CWs: LGBTQIAP-phobia, threatening behaviour, verbal abuse

 

I’ll be attending my second ever Pride celebration this weekend and so I thought I’d write about a little something that’s quite close to home for me. I tend not to talk openly about my sexuality unless its asked about and unless those questions are respectful and genuine. However when I saw so many of our #queerbloggers  talk about their experiences for this month’s ‘Coming Out’ theme, I thought it was about time I told my story.

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I knew I wasn’t just interested in boys from quite a young age. I would see women on television and think they were beautiful in a way that I didn’t yet fully understand.

As Katherine Hockley said in her piece, ‘00s Music Videos & Their Role In My Bisexual Awakening’, “… it made me feel guilty and “bad”, because it was ingrained in my head that culturally I should only be getting turned on by men. As a kid who was already unpopular and a bit weird, anything else that could make me different could not be a good thing (or so I thought)…

Growing up surrounded by images of sex and heteronormative relationships as many of us do in the Western world, it became quite apparent to me that I had feelings that weren’t so widely represented in the media.

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Me in 2008, out as bisexual and pretty badly bullied…

In my teens (at about fourteen years old) I fell in love with two girls, one after the other. They were close friends of mine but I was completely besotted and wanted more. I still don’t know to this day if they reciprocated those feelings but I remember mine and boy, was I obsessed! When they each told me for different reasons that we would never work out in a relationship, I was so hurt. I couldn’t see the problem with openly expressing my love for them but I think they weren’t quite sure if they could be with me romantically.

My mum knew, but I did affirm her suspicions one day and told her how I felt about those two girls in my life. I was very lucky in that she was really supportive and told me that she loves me no matter who I love, as long as they make me happy.

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Me in 2009

News about my ‘tendencies’ began to spread around the school like wildfire and it wasn’t long before the bullying started. I remember sidling up to the only other ‘out’ person at my school and her and I were in a relationship for about a week but the abuse was just too much.

I was told I was disgusting… I was spat on… I ‘should be shot’… I’m a ‘dyke’… I’m a ‘freak of nature’… 

I was assaulted regularly and there wasn’t a huge amount I felt I could do at the time. A few close friends stuck up for me when they could but often I’d be targeted when I was on my own. Even after being a long term relationship with a cis boy, there was still a lot of homophobia (despite me not identifying as a lesbian) and bi-erasure. I couldn’t understand it – I was comfortable with who I was, why did it bother them? Why did they feel the need to treat me that way and why couldn’t they understand?

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Me in 2010

I still haven’t had an ‘official’ committed relationship with anyone who isn’t a cis man yet but that’s not through any active choices in adulthood. The people that I have developed strong feelings for and stayed in relationships with at this point in my life have been cis men but my feelings for women, non-binary and trans people haven’t gone away. I wrote a piece for Zusterschap a while back about having my queerness erased because I’m in a ‘hetero’ relationship, and how frustrating it is that many people, even those inside the LGBTQIAP community will still deny that I am queer.

They deny me of the support and belonging that I so desperately needed when I was younger.

They deny me of feeling that I can speak or write openly about my identity.

They deny me when they say that I didn’t have to ‘come out’ so I don’t understand the struggle.

 

Many young people are still questioning their sexualities and gender identities and it is so important if you can speak safely and openly about these things to do so. Although it’s improving, accurate media representation for LGBTQIAP people and relationships is still sparse and globally, there are still abuses of people’s basic human rights and freedoms because of their sexuality or gender identity.

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Me now in 2016 – here, queer and not giving a …

A lot of straight people ask me, ‘how can I best be an ally to the LGBTQIAP movement?’  I always say the same thing: ‘being accepting and treating people with fairness and kindness, regardless of their identity’.

It’s also important not to erase someone’s experiences. If they want to tell you about their coming out or any other personal experience then as an ally, you should respectfully listen and try to understand.

 

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Click here to find out more about the Queer Bloggers Network!

 

Finally, amplify queer voices! We have a Queer Bloggers Network now for anyone who makes content in the community or for it. To do more than that you should comment on posts, RT links, share news on Facebook, watch films and vlogs… Get that content out there. The only way that true understanding of one another is reached is through education and respectful discussion.

Hopefully one day, we won’t have to ‘come out’, because we will be seen as people and not for our differences.

 

Do you having a ‘coming out’ story that you’ve shared?
Do consider yourself an ally to the LGBTQIAP community?

Let me know and leave me links in the comments below.
Jenna
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If you liked this post, you should check out:
‘You Can’t Be A Feminist If…’ – crushing myths about ‘all modern feminists’
my queerness erased – I talk about being in a ‘hetero’ relationship and why I’m still pansexual
drag on a dime series – I copy looks from your favourite drag queens for cheap!

 

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“You Can’t Be A Feminist If…”

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Hi guys!

Your friendly neighbourhood queer feminist here, ready to spill some tea on some common misconceptions about what being a feminist in 2016 actually means. Although there are many sub-sets of feminism, I’ll be discussing genuine advice I’ve been given with regards to my beliefs and my behaviour and boy is it something!

 

Please note that this piece is for entertainment purposes and so should be taken with a pinch of salt!

 

#1. “You can’t be a feminist if you wear make-up.”

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So some people believe that makeup is a tool that amplifies ‘beauty ideals’ and that by wearing makeup, you are not only compliant with but promoting a patriarchal standard of beauty. I say that this is bullshit. Make-up is a way in which many people choose to express their creativity. The colours, shades, shapes and techniques can be considered an art form and many choose to study these and/or take makeup as a profession. Make-up (like many things) is not solely a ‘woman’s product’ – people of all genders can enjoy makeup and when this assumption is made, you are ignoring a rich, queer history of drag artists and gender-fluidity.

My makeup makes me feel confident and powerful, ready to take on the world. It is a choice I make for myself that emphasises what I consider to be my best assets and it allows me to be artistic in ways that I can’t normally. If you don’t wear makeup then that’s cool but don’t tell me that I shouldn’t wear mine!

 

#2. “You can’t be a feminist if you’re in a relationship with a cis man.”

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This one is ridiculous. Not only does it further encourage the myth that feminism = misandry but it automatically assumes that you couldn’t love a man simply based on his gender. See something wrong there?

I’m a pansexual woman and it just so happens that the person I’ve chosen to be in a relationship with is a cisgender man. He is also a great LGBTQIAP+ ally who is interested in and educated about intersectional feminism and this is part of why we get on so well. On a personal level, he is respectful, kind and listens to my experiences so to tell me that I’m not feminist for being with him makes no sense.

Don’t tar every man with an ‘anti-equality’ brush, it’s hypocritical.

 

#3. “You can’t be a feminist if you shave/epilate your body hair.”

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So the idea of being pro-bodily autonomy is that your body and what you choose do with it is your own. It means that you believe in bodily integrity – that people’s bodies should not be violated in any way by others because of said autonomy. I know that some feminists believe that removing body hair is another patriarchal beauty ideal and I’ve spoken to many who don’t epilate for that reason. I respect that choice completely and I believe that if you want to be fluffy, you should be proud of it!

I personally feel more comfortable with less body hair, especially as I occasionally suffer from hyperhydrosis. The more body hair I have, the more the sweat clings to my body and despite deodorant, it can be quite smelly. It’s easier to stay fresh the less hair I have and when anyone tells me otherwise, I remind them that its my damn body.

 

#4. “You can’t be a feminist if you care about men’s rights.”

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Part of a comic by Rasenth on tumblr.

 

My definition of feminist is close to that used by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in We Should All Be Feminists:

feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.

I however would change ‘the sexes’ to ‘genders’ as I don’t believe that all inequalities are from within in the gender binary. In fact, I don’t believe in the gender binary at all!

To acknowledge men’s rights in your feminism isn’t to deprioritise women’s rights, as long as you  give each their own context and don’t derail the conversation. There are plenty of men who suffer as a result of the kyriarchy, be it because of racism, transphobia, homophobia or poverty. The archaic gender roles that put pressure on men and boys to exert power, exploit those more vulnerable,to be big and to use force ….they’re damaging and dangerous instructions. It is important to speak about these issues if feminism is to achieve true equality but not necessarily to shove them into the same conversation as womens issues.

 

#5. “You can’t be a feminist if you support sex work.”

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Image from qnotes.

This one tends to divide a lot of people so I’m just going to explain why I personally have sex-positive attitudes.

It is incredibly important to promote safe sexual practice. Not just in terms of sexual health but for personal wellbeing and education about consent. Not discussing these topics keeps them taboo and could make it harder for someone who has experienced sexual abuse or violence to speak out about their experiences.

While I do not support a huge portion of the sex industry that globally exploits and traffics women and abuses and violates performers, I am in support of sex workers and pornography and believe firmly in regulation and protection of the related professions. This goes back to the bodily integrity/ bodily autonomy thing because I think that  if someone has chosen sex work despite having alternatives and they are kept safe during their work then you don’t have the right to tell them that they shouldn’t be doing it.

In an interview in Elle magazine camgirl and filmmaker Ashley Vex spoke about making about safe, consensual porn with her studio Four Chambers go and check it out!

 

I appreciate comments, links and questions on this post but any hateful or discriminatory speech will not be approved.
Discussion and debate are welcomed provided it is structured, respectful and does not target individuals.

 

Have you ever been told “you’re not a feminist”?
What does your feminism look like?

 

Jenna
X

 

Keep up to date with my latest posts on:
| Bloglovin’ | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Google+

 

If you liked this post, you should check out:

queer bloggers network Jess, Zoe and I are starting a network for bloggers with LGBTQIAP+ identities!
empowerment playlistsMusic to make you feel like you can conquer anything…
my queerness erased
– A personal account of pansexual erasure.
why selfies are inherently feminist – I talk about Lindsay Bottos’ art project about self love and selfies.

Queer Bloggers Network

So the lovely Jess, Zoe and I decided that Twitter needs a space for bloggers and creatives with queer (non-hetero/non-cisgender) identities. A space where we could share and promote content but also offer support and advice to those who may be questioning or having problems with their sexuality or being treated differently because of it.

So we present to you…

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Huzzah! This network will primarily be running through a Twitter page that Jess and I will co-manage but we are of course open to others getting involved if they want to. Please get in touch if you would want to help with the admin side of things.

The aim is, once we’re up and running, to have a weekly chat with different topics or themes and a monthly newsletter that compiles lots of great content from within the community or about LGBTQIAP+ issues.

We will have DMs on and have an email should you wish to contact us privately and we will never breach something said in confidence.

If you’d like to sign up to our mailing list to receive our monthly newsletter, please complete the form below!

 

 

Jenna

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Keep up to date with my latest posts on:
| Bloglovin’ | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Google+

adventures: she who dares wins 2015 (in pictures)

She Who Dares Wins is a free-to-attend storytelling event that aims to inspire and empower women in local business. The fourth installment, held at the Bournemouth Natural Science Society and hosted by Wise Old Uncle Ltd did just that, as it brought together women from all walks of life to share their journeys, their knowledge and lots of advice about how to push yourself further and achieve more. Whether you were at an early point in your career, haven’t really started it yet like myself or you’re someone who has founded their own company, many of the attendees agreed that there was something for everyone to take away from the day.

 

(Continues after gallery.)

 

After a fantastic cup of tea and a delicious cookie dough bite from local bespoke baker Heather Brown, there was a warm welcome from our host, creative and digital consultant Matt Desmier. Matt has previously had huge success with Silicon Beach, a larger scale annual conference for creatives that gets more big names as tickets get more in demand each year.

The first guest speaker of the event… Continue reading on Bournemouth News & Info.

my queerness erased

Content warnings: threatening behaviour, LGBTQIAP-phobia, bi-erasure, pan-erasure

I came out as bisexual at fourteen years old. At home, it was as if nothing had changed. My mum always has and always will be like a best friend. I tell her everything and she has always supported me in what, or who, makes me happy.

At school, however, I experienced the real, bitter tastes of phobia and hatred. Name-calling, physical assaults and threats became an everyday part of my life for a while. I was lucky enough to have friends who were always quick to defend me, but the words still stung and the bullies still managed to find me when I was alone.

As I’ve gotten older, not only have society’s views about the LGBTQIAP community developed, but of course I have become a young woman and as a result now find myself… Continue reading this post at Zusterschap.

inspiring women you should be following: part one

If your dream career lies somewhere in the midst of writing, ranting and promoting social justice as mine does then look no further than this new series of posts. I will be picking some of my favourite inspirational women each month, writing about what they do and where to follow them.

View this post on Instagram

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A post shared by Emerald Pellot (@emeraldgritty) on

Emerald Pellot (@EmeraldGritty)

Emerald is a pop culture writer at LittleThings and the Former Senior Editor of CollegeCandy. Her work has featured in many publications and gives a particularly feminist view of the world of celebrity. Amongst some light-hearted fashion and beauty posts, Emerald has written some deeper and more provocative work discussing race and gender.  Her portfolio can be found here.

Mara Wilson (@MaraWritesStuff)

You may remember Mara Wilson for her childhood roles as Matilda, Natalie (Mrs Doubtfire) and Susan (Miracle on 34th Street). Now a grown woman, Mara writes plays, stories and blogs as well as working a day job at non profit company, Publicolor. In 2014, she produced a stage show called ‘What Are You Afraid Of?’ which focused on helping combat fear and anxiety using resources and expert advice. Her very popular Twitter account is a daily dose of feel-good and feisty soundbites. Oh, and she got in some serious beef with E.L. James (the author of Fifty Shades of Grey) but I’ll let you read up on that here.

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh (@fazlalizadeh)

An oil painter and illustrator from Brookyln, Tatyana is the creator of a great public art project with an important message about gender-based street harassment, titled Stop Telling Women To Smile. With many women participating, Tatyana has taken STWTS travelling and is working on pieces in numerous cities. Other renowned works of hers include her Mike Brown poster and The Roots Mural in Philadelphia. For her portfolio and more of her other works, visit her personal site.

Alix Fox (@AlixFox)

A major content warning for nearly everything this lady does as being incredibly Not Safe For Work. Formerly a Front Section Editor at Bizarre magazine, the wonderfully zany Alix is a London journalist, presenter and Durex UK sex educator who writes all sorts about relationships from the PG to the X-rated. Her work has featured in the Telegraph, Men’s Fitness and Comedy Central, she has compered for events like Sexhibition and Club Antichrist and she has a way with words like no other. She’s also lovely in person!

Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia)

Mikki is an intersectional feminist and opinion writer. She is one of the editors at hoodfeminism and writes some fiction on the side with a focus on diversity and representation, including a one shot comic in the Swords of Sorrow universe called ‘Miss Fury and Lady Rawhide’. Her Twitter is a place where many a debate take place. In 2013, she launched the hashtag  #Solidarityisforwhitewomen with the intention of highlighting how race is often dismissed as ‘not a feminist issue’. This then blew up and become a very controversial topic. You dont have to love Mikki’s style of writing but you will definitely learn something reading it.

Who are your inspirations?

Have you read any of these women’s work before?

Let me know in the comments below!

Jenna

x

Keep up to date with my latest posts on:
| Bloglovin’ | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Google+ |

If you liked this post, you should check out:
why selfies are inherently feminist – a post about your profile pics and your self love
the empowerment playlists – a series of feel-good playlists
you just keep doing other people – a sex-positive rant from Cami

why selfies are inherently feminist

Content Warnings for: online abuse, threatening behaviour, body shaming, discussion of weight

Lindsay Bottos, ‘Anonymous’ (2014)

Modern feminism has placed great emphasis not only on the importance of self-love with tags like #bodyposi and #blackout trending every day, but on giving marginalised individuals a spotlight from which to shine and speak out about their experiences.

Unfortunately. despite the rise in these feminist attitudes, as Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says in her TEDx talk ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, girls still :

… see each other as competitors —

not for jobs or for accomplishments,

which I think can be a good thing,

but for the attention of men.”

Young girls and boys are introduced to certain negative practices very early on in their adolescence. Concepts like ‘bitching’, ‘who wore it best?’ and even sex-shaming are rife among many different media, the majority of which focus on a woman’s appearance or behaviour. Studies have shown that young girls are severely affected by the media’s portrayal of beauty ‘ideals’. Sadly, their self-esteem is also all too often damaged by women much closer to home. If peers and relatives hold just as much prejudice and even engage in such bullying because of it, then they are no better than an oppressor. When children view these women of authority in their lives commenting on other women’s appearances or behaviours, they believe that these practices are right and will emulate this negativity.

In the digital age, so much of what we do and who we are can feel validated by the amount of likes or comments it gains. The way to break the chain of perpetuating insecurities is  therefore by doing something simple, beautiful and inspiring. Taking a ‘selfie’ can be an incredibly empowering thing. Regardless of how many attempts to get the lighting right, outfits or products you try out or how many images end up being deleted, noone can deny that a ‘good’ selfie makes us feel good. This is a really valuable and worthwhile practice. To glean some self-love from a photograph, no matter how little, is an amazing feeling and to achieve that within a culture that constantly tries to mock and belittle people, particularly women? That’s powerful.

It is important however to remember that it only takes one comment to shatter that self-esteem, one that may have taken years and a lot of courage to cultivate.

Artist and photographer Lindsay Bottos created a project called ‘Anonymous’ last year when she grew tired of receiving negative messages online, most of which were left nameless. Many of the spiteful comments made to her focused on her appearance and the selfies she had posted.

Lindsay said about the project:

The act of women taking selfies is inherently feminist, especially in a society that tries so hard to tell women that our bodies are projects to be worked on and a society that profits off of the insecurities that it perpetuates. Selfies are like a ‘fuck you’ to all of that, they declare that ‘hey I look awesome today and I want to share that with everyone’ and that’s pretty revolutionary.” (Source: Buzzfeed)

So how do selfies apply to being a good feminist or feminist ally? In the same way that one negative comment or piece of writing can destroy someone’s self esteem, one positive one can perhaps build or even create confidence in that individual. What ‘Anonymous’ shows is only one side of the power of social media but if anything it demonstrates a need for an opposing force. one that raises people up and encourages them to believe in themselves.

A few seconds out of your day to tell a colleague, family member or perhaps even just an online follower something good about themselves or what they are posting can really make their day, and you are doing so in a world that may be telling them that who they are and what they do isn’t good enough.

Showing that hate-filled messages are all too common on the internet and emphasising how truly inappropriate it is, Lindsay is working on a follow-up project this year (cw: possibly NSFW) detailing the backlash she received after ‘Anonymous’ went viral. You can keep up to date with all of her work on her tumblr blog.

What do you think, are selfies an empowering and feminist practice?
Is anon hate linked to the media and beauty ‘ideals’?

Let me know in the comments below!

Jenna
x

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