Guest blog: Growing up gay – a square peg in a round hole
Here is an account, posted on Twitter recently, of growing up feeling different, wondering at times whether she was meant to be a boy. I found it very moving, I expect some will find it resonates strongly. My grateful thanks to her for allowing me to reproduce it here in the form of a guest blog post.
I have only really spoken about this in real life to a handful of people and vaguely made reference to it here but The Times report today has brought this thread on.
That and periodically I get a spat of young lesbians who follow/like my posts. Or ask for help in DMs.
I spoke about this in a group chat with some other lesbians and there is one – literally one – in real life who knows the full extent of this because it just seemed so irrelevant to my life today. Or even in the last <15 years.
People frequently make comments about how GNC (gender non-conforming) kids will likely grow up to be gay/lesbian. I was extremely GNC as a kid. I played sports, I hung about with boys, I cried if I was put in a dress.
I was told at some point that I was a girl and needed to like ‘girl things’.
I said that I was not a girl. I was a boy. This was laughed off. I was adamant that I was a boy and was meant to be a boy. I screamed if anyone came near me with a dress, I screamed if I was told I had to do ‘girl’ things; ‘boy’ things were better.
I refused to answer to my female name – I changed it to a male version of it. I blanked people if they called me by my name. I wanted my hair cut short; they refused so I got hold of scissors and did it myself so I had to have it cropped short. I was around eight.
It was easier to let me wear the clothes I wanted because I would physically fight if I was put in girly clothes. When I got to 10/11 I needed a bra. I cried and cried having to wear one. I did not want to be a girl. I didn’t know why I never fit in.
I spent the first part of my childhood feeling like a square peg in a round hole. What they don’t tell you then is… Ask most gay adults how they felt as a kid, and that sense of feeling like a bit of an oddity without knowing why was there.
I didn’t know why I felt the way I did; part of me thought maybe it was because I was meant to be a boy.
I didn’t know why I was so attached to girls either and wanted them to look at me like they looked at boys. Again, was it because I was meant to be a boy?
Even when I outgrew demanding that I was a boy, I still didn’t feel right as a girl. I didn’t know why. I still felt like I didn’t belong, still felt a sense of disconnect. Again, you don’t realise that’s just par for the course growing up gay.
When I realised actually…I fancy girls, I retreated way back into myself. I was already being bullied for being gay before I realised I was gay. I didn’t know I was; I didn’t know what I was. No one tells you how you’re meant to feel. You’re just scared.
Even when I knew I was gay, I was PETRIFIED people would find out I was gay. They all knew anyway, but I couldn’t stomach the thought of actually telling anyone. I hated my body. I hated existing. If you could have made the bullying stop, I’d have took it.
I had a massive crush on one girl who sat next to me in my history class to the point I couldn’t look at her. I hated her boyfriend. I wanted her to look at me like she looked at him. And I hated myself for feeling that way. Hated knowing what I was.
There was one time the bullying was ongoing and she stopped me in the corridor saying ‘it’s OK to be a lesbian’. I looked at her in horror – possibly one of 3 times I made eye contact with her – and stammered “I’m not a fucking lesbian” before storming off.
I hated my body. Hated looking at it. Slunk off in PE. Other girls were slimmer than me. I hid all the time in baggy clothes. I went insane once because I was bought make up. When I tried to come out, I was told I was going through a phase. Then I was a deviant.
I went back into the closet again. A PE teacher found me crying in the changing room one day and instinctively knew what I was crying about. Told me it wouldn’t always feel this way.
I’d also been crying because I got into trouble for hiding in the toilet to change, so I used to wonder where I fit in. I never felt like I did. Right from the kid screaming I was meant to be a boy to the teenager wishing that girl looked at me like she looked at her boyfriend. I always felt cut off and isolated.
I was eight when I demanded to be known as a boy. This phase lasted months. Arguably it went on into my teens.
If I had parents who validated me – would they have indulged it? I did, in the end, turn out to just be a lesbian.
The reason I’m talking about this is because orgs like Stonewall seem to forget that experiences like mine happened even before Tumblr et al – and those kids often just turned out to be gay. Affirmative therapy is dangerous.
Affirmative therapy would have seen eight year old me validated as a boy and started on a journey that actually I wasn’t meant to have. But I’m very happy living my life as a lesbian. Fucking hell – I’m femme. I scream AT cute dresses now ?
I had a homophobic mother who told me how much she wished she had a son instead of me. There were plenty of times I wondered, growing up, would she have loved me if I were a boy? These things are damaging. This is why blind affirmation hurts. You don’t know what is at play.
A kid who is battling homophobia, with a parent who pushes their own shit onto that kid (you need to stop thinking parents are necessarily good people) deserves the chance to live their life. For them. I couldn’t have made a decision like that at age eight. I’m well aware that the usual lot will probably climb all over this. So for the benefit of clarity:
affirmative therapy is bad
I’ve never said I had dysphoria
telling you that children who are GNC often turn out to be gay adults isn’t hate speech
If you’re a young lesbian or gay man reading this:
It’s normal to go through life wondering why you don’t fit in. You’ll always feel like it. I feel like there are some things I can only talk about to other LG people. THAT’S NORMAL!
Its normal to think ‘is this me?’
Its normal to be confused.
Its normal to feel lonely.
You aren’t weird. You’re probably just gay. I spent years in denial and being ashamed of who I was. You don’t have to do that. I completely and utterly get feeling lost. But you can give yourself the chance I never gave myself.
Despite what they tell you, most of us fall out of the closet and don’t figure it out til later.
Give yourself the chance first.