[Quote Quest] Feelings Can’t Be Ignored

“But feelings can’t be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem.”
– Anne Frank

TW: bullying and homophobic violence

When you try to deny how you feel, those feelings will swallow you whole. If you try to pretend to be someone you’re not, something you’re not, eventually the mask will crack. It always does.

I didn’t want to be queer when I was young.

I grew up in the shadow of the last years of Section 28, and went to a school where homophobic bullying was par for the course. The kids would bully anyone they suspected was queer. If you actually came out, they’d beat the shit out of you. Is there any wonder I didn’t want to be queer?

So I pushed those feelings down. Repressed them and repressed them until I’d buried them somewhere deep in the darkest corners of self-loathing that I only rarely peeked at.

But the thing about those parts of you that you repress? They come out eventually. They always do.

Feelings can’t be ignored.

For years, I’d catch my eyes lingering a little too long on girls I liked. That stunning girl in the year above. My female music teacher. Random women on TV. When my friends and I flicked through magazines and talked about which of the boys we fancied, I always found my eyes drawn to the girls instead.

I realised I couldn’t lie to myself any more when my then-boyfriend told me point blank, “I think you’re bisexual”. And I realised that I was. For all his faults, I have to credit him with this: he supported my bi identity from the beginning.

And then I had to work through all that self-hatred I’d cultivated through years and years of repressed desire. Because you don’t just flick a switch and go from “I can never show this part of myself to anyone” to “woo-hoo, queer pride, gonna go smooch some girls!” in three seconds. It takes time.

It took falling in love for me to fully be okay with my queerness. When I was with her, everything felt right. How could something so perfect possibly be wrong? Of all the things she taught me, perhaps the most important was how to be proud.

Because feelings can’t be ignored. Identities can’t be silenced.

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I wrote this piece for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else is writing about this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

[Quote Quest] The Way I Loved You

The thing is that you brought this out in me. How could I want it with anyone else?
– J.M. Storm

TW: emotional and psychological abuse, gaslighting. Sorry that I’m writing so much about my abuser right now – I’m processing some things and writing helps.

“The truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever love anyone else the way I loved her.” I remember saying this to one of my play partners, a year or so after the relationship with my first girlfriend ended.

“You won’t,” he said, surprising me. “What you’ll eventually realise is that that’s a good thing.”

I didn’t understand exactly what he meant then, or for several years afterwards. In fact, I don’t think I fully grasped the whole truth of this statement until I left my last abusive partner.

My play partner was right. I’ve never loved anyone else exactly the way I loved her. That would be impossible.

Firstly for the obvious reason that no two people are the same, so how could two relationships or two types of love be the same? But secondly, because she and I represented a specific moment in my life. I was very young, just barely over the cusp of adulthood, and still a baby queer barely peeking a toe out of the closet. She was the first. She was the person who took my hand and guided me through those early, tentative explorations.

No-one else can be that, nor should they try to be.

What we had was many things. It was beautiful and it was terrible. Sometimes, as we struggled to communicate and connect in a world that was very much against our brand of queer, polyamorous love, I felt like I might die. Other times, I was sure she was the one great love of my life. But there is one thing it was not: sustainable.

When I met my abusive partner, in some ways it felt similar. He gave me the same dizzy, giddy, love-drunk feeling. Kept me slightly off-kilter. Made me feel like I was losing my mind.

What I didn’t realise then, that I know now, is that with her those feelings were the symptom of first love between two people who were trying their best but were ill-equipped to handle the intensity. With him, though, they were symptoms of deliberate manipulation. I was constantly off-balance because he put me there.

I often felt like I was dying when I was with him. He was the oxygen I needed to breathe, and held the absolute power to cut off my airways if I displeased him. (Despite my best efforts, I often displeased him.)

One of the things I mourned when it all went so badly wrong was what we’d had in the beginning. At that stage, I still romanticised the sleepless nights, the desperation to drop anything and everything else to please him, the way he made me feel simultaneously like a precious but fragile doll and like his saviour.

What I know now, that I didn’t know then, is that that wasn’t romance. That was grooming. That was textbook lovebombing, holding me up on a pedastal so I’d be disorientated and broken and compliant when he inevitably threw me off it.

Maybe you’re just not who I thought you were, he’d say. And that was all it would take to have me desperately trying to prove that I was who he’d said I was on one of those early dates where we’d stayed up all night talking and fucking. Because I wanted to get it back. I wanted those soaring highs again. I wanted to love like that again.

Now I realise that I never will. But I never will because I am older now. Wiser. A little more jaded, perhaps. But I can protect myself now. And that means I will never again allow myself to be taken in by superficial charm that masks something much more sinister.

So no, I’ve never loved anyone else quite the way I loved her, and that’s okay. I’ve never loved anyone else quite the same way I loved him, either – and that’s a good thing.

Have I loved just as hard, just as deeply, just as wholeheartedly? Yes, absolutely. But the same? Never.

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This piece was written for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

Firework

Something a bit different today. I actually wrote a draft of this post a long time ago and am only just ready to share it. This is the true story of the girl I call my firework.

You are the reason that I breathe…” I hear our song, quietly playing on the office radio all these years later, and I am transported back. I don’t remember her birthday or what her favourite colour was any more, but I do remember the important things. The way she grabbed me for that first kiss, the one where I thought my heart would stop. How she was so tiny I had to bend to kiss her, yet I still felt so protected when I was in her arms.

For months, she was only words on a screen. We typed, typed, typed our words, back and forth, night after long night, but it was never quite enough. It was a long time before I even saw her face. I didn’t need to. Just her name, just those three little ellipses to indicate her typing, was enough to send my foolish teenage heart into a tailspin. She was the first person I ever knew who I could be completely myself with. With her words, she reached through the screen across the miles separating us and wrested my truth from my fingertips.

I was only eighteen; she, twenty-five. The first moment I saw her, 3D flesh-and-blood, real and alive and right in front of me on the platform at New Street Station, I knew I was lost. I knew that, whether she was with me for a decade or walked out of my life tomorrow, she would always linger like a brand upon my skin.

She taught me how to make love to a woman. But much more than that, she taught me how to say yes when something I desperately want, but am afraid to want, is offered to me. She taught me how to love unreservedly, how to give of my whole self and then more. With her, I dared to hold hands in public and kiss in front of people who might not approve.

“To hell with what they think,” she told me. Her bravery made me brave, too. We only got abuse shouted at us in the street once.

Of course she broke my heart. We broke each others’. I fell too hard, too quickly. She withdrew. We were both too young, too afraid. We didn’t know how to communicate. There was the built-in inequality, right from the beginning, of age and experience – of the fact that she was my first love, and I was not hers. We didn’t know what we wanted. With her, I entered a second rush of adolescence, when I was barely through my first.

It was only later, when I’d finished crying into bottles of strong alcohol and convincing myself she was the only great love that would ever come along in my life, that I realised a fundamental truth: I will never love anyone else in the same way I loved her. And that is okay. That is even good.

What we had, though beautiful for its brief time, was neither comfortable nor sustainable over the long term. She was not the gentle, comforting fire of long-term companionship. She was a firework; beautiful and dazzling and then… gone. And fireworks are precious, but there is a reason we don’t set them off in our homes to keep ourselves warm.

We will never be friends. Of that I am absolutely certain. On the one occasion in the last ten years that I’ve seen her face – Facebook is a curse – I found the longing still there. Dulled, yes – dulled by time, by the memory of how things ended, by the more real and present and immediate affection for the person I love now – but still there. Indelible. She is indelible, a handprint in the book of my life.

It took me a long time to get over that heartbreak, and longer still to get over the anger that I manufactured to protect myself from the pain. But now? Now I am thankful for those brief, fleeting, perfectly imperfect three months.

She, my firework, taught me to be proud to be a queer woman, and for that I will always love her.

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