Learning to Love
Unlike many people’s coming out stories, I never really ‘came out’, instead I see it as a process of accepting myself and my sexuality. I grew up Catholic like many others in Ireland, attending mass on Sundays and going to a Catholic primary and secondary school. We never learned about same-sex couples in primary school, and our sex ed excluded any mention of LGBTQ+ issues. As a child, you absorb what’s around you and what you are taught, and this becomes the norm; all else is abnormal, strange, or bad. For me, women loved men and men loved women, and any other type of love was unnatural. If it was normal, then why didn’t the TV shows I watched contain same-sex couples, why didn’t I see two women holding hands in the street, why didn’t my textbooks picture families with two dads or two moms?
Growing up in a heteronormative environment made it extremely difficult for me as a teenager to feel okay in myself. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t interested in boys, I thought I just hadn’t reached that stage of development yet, that maybe I’d want a boyfriend at a later date. But that date never came, and I was in college by the time I realised I was actually attracted to girls. I considered this towards the latter stages of secondary school, but I kept disregarding the idea because I thought being gay was a weird/’not me’ thing. I tried so hard throughout my teen years for people to like me and to feel accepted, being a perfectionist and pushing myself to do my best in all I did. Being gay would then be a reason for people to not like me, it would be a reason for me to be excluded, for people to be unhappy with me. I lived to make other people happy and comfortable and pleased with me, trying to sculpt myself into their idea of ‘perfect’, but in doing so I wasn’t living my truth.
When I began to allow myself to be attracted to girls in the way that my straight friends were attracted to boys, I realised I had been suppressing a huge part of who I was for so so long. It felt freeing and real to kiss girls, to go on dates with girls, to talk about girls I had crushes on with my friends. I always felt like I was behind on the whole dating and relationship thing compared to others my age, but I no longer feel bad about this or feel like I’ve ‘missed out’, as everyone is on their own path with feeling comfortable in their sexuality, and for me, it took a bit longer but that’s ok.
I’m now in a same-sex relationship that is healthy and loving and I don’t feel anyway lesser than those in a heterosexual relationship. Perhaps it may be hard for some of my family members to acknowledge my sexuality, but I’m not going to hide or suppress this part of myself for anyone’s comfort anymore, because I have a right to love who I love and be happy loving them. I hope that children and teens growing up these days know it’s perfectly ok to be gay and it doesn’t make them any less of a person, that there’s so much power and happiness in accepting yourself for who you are. It took me longer than I thought to come to terms with my sexuality, and it’s still a learning process as I’m unlearning things I’ve considered truths, and when I face difficulties I knew I wouldn’t face if I was straight, but these hardships are worth it for the joy I feel in knowing I’m being authentically me 😊
P.S. These photos of my girlfriend and I were taken by the amazingly talented Niamh Barry, who is a queer photographer based in Cork/Dublin. if you’d like to check out her work, have a look at her Instagram below!
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alternatively, if you are looking for some support, please visit BELONGTO: Support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in Ireland.
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