I've been meaning to get around to posting my blog on this topic for quite some time, then when my February copy of Elle UK landed through my letter box this morning I was both surprised and a bit miffed to find that it contained an article by Hanna Hanra on the very issue. The article is written in beautiful way, it captured everything I wanted to say and the issues which I too am facing in my own life alongside the opinions I have around the "controversy" of it all. Though Hanra's article is well poised, I felt she lacked a real experience in the area, merely flirted with the subject, so I'm going to write my piece anyway.
I fell in love with my best friend and I don't mean in a platonic way. My best friend just happens to also be a girl.
I feel incredibly blessed to live in the twenty first century, within a society that for the most part accepts and embraces diversity and homosexuality. I myself have never particularly liked to categorise myself as hetro, homo or bi sexual - in fact long before I had any kind of a relationship with a woman I had listed on my Facebook profile that I was indeed interested in "men and women". I'm interested in people, gender doesn't really come into the equation. Though the "natural" world dictates to me that I "should" be interested in men, for sake of reproduction, for evolution, for going with the mass majority? I have to admit I never actively looked for a female partner, but I guess in retrospect I never really actively looked for a male partner, just that the latter were in greater abundance when it came to interest.
Throughout my life I've liked to challenge limits, in a quiet, passively rebellious kind of way - that's been my journey of growing up, finding where I slot in society. Mostly this has come in harmless forms of expression such as the way I dress, getting piercings or tattoos, dyeing my hair obscure colours and deciding to follow an "artsy" career path despite feeling I should go down an academic root because that was what I was "good at". But there have been darker elements such as my battle which anorexia, my rejection of the female form, becoming a woman and a long period of various mental health issues- a large metaphoric red flag that I wasn't quite okay with who I was in the world. My decision to be in a homosexual relationship, however, isn't to make a statement, it isn't about giving a big fat "fuck you" to conformity, it isn't about fashion, it isn't about finding who I am, it isn't about anything actually except what I feel for my girlfriend, for Josie. I can't control that - much less help it.
My relationship with Josie seemingly went from being close friends to something more literally overnight. I met her in college and within a few days of being in the same class I had set it in my heart that I wanted to get to know this girl, I knew we were going to be friends, but never had I imagined what was to come. Our friendship blossomed quickly - she makes me laugh, we share interests and views on the world, though are very people different at the same time. She is the girl I can go out with and dance all night drinking too much wine but equally stay in sharing our music and talking right into the early hours. The one I can completely embarrass myself infront of and not care, the one person I can be completely honest with and not fear her reaction. We understood each other quickly and trusted in the other wholly. We share deep things from our lives and comfort the others pain, knowing by instinct just how much to talk, just how much to soothe. When I left therapy earlier last year and shut off for a while, Josie would sit with me and say nothing with me as I did with her on bad days- we just have this comfort with one another, an unspoken communication, a respect and a love. It's the most balanced relationship I've ever had in my life, very open and without pretence.
When Josie moved in with me last summer I was the happiest little soul, a permanent sleep over with my best friend! Her in the very next room to giggle or cry with whenever it was required. During the months following we both got short term boyfriends, neither of which worked out and we continued in our lives being each others best friend, it had never really crossed into my mind that our friendship would ever be anything more. That changed after a few too many drinks one night and we ended up in bed together with frequent statements of "why isn't this weird?!". I knew immediately this was different, it wasn't an alcohol fuelled lack of judgement, drunk or not I know neither of us would've jeopardised our friendship for the sake of a bit of a drunken fumble, it wasn't like just casual sex - it actually definitely wasn't about sex and it felt so much more loving. We woke up together and giggled a bit but neither of us freaked out - it did feel right, it felt special - anything but wrong. There had never been a hidden agenda on either part - just obviously something subconscious and it just happened like that - though both of us hedged the point of what was really happening for quite some time, both afraid about what might come of it.
I like to think of myself as particularly open minded, if any of my friends came out and told me they were in a gay relationship I wouldn't even bat an eyelid- it's just not a big deal - or at least it wasn't until it came down to being about me. I'd had flings with girls before Josie but never really thought anything of it - it was a bit of fun, nothing serious and nothing that needed mentioning or sharing with the world. Just a twenty something girl experimenting with her sexuality (yeah I did kiss a girl and yeah I did like it)- as many of us do - nothing particularly special or notable about that. Though when Josie and I made a decision to be together exclusively I felt a mixture of euphoria and outright dread. I have always been a people pleaser, that's an essential part of who I am and suddenly I felt like I was doing something wrong, something that was going to be disapproved of and it worried me greatly. In my life I have done things that people wouldn't approve of but this is different because there isn't just me involved - there is also Josie and I wasn't going to let anyone or anything hurt her. This felt so special to me, I didn't want it tainted and for quite a while we made a decision to keep it to ourselves. Though hiding it made it feel like it was something to be frowned upon and what I feel is that wonderful that I wanted the people in my life to be in on it too.
Hanna Hanra pointed out in her Elle article that society is indeed open to the idea of gay love - but for men. It's accepted and understood about gay men and they are often portrayed in the media as colourful, fun loving people - indeed every girl wants a gay best friend, but lesbians have a much less glamorous portrayal. As a lesbian you are either an aggressive extreme feminist, are butch and lacking in feminine qualities, femme and dowdy or possibly some kind of pedophile. I certainly don't fit into any "stereotype lesbian role" and neither does Josie. In fact I was more than a little offended when we came out to friends at party that after a few drinks someone asked who the butch one was - why does there have to be a dick (metaphorical or not) involved in a relationship? Is this a construction created by men I ask? For this is obviously a realm they cannot enter or is that me being an aggressive feminist? Why do lesbians have such a bad rep? And the even bigger question was why was I buying into it? I have lesbian friends who I don't regard any differently because of their sexuality and they certainly didn't change who or how they were before because of coming out yet I feared that people would think that I would. Both Josie and I have been blessed enough to have been brought up by liberal parents. When I told my mother she was fantastic, as I knew deep down she would've been - but it still had taken me a long time, I still felt sick telling her despite her saying what I'd known deep down she would - that she was happy so long as I was. Even so even she voiced that she thought it best I don't go around telling everyone (as if I was going showing up to family parties naked covered in rainbow body paint shouting about my lesbian lifestyle). She was concerned about what others would think and how they would judge me, "Don't tell your Grandma". I know this was out of protecting me and not wanting me to be subjected to any kind of cruelty - though I reassured her I am prepared for that and in all honesty not bothered by it - it was the opinions of those I loved that mattered to me. I still haven't been able to tell my Dad - and that's not because I fear he'll reject me (I know he won't) but because I don't want him to look at me differently - I am still the same Ruby - actually a much happier and well balanced Ruby.
Of course there have been questions in my mind about my future, I still don't class myself as homo/hetro/bi sexual because of my relationship with Josie but neither is that to say I do or don't see myself spending the rest of my life with her - no more so than I would if she was a man. Josie knows about my omnipresent desire to be a mother one day and I know she'd never get in the way of that - there are so many options today - in fact I even read an article about how children of lesbian couples statistically perform better academically and have a much greater level of mental well being - I'll toast to that! These are all bridges I'll (we'll) cross should we get to them but right now this is about she and I. Enjoying what we have and enjoying each other.
I do feel it's safe to say that what I feel for Josie is unlike what I've felt for anyone I've had a relationship with before - she my best friend first and foremost and my lover additionally. Her happiness is all I think of and all I want to achieve and if that's at the sacrifice of other's approval then so be it. If that stereotypes me then so be it. Nobody really knows how this is except us and if makes us feel so wonderful as it does then how can that really be wrong?
I'm going to end as Hanra did her article with a quote from "The Miseducation of Lauren Hill" as indeed it is very true, "You can love anybody, but when you're in love with somebody, you're taking that person for what he or she is, no matter what he or she look like or he or she do". Love can't be put into boxes and neither can we.