In July, Audrey and I went down to Dorset to visit my family and various of our friends. On one of our empty days – a miserable, rainy day, as most of them were, although the company helped soften the disappointment – we went to Weymouth Sealife Centre. We spent the afternoon wandering about, trying to get from building to building without soaking our shoes (nothing worse than wet socks), squealing over the garden eels (me) and otters (Audrey), and it was all very interesting, cute, other positive adjectives which mostly hide the fact that I was still sulking about the rain. However, I did forget about my hair dripping down my neck while reading the information at the penguins’ enclosure. Some of the penguins were in penguin relationships with other penguins, and there were little descriptions and summaries of the different couples. There were two or three opposite sex couples and, despite the fact that there were definitely other available males, despite the fact that there are fewer than 10,000 couples of this variety of penguin left in the world and the Sea Life Centre are involved in a breeding programme – one same sex penguin couple. Two females.
I was a bit excited by the lesbian penguins. Give me a break, I only came out in February, I’m still in the stage where everything relates back to the fact that after fifteen years of going backwards and forwards between outright denial, terrified acceptance which I shared with no one and attempts at compromises (just as hard for a gay Katie to try to be bi as straight, apparently), I GET TO BE OPENLY GAY AND IT’S AWESOME. Whoo. I am prepared to smile at people who give me weird looks for holding my girlfriend’s hand in public, to laugh at the memory of drinking a litre of mojito and baking a terribly drunken cinnamon and apple cake while waiting for my mother to reply to my coming out email, to wear a dress to Pride and engage in three days’ worth of banter with another of my friends over who is the crappiest lesbian, and post enthusiastically on queer blogs and campaigns, boring my friends by sharing the links on my Facebook page half the time. I have had an unbelievably easy ride so far too: I haven’t lost any friends, I’ve gained some new ones, my family don’t really care as long as I’m happy (my mum has undergone quite a radical transformation from the woman who told me ten years ago that she would never accept the partner of any child of hers who turned out to be gay because homosexuality was disgusting – she gets on with Audrey famously, they geek out over rocks together and everything. I’m not even kidding), and any homophobic abuse has been limited to the occasional group of teenage boys shouting “DYKES” at me and Audrey. Well yes, that’s sort of the point.
I love my family and am still rather attached to my home town, but I grew up in an environment where every ‘ism’ was acceptable – one of the whitest, most conservative areas of the country. My dad is openly racist, but doesn’t quite understand that it’s still damaging if he’s only joking. Mum, as I’ve said before, belonged to a very fundamentalist, notoriously homophobic branch of Christianity (thank goodness, most of the Christians I know aren’t anything like them!), and I grew up going to religious meetings with her. I have huge respect for the way she’s managed to shake off their influence on her, because it’s so hard to discard beliefs which have been forced down your neck for as long as you can remember. I should know, really, but I don’t. For some reason, the things I was taught at her meetings didn’t stick – maybe because I spent most of them sitting on the floor by her feet, colouring, and being so concerned that I was never asked to do a reading when my mum’s friend’s sons did them ALL THE TIME (but I’m so good at reading!) that I didn’t pay much attention to the content. When the first of my friends came out aged 14, I was just happy that he trusted me enough to tell me. It didn’t occur to me to think there was anything wrong with being gay. I was already fairly certain that I was by that age, but that was different, because I was different enough already (too tall, too clumsy, too geeky, too eager to place, too scared of authority, too poor for branded trainers, too emotional, too desperate for friendship, too anxious, too full of self hatred, and the rest is history) and I just didn’t think I could afford any more “otherness”. So there might have been a little internalised homophobia, but it wasn’t so much that I thought being my gay was wrong, more that I wasn’t strong enough to cope with the other people who WOULD think that.
Now, I’m not bothered about what the people close to me think, because if any of them have a problem with it, they’re hiding it well, and I’m sure I can win them over by posting cute pictures of me and Audrey and not appearing to be interested in creating an evil dictatorship bent on following The Gay Agenda (my gay agenda today: wash the bedding and towels, bake lemon and poppyseed cake, hoover the floor, walk Audrey home from work. Scary shit, isn’t it?). But I’m still really, really confused by things I stumble across online. I honestly don’t get how people can see being gay as a bad thing. I’m an agnostic at best these days, but I know the Bible fairly well from my childhood, and despite the fact that the guys my mum grew up with took Leviticus and Revelations pretty seriously, I always thought that if there was a God, it would be utterly illogical for Him to seriously disapprove of teh gayz. After all, the world is overpopulated and over capacity already, if He exists He’s probably not all that bothered about whether 5ish% of the population are less likely to reproduce on a planet that is already overpopulated and over capacity. I’m not hurting anyone, I’m happier and more at ease with myself than at any other time in my life, my partner says the same thing – I seriously don’t get why it’s a problem. I can reel off a list of the reasons people give when asked why it’s a problem, but I don’t understand how they can believe those things. Luckily, my friends and family seem to agree.
2012 was a good year to come out. I feel bad for my younger self – think of all the fun I could have had and the corresponding distress avoided if I’d been able to come out in 2002 or earlier, but if I had, I’m not sure my relationship with my family would have survived, and I probably wouldn’t have met Audrey either. And come on, who could disapprove of this?
(Credit to Eva Holstein of Eva Holstein Fotografie, sneaky but very talented friend who took pictures of Audrey and me at Pride behind our back – literally!)
If the penguins are wrong, I don’t want to be right.