My mum came out when I was 16 and at first it was a massive shock. She was a hardcore Rastafarian, with very strong beliefs about everything. Even though she wasn’t homophobic, it went against everything that she had been taught about relationships as a Rasta.
We both struggled in the beginning with her new way of life and the first moment I really started to accept her was when she said to me: “I am really struggling with this. I am in love with this woman, but my religion tells me it’s wrong, I don’t know what to do.”
In that moment, all of my worries and concerns about it faded and I looked at her really confused and said, “Mum, are you really going to let your religion tell you how you are supposed to be happy? There’s loads of things you don’t agree with anyway, so why would you let it dictate your happiness as well?”
She looked at me and said, “You’re right but what do I do? Cut off my locs?” I said, “No! They’re yours. I am sure you can formulate your own relationship with Jah and if you can’t, why should that affect the way you wear your hair?” She was very thankful after that and smiled a lot. We laughed as we were having this conversation because we were listening to Sizzla and his famous line from his first album, ‘Rasta nah mixup with homo’, came on.
Right in that moment I said to her: “See, do you really need this negativity?” She laughed and said no.
That was the start of my journey of full acceptance of my mum, this super strong black woman of mixed-heritage embracing her love for women.
I have often wondered whether my mum’s sexuality had impacted on me or influenced me at all growing up and I suppose it’s something I will never really know. What I can say is, I have always been different. I was the girl who hated dolls and played with action men. I was the girl who swapped skipping ropes for footballs. I have always been one of the lads or one of the man-dem. Always been called a tomboy, always loved the colour blue, wrestling, hardcore contact sports, hip hop over R’n’B and all of those stereotypical things associated with lesbians, but I had never even considered having a girlfriend.
“I have often wondered whether my mum’s sexuality had impacted on me or influenced me at all growing up and I suppose it’s something I will never really know.”
As a human I have always been an advocate and very supportive of the LGBTQIA community, unaware that I too was embarking on my own journey of ‘coming out’. My first experience was when I was 23 years old and I had a short-term relationship with my then best friend. It ended when I left London and moved to Birmingham for a couple of years and we went back to being friends. That experience opened my mind significantly and while I wasn’t actively looking for more ‘lesbian experiences’, I certainly was not closed to them.
I still remember that first time, when I was 23, thinking: “If I can do this, if I can kiss her and not throw up, it will be a miracle.” Obviously I didn’t throw up! In fact it went a lot further than just a kiss and the whole experience completely blew my mind. I never became comfortable with it at all and it made me feel really vulnerable.
After that experience I embraced being with men more than ever, but the funny thing was, it’s like they all knew! Every man that I ever slept with would always ask the exact same question after sex, “So can I ask, you have definitely been with a woman haven’t you?” I would think, ‘huh? How the hell do they know??’
My last relationship with a man ended when I was 31. I knew when that ended it wasn’t just the end of that relationship; it was the end of relationships with men altogether. It didn’t feel like, “I’ve had enough of men, so now I want a woman”, it felt like, “Oh my god, I get it!” I became happy within myself. I was fully starting to accept myself. I was falling unconditionally in love with myself and I realised I didn’t need anyone to make me happy.
“My last relationship with a man ended when I was 31. I knew when that ended it wasn’t just the end of that relationship; it was the end of relationships with men altogether.”
As cliché as it sounds, that’s when it happened! They came out of nowhere. Women of all shapes, sizes, colours, classes, straight, gay, bi, questioning; they were everywhere! And they all wanted to make out with me! ME!? I was on cloud nine. All these women were around me and were having their own curious experiences, I guess, and I was in such a secure place that I was more than happy to assist, without catching feelings. I think if I had been really patient with myself and my journey, maybe I would have got there a lot sooner. But I’m glad I got there when I did otherwise I probably wouldn’t have met my love, and she definitely was worth waiting for.
I enjoyed the constant female attention with no strings attached, until I saw her. The love of my life blindsided me in a way that is difficult to find words for. She literally came out of nowhere and I fell in-love so quickly and so deeply that it scared the hell out of me. That was it – I knew it in that moment that this is the person that I want to share my life with. To have that feeling and it be reciprocated was unimaginable. But to have that feeling with a woman made me anxious because I had to face the people.
Unlike most of my friends, I am extremely lucky and didn’t have any chance of having a horrendous ‘coming out’ experience. The fact that my mum is gay, my cousin is gay, my sisters couldn’t care less, my best male friends are gay and most of my female friends are liberal and/or have had their own experiences, meant that wasn’t the issue for me.
The issue for me was facing a world that had told me I was gay from day dot, when I protested heavily for years. I felt like my ego was about to take the biggest headshot ever! I kept telling myself to suck it up because this is the better end of the deal. While I am very grateful, it still felt like I had something to prove. For years I had people telling me that I was something I believed I wasn’t. Calling me a dyke, a lemon, mistaking me for a boy. I had this all my life from as young as I can remember and now I was about to prove them all right! It hurt, but I’m almost over it now.
Introducing my lady to my friends and family was actually a lot easier than I had feared as well. They were sarcastic, and told me that they already knew. But they also told me how stunning my girlfriend is, and how happy they were for me. Now, it annoys me that I had cared all of these years about what people thought of me. How is it that these same people who were happy with my decision, governed my choice of skinny jeans or boy-fits over the slims, tapered or drop-crotch jeans in the men’s section? How did they make me choose the low cut small T-shirt over the medium round neck men’s one? Why did I allow them to do this to me? But wait, all of these people all just said how happy they are for me that I am happy, so if they’re happy that I’m happy, are they really the ones governing me?
“Introducing my lady to my friends and family was actually a lot easier than I had feared as well.”
Some of the biggest lessons I have learnt along my journey are, stay open-minded. We all have what’s called a ‘Blind Window’, and sometimes people can see things about us that we either can’t or don’t want to see. So stay open, listen and feel what your gut tells you. Be patient with self. The journey of self is a lifelong lesson. It’s impossible to peel away all of the layers of the onion without stopping to cry before looking at the rest. One thing I did too much in my early 20s was conform. I thought I was not conforming by doing what all of the other non-conformists were doing which is not very agency at all. I wish I had the courage I do now to dress how I wanted, wear my hair how I wanted and to just be.
So, with all that said, if there is anything I can say to anyone who is unsure about themselves, scared to be different, not sure why they are gender-fluid or that it’s even a thing, scared to be a trans man or trans woman, do not waste your time trying to be the same as everybody else. There is beauty in difference, and when you can truly be yourself, you will be happy. Do not underestimate the importance of your mental health. We all need a mind gym, a mental spa and food for thought. So, start today, by putting yourself first because your mental health should be your number one priority.