When I was a little baby gay, just emerging from her chrysalis of rural Ireland into the bright lights of Dublin city, I had no idea who I was. I mean, I knew I was gay. I knew that. I just had no idea how to be gay.
Back in 2000, when I first came out and came to the city, Dublin was a different place. There was one, maybe two, gay bars, in which lesbians were hard to find. I never really saw any, except in my college LGBT society, which for a long time I was too chicken to join. You would see the butch women in their 40’s just inside the door of The George, but they scared me. They were rude, bullish, and oddly sexist. I didn’t understand, and I was terrified of becoming like them. I only saw two options- be super femme in skirts and makeup or super butch with (frankly) bad hair and ill fitting mens clothes. Neither felt right for me.
Everyone had money, even the students, and drugs were literally everywhere. The fact I didn’t do them, nor really drink all that much, meant that I didn’t have much of an ‘in’ into the scene. And back then, the scene was the community, and vice versa.
I couldn’t see anyone older than me who looked or seemed like me. As much as I wanted to be able to get drunk, pick up a girl and have a one night stand… It wasn’t me. So I never did. I saw girls my age who were skinny, pierced, and “cool”, or middle aged desperate women who both loved and hated women in equal measure.
So now that I’m in my (gasp!) 30’s, I feel like its important to be visible to younger lesbians in particular. I’m me, and I’m pretty happy with how I look and dress, and act. I’m in a successful, happy, long term relationship. Sometimes when I’m talking to younger lesbians at events, I see their surprise when I say I’ve been with my partner for 10 years. It’s unusual in many circles. And after the surprise dies, I can see longing. Not for me, but for my situation. Out, happy, loved. Young lesbians need to see more of that, and not just the butches who treat other women like shit or who end up squaring up to each other for a pissing contest.
I’m not saying my life is perfect. Far from it. But I firmly believe that I have a responsibility to the next generation of queers to say “Look. When I was your age I hadn’t a clue who I was either. You’ll figure it out. But in the meantime, don’t be a dick.”