It took me a long time, but I’ve finally fallen in love with being gay

I was lying awake the other night, thinking about death, when I realised something big. Of all the things I could be reincarnated as – a tapeworm, a dung beetle, a writer (again) – the thing I most fear is coming back as straight. Honestly, the idea sends a shiver down my spine. Because, no disrespect to my straight friends, but I don’t know how they get through the day. Straight women, in particular. I don’t understand how they go through life, dealing with the whole power dynamic in opposite-sex relationships, without even the option of dating other women. I don’t think I could hack it, and they have my utmost respect.

It’s not just the romantic side of things, though – over the years, being gay has shifted my entire worldview. It’s made me think twice about every social norm, from the nuclear family to uncomfortable footwear. And I’m not saying that all straight people lack the imagination to challenge these things too, but being gay really helps. Recently, it dawned on me that I’m perfectly within my right to shop for clothes in the men’s section, and that in itself has been a revelation. Again, I know straight women who do this. But when it comes to wearing “men’s” clothes with any real ease and confidence, being a lesbian just helps.

Ultimately, what I realised as I lay in bed is that I’ve fallen in love with being gay. And this is something that’s taken me a long, long time. A lot like learning to appreciate blue cheese, it’s been a slow burn. But I’ve always found that the tastes you have to acquire are the ones you become the most obsessed with, and protective of.

When I was 21, 13 years ago, I hated being gay. I even wrote an article about the isolation and frustration I felt after coming out for this same publication. It came from a place of hurt, and I regret having written it. I’d just finished uni and, despite having lived in Brighton for three years, I had hardly any queer friends. My first relationship with a girl had lasted a couple of months and, although it was some of the best fun I’d ever had, it ended badly. I took my heartbreak and anger out on my sexuality. I was determined to “pass” as straight, and could only bring myself to wear my first of many pairs of DMs with a floral tea dress (thank you, 2010). Mentally, I was in no place to write about being gay. Not publicly, anyway.

Recently though, I got an email from someone telling me she identified with that article. She told me that, for her, being gay was still a struggle. Mid-culture wars; mid moral-panic in which we’re – just like during the bad old days of section 28 – being accused of “grooming” children, queer people are still struggling and that should come as no surprise. But to hate ourselves, rather than those who hate us for no good reason, is a tragedy.

The sender asked me how I’d managed to make being gay work for me, and – in my reply – I told her it was the people. In my early 20s, I moved back to London and discovered the lesbian scene there. It was the golden age of Dalston, in east London, and I went to club nights with names like “Twat Boutique”. I made a tonne of new, queer friends, and to every single one of them, I owe my happiness as a gay woman. Their confidence became mine. To every woman I dated (even the ones who dumped me), to every gender bender I danced badly with, and to every gorgeous butch elder who consoled me in a toilet queue when I was sad about a woman who dumped me, I thank you from the bottom of my gay little heart. At the risk of this sounding like an acceptance speech for the “good for her, she’s wearing a tux” Oscar, I’d also like to thank the beautiful woman I’m engaged to, for obvious reasons.

I forgive the young woman who wrote that original article, and I hope you can too. That is, anyone who may have been upset or influenced by the writing of someone in so much pain. I only wish I could put my arm around her and tell her how happy she’s going to be.

  • Eleanor Margolis is a columnist for the i newspaper and Diva

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