Sexuality

Self-acceptance – a constant battle – Caitlin Alexander

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In my previous blog, I wrote about my struggle with realising my sexuality. Realising one’s sexuality is difficult in itself but accepting it can be even more so. 

I have always been a bit of a sceptic, constantly questioning others’ thoughts, beliefs and morals, as well as interrogating the institution and social structure generally. I think that this has caused me to be a little more “in my own head” and introspective, caring too much about what people think about me. Due to this, I found it challenging, and still do sometimes, to accept myself. 

I believe that the reasons for my difficulty in realising my sexuality and my struggle to accept it are very interconnected and there is definitely a blurred line between the two. I discuss these reasons below:

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Heteronormativity

Sexuality is not something that we can choose but it is certainly something that we can choose to educate people on, and should chose to educate people on. I remember from Primary 1 in school, at the age of 5 or 6, learning about Islam, Hinduism, Christianity – being taught to accept other races and cultures. It baffles me that this inclusivity did not extend to learning about other sexualities. I assume that this is because of the common trope of “we really shouldn’t push sexuality on children” yet, I could never have a male friend without everybody assuming that we were in a relationship. Seems like pushing sexuality to me…

I don’t remember really being told that same-sex attraction was wrong but I definitely had never heard that it was okay. That’s the thing, though, heteronormativity is so normal, so entrenched, that we don’t even realise the agenda that’s being pushed.It was these subtle things that really mess with your head as a child. Due to being at such an impressionable age, I remember everything that was said that was subtly anti-LGBT.

It is often opined that lesbianism is just a backlash against men, in the same way that feminism is seen to be, as opposed to being based on same-sex romantic/sexual desire. Almost as if it is not a legitimate identity but just a way to annoy men. 

As I said in my previous blog, heteronormativity goes a long way to alienate feelings which do not fit within the sexuality binary, adding to internalised homophobia. Self-acceptance, therefore, requires to you break down everything you have been taught about relationships and feelings and forces you to re-educate yourself. 

Difficulty relating to other queer people

Growing up, I can’t remember seeing a single queer woman in the media that did not meet the stereotypical hypermasculine definition of a lesbian. This caused me some difficulty in terms of self-acceptance and I pondered with the question of “am I not gay enough?”, or “is there a correct way to be gay?”.

Similarly, the lesbians on TV seem to come out of the womb just knowing that they are gay. For me, this made me believe that my difficulty in realising my sexuality somehow made me less gay.

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Subtle Homophobia/Stereotyping

I completely acknowledge my privilege in not being subjected to blatant or violent homophobic abuse however, ever since I have been open about my sexuality, I have experienced really subtle microaggressions in everyday life. I am unsure whether these people are homophobic or just plain ignorant, nonetheless, it is incredibly tiring to hear all the time. 

For example, I’ve had people say things like “I always knew you were gay – you played football and dressed like a boy”. This plays into the stereotype that all lesbians are “butch” and play sports. These views are incredibly antiquated, restrictive and just not at all correct. Sexuality is just one part of someone’s identity and things like fashion sense and personal interests do not necessarily have to be related. 

I have also had people asking, in reference to myself and my girlfriend, “which one of you Is the man?”. Of course, the future of the patriarchy depends on the presence of a man in the relationship or, at the very least, a power imbalance. HOW CAN ANYBODY POSSIBLY FATHOM A WORLD IN WHICH STRAIGHT MEN ARE NOT PART OF EVERYTHING ALL OF THE TIME?!

In addition, I get asked all the time if I have a boyfriend and when I answer that I have a girlfriend, I get “oh, that’s weird” or “I did not expect that from you”. Again, this is just heteronormativity at its finest, assuming that everybody is straight. 

I can’t even count the amount of times that I have, for example, been holding hands with a girlfriend in the street and been wolf-whistled or beeped at by men. This is blatant sexualisation of female relationships. This male-centric society dictates that lesbian relationships are just for the pleasure of men. We depict lesbian relationships as for the male gaze, empowering men and objectifying women.

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Self-acceptance, kind of…

Growing up, heterosexuality was the default sexuality, but I now accept that it is not the only legitimate sexuality. After years of having my voice suppressed by society, I will no longer allow myself to be silenced. I am past the point of caring if people think that I am a man-hater. I am past the point of caring if people think that I am not normal. I am past the point of caring if people think that, by speaking out, I am trying to proselytise.

Through years of questioning myself and the structure, overcoming my own mental health issues and internal homophobia, I finally got to the stage where I am not ashamed to be queer. There is certainly some way to go between not feeling ashamed and self-acceptance however this is a work in progress and I am incredibly proud of how far I have come. 

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Caitlin Alexander

Caitlin is currently a Trainee Solicitor, working mainly in Immigration Law. She is a passionate advocate for many Human Rights causes, using her spare time to volunteer with minority groups as well as teach sexual violence workshops on university campus. 


Cover image by Yoav Hornung on Unsplash

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