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How I procrastinated my sexual identity

12 mins read
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by Morven Archbold

We’ve all seen those indie movies with the acoustic soundtracks and the sad gay kid who smokes a lot of cigarettes, says some deep and meaningful quotes, and then comes out to their parents in a tear-jerker of a scene where the parents profess their love and acceptance.

It’s good entertainment (if you like that sort of thing), but, to me at least, not a desirable situation.

And it’s not just because smoking is bad for you, it’s more that the drama of that scenario has never appealed to me.

If you know me, you may have to suspend your disbelief on that one, but it’s true.

I’ve composed many a Facebook status in my head in which I liken my sexuality to the texture of my hair (never straight), or faux-bashfully confess that, at age 19, I can no longer fall back on the excuse that boys have ‘cooties’.

If someone were to ever point-blank ask if I’m gay, in my head I respond with ‘positively joyous, thank you for asking’.

In fact, when I did come out to my current flatmates, it was in the same breath as my announcement that I was going to marry Kate McKinnon, followed by a fake swoon onto the sofa.

In my head, when I come out, I’m as flippantly cool as the Vogue girl of Spring/Summer 2017. I’m at ease, I laugh off the awkwardness, and I’m dressed really cute.

Historically, however, the topic of my sexuality has been anything but something to shrug off.

My most vivid memory of being 14 is sobbing in the shower after reading the first Pretty Little Liars book.

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I bought the book because I wanted a good mystery story, and instead I received an existential crisis in easily portable Kindle format (it was, in retrospect, great value for money).

As Emily explored her sexuality, I was more and more uncomfortably aware of the parallels between her thought processes and my own.

Before this, the concept of being gay was only ever spoken of in the context of dodgy insults, but now it was more immediate and more real to me than it ever had been, and I was decidedly not happy about it.

I cried for a solid half hour, mourning the fact that I’d never be normal again. I would be a social pariah!

I would be shunned from polite society! My future plan to marry a rich celebrity/ prince was in tatters! This situation was not ideal, so I set up camp on the eastern bank of denial, deciding that the best solution to dealing with a situation one is uncomfortable with is to simply ignore it.

To 14-year-old Mo, this seemed like a solid plan of which no bad things could come.

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By 15 I had successfully repressed all of this into near nonexistence.

I had carefully gone through the boys in my year and picked the most suitable one to fancy, and, of course, since I fancied a boy there was no chance I could be gay.

It was at this age that I first discovered angry feminism, which made me distinctly unattractive to all the boys in my year, which is why I was never asked out.

“If I was asked out then of course I would say yes:, I would exclaim, “but I could only date a boy who shares my political opinions!”

This was a genius safeguard, because not a single one did, or else they were too constrained by performative masculinity to admit it.

Alongside my feminism, I was very vocally supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, and I would frequently profess that If I were gay (‘which I’m not’, I would assure my uninterested peers) then I would want to have marriage equality!

I imagine the whole thing got very annoying, and to this day I have no idea how no one made the logical assumption that I was chronically closeted.

But the point is, at 15, the idea of being gay was so loathsome to me that I managed to completely suppress any and all tendencies I had in that direction, to the point where I even forgot the fact that I’d already figured out that I was gay.

At 17, for the first time, I was asked out by a boy. I had known that he liked me for almost a year, but I had been blatantly ignoring this detail in the hopes that it might go away (a move that some of my friends now call ‘doing a Morven’).

It’s not that I was ignoring him completely, we had hung out on occasion and I enjoyed his conversation, his company, and (best of all) his politics.

He was perfectly nice and we had a lot in common, but when my friends would ask why I didn’t like him back, I would be at a loss for an answer.

By all accounts I should like him. After an awkward “I think we should just be friends” exchange at the end of school party, one of his friends asked me if I even liked guys. I said yes, but the exchange kept replaying in my head and making me feel uneasy.

By nature I’m not comfortable with lying, and it felt as though I’d told a blatant falsehood right to her face.

By this point I’d adopted a hippy, free love, labels don’t matter mentality, answering any questions about my sexuality with vague hand gestures and some fluffy sentiments about just going with the flow.

So my unease at this particular exchange was unfathomable to me, and like all unfathomable and inconvenient feelings I promptly buried it and forgot all about it.

When I came to university, I was all set to just continue with the hand waving, but when you’ve been asked out by (and awkwardly rejected) enough guys that you can no longer say that your disinterest lies with the individual, you realise it’s time to think things through a bit more carefully.

I settled on gay as an identifier last summer, and by simply looking at some past episodes in my life through a new lens, I realised just how much I’d managed to box up and store away in the dustiest crevices of my subconscious.

If it wasn’t concerning, I’d almost say it was impressive.

Just a few days before writing this, I told my Mum.

I meant to say something in person, but I guess I just got too much in my own head about it, or I couldn’t envisage a face to face conversation that didn’t feel too melodramatic and indie movie-esque.

At any rate I didn’t say anything in person. Instead, I wrote out an off the cuff Facebook message to which she responded exactly how I expected she would (with love and acceptance), and that was that.

It still felt somewhat overly dramatic, but that’s the nature of announcements in general, I suppose.

When I told my wee sister she responded with a meme, and honestly I think that’s all the ceremony the situation required.

I’m not trying to say that in and of itself – coming out shouldn’t be a big deal.

I understand that it’s an important step for so many people and that for some people it has so many more complications than it’s had for me.

However, in my experience, I think I’m simply so embarrassed by how long it’s taken for me to come to terms with it (and all the dramatics that have come hand in hand), that I don’t really want to dwell on it any longer, I want to move on and be able to make stupid jokes about it already.

And I never want to have to awkwardly um my way through a rejection, I’d much rather just quote Kristen Stewart with an ‘I’m like soo gay, dude’ and not have to avoid any other poor bewildered souls on campus.

My flippancy on this matter is no indication of how hard it has been to push past the nonsense and get to this point, and it by no means indicates that any and all angst on this subject is behind me, but I will take conversations about my sexuality seriously over my own dead body, and I’m proud that I’ve reached a place where that’s possible.

So on this occasion, I am positively joyous, thank you for asking.

The Features section of Brig, Stirling University's student newspaper.

Editors: Elizabeth Ross & Warren Hardie

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