Coming Out is Hard. Coming Out Again is Harder.

The LGBT+ community has always been heavily centred around the idea of labels and identities. It makes complete sense; we spend years dealing with the internal strife of who we are and what our feelings mean. We toil away at the task in hand, chipping blocks off our hearts until we’re able to mould our emotions into something we understand, something that makes sense to us. But what happens when all that hard work is fruitless? When the conclusions we draw aren’t necessarily the ones which feel right, the focus on labelling and coming out feels restrictive, stifling, unnecessary almost.

It’s a difficult line to tread. The community constantly has to try and balance the rejection of binary conceptions of identity and the comfort that some people find in those very ideas. We preach that it’s okay to question yourself at the same time as we wear the stripes of our individual labels. It’s an impossible dichotomy, and one that I don’t have the answer to, nor do I think I ever will. I also think each option can be equally valid in different ways, depending upon how you feel most comfortable.

What is clear though, is the importance of distinct identities to the formation of our communities. It is invaluable to have ways to relate to each other, because as with all marginalised groups, solidarity should be at the centre. Identifying as LGBT+ for the first time means we suddenly acquire a whole new social environment that we perhaps didn’t encounter before. It’s a type of socialisation that feels right, special, easier. We can relate on levels we can’t with others, sharing both issues and celebrations with people that can truly empathise. 

For me though, labels have always been restrictive. I often say that I feel coming out was taken away from me, as being from a small town where there really wasn’t many visibly LGBT+ people growing up people pushed me into the box they thought fit me the best. I went along with that, because when you can’t see past an opaque wall you just take what’s in your field of vision. It didn’t help that my field of vision had a very limited LGBT+ media presence and no lesbian role models, or even friends, either.

So much of the coming out narrative is associated with gay panic and being a young teen. There are a lot of ways in which that is unhelpful, but for me personally it became a much bigger problem when I felt the need to come out again at the age of 20, with a new label. I didn’t know how to think about myself in a way that wasn’t steeped in fear and apprehension of acceptance. Everyone already knew I was queer, I’d already told my parents I wasn’t straight, already gone public about being a member of the LGBT+ community. For me this second coming out was way more centred in self-doubt, the worry of fulfilling stereotypes, and to be frank, embarrassment.

I thought coming out again meant that I’d done something wrong. I concluded time and time again that I should just live with my mistake, because what does it matter anyway if people consider me bisexual or a lesbian? I could just go on never dating men again, and I really doubt anyone would have said a word. The bisexual community faces constant attack for just being a “phase”, and for being reserved for quirky white girls who kiss other quirky white girls when they’re drunk, and I felt so guilty for the possibility that I’d contributed to the perpetuation of this stereotype, even in a minor way. 

If I’m honest, I’m still not 100% sure why I felt the urge to come out again. I’ve never been the kind of person who has felt like labels are for her, which is something I’ve always wished I could have. There are many many problems with the word queer, hence I couldn’t ever feel fully comfortable using it as an identity, but it’s a pretty good summary of how I feel. I think the real reason is that I felt like I was lying to myself, and to some extent, to others. I knew bisexuality didn’t fit for me, and as someone who is pretty engaged with activism I felt uncomfortable trying to fight for a community I just didn’t feel a part of.

I am (trying to be) a proud lesbian. I am not always successful, and I still cringe when I say it to people who knew me before. I struggle to put into words why things have changed, and tend to just go quiet when people bring up exes who identified as men. But, at the same time, I feel my most genuine now. My past experiences and feelings aren’t neccessarily invalid, they’re just the opposite of my current experiences and feelings. Just like how I used to like Black Veil Brides, and now listening to that shit makes my ears bleed, I used to like boys, and you can fill in the end of that sentence for yourself.

Identities are complex and diverse, making them prisons for some and homes for others. I see myself somewhere in the middle; somewhat comfortable and aiming to be content.

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What Does It Mean to Be Settled? // Year Abroad Diaries #002

I’ve written quite a few other things that are a lot more intellectual than this is going to be, but my brain is far too big of a bowl of alphabet soup right now to even think about editing them. Also I’ve spent so long using a French keyboard at work now that I’m losing the ability to touch type on a British keyboard, and fuck trying to navigate writing something important when I make typos every other word.

I don’t want to say it too soon… but I think I’ve settled? I moved over here 4.5 weeks ago now and on Monday I have my 1 month review for my internship, so I guess my roots are firmly down now. I finally have a bank card (although not a PIN number, but at this point I’m past caring), a library card, a volunteering post and I know where I go to do my food shopping. It feels really nice to not feel like a constant outsider, confused by anything and everything.

But, being settled is more than just acquiring all of the things you need to exist as a person. It’s finally feeling comfortable in going about your daily life, not having to rehearse everything you’re going to say or do in your head before you do it. It’s coming back to wherever “home” is, however temporary, at the end of the day and feeling like you can rest comfortably. It’s making new memories in your new space, and it feeling not like a holiday but a period of your life in a different place.

That’s why I really feel settled. Yes, it’s nice knowing how to get to Lidl without Google Maps and where the nicest park is to run around in the evenings. But taking ownership of my little chunk of Paris and feeling like I belong in it is way more important to me, probably because community has always been part of me. I’m not built for just being in a place without giving it something in return, I never have been. That’s why I spent the evening teaching a little boy English verbs and making my best attempt at teaching comprehension in Spanish to a teenage girl. The latter was such a challenge and slightly chaotic at times, but another volunteer coming up to me at the end and saying “ton espagnol est impressionant” was the ultimate satisfaction, alongside her finally understanding what I was trying to tell her about colonialism in some bastardized French-Spanish hybrid.

No, it’s not my life in Durham, the life I truly love. But like, that’s fine for now? I’m missing out on some fun things in the next few weeks, and I can’t just sleep til midday whenever I want to, but I also get to do all these different cool things that I’d never get to do in the UK. Also, the linguistic payoff is second to none. There is literally nothing more satisfying as a linguist than “tu parles très bien français” or “tu español es bueno, no te preocupes”, even if I’ve tripped myself up linguistically 5 times in the conversation before. I thought by now I’d be over that feeling, but tbh I’ve been learning languages for half of my life and it hasn’t got boring yet.

Next step, continuing my quest to make friends and discover Paris beyond my quartier. Updates to come I guess !!

-Megan, listening to Hamilton (ok but I started listening to this whilst doing a Very Important Audit today at work and I felt a bit less ridiculous about the fact that Very Important Things are part of my life now)

My Relationship With Reading

I learned to read long before I went to school. My parents used to drive to our seaside holidays down South overnight in hopes my brother and I would sleep on the journey, yet I read in the light of car headlights driving by. By the age of 10 every librarian in my local library knew me by name. Yet since I started second year I’ve only read 2 non-academic books; what the hell happened?

As a child I was completely addicted to reading. I remember sitting up until midnight just trying to get to the end of whatever book I’d checked out of the library that week. My Dad would hear that I still had my radio on (because I was a weird kid that listened to the radio to fall asleep) and see my lights on when he was heading to bed, only to be met with the excuse of “I’ve only got a few more pages”. Sunday afternoons were reserved for going to the library and coming out with an armful of books, to the point where I was bored of the kids section and had moved onto the teenage section way earlier than was probably sensible. I loved escaping into a different reality and learning about different lives as I went, feeling as if I were worlds away from the very homogeneous environment that is rural Cumbria.

When I eventually got to secondary school I was suddenly made aware that I was a massive nerd. Reading a lot was a bit of an add on to the fact that I succeeded in school and was a tad of a teacher’s pet at times. For a while I flirted with the “yeah God reading is so uncool” thing and followed along with everyone else in denouncing books (which probably coincided with the emo phase I’m definitely not secretly still in). It obviously didn’t last very long, because I found social media and a whole community of people in Booktube that adore reading as much as I did.

But, since Sixth Form, I really haven’t read that much. I struggle to get through more than a couple of non-academic books in a term, which is quite surprising considering that a large part of my degree is reading, it just happens to not be in English anymore. In 2017 I only read 13 books. When I was 13 I’d have gotten through that in 2 months.

The thing is though that I don’t think I’ve necessarily fallen out of love with reading. When travelling I usually spend all of my flight time with a book in hand, and tend to take one out on my Metro journeys. I love waking up on a Sunday morning with a small workload and rain outside lending itself to lazing around in bed with strong coffee and a good read. I think the honest truth is that I just need to make more time for it, rather than spending the little time I have at home watching Netflix and oversleeping.

In conclusion: books are good and I want to read more of them in 2019. For some reason, I’ve pledged to read 40. If you want to watch me fail at that then you can check out my Goodreads, and if you’re interested in book-related posts; let me know!

-Megan, listening to The Wombats on Christmas Eve like a 15 year old anti-festivity indie stereotype

2019 Goals

I wish I could say I hated clichés, but the reality just isn’t true. Surely if millions of people do something they can’t be wrong, right? (I mean, thousands of people elected a Tory government and they certainly weren’t right, but the idea fits the narrative of this post so forget the actual logic here)

Today’s cliché is making goals for 2019. I’m writing these out on the 2nd of January, as for New Year’s Eve I ended up choosing to go to a party with Alex at the last minute. It was a fantastic night and I had a great time, but unsurprisingly had a little bit of a bad head yesterday and had to wait until today to start on my goals. I feel like that’s not just me though, New Year’s Day definitely doesn’t count.

1. Complete dry January
One of my friends from back home has done this before and is choosing to do so again, and this year I’ve decided to join him. As a university student drinking culture is literally everywhere, meaning I usually waste a lot of time and money on being drunk or hungover, and I’m getting a bit bored of it. There are certain situations I enjoy more with a drink sure (clubbing Meg, you mean clubbing, because you’re far too anxious to do it sober), but most times I don’t really need to be drinking. I also have a lot of uni work due in at the end of this month (which I definitely haven’t started oops), so I don’t have time to be spending days hungover at the moment.

2. Run 10k
I’ve been into fitness for quite a while, but over the winter period I abandoned running completely. Back in the summer I was capable of running around 7km and was really building up to getting to my longtime goal of a 10k race. However, now I’m struggling to even do a basic 5k, because I’ve been neglecting cardio and opting for weights and toning work. I loved running when I was into it though, so I’m going to get myself signed up for a 10k race and start training.

3. Read 40 books
This is a very silly goal. In 2018 I read 29 books, the most in a lot of years. So obviously the most natural thing is to decide to read way more than I’ve read in a year since I was probably about 14. Amazing job Megan.

4. Stop buying from Amazon
Amazon are an absolutely terrible company. Their record on workers’ rights is nothing short of shocking, and since I finally got around to joining a union on New Year’s Day (really it was about all I achieved that day) I’d feel like a huge hypocrite if I kept supporting such a parasitic company. They’re also horrifically bad for the environment. I’m going to finish reading what books I’ve already bought on the Kindle app then hopefully find a new option for ereading, if anyone has any ideas let me know!

5. Take a photo everyday
This time last year I decided to post everyday on Instagram. It lasted a few months, but I soon learned that my life really isn’t exciting enough to make it Insta-worthy every single day. As a result I just stopped taking pictures, which is quite frankly a bit dumb for someone like me who spends half of their life looking back at old pictures because they can’t remember what happened yesterday, let alone years ago. So I thought fuck it, I’m taking photos for me now, the sillier the better.

6. Become a better activist by learning from others & campaigning more
I’m a bit of a lefty guys, it’s no secret if you follow my Twitter. At the end of last year I started campaigning for the Labour Party and I absolutely love doing it. It’s fantastic to get out on the doorstep and talk to people about why I believe what I do, and with the likelihood of a General Election this year it’s going to be more important than ever if we want to elect a Labour government. I’d also like to keep being involved in student politics before I head out on my year abroad, and hopefully get involved in the trade union I just joined. I just want people to have better lives, it’s really quite simple.

7. Practice my languages more
For someone who’s probably moving to South America at the end of the year, my Spanish really isn’t all that great. Or rather, I have zero confidence in speaking it whatsoever. I need to read and watch more in my non-native languages, as well as try and seek out more opportunities for speaking practice (I’m looking at you Amy, we need to reinstate cuppa & French/Spanish chats). I wish learning a fourth language was on this list, because after Milan and Berlin I’m absolutely dying to learn Italian or German, but I need to be patient and get good at the three I already speak.

 

I think that’s all. It sounds ridiculous to say this at such an early point in the year, but I have a good feeling about 2019. I’m in a very good place, and have so many exciting travels planned, which is all I could ever ask for really. What are your main goals this year?

-Megan, listening to a playlist entitled “Alternative Love Songs” (no, I’m not sure why either)

My Top 10 Albums Of All Time

Hello lovely people!

Now that I’ve discussed how broad my music taste is I thought I’d go a little deeper. As much as I love the personal approach to creating my own playlists I also love getting in artists’ heads. As a result I’m big on albums; I love seeing thematic progression, concept albums and development over the years. So I thought I’d choose my top 10 albums of all time, which may have been some of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made.

top 10 albums

1. Courteeners – St. Jude (2008)
What a debut. From the moment I heard it this album was on repeat, as it’s filled with quick and catchy songs that I can’t help but adore. The references to places in Manchester and Liam Fray’s unashamedly Northern vocals also mean the album feels homely for me, as it always brings me back to my North Western roots. More than anything I love this album because it reminds me of my friends, feels somewhat coming of age, and has big Truck Festival memories.

Top lyric – “Can you play the guitar my boy? Can you fuck” 

2. All Time Low – So Wrong, It’s Right (2008)
I am still bitter that I didn’t see this live when they played it in full last year, because this album truly means everything to me. It’s been in the background of every heartbreak, party, breakdown and celebration for the last 8 years, and for that I had to include it. Every song is the epitome of classic pop punk and I love that. Also, I have lyrics from Dear Maria, Count Me In inked on my arm forever (a song about a stripper, aka my favourite way to introduce my tattoo), so I guess it makes sense that I love it.

Top lyric – “Take a breath and let the rest come easy”

3. Enter Shikari – A Flash Flood of Colour (2012)
This had to be included for its lyrical content alone. From my own understanding the underlying theme of this album is that our society is being destroyed by the systems which govern it and it’s up to us to stand up to that. The mix of metal vocals and drum & bass is the perfect way to convey this – Shikari are angry and it’s very obvious. This album always fires me up and reminds me what I believe in.

Top lyric – “Fuck all borders and fuck all boundaries, fuck all flags and fuck nationalities” & “Money is made when bombs are dropping in Afghanistan, when white phosphorus falls in Palestine” (I just had to pick two)

4. Moose Blood – I’ll Keep You in Mind From Time to Time (2014)
Oh boy, here we go. I’ve touched on this before, but I’m going to be honest here. This album was what kept me alive in 2015, which sounds very dramatic, but it’s true. I went through a very dark time with my mental health and this album was on repeat throughout the whole thing, to the point where I really struggled to listen to it until this year. It has a very different meaning to me now, as I’ve recently bonded with a lot of people over the band and their music, but my initial connection still stands.

Top lyric – “Let me hold your hand, we can talk about our favourite bands and how nevermind still blows me away”

5. Twin Atlantic – The Great Divide (2015)
In the words of my friend Callum “every song is a banger”. This album has been a constant favourite for the last year especially, culminating in seeing the band live the day after I finished my exams. It’s a good old fashioned perfect rock album, with Twin’s personal Scottish twist.

Top lyric – “Music is my therapy, I could listen to it all night long”

6. We Are Scientists – With Love and Squalor (2005)
This is an album I first listened to in order to impress my ex-boyfriend, no shame. I’m so glad I did listen though, because I love every single track on this album. I think the songs perfectly represent the band’s fun (drunk) approach to life, and I love the heavier undertones that has been a little lost in their more recent albums. There’s some real crowd pleasers in there too, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of these songs live. I also associate a lot of them with the happier memories of that past relationship, which is always nice.

Top lyric – “I would really love to kiss you, but I guess I’m in no condition to”

7. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)
3 words: Ultimate Breakup Album. It conveys perfectly every different side of falling in and out of love, along with some top quality musical style at the same time. Obviously you’ve got some really iconic songs on there too, that have been and will continue to be covered for many years to come. Also it reminds me of my college wife Oana so there’s the soppy meaning (ain’t never gonna stop loving you… biiiiiitch).

Top lyric – “Open your eyes and look at the day, you’ll see things in a different way”

8. Rent Original Broadway Cast Recording (1996)
I’ll admit that this doesn’t really count as a stand alone album, being that it’s essentially just the musical in CD form, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love it. For the last year I’ve been absolutely obsessed with Rent, because I love everything from the characters to the way it portrays AIDS and it’s diversity. At the time of it’s release it was one of the first rock musicals, so the fact that Jonathan Larson took my favourite genre and incorporated it into broadway is probably the main reason I’m so into it.

Top lyric – “To faggots, lezzies, dykes, crossdressers too”

9. Alter Bridge – Fortress (2013)
Alter Bridge are arguably one of the most underrated bands in rock at the moment, and Fortress has to be my favourite of their pretty extensive back catalogue. It’s one of their heavier albums, and contains some of my favourite riffs of all time from the guitar God that is Mark Tremonti (Cry of Achilles, what an opener). I also love that we got vocals from Tremonti for the first time on Waters Rising, as he’s definitely shown through his solo stuff that he’s got a real talent there too.

Top lyric – “There’ll come a time you’ll look back and regret when it’s gone,
you’ll look back and regret when it’s gone”

10. My Chemical Romance – Welcome to the Black Parade (2006)
Absolute guilty pleasure and I’m not even afraid to admit it. Once you get past it being a complete emo classic, this is genuinely a very good concept album. That whole era of the band was really well designed and sustained, and of course you’ve got some classic songs to go along with it. And of course, it reminds me beautifully of being 14 and it “not being a phase” (I mean, it clearly wasn’t considering I’m still sat here 5 years later).

Top lyric – “And though you’re dead and gone, believe me your memory will carry on”

Now, I’m going to have to do an “honourable mentions” list too, because narrowing it down to just 10 was far too difficult. Most of these albums are oldies but goodies, stuff that doesn’t mean as much to me now but for a lot of my life really did.
AC/DC – The Razor’s Edge
Metallica – Ride The Lightning

Whitesnake – 1987
The Wombats – Proudly Present… A Guide to Love, Loss and Deperation
Stromae – Racine Caree
Guns n Roses – Appetite for Destruction
Halestorm – Halestorm
Panic! At The Disco – Death of a Bachelor 

This may have been the hardest post to write so far, but has sparked quite the debate in my house, so that’s made us not die of boredom today. I’m tempted to get the housemates in on a post soon, so let me know if you’ve got any ideas for that!

Obviously my comment question of the day is what’s your favourite album?

-Megan, listening to Larkin Poe (who aren’t even on this list, but they’re a sick Southern rock duo)

 

 

 

 

Travelling Alone For the First Time: Frightening or Exhilarating?

Hello lovely people,

After making the decision to travel alone to Milan I had a mixed response from my family and friends. Some thought I was insane for undertaking a week of loneliness and danger, others thought it was a great choice to explore a new place exactly how I would want to. Regardless of what people thought though it felt like the right decision. I’m a pretty seasoned traveller at this point, and I don’t want to restrict myself from seeing new places just because I don’t have anyone to travel with at that point in time. So, here’s how I feel after my first trip alone.

travelling alone

My journey to Milan was, quite frankly, a bit of a trek. I had to take a 2.5 hour train to Manchester Airport, go through the airport experience on my own for the first time, fly to Bergamo, take a 1 hour bus to Milano Centrale, and take the metro to my hostel. It was time-consuming, but I can’t say I found anything too difficult. It’s really not that different to being in a group, you’ve just got to have more awareness of your surroundings. My main tip for this part is to account for the possibility of things going wrong, because when there’s only one brain working solving problems can be more difficult. My train to the airport was cancelled whilst I was on it (love our fully functional privatised rail network), but I was able to get on another one and still had time for a drink in the airport because I’d accounted to have spare time.

I opted to stay in an 8 bed mixed dorm at Meininger Milano Lambrate for a number of reasons pertaining to being a solo female traveller. I know and trust the brand, so I had the peace of mind of going to somewhere I knew would be safe. This particular hostel was located across the road from a train station too, so it meant I never had to walk too far at night. Staying a dorm was a new and interesting experience. I didn’t feel unsafe or uncomfortable at all, as most of the other people in my room were young solo travellers too. I even got chatting to a few of them, shoutout to the linguists from Oxford who quizzed me on my degree a bit too much for it to be normal. I obviously kept my belongings padlocked away at all times to make sure nothing was stolen or lost.

Being able to do exactly what you want whenever you want is such a liberating way to travel. I’ve travelled in a big group before, and whilst it’s obviously so much fun to hang out with your friends, it’s also enjoyable to be completely on your own agenda. I was able to go to museums that my friends perhaps wouldn’t have enjoyed, and didn’t feel like I was ever letting anyone down by things like getting up earlier or later on a certain day. I was also a big fan of sitting on benches or in cafes and watching the world go by for far too long, something I doubt other people would tolerate!

Eating and drinking surprised me as being one of the hardest things. I didn’t eat out very much as I felt the social stigma of being in a restaurant alone and I have a bit of anxiety surrounding ordering food (sounds ridiculous because it is). I also didn’t like that I couldn’t drink as much as I usually would on trips, because I definitely didn’t want to be even slightly drunk whilst alone. I did save money as a result of this though, so it wasn’t all a loss.

Now for the important bit – safety. I don’t think I once felt at risk. Obviously Italy is a very safe country, but it’s still dangerous to be alone anywhere at certain times of day or in certain places. I was catcalled a little bit here and there, but the sad fact is that I almost expect that now when I’m in a big city, regardless of if I’m alone or with female friends; #whyimafeminist. To stay safe I just took the normal precautions you would expect – not being out late at night, not having valuables on show, not walking around with earphones in and not giving away personal information. It can be more dangerous to travel as a woman alone inevitably, but I think as long as you take suitable measures to protect yourself you shouldn’t let it stop you.

I actually thought I would be a lot more lonely than I ended up being, as in the end I really enjoyed my own company. I was still in contact with friends and family back home as well which helped, but I was mostly distracted by all the culture and exploring so I never really got lonely. I also chatted to a lot of people in my hostel. I spent most of my evenings chilling in the communal areas, and got chatting to travellers about where they’d been and where they were headed – my favourite kinds of conversations. If I had spoken Italian I’d probably have spoken to more people when I was in the city, so perhaps socialising would’ve been more likely if I had been somewhere I spoke the language.

img_20180919_110636917
Look at me with all my pigeon friends

So if I were to sum it up – travelling alone was the best thing I’ve ever done. I learned a lot about myself and how I cope with things, as well as growing in confidence even after such a short length of time away. It really was the best bit of relaxation before university and spending almost all my time with other people. Have you ever travelled alone? Would you, or would it worry you too much?

-Megan, listening to Brave New World by Iron Maiden (I rediscovered this album today and remembered how much I love it)