Firstly would you two like to introduce yourself and how you identify?
Jae: So I am Jae and I identify as non-binary so I use the pronouns, they/them and I came out in the first year of uni to my friends. But at home, I do not use these pronouns because I have not come out to everyone at home which is okay, I guess.
Brooke: My name is Brooke and my pronouns are she/her and they/them. So you came out as gay earlier in college but I came out as gay only recently. I was out as bisexual for a long time but it never fully resonated with me. I was dating men and it was not great. I came here and identified as a lesbian but I am fully not out to everyone. It is still quite raw and fresh. I had a boyfriend just before uni and he had a go at me for coming out. He said that I should have dated another male and then come out after so that it didn’t make him look like he turned me. Which isn’t the case people don’t turn other people gay, that’s just the way I am.
So both of you have said that you have not been able to come out to everyone, has it been difficult with certain family members or friends?
Jae: With me, I came out as gay first, came out as bisexual then realised I was gay. My family is quite accepting so I have been able to tell them. It is more the gender thing that they do not understand, it is more like you have to be either a boy or girl. I found that my mum’s family tends to see things in black and white so they really struggle with it. Within my family, my brother is trans, female-to-male and I think that my family understand that more than me being non-binary.
Brooke: My mum and dad know. I texted my dad while in Falmouth. I said that I am gay, it is not a phase and I do not want to talk about it. He said cool, fine and my mum took a bit longer to understand. I am not out to anyone else in my family. I do find it quite difficult to talk about with family members as I dated guys for so long. So everyone suggests that I am not a lesbian. I am. It is a lot of explaining to do and I kind of wish I came out earlier. People have always seen me as a straight female and I am not that, so it is confusing.There has been a lot of suppression for me. It is quite hard knowing that I was not true to myself for so many years. I do think it was a mix of external and internal factors like going to a religious school and a need to please my parents and reduce their worries.
Jae: I had boyfriends at school and my mum brought this up with me. I said that this was a cover up. When I came out as bi, I was told to not label myself too quickly. But I realised that I was only dating girls so they were like okay, we think we understand. My family has been good, they have met Brooke and love her.
What are your experiences with the way that society tries to suppress the LGBTQIA community?
Brooke: Society tries to raise everyone as cis, straight people and that depresses me. Jae was bullied at school because they looked gay and for being gay. I looked more straight passing with long hair and wore skirts so I was not bullied. I did have crushes on girls but I did not think anything of it because in the end, I will end up with a boy at some point which is what I thought. After a while I realised my future would be with someone of the same sex. Being straight was pushed onto me, no one ever questioned my sexuality so I never did. I think I did force myself into this box of ‘I’m bisexual I am!’. Bisexual was definitely overlooked and with the conatation of ‘I only kiss girls at parties’ but in actual fact I knew I would end up with a same sex partner and didn’t see anything romantically with men.
Jae: I was pushing it upon myself to be straight. Everyone was saying that you look gay. I would get defensive and say no I am not. I can date guys. It was all because I looked different. However this would make me question my sexuality more through school, I said nothing but when I started college, I was able to come out and it was handled more mature and supportive. At school, people do not know the full extent of how much it can affect someone. How much it can play on someone’s mind but to them it was a small throw away comment that had no consequences for them.
Brooke: When I was bisexual, I longed to belong to the community but I felt isolated from it as I had a straight-passing appearance, my boyfriend. I was putting others’ happiness first really. I do get annoyed though that if you have a boyfriend then you come out as a lesbian, there is the idea that the boyfriend looks bad, that he turned her. No, that is not the case and not how it works. Men can not turn you. I think that men feel emasculated by it, but at the end of the day, I have spent a lot of time suppressing it and I am not going to pretend some more to make you happy.
Have you had to educate or make others comfortable about who you are?
Jae: I do not mind if people ask a genuine question about let’s say, my pronouns or something. However if someone knows my pronouns and still does not use them, it is really frustrating. You try to be educational about your experiences and feelings but I have had some weird questions about my sex life like at college which is really none of their business.
Brooke: Being a lesbian is so over sexualised that people think that they can ask inappropriate questions to people like me. When I came out officially, men then asked on social media whether I wanted a threesome. It is really frustrating, it is one of the reasons I shaved my head.
Jae: There is also the standard of the butch and femme.
[Brooke: Who's the man? Who wears the trousers in the relationship?]
We both do. There is no man, that is the point. It does not have to be a butch and femme, it is just whoever you are attracted to. But there is this standard set by straight men
Brooke: Also because Jae is non-binary and quite masculine presenting, some people say that I am just kidding myself about being a lesbian. It is all very frustrating. Proper education on this is really necessary. Representation of lesbians in the media is very upsetting, you get a girl who is unhappily dating a boy and cheats with a woman. There is a lack of good representation with characters who are gay and dated women the start. It is all very over dramatic and over sexualised.
How have your experiences been as a couple that does not present like the conventional heterosexual couple?
Jae: In somewhere like Cornwall, I think people do not get a lot of representation so when they see a couple like us, they are taken aback. I get a couple of funny looks and I think that they think it is this new fangled thing. But it has been around for a long time.
Brooke: I never have been used to looks, as I was straight passing before so it was new to me. I think that the first few times we were going around Falmouth, we did a comment, “look at those gays.” I was not used to that but who cares. Moreover, I am a little scared of religious people because of what the bible or other religious texts say about the LGBT community and my experience at a religious school. I wish it was not the case, I have met supportive religious people but I have met religious people who are strongly against the LGBT community.
How have your experiences been at Pride events?
Brooke: I have never been to Pride.
Jae: It is so nice to go to Pride and be with people on the same wavelength. I have been to one and it was really good because everyone was there for a good reason. I felt like it was the most accepting environment. You see people dressed in rainbows, children there with their families, it is just so nice that there is a day and a space. There are people who understand a little bit more and you don’t have to explain yourself. It is this unspoken understanding. There are no straight people constantly asking questions again and again. It is so relieving.
Brooke: I think that is the good thing with us. It is great to be with a person who has been through the same mental process as you and can relate to it. I have struggled with not being true to myself in the past, Jae is just welcoming and supportive with me.
What kind of support do you wish you had when you were younger?
Jae: I think LGBT+ education is necessary. In school, we just got taught man and woman, condoms and contraceptive pills. It was just like HIV and AIDS is for the gays so we cannot talk about it. People were throwing around these terms about sexuality and gender that they did not understand and hurting other people. There is nothing about same sex relationships or relationships with people outside the binaries.
Brooke: LGBT+ education should be a legal requirement in schools like climate change education. Also I wish that young people get support to figure their sexuality or gender identity out as I wish I had that. But now, I am a part of something that I have wanted to be a part of for so long. It took me a long time to get here but now I am here.
An extra note from Brooke -
Gender is so fluid, but I think people can still be afraid of that. Its so important for cis people to start educating themselves on non binary and not living within the binary, in order for society to evolve. There are currently no legal rights that I know of for non binary people, e.g. Jae has to identify as a wife and a woman if they want to get married and can't get married as the non binary version of that currently. Education is so important, especially because we live in a society seemingly more right winged. If you don't understand non binary it's not an excuse for not using the correct pronouns or respecting that person. Also, I'm so grateful to live in a time and a place where I can fully express myself and my love for my partner.
Interviewed by Kabejja