What do you personally Identify as and what are your pronouns?
My name’s LJ I am a non-binary lesbian and my pronouns are they/them.
So what was it that made you say yes to being part of the Voices Pride issue?
Not many lesbians are about. You don’t hear many Lesbian stories its always like gay men or trans stories. There is nothing wrong with that but there’s no lesbians especially non-binary lesbians we are like the bottom of the barrel, we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel with me so. Yeah, I just got fed up of not being represented.
At what age did you first come out?
That’s probably a very long story. The first time I ever came out and said that I might be gay was when I was in year eight and It was like to my best friend. Then it was like hush-hush for ages and then I got my first girlfriend and so I was outed to the whole of school in year 10. then I think I was bi for a really, really long time because I went to an all-girls school and it was dodgy, well it was dodgy to be anything other than female as well. I had a whole scenario with that one, then yeah, I was just Bi up until year 13. Then I was like I might be a lesbian, I came to Uni and I was like yeah, yeah I’m definitely a lesbian. Then just before I intermitted which was about March, I think I was like “Oh I think I might actually- I mean there’s always the doubt there but – I’m probably not Cis but I don’t really know.” And then I sort of said you know what I think I am. I’m something else, I’m in the ‘X box’. So that’s basically the long story.
Do you think it’s necessary to come out now, is it something you have to do?
I know friends who have said they don’t want to. I mean I can think of two friends off the top of my head, ones demi and I think she’s bi, and there’s another one I know who’s a Gay man and he was specific- they were both specific- they don’t want anyone to know. But I think it’s probably easier to not come out if you’re passing, if you’re passing and it's sort of hidden it’s alright but for me, it’s not a private thing and I don’t want people to be like “ hey that’s kinda grim” I don’t want people to make jokes about it and me sort of laugh along. No, it’s a big part of me.
Do you think the idea of passing offers a different experience to some LGBTQ+ people?
I think it’s a privilege, I think it’s very much a privilege. For example, I’ve got a trans friend who is trans-non-binary, but he still uses he/him pronouns and he is very much androgynous so even though he’d go through all the surgeries its sort of, he doesn’t pass at the same time. So, people who prioritise passing as like the best thing, I don’t know it’s just kind of a bit sad and a bit not nice to have. It’s difficult when you are non-binary for passing because there’s no such thing, it’s only androgynous, so I get called a man all the time and I prefer to be a man but I’m not. I don’t want to give up the feminine side so I sort of pass as both, but I don’t think passing is a priority and I don’t think people should focus on it.
Have you always had a clear idea of your sexuality and gender?
I think I knew I was gay when I was like 5 or 6 when I was like ‘men are rank’ and knew that’s what I wanna be at. I think in year 9 I found the term gender fluid on like Tumblr and I was like “hey this is me!’ I remember telling two of my best friends and I think, I mean one was very religious and she didn’t have a negative reaction she was just very confused the other one didn’t really care. One of them did find it a bit confusing like “are you sure you want to go out like that?” That’s probably why I kept it repressed for so long but I think coming to Uni, because I remember going to the first pride meet up being like “ I go by this, my labels are she/her and I don’t have a clue” I feel like after that and getting with my first partner down here who was very much a proud non-binary lesbian I sort of thought “ you know what actually this makes a lot of sense and your referring to me as a woman and I don’t like that.” So, I think that was the ah-ha moment if you have one, but that was more about gender I knew I was gay for a very long time I was just in denial.
Do you think the way your peers reacted impacted how you felt about your sexuality?
I mean I couldn’t be around like homophobes, but when I went to sixth form it was very much pressured. I had a friend at the time who said she was Bi but she’s never been with a girl, so it was kind of that thing. She was sort of like ‘You’ve got to be with a man or you’re a lesbian.” It was always viewed as a dirty term. Now I’m here people really, honestly don’t care. Even people I don’t know. It’s a lot more freeing to be like that then to try to stick to these really narrow roots that were planted for you that you didn’t even get a chance to say what you think about them.
Could you explain what being non-binary means to you as a non-binary lesbian?
I get this question all the time they’re like “ You can’t do that you have to be a woman” but the difficulty is I was very much specifically with the only girls school, brought up in a way, for example, my school had a ban on trousers, so you had to wear skirts. You always had to be a woman so for me being a woman always meant that I was trying to attract men. I was brought up very much that you had to like men so I had hypersexualised myself and hyperfeminized myself just to make myself feel better but deep down I felt like – Well I’ve done loads of research on it and it’s like gender roles you always have a male and female in a relationship so I think because I was brought up to be so hyper feminized I said “sod it” and wanted to do the other way. Especially when I was like I can’t be a femme liking a femme so I have to be butch but at the same time it’s not like saying I’m doing butch-ness because I'm doing that as a response, it's more rebelling against everything I’ve been told. I feel more comfortable rather than being made to go and like men. People get confused all the time they’re like “you’ve got to be a woman.” Well no liking women is my attachment to femininity so it’s an important part of me, but it is as well the pressure to be manly. It’s even confusing for me.
Do you think Binary gender has a place in our society?
It’s difficult because some people really like the binaries and feel like it gives them comfort and a place but for me, it just frustrates and irritates me. People sort of look at me with confusion and are like “but oh why aren’t you doing this and you’re a woman you can’t do that” then at the same time people who see me as a man are like “oh what you doing that for” it’s not so much the binary it’s the things we’ve attached to it so like a woman has to stay in the kitchen and a man has to fix things I mean I’m neither and I can be both and really it’s just the labels we attach with it that we need to get rid of I think.
How do you feel about the current systems lack of LQBTQ+ and specifically Non-binary education?
I mean we don’t get taught about anything gay in sex education because it’s still viewed as like a choice and that’s ridiculous because no one chose anything. If anything, I chose to be straight half the time because I would fit in better. We need to be taught more about everything really because there’s a whole world out there and I shouldn’t have left with it, it shouldn’t have been up until university for me to discover it. It should’ve been, oh back when I was 13 you brought it up and I googled it and thought right ok that’s it and I’ve got it - with years less of pain, no experimentation, no things that could’ve gone wrong I could’ve just picked it up and gone right that’s it and i'll roll with it.
Do you think the University as a further education system does enough to inform and support LGQBTQ+ students?
I’m not too sure because this is when I mean the only thing I’ve really heard of related to it here is Pride society and the liberation committee because I was on the liberation committee but had to come off for other reasons. Those are the only two things I’ve heard of that have really been there but the Pride society, they’re headed by trans people and very much trans focused and gay men – so there’s no lesbians in there. Lesbians were very much brought away from it all, so I think by the university saying that Pride Society is a society- it’s almost like a little club. It’s a club people go to and my sexuality is not a club, It’s my life. I feel like the university should do things like they have a page for disability so they don’t have a society anymore but it’s very much of pride society being like a dog that won’t let go and they’re like ‘we want this society’ but I don’t think it’s really necessary but that’s just my opinion.
As you’ve been highlighting with the male connotations of gay as a blanket label do you find intersectionality with the patriarchy within your sexuality?
Yes I mean if you look at any Gay films. I mean even looking at adverts, for example, they don’t have a lesbian couple where the mums a person of colour and one's butch. They’re either two femmes or they’ve got one token gay couple and its more common to see gay men which I guess is moving towards it but I feel like the patriarchy is just boy, it’s a big thing. Even the way we were taught when my school was saying ‘oh we’re very feminist, we’re very feminine forward’ but it would still push those ideas of you have to be attractive for men and I mean that’s given me loads of rubbish stuff because I had a boyfriend when I was like 18 and that was who I lost my virginity to but I didn’t want to at all. It’s very much that we were taught that we were men’s property and it’s not very nice. Even though I’m not shitting on gay men at all, seeing them as ‘the people’ for the gay community and they’re not because there are so many other people under that label that its ridiculous to say we are once again under men.
Outside of that, have you ever found something that made you feel accurately seen In your sexuality?
Not really, kind of, I have read Alison Bechdel and that’s probably the only time I’ve really seen a healthy lesbian relationship but even then, it was talking about all of her issues with her family. Every Lesbian story you pick up it’s the two femmes, its either made like a porno or one dies or something ridiculous like that! It’s always something, never happy, you never get to see a real-life lesbian couple who are just normal people. The only way I could probably see it is if maybe I watch like four in a bed and the have gay couples and there’s like one lesbian couple, maybe like once, and that’s it. Once I find something like that, I’m holding on to it like “Yes, normality that’s what we are like.”
What about Non-Binary representation?
My ex recommended me something on Netflix apparently there way a non-binary person in it but not really. I mean I remember when Sam Smith came out and everyone was like calling him, he and I was like no that’s wrong, but I’ve not really, not at all. It’s very rare to see trans people and the only trans person I can think of off the top of my head is Caitlyn Jenner and she’s awful, so most people have abandoned her. So yeah, we don’t have good role models.
Do you think being out and visible has enhanced or limited your experience?
I think as the whole idea of passing because I don’t know I’m still afraid to say I have a girlfriend and I’m gay even though I’ve been gay for years and I know this and I’ve been out for a bit. I don’t think it necessarily hindered me; I don’t think people have looked at me weirdly. The only bad time I’ve ever had is walking down with my girlfriend down the main street and one man like winked at us or something scoffed at us and that’s the kind of only bad thing I’ve ever had. I feel like I’m more privileged because I’m butch-er and bigger, I’m quite big so they won’t don’t do anything to me because I look like I’d give them a wallop basically! I kind of have that look. I mean I haven’t really had much interaction but it is sort of the fear of when I move away from here and I go to wherever and do a whole new thing- I’ve got to come out again and there might be a negative reaction it is a fear at the back of my head.
That’s true coming out can be a bigger process when mobility is included.
Every new person I meet its “ oh yeah by the way I’m gay” and then I might have a whole new interaction of “ oh that’s horrible” or like I said to my mum and my mum was like – it’s because she’s not educated on it- but she said “ I don’t mind but don’t do any lovey-dovey things around me” and I know she means it in a nice way but it came out and I was like “ oh for god’s sake mother.” I don’t know about that one, there’s a future to come.
Has your experience being out here been different from being out at home?
I would say I wasn’t really out at home. I’m still not really out to my family at all. I think here I’m more confident so people don’t pay me much attention but at school, I mean at an only girls school I was probably called god knows how many names behind my back but they never said it to my face and I kind of don’t really care. People have said things behind my back hundreds of times as long as they don’t do it to my face, but it is the idea that they get a bit frightened, I think. I don’t think I have much difference, not that I can recognise.
When you were applying to Universities’ did the fact of you being LQBTQ greatly influence your choices?
I didn’t really know much about it, not gonna lie. It was so long ago I don’t think I sat down with myself and said well actually I know what I did say to myself, I wanted to go to a Pride and I still haven’t, but that was my idea. I was like right I’m going to a Uni and I’m going to join the LGBT society and I’m actually going to do it because I’m away from it now, no one knows me I can do what I want. I’ve gone by a different name, I’ve got on the register which is a whole new thing- that’s a nightmare with the uni. I feel like you can reinvent yourself, so it doesn't matter where I go, I would’ve reinvented myself anywhere. I just really liked this Uni.
Is queer a slur on Identity?
It’s the worst known to man. Even in fine art when they’re talking about the queer identity or queer art and I’m like queer means weird, we are not weird we are just normal! It’s horrible the acronym is not that long just saying it and be done with it. It takes about the same amount of time to say queer. That’s one thing me and my friends don’t like about the pride society because they’re like ‘queer is an identity” and it’s not, it’s an umbrella term and its horrible. It’s a slur. I mean some slurs are fine I can say the word dyke because I find it funny, but the word queer is a bit like… It’s just easier to avoid it than get yourself into shit.
Finally, is there anything you would want to say to other people in the community?
Don’t take any shit. That’s the main thing, don’t take any rubbish and if specifically, if you’re thinking “am I gay?” you probably are. It’s like that meme of if you’re googling the ‘am I gay quiz” you’re probably gay, you’re pretty much gay sorry to break it to you. Like “am I trans?” yeah you probably are. Just don’t take any crap from anyone if they’re saying ‘oh you can’t be gay you haven’t done this” you can, you can do all that stuff.
Interviewed by Emily