The first clues

Rainbow stripes and magnifying glass

Despite knowing—on some level—at a very young age that I was a lesbian, it took a silly amount of time for the pink penny to finally drop. Into my university years I was writing entry after entry in my diary about how beautiful my latest girl-crush’s eyes were … yet expressing in the very next paragraphs my bewilderment as to why I never felt excited when a boy touched me. My diary makes for a forehead-slapping read.

So, how could I know I was gay when I didn’t know? What were the mental prods? What were those early signs?

If I found another girl attractive, I somehow knew, from the earliest age, to keep this to myself. We are so subtly trained all day every day to be gender-conforming and heterosexual, that the youngest child knows when she has stepped outside these social expectations. I knew I had to keep certain feelings secret that other children could share freely.

When the five-year-old kids in the playground did an impression of a teapot (which I now know to be a supposedly gay man with one hand on his hip, the other hand dangling from a limp wrist), I had no idea what they meant (and I’m fairly certain that they didn’t either). But I did know that

  1. a) I shouldn’t be a teapot
  2. b) I was probably a teapot

In every infant school assembly, where I would sit cross-legged in the rows of five and six year olds, I would stare in the direction of the piano. I would wait for the hymns to start, when the teacher would raise her hands, in preparation, way above the keys. From that moment I was transfixed by the agility and motion of her fingers. There was something about those hands. And whatever it was, I wanted it.

While my sister was converting our shared playroom into her personal “dollies’ hospital,” I put on my big boots, climbed trees, played football, and practised cycling round the sharpest corners with no hands. I was slowly becoming aware that the other girls seemed to be conforming to a role that held no interest for me.

As I was growing up, I was aware that I felt excessively fond of certain friends. And I was aware that I seemed to have more of a need than other children to cultivate special friendships, in which exclusivity would play a part. … It wasn’t until I was fourteen that this tendency reached a peak. When my best friend of two years dumped me for being overbearingly possessive, I cried myself to sleep for two years.

What were your first clues? How did you know you were gay … before you knew you were gay?


  1. Neil
    Posted May 25, 2018 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    For me, it was when I was noticing everything in the change room when we did PE. And I was fascinated by one teacher’s brush-like moustache. And there was a time when I was 14 that some boys brought a dirty mag into class and our teacher was not at all in control. The boys showed me the magazine and asked me what I thought. I blurted out the absolute truth, “it doesn’t do anything for me.” This brought snickers from the boys, but having their victory, they settled down, and the teacher regained the semblance of control.
    And the girls I wanted to be friends with, close friends with, I knew I didn’t fancy them, that my yearning was social and platonic. But that didn’t stop me deciding, when I was 17, that I had to choose between the two girls I was closest to to send a Valentine to. Naturally, this ruined both friendships, but in different ways.
    I was desperate to not be an outcast, the outcast I knew I had always been.
    My forced experiments with girls were always awkward and wrong. While I could go through with things, it didn’t feel genuine. And then at university, my first brief encounter with a boy just felt so right.
    But even so I went around telling people that I thought “I might be bi”.
    And then I later removed that crutch, and embraced the truth.

    • Natasha Holme
      Posted May 25, 2018 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      That was fantastically brave, Neil, telling the truth about the mags. Though I think that I would have felt titillated at either sex at that age, just for the sheer naughtiness of it. I suspect this is different for boys?

      • Neil
        Posted May 28, 2018 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t think I was being brave at the time, but in hindsight I suppose honesty is always bravery. I just wanted the boys to stop. They were making me confront the fact that I was different and that I really actually didn’t care about the ladies in the pictures, and I just wanted them to stop.
        It must be different for boys, but I never really thought about it in that way before. The boys with the magazine would not have been at all titillated by seeing naked men. Then would have thought it was hilarious and gross, and they would have laughed and made fun, but they would have also been very careful to show no actual interest, so that none of the others got a sniff of any implied gayness.
        I thought that them showing me pictures of naked ladies was stupid and gross, which I always suspected is what the girls in my class would have thought too.
        My honesty has always gotten me into trouble, and always comes out more when put into a stressful situation…

        • Natasha Holme
          Posted May 30, 2018 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

          Well, what a great ‘flaw’ to have. I hope your honesty inspired one of those boys in some way.

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