Award-winning theatre-maker Jackie Hagan reflects on a life in and out and back in the closet
BY JACKIE HAGAN
When I was seven, my first crush was on Linda Lusardi… Rambo and Boy George. Huh, take that Kinsey. I was innocently in love with the world.
Fast forward to high school. It’s the 90s, Section 28 is still in play and I’m being told off by the French teacher for wearing a red Aids ribbon. The implication isn’t lost on me, but I’ve been brought up to believe in myself, and I have given this one a lot of thought. So at 16, I come out as bisexual.
The teachers think it’s for attention, friends it’s a phase, but I’m steadfast. I know who I love and I know who I am. Naturally, I have my heart broken and mended and re-broken like any teenager.
I live in a small beige town that isn’t quite Liverpool that is studied now on the GCSE syllabus as a failed social experiment. Needless to say there is very little to do and so I fill the time with love and drama, tantrums and eyeliner, but looming on the horizon is the big one – university.
It’s 1999 and I’ve been glued to Queer As Folk, so I go to Manchester seeking my people. It’s going to be great, it’s going to psychedelic and liberated, I can finally BE ME! What am I going to wear?!
And that’s where it goes wrong.
I want friends. More specifically, I want queer friends, so I join the LGBT society and commit myself to spending all my time in the gay village… the “gay” village, ah. Slowly but surely, I digest the information that I am not wanted. Everyone presumes I’m a lesbian and so I’m privy to conversations slagging off bisexuals.
I retreat back into the closet, only this time, in the other direction. I repress feelings I have for men and start to feel a deep sense of shame for fancying men. I know I will never fit in in straight world so I had better fit in in gay world. I start to self-harm whenever I fantasise about men. I join in with conversations calling us confused and greedy and stupid, I hold the rainbow flag high and fight for gay rights, and inside I hate myself. I’m hiding who I am.
And that’s where lots of stories end, with hiding. Hating who we are.
Fortunately, I didn’t mind being a loner. Eventually I found people who were open and I came out, again. These days I know the importance of allowing people to be people – binaries don’t work for lots of people, saying that people are either straight or gay, male or female, working class or middle class is just too simplified to capture the spectrum of human experience.
I can be me now, I hope you can too.
See Jackie Hagan’s show The Aw Factor in Blackpool this month as part of the New Queers On The Block tour: marlboroughtheatre.org.uk/new-queers-on-the-block.
Jackie Hagan is a one legged, working class multi-award winning theatre maker, playwright, stand-up comedian and poet. She has recently written and acted in a piece for BBC Four and BBC America. Both her solo shows received the Saboteur award for Best Spoken Word Show. She is a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellow and has performed in such venues as Southbank Centre, Tate Modern, The Barbican as well as in New York, Rio de Janeiro, Toronto and Frankfurt. Find out more at jackiehagan.org.
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