Nora Mulready spent most of her life ignoring her feelings, until they became impossible to ignore
BY NORA MULREADY
This week I applied to be a trustee of an organisation. In the equalities monitoring form, I ticked the “Gay/Lesbian” box for the first time. I loved doing it so much that I took a picture of it and sent it to my sister and my cousin on WhatsApp.
There has been a lot going on this year for everyone. It has been an epic 12 months of loss and tragedy, of home schooling, doorstep visits, clapping, masks. It has been chaos, always and everywhere. The life of the human race has been put on hold. I’ve been helping to run a charity for older people, looking after my children and being in the midst of a wider family situation that was tough and bruising. I lost a dear friend to Covid in April 2020. It’s been hard for everyone. Love got me through this year. The love of great friends and family. It has been a year like no other and I am grateful to be alive.
It has also been a year where I accepted and embraced the fact that I am gay. Telling people that I am gay has felt silly and irrelevant in the middle of a pandemic. It is not as though I am introducing a new partner. It is just who I am. I haven’t really told many people, but I have now realised that that’s not good enough for me anymore. I owe myself, and all gay women – old and young, hidden and out – more than that. I am confident, I am happy, I have no fear, and I want to do my bit for lesbian visibility. I am gay and it feels so very good to say so.
I am 38 years old and for my entire life I have squashed down the feelings that I was gay. Every time I had a gay experience, I put it down to an anomaly, another mad night that came out of nowhere. I’m quite good at them. There were times in my life where I couldn’t look women in the eye because we had kissed and I was terrified. I have no idea why. I have been blessed with so many gay friends, who I loved and stood with, always, but yet, for me, there was a block. That changed around two years ago, when the drum beat in my head started to get louder and louder, and became unbearable.
From the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep, my head was raging in the background to whatever I was doing. It felt like there drums crashing inside my brain, with thoughts about being gay, being honest, being in denial, being true, being fair, being gay, being gay, being gay. Tears would just appear and stream down my face.
I told my sister. I sat on the phone to her in a car park of the Tesco on Camden Road for an hour and I cried, and laughed, and cried, and we knew I had to stop hiding, mostly from myself. Eventually I did, and I know, however hard it has been, that it was the greatest thing I could possibly have done. It was also the only thing, because a part of me was dying inside, while also desperately trying to live. I am glad I chose life.
I told my parents. They were lovely. More amused at how their children manage to ensure their lives are never boring than anything else. I told my nephews and nieces, who smiled, completely non-plussed, like the delightful young people they are. I told my family and I told my friends, and there was not a negative reaction among them.
This is my story but it is inextricably linked to my (now former) partner, the dad of our three precious children, who I was still with when my thoughts became impossible to ignore. I won’t go into too much detail but I will say that the pain of the moment I told him I was gay, the hardest words I have ever said, became a moment of love and solidarity from a truly good human. He did not question it, nor did he put himself first in any way. He put his arms around me and told me everything was going to be okay. He was right.
His parents, wonderful grandparents to our children, should be very proud. Through the hardest and most mad of times, our friendship has sincerely – at times unfathomably – endured. Although we have our moments, it is impossible to think about our 14 year relationship and not smile. I hope his life is amazing, and I know it will be. I am happy to see him happy.
To all who are grappling with similar thoughts and feelings, I know how daunting it is to even consider unpicking your life, and how impossibly hard – even selfish – it feels to do anything other than ignore how we feel and just carry on. When you look at yourself in the mirror and think about the full implications of what you are considering, it is overwhelming. Questions about morality burn deep into your conscience, every single day. I had many false starts before I passed the point of no return.
What I now understand – a tumultuous year later – is that no one affected was helped by me living a lie by the end. It has been a rocky road, but the co-parenting, LGBTQI-inclusive family life is happier, heathier, more loving, more fun, and more honest, and that is a wonderful thing to be able to write. For me, I feel like a new chapter has begun, and I am excited and delighted by what is yet to come, whatever that may be.
So there we are, I am now officially “out”. It feels good, true, and right, and it feels deeply, deeply liberating. To all who have helped me get here, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
This piece first appeared in the April 2021 issue of DIVA. Do you have a coming out story to share? Email email@example.com.
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