“Barbies scissoring, I have learnt, was an obligatory part of being a Queer child”
BY ELLA DEVEREUX, IMAGE BY ALEXANDRE DINAUT
The first girl I ever loved I met at Sunday school when I was nine. I would stay with my grandparents every weekend and they would take me to church. We would study the bible, sing in the choir, volunteer at the fetes and flower shows. After church we would go to each other’s houses and partake in somewhat less religious preteen activities. We would do each other’s makeup, swap clothes, replay the makeover scene from St Trinian’s, make our barbies scissor each other and recreate the music video for TaTu’s All The Things She Said (if you know, you know).
She was just one of a handful of “girls who were friends” who I became infatuated by. The forms of intimacy were platonic, but I was obsessed. I would secretly call them my girlfriends. I dreamt about hugging and kissing them and begged my parents to let me call them on the home phone every single day after school. I adored them.
In the very straight-coded world we bring our children into, eventually me and my church friend grew to realise what all of it actually implied. When she got her first boyfriend, I was heartbroken. Visiting her became infrequent, and even when I did she didn’t want to plait my hair or do my makeup, she just wanted to talk about her boyfriend, and I became acutely aware that I should be wanting this too.
I lost my religion when I lost my church friend. Sundays seemed pointless when she wasn’t there. I retreated into a shell and became repulsed by how I felt. In my teenage years I suffered immensely with anxiety. I became hypervigilant of how I interacted with my female friends. I was utterly convinced that people knew I didn’t just like boys. I prayed to God, though I no longer believed, that it would all go away.
Three national lockdowns opened up the opportunity for some deep personal reflection. For me, this manifested in tracing a timeline of my sexuality. In thinking about my early interactions with Queerness, I unearthed many buried memories and reflected on what it meant then to be so unsure, and what it means now as an openly Queer person. I am 21, relatively young in terms of life experience. But being a child who lived with a lot of shame surrounding their sexuality means, in many ways, I experienced a lifetime of love and heartbreak.
During this pensive period I spent a lot of time on social media, which is when I came across a string of tweets about “bisexual awakenings”, and TaTu’s All The Things She Said music video appeared a strong contender in the list. I was shocked to see this as a somewhat universal experience in the LGBTQI+ community. The more tweets I saw, the more I realised that I shared so many childhood experiences with other people. Barbies scissoring, I have learnt, was an obligatory part of being a Queer child.
This time of reflection, whilst very personal, also urged me to open up conversations with some of the people I had shared these memories with. I reached out to one of my old friends, who is now in a very lovely relationship with a woman, to ask her if she had a similar recollection. She told me she distinctly remembered a time during our childhood where she wanted to kiss me but didn’t because I was a girl and at the time it seemed wrong. Wrong, perhaps, because although we like to think we are bringing children into an accepting world, we are still responsible for the heterosexual conditioning which makes Queer children feel out of place, as we clearly both did.
Albeit refreshing to talk about these experiences, there are many people I shared intense moments with who I am not quite ready to contact. The prospect of reaching out still feels raw and painful. But the fact that I was finally able to look back and explore parts of my childhood that I had buried very deep down, suggests to me that maybe one day I will reconnect with others. Perhaps me and the girl from church could even laugh about it? Just as time enabled me to explore these parts of my childhood, I am certain it will grant me the confidence to have even more conversations about it in the future, to honour how it shaped who I am as a bisexual and Queer person today.
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