What It's Like To Be Out When Your Same Sex Partner Isn't
The Debrief: When Demi* was 20-years old, she fell in love with a woman for the first time. And she fell hard. But telling her family about her new relationship seemed impossible...
When Demi* was 20 years old, she fell in love with a woman for the first time ever. And she fell hard. Her girlfriend Kara* was already proudly out, but for Demi things were a little trickier. Paralysed with fears of backlash from friends, an unaccepting mother and her teaching career ending before it even began - she wanted their relationship to remain a secret. 'My mum had always had old fashioned views when it comes to sexuality. Although it was never explicitly said; it was clear to me that my mum wouldn’t exactly be accepting if I brought a girl home.'
Growing up watching Sugar Rush and The L Word, Demi could relate to these characters in more ways than one. 'Sugar Rush was the first programme that made me question my sexuality. I would watch Kim’s quest for love and really identify with her. Then I discovered The L Word and got transfixed on these attractive gay women leading successful lives. Up until this point, I’d never really seen girls fancying girls on the TV. I used to watch it in my room while my mum was in bed as she never would have allowed anything like that under her roof.'
Pushing the thoughts to the back of her mind, Demi focused on her studies which eventually lead her to securing a place at University. 'As much as I wanted to, and believe me I wanted to, I just didn't fancy men. My mum would ask me when I’d bring a nice boy home - but I just didn't see the fascination. I’d kissed a few guys at parties, but their stubbly faces, beer breath and bloke-y demeanours just didn’t do it for me. So I concentrated on my studies and told my mother I was simply too busy for a relationship.'
Moving to Birmingham opened Demi’s eyes to the gay scene. 'Me and my flatmates would often head out to the Gay Village. I’d secretly notice girls but I never classified myself as a lesbian - we just went there for the cheap drinks.'
Fast forward two years, and Demi was introduced to her flatmate's sister, Kara. With long blonde hair, tanned skin and Instagram-worthy contouring; Kara didn’t look like the girls she’d seen out on a Friday night. 'Looking back, I was a walking cliche, with a penchant for snapbacks, checked shirts and dungarees; but Kara was different. She looked like she’d walked straight out of a Topshop campaign but openly identified as a gay woman. As soon as I lay eyes on her I knew I liked her. And there was no going back.'
Demi and Kara soon started spending every other day with each other, sleeping round each others flats and letting their relationship blossom. Demi desperately yearned to tell her family but thoughts of students calling her names filled her brain and concerns of her mum refusing to be apart of her life consumed her headspace. 'It put a massive strain on our relationship because Kara thought I was ashamed of her. But that wasn’t the case; I was worried that my family would be ashamed of me and my life choices. My family was much stricter than Kara’s.'
After three years of secrecy, Kara decided she’d had enough and gave Demi an ultimatum: ‘either tell your friends and family about us or I’m leaving’.
'It was the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make. She was my first love, my best friend and the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But my fear of the unknown led to me making the wrong decision and we broke up.' Distraught, Demi packed a bag and moved back to her mother's for the Easter holiday. 'I was absolutely distraught; I lost 6lbs in the first 6 days and spent the whole time crying into my iPhone album.' Her mum knew how close he was to Kara as she often stopped over on weekends, disguised as a close friend, but seeing her daughter so upset must have unearthed some motherly intuition and she started asking questions.
'My mum looked me straight in the eye and asked where Kara was, and in that moment I realised she knew. My heart pulsated through my body as I felt my face burn a deep shade of crimson. She waited for an answer but I just shook my head. Giving me a sympathetic smile, she put her hand on my shoulder and told me to ring her.' Baffled, Demi watched her mum walk out her room and wondered how much she knew. Later that night, Demi spoke to her mum and all her emotions erupted out of her. 'My mum told me that she’d suspected for ages. Kara was the first friend I’ve ever been really close too, and the fact that I was 25 at this point and never shown any interest in males or dating was apparently a massive hint.' Searching her face for clues on whether she was mad proved difficult; her lips remained stern but her eyes were warm and supportive. 'I couldn’t take the pressure any longer and I had to ask if she was mad? Mum paused for what felt like ten minutes, but when she finally answered her face softened. She told me that in all honesty she would rather I was in a heterosexual relationship with prospects of marriage and children, but that I was her daughter and she loves me unconditionally. We both cried that night and became closer as a family.'
Getting Kara back proved more difficult than expected. 'She was so hurt that I turned my back on her after three years that she wasn't prepared to forgive me that easily.' After moping around for a month, skipping lectures and visiting home as often as possible, Demi decided to start winning Kara back. 'Concentrating in class was impossible and I couldn't sleep in my flat because I was too used to her being there. I needed her back in my life so I did the only thing I could think of. Tell our friends that I was in love with her. I arranged to meet with Kara, and after crying into my pumpkin latte for an hour, she told me she’d been struggling without me too.' The girls agreed to tell their friends together, but as it turned out none of them were too shocked. 'To my surprise, the majority of my friends didn't seem overly bothered, there’s a couple that we don't speak to any more, but with graduating and moving to different cities, I don’t think it’s anything personal.'
Demi and Kara have been together for five years and are saving up to buy a house. 'Coming out was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It consumed me and almost lost me the relationship with the woman I love; but everyone was really supportive and if I could tell my younger self something it would be to stop being so hard on yourself and trust in people. They know you better than you realise.'
As told to Jodie Edwards
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