**Trigger Warning for homophobia, outing**



Growing up, my non-heterosexual attractions surfaced gradually and were easily denied. I identified as straight because it was the default and because I definitely fancied at least SOME boys; any other feelings were terrifying and dismissible.

I have largely avoided homophobia by capitalising on the homophobe’s tendency to assume heterosexuality, by selling out.

Benefitting from straight-privilege while I was with my girlfriend was unbearably easy. We used to hide our clasped hands under our coats on the school bus; even after we were outed, we maintained a constant centimetre buffer that carved our relationship in two. Pretending to be best friends, to be having girly sleepovers and sharing a taste in music, allowed us to exist, to others’ intents and purposes, as straight.

A devastatingly effective survival technique. That nobody questioned our too-close-to-be-true ‘friendship’ for so long made it harder to accept that coming out would pass incident-free – was it so inconceivable that two girls out of the thousand at our school could have fallen in love? It was a much more palatable and automatic assumption that we were gal-pals, bonding over our attraction to Tinie Tempah and our idolisation of Beyoncé. The ease with which our pretences were accepted was horrifying.

Later, my boyfriend’s instinct to hold my hand in public made me uncomfortable because I had trained myself to fear demonstrating sexual relation in front of others. That society tolerates half of my attractions means only that I have come to be intolerant of the other half. My experience of tacit homophobia infiltrates my attitude to my own relationships.

I resent the necessity of ‘coming out’ and yet I feel the crushing damage of having been denied the chance to do so every day. Being outed induced a special kind of shame that remains with me, permeating the relationships I have with the people to whom I was closest when it happened. I can’t even brush past discussion of my sexuality without feeling sick. I trained myself to hide for so long that, even now that I want to be, I can’t be myself. I can’t be open. To be myself, even around my closest friends, is a constant, conscious effort. Society has taught me that to survive is to conceal.