(Guest post by Leanne)
I’ve always become hopelessly invested in wlw relationships on tv ever since I was 9 and watched CJ kiss Abby on LA Law. I know now that kiss was all about ratings, but back then, to my 9-year-old self, that kiss was the most thrilling thing I had ever experienced. I convinced myself this was because I thought lesbians were cool and mysterious, and never once thought I could actually be one. This pattern of thought continued throughout my teenage years, and whilst I was falling in love with female friends, I was faithfully performing heterosexuality, getting felt up behind the bins whilst drunk on cheap cider down the local park, and next to me would be the girl I loved gettin’ felt up by my latest conquest’s best pal.
Section 28 was still firmly in place so no teacher at school would/could have assisted me, so I continued on my path of obliviousness until I was 17 and the walls came crashing in. I was deeply in love with my best friend and I couldn’t deny it anymore. I don’t want to talk too much about that time, its not something I want to relive, but I still was able to compartmentalise my love and pretend.
I only found out I was a lesbian when a college tutor told me I was in 1999. Sounds unbelievable to say this, but I really was shocked. I honestly did not know how to ‘be gay’. However, something in me clicked and I knew she was right – although I still question whether I am cool enough to this day. That same teacher told me it was alright, as a lesbian I wouldn’t experience the same abuse as a gay man, but then followed that with, ‘Although, it might be worse being invisible.’ I don’t want to be invisible.
I know things have changed, Section 28 has gone, but I question how easy it is for teenagers nowadays to acknowledge their same-sex feelings. Is it any easier? There are far more lesbian relationships on screen now than there ever were when I was young, but when statistics show that, from 1970 to 2017 30% of these relationships had ended in the death of one partner and only 8% had a happily ever after – growing up with this level of negativity surrounding their sexuality can and probably will severely affect their outlook in life and their own sense of worth just as it did mine.
I’ve seen countless wlw characters/relationships destroyed on television by stupid senseless tropes, and Berena is just the latest in a long line. But the difference for me this time is the beautiful community that has sprung up around this story, a community that was not accessible to me when I was young. Some of the most intelligent, inspiring women I have encountered. We have supported each other and are continuing to support each other through this. So thank you all Oh and the fan fiction really is stupendous. x