It all started when I was 9 years old.
I didn’t know it at the time but the tell-tale signs were present.
My primary school organised one of those adventure holiday things for kids in their final year; like a summer camp. We went abseiling, horse riding, canoeing and did loads of army boot-camp type activities.
You need to know something. Back then, I was a super shy, quiet kid. I know, I know – it’s hard to believe. But it’s true.
I was anxious about two things around the trip; I had long hair and struggled to tie it into a ponytail on my own and I was worried about being away from home. It was my first time away from my mum for an extended period of time and I was really nervous about it.
Turns out, I didn’t need to worry at all. I had a really great teacher and LOVED doing archery, quad biking and building rafts out of sticks and barrels. It was really good fun.
I was an avid photographer, even back then. I loved to take action pictures of my family and friends. It’s safe to say this trip proved no exception.
I recall getting my camera developed (remember this was pre-camera phones) and feeling embarrassed that most of my photos were of my teacher. At the time I didn’t realise what was going on.
Now I realise that Miss Burton was my first crush.
When I reflect back on growing up and watching TV with my mum and brothers, heterosexual intimacy of any kind made me feel uncomfortable, to the point where I would turn away or leave the room.
Even now when I am delivering training and I want to say something about being straight – I stumble over the words! It is like, NO GINA. Don’t go there!
I knew I was different from the other kids. I was highly sensitive, easily upset and picked up on energy.
Yet there was something else.
Something I was still to discover.
I was 16 when I met my first (and last) boyfriend. We were together for 3 years.
It was around that time when I encountered my first lesbian.
My Geology teacher was small, stumpy and had short hair. I later found out this was the stereotypical profile of a lesbian.
She gave all the boys a hard time and when I talked about being in a relationship with a boy, she had this puzzled look on her face.
Something about her made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t get it or her. I didn’t like her and how she made me feel.
Growing up I didn’t have any interactions with gay people and it didn’t even cross my mind at the time that my teacher was gay.
This was back in the 90s – Section 28 was in place in schools. I didn’t know about different sexual orientations; it wasn’t taught or talked about in school.
I thought to be heterosexual was the only option.
So here I am in a relationship with a boy.
I didn’t know any different.
I thought that was what you did.
You get with a boy, you fall in love, get married, buy a house together and have kids.
That is what I was taught was normal.
Turns out, there is a whole other world out there that I didn’t know existed!
What was the moment of realisation?
I was really into music when I was younger. I hung out in the music rooms with friends at lunchtime, playing guitar and drums whenever I could. I absolutely loved playing music.
I was introduced to someone outside my friendship group and over time we became friends. She was quiet, reserved and something about her really intrigued me.
On Friday evenings we would go round to each other’s house and watch TV, play music or read together. Sometimes we would stay over. When we weren’t with each other we would spend hours on the phone each evening.
It was really strange. I can only explain it like I had known her before.
I loved spending time with her, the conversations we had and the connection I felt; it was deeper than any I have experienced with a boy.
One night she asked if she could kiss me (an incredibly brave move when I look back on it) and I said yes.
As I said, I kissed a girl and (it turns out) I liked it.
That was the moment I knew.
How did you know you were gay?
When you look back, were there those tell-tale signs for you?
And what was the moment of realisation?