Wednesday, October 21, 2015

C's STORY

Name: C.
Years in Girl Scouting: 17 years
Roles in Girl Scouting: Pax Lodge Assistant, Our Chalet Assistant, Unit Leader, Regional Assistant, National Leadership Trainer
Location: Europe


I identify as a lesbian in terms of sexual orientation, but really, I think of myself as just being with my partner, M.  That is what’s normal for me. When I first met M., it was more a feeling of just liking her and enjoying being with her...the significance of her being a girl wasn’t so important.  I didn’t think so much about my sexual orientation beforehand but when I reflect, I admit that I hadn’t been very attracted to guys.

M. and I met in 2008 at a training course for Girl Guides.  She was someone I could connect to and someone that I could trust instantly.  She lived in the countryside on an island about four hours away.  We had different lives but we were similar in age so we had a lot of things in common.  We were both very engaged in Girl Guides and volunteered a lot of our spare time with the organization.  She was a Unit Leader in her local area and we both worked on the national level.  

We started dating around November 2009.  In the beginning, we weren’t official.  It was a necessary part of my personal development but it was difficult for our relationship.  I didn’t identify as single but everyone else thought I was.  A lot of the time, I referred to what we had as friendship rather than a relationship, or I would refer to M. as “my friend” so that it wasn’t obvious.

I fell in love.  What is it to fall in love, though?  In some ways, I was overwhelmed by how good she was for me.
It took about a year for me to tell my parents that I was with M.  My parents and I are close.  When I told them, my mom was quite cool about it.  They’ve both grown into the fact that M. and I are together.  My sister was initially disappointed that I didn’t “trust her” to come out to her earlier, but that’s not it...I didn’t know any gay people personally and I thought it was “strange”. It was natural for me to be with M. but how could I ask the people in my life to understand that, when I myself was “unfamiliar” with people being gay?

There hasn’t really been any rejection after coming out, but it’s been a fear for both of us that people would see us differently.


(M.: I think that we would be more active in the gay community if we did not have Girl Guides as part of our lives.  It seems tough to say that we don’t need the gay community, but since we have Girl Guides, we have a place where we can just be.)


I feel that we share the Guiding world and like different paths in the movement.  We try to do things together occasionally but do lots of work separately.  It’s really important for us each to have our own units -- a space for each of us.  


Our Girl Guiding community has known for a long time that we are together.  It’s important that Guiding is one of the places where our relationship can be natural.  There are more female couples in Girl Guides than maybe you would think.  For us, though, it’s important that people don’t think that “Girl Guides turns people gay.”  That’s just not true and it’s dangerous to think that people “turn gay.”


Sometimes I thought that my parents would accept M. as part of the family but not always think of her specifically as my partner.  Now, with our wedding, they have accepted it more.  My sister recently got a boyfriend and that was a relief for my parents -- now my dad has someone to drink beer and watch football with and M. can have space to be herself in the relationship with my parents.  


I didn’t know I was gay before. M. knew she was gay for a few years before we started dating, but I was her first girlfriend. M. was also my first kiss.  Sometimes, it’s been difficult for me to figure out my relationship thoughts: Should I marry my first girlfriend?  That’s just a regular relationship question since I hadn’t dated anyone else.


M. and I got engaged in fall 2014.  I proposed at home.  It was quite a normal day and also a special day.  It was M.’s grandmother’s birthday.  Although her grandmother died several years ago, she was very important to M.  The proposal was very simple...sometimes I worry it was too simple.  M. gave me a hug as we walked to the living room and then she knew what was about to happen.  I’m a lot taller than her and her ear was pressed against my heart -- she could hear how fast it was beating and knew I was nervous.  I went on one knee and she started crying.  A lot.  I tried to hug her while I was still on my knee.  She didn’t want to see the ring at first because she was so overwhelmed, so I sat next to her and gave it some time.  I counted to 200.  When I reached 200, she had also stopped crying, so I showed her the ring.  She really liked it.


When I picked out the ring, I went to the jeweler, selected a ring, and just bought it.  It was quite weird.  Usually when things are important, I think about them for a really long time before deciding to act.  However, I knew I wanted to do this, so I simply did it.  I bought a ring with quite a big stone on it.  It was very difficult for M. not to break it.  She’s a little bit clumsy.  Maybe it wasn’t the most suitable ring for her, and it was an accomplishment that she didn’t break it.


In my country, it’s been legal to be in a registered partnership as a same-sex couple for about 25 years.  Gay marriage was legalized here three years ago.  It’s now possible to be married in a church without having to go to a city hall first.  The priest still has the choice to marry or not marry the couple, though.  For us, it was important to get married in a Protestant church.  No one in my family has gotten married outside of a church.


We decided to get married on 15/8/15 -- the fifteenth of August, 2015.  8 has always been M.’s favorite number and the number 5 means a lot to me.  We thought that 15/8/15 had a nice rhythm.  


One of the things my sister said when we got engaged was that we couldn’t have a traditional wedding anyway, so we might as well make it exactly as we wanted it. We wanted a small wedding with a lot of guests.  “Perfect” for us was to invite the people we wanted to be with us.  We didn’t need every flower specially grown or fancy transportation.  We wanted something natural, something that was “us.”  


It was important to both of us to wear dresses for the ceremony, and it would be common to be married in white in my country.  Even though M. is not a “dress girl,” she would always wear a dress to a fancy party.  I knew I would wear a red dress. The days are always better if I wear red: half of my closet is red.  I’m just a red girl.  My dress had a lot of flowers on them and M. laced them herself.  These laced flowers were very significant.  The story behind it is that one of the first presents M. made me was a red laced flower.  I used it a lot and put it in my hair often.  Each laced flower is about 7 hours of work and M. made me about 25 flowers.  It meant a lot that she invested the time in creating all of those flowers for me.


The question was M.’s dress: We wanted the colors to complement each other.  We’re not always so good with style.  My sister is in charge of that kind of thing.  M.’s dress was purple and it looked like the dresses were meant for each other.


For our wedding, M. also made me a papier-mache giraffe that's as tall as me. She made it in secret and it’s now in our living room.  I have a skin illness that makes my pigment go away, so people say that I am a giraffe because I have spots and I’m so tall. M. said that it was also because the giraffe has the biggest heart compared to the size of its body.


We invited a lot of Girl Guides to the wedding. We were so blessed, that there was 8 flags in the church. It is an acknowledgement from our present and former Girl Guide units and we were so overwhelmed by it. It was more than we could have dreamt of. It also made our families realize what great impact Guiding has in our lives.


Maybe we should have been more open earlier.  I still feel that wasn’t a possibility.  I want to be true to myself, I want people to be able to trust me, and I want to be able to trust other people.  For me, it was really important that I would be able to easily tell people that M. and I were together.  People will still ask, “What does your husband do?”  And then I have to say, “Well….”  It was important to me that I could counter that question confidently. In my language, the word for boyfriend or girlfriend is the same, so you can say that you are in a relationship without referring to gender.  If I use the word, though, I now clarify that I’m with a woman.


We know we are very lucky to live someplace where it’s accepted to be gay.  We have rights, we can create a family together, we can live regularly.  


I don’t think so much about being gay.  I simply identify as “being with M.” because she’s the one I love.
I’m really happy that there is a gay community that can make sure that we have equal rights but I don’t fight so much for it myself.  Sometimes the gay community feels so colorful that I don’t know where I fit in.   I fall outside the norm because I’m with a girl, but I fall inside the norm in every other perspective. I’m red and M. is purple.  There’s also green due to Girl Guides, but those are all of our colors.  We just need those three colors.


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