Don’t Call Me A Lesbian

One student offers the underreported female perspective on LGBT life in Cambridge, and argues that labels only make it harder.

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Earlier this week, The Tab reported that Cambridge University had been named the most gay-friendly university employer in the country. This puts Cambridge at the top of the ‘definitive list of gay-friendly workplaces in Britain’ and the university also ranks highly on Stonewall’s ‘Gay by Degree’ comparison website, which enables prospective students to evaluate their LGBT options before applying. This is all very good news. But on a more personal level, it only compounds everything I’ve recently been discovering about Cambridge.

I’m very much not straight. However, I don’t like labels because, though I can’t speak for everyone, I believe that sexuality is fluid. Some days I wake up and notice the girl with the undercut opening the bar downstairs, and on others I’m persuading a rower friend to introduce me to the new guy in his boat. It changes. When I first got with a girl I was convinced I was straight, and it was ‘just her.’ It quickly became apparent that it was not ‘just her’, but I still don’t want to put definitive parameters around myself. Who knows how I’ll feel ten years down the line?

I suppose to all intents and purposes I’m bi, though I’ve found that people’s interpretation of that can be pretty binary. ‘So, which sex do you prefer?’ is a question I get asked a lot by well-meaning friends. The problem is that I don’t know the answer, and the thing I worry about more than anything else is getting put into a box and trapped there. I definitely feel like a lot of guys have put me in the ‘lesbian’ box. It’s not only technically incorrect, but also a bit of a frustrating place to be in. They are perfectly happy to discuss ‘conquests,’ with me, ask my opinion on girls and for me to act as ‘honorary wingman’ on nights out, but for the most part they’ve placed me firmly in the friend zone. Generally this is not a problem: Im not trying to get with every person, boy or girl, I meet. But it worries me that one day I’ll meet someone I really like, and he’ll just discount me as ‘that gay girl’, and then start grilling me about the details of lesbian sex.

These are issues I’ve always been concerned about, but which have only recently come to the foreground. Until December I was in a long-term relationship with a girl, meaning I was not forced to deal the implications of my sexuality head on. Now that she’s gone to university and swapped Skyping and missing me for Soho and ‘living it up’ (bitter – moi?) I’ve come out (groan) of my shell and discovered that Gay Cambridge is a great place to be. But such a transition into a whole new world of opportunity, people, and places has only added to my list of worries.

For a start, to quote my best friend, I ‘don’t give off gay vibes.’ I know there are plenty of femme lesbians out there, but my vanilla image, long blonde hair, and penchant for glittery eyeshadow combine to make it very difficult to let a woman know I’m interested. I’m also shit at meeting people in clubs. When in a long-term relationship, alternating between sober and awkward and drunk and overfriendly is not a problem. Now my ‘complete lack of game’ (my friends are so supportive) is a cause for concern.

Whatever happens in the next few weeks, guy/girl, Spectrum/Fez, game/no game, I know it’s going to be fun. I’ve discovered a side to Cambridge I didn’t know existed and I only wish I’d explored it a little bit earlier. But being open about my sexuality is not without difficulties. Cambridge LGBT+ people are brilliant, but there are still obstacles to overcome. Some, such as the moment you tell your dad in the middle of Lion’s Yard car park that you’ve had a girlfriend for over a year, are pretty monumental. Others are less so.

One thing is certain: everyone is different. It can be very frustrating when people want to hang a massive sign around your neck. I definitely don’t want a sign: it would make my awkward dancing in Life even more unattractive. If I did have one though, it would definitely read ‘making up for lost time.’