Reading my Sexuality || Guest Post by Susie Purvis

When I was discovering my sexuality, and coming out in the early to mid-noughties I felt extremely alone. I grew up in a very religious, Christian community where I went to church multiple times a week, sang in the church youth band, and was a faith-based youth leader and community outreach worker for my church. The first time I tried to test the waters telling someone what I was feeling and realising about myself, I was met with a very typical but nonetheless hurtful, “That’s disgusting and so wrong!”.

Growing up, I had never been any good at making close friends. I always found myself in a large group of friends, I was rarely totally alone, but I still felt disconnected and on the outside. Reading has always been a true love of mine and growing up feeling disconnected from my sometimes-troubled world, I often sought refuge in the books I read. The characters were my friends and family, and their experiences and adventures were mine too.

So, when it came to my mid teenage years and puberty was bringing about all these feelings and realisations about my true feelings for girls, all I wanted to do was pick a book off my shelf and find the answers to all my questions hidden inside… but at this time I had no access to books of this kind. I didn’t know what ebooks were, I hadn’t yet discovered the treasure trove that is fanfiction, and the thought of going into a shop or library and asking for books about girls who liked girls was terrifying.

For a long time, I just stumbled through life with this secret inside me, trying desperately to hide my blushes when interacting with a girl I found attractive and finding any situation the girls changing rooms just mortifying. That was until some of the TV shows I watched started to bring in small lesbian storylines. The one that sticks out in my memory most is Alex and Marissa in The OC. Looking back now of course I can see how problematic it was, but at the time I remember just watching their scenes over and over in the privacy of my own room, dumbstruck that I was seeing this secret part of myself on screen. Seeing this on TV gave me a new kind of confidence. I wasn’t weird! It wasn’t just me!

Around this time, myself and my (super Christian) sister were off to London on an annual visit to watch some musicals and do some shopping. The part of these trips I had grown to love the most was when we visited what was then the GIANT Borders bookshop on Oxford Street. Usually my sister and I would browse the shop together, not worrying about time, just taking it all in and carefully picking out a few books each to buy and bring home. This trip was different though, I left my sister browsing the Christianity section and slipped off up the stairs through general fiction to a section labelled ‘Gay and Lesbian’. I was so scared. I looked over my shoulder constantly and scanned the shelves so quickly I could barely take it all in. I totally panicked. I picked up the first two books I found where the blurb read that the two main characters were female and had some kind of romantic relationship. They were, ‘Pages For You’ by Sylvia Brownrigg and ‘One Summer Night’ by Gerri Hill. Two very different books.

Pages for you is a beautifully written book with a terrible ending. The flowerly artistic writing really captured me as I read about a university aged girl having an all-consuming relationship with an older woman, phrases like, “The lines of your hand might be a guide to your gifts for pleasure, or a clue to where you’ll take me, or a map of where I might take you.” that now looking back I can find a litte OTT, were perfectly describing that gut wrenching feeling of your first infatuation with another woman.

One Summer Night is a book about two women in their late thirties who have an on and off, will they won’t they, mess of a relationship, all the while having all the sex… now, if I read this now it would not phase me in the slightest, bring on the sex scenes! But innocent, new to lady-love teenage Susie was shocked… (and intrigued, and turned on yes) but definitely shocked!

These books were not the ideal choices for my first foray into f/f fiction but back then I wasn’t as lucky with the selection of books available as I am now. Growing up the books I had shaped and moulded me and had I read then, some of my favourite books from now, I would have been so much more ready and confident to live my life proud and not scared.

I want to leave you with a list of authors and books that I recommend reading if you are, like I was then, just discovering this quiet but growing part of yourself. You may feel scared and alone, but hopefully within the pages of these books you will find some solace, answers and comfort.

Robin Talley – her books are great because the f/f relationship isn’t always the sole focus of attention. The characters in her books have lives full of adventure, all the while having cute and realistic relationships on the side.

Maria Hollis – this year I have fallen in love with Maria’s ‘Lillac Town’ book series and can’t wait to read more from her. Again, these are realistic relationships between women of all kinds. A must for anyone discovering their sexuality and wondering what the future of loving ladies may bring.

Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon – this book will give you ALL the feels. It is a romance between two bad-ass Sapphic women of colour, full of flirtation, anticipation and the good kind of drama.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde – this is a book about friendship foremost, but it’s also about discovering love when you least expect it but most want it. The f/f rep in this book is absolutely wonderful.

Lumberjanes graphic novel series – this is just an adventure playground for bad-ass queer girls kicking supernatural creature ass! You won’t be disappointed.

Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton – this is one of the first YA f/f books I read and I remember when reading it I was truly smitten with the cute, innocent romance.

Some queer girl books on my TBR:

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
How to Make A Wish by Ashley Herring Blake
Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac
The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

Bio:

Susie Purvis || Part time blogger and freelance writer || Full time mum and reader ||
Queer, lady lover with BPD and Fibro, who occasionally blogs over || at athousandlivesandthoughts.wordpress.com and can be seen ranting about public transport or gushing about her fur-babies at _athousandlives. ||always happy to chat, DMs always open!

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