On the way to Stow on the Wold
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015
Being in romantic relationships with women for the majority of my adult life has not always been a fabulous experience. I have been ostracized and harmed by people outside of my relationships and I have felt insufficient from within them. Many women in female / female relationships within my age group suffered harm if they came out at a young age or, by appearance, didn't meet the expectations and demands of the hetero-normative people in their lives - mostly males, though oppressed straight women also became oppressors because of hetero-normative socialization and their fear of repercussion from oppressive males in their lives. In the early days, male-female roles were predominant in lesbian and gay relationships though I never understood why we would buy into the same restrictive gender socializations experienced in heterosexual lifestyle. I used to cringe when people would ask, "Which one of you is the man?" ....seriously. Between all of that and being beaten, sexually assaulted, had work taken away for no reason but my identity, lost promotion for no reason but my identity, and generally considered as "less than" for not being with men and not bearing children has left me, at the very least, tired and worn. I am grateful for where I work now. It is the safest I have ever felt as an adult in the workplace.
I am single these days and I have a greater sense of peace in myself. In relationship, I inevitably feel as though I am letting the person down and I feel less than adequate to both my own and a partner's expectations. These are definitely not blame statements as I take complete responsibility for my choices and my own happiness and misery. I always have been responsible for my own emotions and feelings; however, all the relationships throughout our lives can complicate our personal sense of justice and conflate our sense of wrong-doing. My inability to be a good partner, largely arises from the PTSD I live with as a result of the harm done to me throughout my life. It has very little impact on my work ability but a significant impact on my personal life and my ability to meet the expectations of a partner.
I think I am a good friend though I think my honesty costs me and I have learned, and continue to learn, to temper that honesty with kindness.
Sometimes I feel sad and angry because of the oppression, violence, discrimination and terror I have faced in being a woman who has loved other women ... and, really, simply because I am a woman. It has taken a great deal away from me. A person cannot be violently attacked multiple times and have it not leave a mark.
I think that the painful aspects of my history are, in part, that which has taken away my desire for any kind of sexual identity/orientation. I still get punished for who I am and that harm is actually acknowledged less, because people think everything is all rainbows and lollipops now. The truth is, the haters and oppressors remain; they are just more clever with their oppression because they know that laws have changed out of their favour. They continue to punish others for not being like them, but they make it impossible to prove. So I relinquish the part of me that gets hated - my sexuality - though they will still hate me because they see that I don't want them. I am not gay. I am not straight. I am not, well, anything. I am of no use to them. I suppose I am a threat by the mere fact of my existence. Not awesome.
Many women of my age are considered to be a worthless commodity to men. As we are often no longer objectified as sexual property we are treated as worthless, we are ostracized in the workplace and, sometimes, less malleable than younger employees. Many of us would likely end up cast off to sea on an ice float if they hadn't all melted as a result of corporate greed/climate change. (Funny? ...not funny.)
I suppose some of you may read this and think I am a sad thing. I am not so. More often, I am less sad than I have been in quite some time. I am throwing off some of the burdens and expectations of my youth. Perhaps you think I need counselling - who doesn't? I have had decades of it and will likely continue to do so. If I still had a permanent job, I could afford it.
Perhaps one day I will choose to have some sort of love-like relationship, but I don't need to worry about that right now.
I need to continue to work - hopefully until retirement age - and I will spend my time away from work making art and writing stories and enjoying the companionship of a few friends who bother to keep in touch. I will probably feel a bit lonely at times but who doesn't feel lonely at times, regardless of their relationship status.
Find your peace. Find your joy. Be kind. Speak your truth. Feed your body with clean water and clean food. Be content in each beautiful moment of this gift of life. Try to remember that you are loved and essential to the universal energy of all and that you are a whole, perfect being on each step of your journey. This is what I tell myself. Most days I can get on with it, others just beat me down. Social media is chock-a-block with fictionalized "positivity." The fact is, at times, all of our lives are hard bloody slogging. For those of you who feel this is true, I hope it brings you some solace to know that I see you; I get it and I care.
Hopefully reading this won't send you into a deeper despair; rather, I hope it lifts you up to know there are others who are finding it brutally hard at times, are saying so and hanging on for the good bits that inevitably come because science and statistics dictate the balance. Later today, I will go outside for a bit of a walk, likely alone, but I'll go. I'll do it because I know it will be beautiful out there. There are blossoms on the trees and wee birds and squirrels busy with Spring. I will pick up a few groceries and walk home. For today, that will bring me joy. I will smile at someone who looks sad or worried and hope that it helps to lift their spirits. That will be enough. You, you are enough. You always have been.
With love to each of you.
Gillian Cornwall, c. April 2, 2017
G. Cornwall, c. 2015.