What kind of love we see on our TV screens matters. It matters enormously. It keeps people alive.
I was 14 when I found out that girls could kiss.
It was two years until I saw this happen again. I was sixteen, and I was watching Skins. And Naomi kissed Emily and then ran away, and Emily followed her and yelled ‘be brave and want me back!’
And her voice ran in my head, over and over and over again, because when I saw Naomi’s fear I saw my own fear, and when Emily urged her to be brave I felt the urge to be brave, too.
I wasn’t. Not straight away. But I downloaded all of Naomi and Emily’s scenes and I watched them numerous times and I wondered if I would ever have someone to hold hands through a cat-flap with. (Watch Skins. You’ll get it.)
The next year at a party, I decided to be brave. I went to a party with a girl, one that I’d loved (as a friend, a good friend, a really, really, really good friend who I sometimes imagined spending my life with), and I got drunk, and I decided to be brave.
I told her how I felt. She said she felt the same, and I kissed a girl. And for the first time ever it didn’t feel like I was lying anymore. I felt like me, for the first time in 17 years.
(Afterwards, I threw up. Not because of the alcohol; but because of the people who had watched us and cheered, thinking it was a cheap gimmick. Because I felt like I’d cheated or done something wrong. Because I’d kissed a girl and it had felt like I was coming home, but I still had no idea where home was.)
Three days later, she’d found a boyfriend. Somehow, apparently, he’d won. Maybe because, unlike me, he would never be scared to hold her hand in public.
A week later, on a show called Glee (a show which single handedly manages to be the worst possible show in existence, while also reeling you in with its auto-tuned, beautiful people and never letting you go), a girl named Santana cornered a girl named Brittany and told her she loved her, and Brittany told Santana she loved her too but that she was dating Artie so they couldn’t be together.
My heart fell and I stopped breathing; because on screen- right there, in front of me, on a show that all my friends watched- was a girl going through the exact same thing I was. I can’t ever forget Santana’s face or the way she looked when she asked Brittany to love her back because that’s how I felt every day. And it was on TV.
I felt, just like I had when I’d kissed that girl, like I belonged. All because of a few girls on my screen, telling me that if they could be themselves, I could too.
I was almost 18, and I finally accepted that I was gay.
Today, I am 21, and I no longer doubt who I am.
I kiss my girlfriend in the street, without fear or worry, because I know that I can- because I know that, even if I’m still not fully accepted, I am who I am and I’ll be damned if I let fear rule me any longer.