Editor’s Note: The following submission is from Cristen Shelley. Have an LGBTQ+ related experience or story to share? Having your article published on this site will automatically enrol you into a raffle to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card. Submit an article today via queerdeermedia.com.
[amazon_link asins=’B072F1GLC1′ template=’ProductAdRight’ store=’ourqueerstories-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’9aaa237b-8cda-11e7-b9fe-29bd41c4f555′]Firstly, my medical history hasn’t directly impacted on my identity as what I would often say is ’90% non-straight’. However …in retrospect it defiantly made the coming out process more difficult. That is too say having overcome disability my sexuality was at first to me another hurdle, something I at first tried to ‘cure’ I guess through making myself date girls and turning briefly to alcohol to blot my true feelings (towards guys).
Yet as time went on, through my unusual life experiences previously I came to realise how little my sexuality defined me and how it was the both one of the hardest and quickest dark periods in my life and overcome.
I know see my sexuality as somewhat of an asset, that I can use to promote understanding and new perspectives through my radio work, music and campaigning.
Secondly my music is my main outlet for detailing my emotions, romantic life and… sometimes lack of one! As simply describing the world around me. Therefore some of my songs are about relationships with guys. This is first period in where I have had to opportunity to write from the heart and didn’t feel guilty to do so.
Which is where my EP ties in…
The title track ‘Damaged Goods’ describes many aspects of myself. Originally it was simply supposed to be about a break-up. However as time went on I decided the song seemed too generic…Taylor Swift-esque if you will!
So it became a combo of another song I hadn’t fully written called A&E. Which hinted more about my medical background. Eventually the instrumental turned into something progressively bittersweet and detailed both how I pieced together after a break-up, how I felt fractured by my sexuality and that although the scars of my past background had faded that pain still coursed through my veins. You liking all the medical analogise?
2 tracks from the album are directly about LGBT topics…
Firstly “Smoke and Mirrors” came to me whilst catching sight of myself having a (rare) real cigarette in the reflection of a window. I was fully costume at the time and having done some modelling have to spend an annoying amount of time looking at my ‘allegedly’ handsome face!
From their and having spent an evening at a Trans Awareness convention, the song is becoming both about my own coming out process as almost entirely gay and what it could be like to be transexual based on asking acquaintances at university.
In summary its about…illusion, the illusion of being straight for myself at one time in my life and hints at trans issues with lines like “The guy in the mirror seems just like a stranger, through every cigarette kiss I tread so much closer”. And an overall sense of detachment I think we as LGBT folks have all felt at one time or another, being part of a minority.
My sample track was from a simple pop song I wrote and is the only one that details my couple of straight relationships…and my end goal to go the US. Imagining myself sitting in Time square with her. As she is the only person I can safely say I fell utterly in love with… and again in the original detailed my straight side with one line stating: ‘You where my husband wife and heroine, if it wasn’t for me what could have been…” .
Certainly my music from was influenced by a number of LGBT artists from as far back as I can remember, they where the first people I saw as openly LGBT in a world overwhelmingly anti-gay (Catholic schools etc). Patrick Wolf was my first ‘grown up’ artist I listened to, his song Overture and Magic Position, really struck a chord with me (pun intended). Overture was as I interpreted about opening up to ones past as I was at the time, and losing ones virginity…although not going to tell you about the last one.
That being said the line from that song that stays with me is “It’s wonderful what a smile can hide, if the teeth shine bright and it’s nice and wide, so magical all you can keep in side and if you bury deep no one can find a thing wrong…so open wide…”
As much as you could interpret the above as whole load of arty sounding smut…its actually very poignant to me as I make people smile for a living (I hope), and humour and even upbeat music always has a more arcane edge to it. Magic Position (original) is simply fabulous, the energy of the violins and simple expression of true love….and yes ‘love making’ it describes. Which was very refreshing to me hearing an artist sing about sex thats not about some one night stand with a ‘hoe’…personally having relationships with any garden implement seems risky (that sense of humour again)! I Like Kanye as much as the next gay…more even but still.
In summary musically I joke too much, I fall in love way too often and truly feel beauty is soul deep and I hope others can see that in my work.
Right so the sad part…
Yes. I have felt marginalised by my sexuality. I wasn’t open about my being ’90% non-straight’ until I was 18, however I realised I had feelings towards guys from 11. I had a huge crush on a wana-be choreographer who might have been called James, he had dark locks, a slim quite pretty face, big blue eyes to drown in, wore far to much blusher and pink in my opinion, was super-duper star-ship trooper camp and boy could he dance! He must of been about 6ft and whole 17 years old…so I thought he was a proper man…haha.
So yes sadness; these stirrings didn’t really bother me at the time…I didn’t think of myself as anything at that point. Although I think I just assumed all guys felt the way I did…I just didn’t really know how to ask. In my second high school from about 11-13, I was bullied for my long blonde hair (which was just to cover-up my acne) and arty dress sense on non-uniform days. I had a close openly super gay friend and we used to sing Jesus Christ Super Star in the playground and play piano…me and Josh went everywhere together so…you know I guess people just assumed.
I had things shirts and waistcoats stolen, words behind my back, ‘gaylord’ was the worlds biggest insult and I think if you hadn’t lost your virginity by 13 as all the boys claimed you where queer. But at time I was 5ft, had glasses a, slight limp and could run if my life depended on it, so it was kind of bottom of my priorities.
I make jokes in my comedy sets about how I used to be ‘super good at football/soccer…because my head was usually the ball”. Despite how much I suffered it actually instead of making me bitter, made more determined and what makes me so compassionate today.
Moving back to my second school aged 13-16, it wasn’t an issue surprisingly, I had a couple of Gay friends even a crush on girl and secret boyfriend. Although as the acne wore off and it turned out I was”wow, actually good-looking under the specs and spots”; as one female friend joked.
As 16 came around I started being hit on occasionally which made me feel pretty uncomfortable…girls would ask if I was gay and I always denied it. I think everyone else knew I was, except me…I had an absolutely beautiful friend and we spent the entire time discussing interior design for gosh sake!
I also experimented with make-up around that time, originally to cover up the spots, but eventually I found I liked it…it became my mask…the school had strict rules about hair dye and make-up..so I dyed my hair white blonde in a quiff and layered on the fake tan…obviously.
That being said, I wasn’t in anyway a rebel, I had good grades and was quiet. Although that was my little foundation based ‘F word’ to Catholicism. Teachers when I asked said homosexuality was a sin and God could read my thoughts…they all seemed to think I would be into sodomy for some reason!
In College (16-18) I studied Media Studies, and after making myself have dates with literally more girls than I can remember (and starting smoking…its stressful acting straight) I ‘came out’ .
First to a close friend in my first year, and by the second year after knowing a bisexual girl by year 2…I told my friends while drunk as they kept trying to make me kiss every other girl in the club that I was gay. They weren’t exactly surprised and even more annoyingly introduced me to every other well dressed male Emo in the place.
However the more I felt finally free over time with my friends the total more strangers harassed me. I couldn’t so much as walk to my local train station without someone swearing at me or calling me something or other. Straight friends and my family didn’t understand why I would want to where rock boots or eyeliner on a night out…or an oxford shirt to uni. It had to be a ‘gay thing’ not a someone into design thing. I was my most popular and always the odd one out.
In my first year at uni, I actually went sort of back into the closet, twice, I wasn’t sure how other people would take it…I did have some minor stirrings for a girl and latched onto those unhealthily. By the end of the year I did leave those feelings last barriers behind.
Although one scary experience during that time while in London with my uni radio group was being called a freak and nearly being beaten up by a guy who’s hotel room I shared with another friend..when he was very drunk. He did apologise…but it felt half hearted…the drunk him was clearly what he really thought of me, and it really shook me up.
Finally It became a cathartic experience it woke me up to how dangerous alcohol can be and how much I hated journalism and the clique style of the majority of student radio. I changed to Theatre and Performance, where despite a some brief stirrings certain female ballet dancer…I feel truly and finally complete and comfortable to be me.
Right…triumphs. Gosh, I am going on bit…
My greatest triumph so far would be joining Gaydio in Manchester,UK. I got into it through chance through my LGBT committee and was tired of people at uni saying I sounded ‘so gay’ on radio. I used my unique voice to my advantage and hope to move on to present full time.
We are all volunteers and work with a number of LGBT charities (which we get paid to do). I record Vox-Pops and find and right up a show based on 3 universal and 3 LGBT based stories. My personal favourites from the show was one on Trans rights in the EU, a segment where we interviewed drunk people on the straight on whether their is such a thing as a ‘gay/camp voice’ , and a straight story on how to keep your hamster happy…I think the hamster was gay as well!
If the my EP with its LGBT issues inlayed garners any sort of mainstream success and raises some more awareness (and money) for Stonewall UK, that would be just plain awesome too.
I will be leaving uni in a few months to study if all goes well at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dance and Drama; to pursue my second passion after music…a degree in straight up acting.