The scene. Two words. Pretty straightforward right? Wrong.
Meeting D opened me up to a whole new platform. I thought I was there already. I’d had my first lesbian relationship(ish), I was unashamedly gay and I thought that it would be pretty simple from then on. How wrong I was. When I was invited to “Booty” for the first time I was pretty excited. Back in 2007 Booty was the place to be for the black LGBT+ community. In fact, Vauxhall in general was. I was anxious and nervous, but full of anticipation. I think I went with my gay guy friend from primary school (one of my innocent boyfriends actually – how ironic!) the first time. I was 16, ready to let the world know who I was and that was that. I’d already accumulated a few more gay acquaintances at this point, through various questionable avenues, so there were a few people that I knew would be there. I was set. Ready to go. Getting through security was the first thing I worried about, although my concerns soon vanished as it was pretty clear the bouncers at these places didn’t care much about how old you were – if you looked presentable that was pretty much your entry sorted. Walking into this place was like walking into a chocolate factory – all you can eat. For someone who likes her chocolate, I was pretty much in my element. This is where I needed to be. Surrounded by guys who liked guys and girls who liked girls. This was where I was going to find myself. Girls everywhere. Beautiful girls everywhere. Short, tall, thin, thick, girly and not so girly. I was at my first gay rave. This was “the scene” and all too soon I realised it wasn’t as amazing as I first thought.
My first few times at gay clubs were interesting. Besides being completely petrified on the inside I tried my best to convey an air of confidence to everyone else. Not entirely sure that worked – might have mastered the ‘uptight stoosh girl’ look back in those days but I did my best. Everyone was so different but so similar at the same time. Everyone seemed to know everyone. Everyone had their “clique”. And everyone had a label – whether they wanted one or not.
I found myself in a place where I needed to fit in. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. That’s what I’d been trying to get away from. I was finally in a place with people I thought I could be myself with. At the time I thought gay raves were amazing; Heaven, SugarRush, Hustlers & Divas, Candy and the rest. I was young and naïve. I longed for a place to belong and this was where I thought that was. The truth was that it was an abyss of confusion, pressure, and just another obstacle to finding out who I was. I ended up raving every weekend, during the week, whenever I could – if there was a rave I’d be there. I’d like to think I wasn’t too known on the scene. I knew quite a few people and I was aware a handful knew me but I certainly wouldn’t have thought I was “bait”. I could be wrong but that’s what I like to think.
The first issue with the scene is the labels. In a place for like-minded individuals you would expect there to be a certain level of freedom. It may have looked that way but for me, I felt constrained. You could be yourself to a certain extent but you had to fit into a category; a femme, a stud or a stem. That was pretty much it, as far as I was concerned, for the lesbian world. There were categories and you would be allocated to one regardless. The names are pretty self-explanatory. You had the typical femme who was girly, your stud who wouldn’t be caught dead in a dress and your stem; a mixture of the two. I guess a girl who liked wearing men’s clothes but I guess wore make-up to a certain degree? Don’t quote me on that though! That was the superficial side to the categories anyway. Psychologically, these labels seem to carry a much deeper definition that to this day, I still think the LGBT world in general is confused about. Your stereotypical stud would usually have an heir of dominance, security and safety lingering about her that was reflected in the way she outwardly carried herself – like a protector I suppose. Femmes were seen to be the more submissive ones in character, the ones to be wined and dined and usually thought as high maintenance. I have no idea about a stereotypical stem, although I imagine they fell somewhere between the two. How studs, femmes and stems were in a relationship could be a whole different story – ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ springs to mind. Anyway, that is a whole different topic of conversation, but at the end of the day the scene would assign you to one of those categories whether you liked it or not. I was a “femme” apparently. Looking back, I tried to embrace that title as well as I could. Skirts, dresses, cleavage, heels, lipstick. That was me. Yes, I liked to dress up so this category wasn’t so bad but the pressure. The pressure to look good and “impress” the studs was unreal. It was like an unspoken rule.
The femmes were there for the entertainment and pleasure of the studs. You’d walk in and you’d have the studs lined up against the walls with femmes bent over in front of them giving them their entertainment – it would be a heinous lie to suggest all parties didn’t enjoy this tradition though. Still, there was something sordid about it. But that’s what it was and everyone was a part of it. It was difficult but essential for me. Don’t get me wrong, I had some of the best nights out, I’ve met some brilliant people but after growing up a bit, when I look back I feel sad. There was an enormous amount of pressure to be a certain way. It was like being back at school. You were free, but restrained. Yourself but someone else. Gay but “femme”. I found myself desperate again. Desperate to be noticed. At this point during college years, my life was consumed by the scene and all things lesbian. The boyfriend-girlfriend thing was long gone and I was, as I saw it, a fully-fledged, out and proud lesbian. I wanted my woman and I wanted her badly. I got dressed up every weekend, got drunk with the best of them, and went back time and time again because it was where I belonged – but didn’t.
The scene was like a vortex. Once you were in it, it was almost impossible to get out. It drew you in, threw you about, brought you up and crashed you down. It was a pit. A pit of lust, envy, unspoken rules, anger, pleasure, pain and confusion. That’s how I experienced it. Regardless, it was a big part of me trying to find who I was. Who I wanted to be. I’d end up doing stupid things with [some] stupid girls for a few years from here on in. It was like an incestuous camp. For any of you who have seen the L word, ‘The Chart’ is a real thing. Literally, you are connected to everyone and regardless of how known you thought you were or weren’t, everyone seemed to know your business.
To be continued…