2020 Vision

Bi-sexuality, Covid-19, Josie Quinn

A ‘Chronically Fabulous’ post by Josie Quinn

“This year, Christmas is going to look very different, and it’s going to be really difficult for a lot of people, but that just makes it all the more important to be grateful for whatever moments of cheer we can manage.”

No description available.

Christmas has always been my favourite time of year; some would even say I love it to a degree inappropriate for someone in her early thirties (and to those people, I would likely stick out my tongue and call them a Scrooge!). In fact, my brother and I still insist on our mum filling the advent calendars she made for us as children with chocolate each year, despite us both reaching adulthood more than a decade ago. I love everything about it: getting to wear Christmas jumpers/earrings, decorating the house, finding the perfect presents to get everyone, drinking hot chocolate whilst watching my dog run in the snow.

So when I got a stomach bug last Christmas, I’ll admit I felt pretty sorry for myself. My partner had come round on the night of Christmas Eve; but unfortunately by that point I’d already started to feel unwell. Hoping it would pass, we had an early night, but when I awoke on Christmas morning I felt much worse; I spent the first hour of the day alternating between opening presents and rushing to the bathroom to be ill, which wasn’t the cosy, romantic Christmas morning I’d envisioned! By the time my partner left to visit his parents, I had crawled back into bed, where I stayed until the evening. Christmas dinner is usually one of my favourite meals, but last year my entire dinner consisted of one pig-in-a-blanket, one bite of turkey, half a roast potato and a glass of water. More devastatingly, and for the first Christmas in the thirty-something years since I developed teeth, I didn’t manage to eat a single chocolate all day!

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Looking back on things through the corona-tinted lenses of 2020, my perspective has changed drastically. With Tier-2 restrictions in full force, having to choose the two households I’ll be able to see over Christmas has made me seriously re-evaluate so many things: not only how lucky I am, but how grateful I am to the people around me, and just how much I appreciate, and miss, the social interactions that I’d been taking for granted.

Although a couple of days over Christmas last year weren’t great, I’m now thinking about the weeks either side: Christmas shopping with mum; wrapping up warm and meeting friends in town for fancy, overpriced, seasonal coffees; going to friends’ houses to drink Baileys and exchange presents. I loved getting hugs from my godchildren and those few minutes of their excitement on opening the presents I’d brought, before they became more interested in the next present/family cat/cardboard box which had contained the presents. At the time, they all seemed so everyday, just things that “always” happen around that time of year. But I now realise those moments are the reasons I’ve always loved Christmas so much, and they are the things I’m going to miss the most this year.

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This year, Christmas is going to look very different, and it’s going to be really difficult for a lot of people, but that just makes it all the more important to be grateful for whatever moments of cheer we can manage. So I’m still looking forward to the winter nights, watching Christmas films with friends, even if it will now be via webcam, and I’m going to enjoy playing Santa by doing doorstop present drops. But mostly I’m looking forward to this time next year when, fingers crossed, everything will be back to normal. Hopefully then, with the hindsight of 2020, I’ll be even more appreciative of being able to celebrate with friends and family.

Josie Quinn (she/her) is in her early thirties. She is a proud bisexual, disabled wheelchair-user and self-professed total geek! She worked as a Legal Executive before becoming too ‘Chronically Fabulous’ to continue, having been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Osteoporosis, CFS, Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD. In her spare time she’s an avid reader (sci-fi, fantasy & graphic novels especially), amateur cosplayer and burgeoning tattoo addict. Twitter.com/Bendy_NotBroken … Instagram.com/BendyNotBroken

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Chronically Fabulous: The Critical Role of D&D in an Isolated World

By Josie Quinn: “In a year of isolation and fear, Dungeons & Dragons has not only kept me connected with the outside world, but given all of us the much needed chance to escape our current reality, even if only for a few hours.”

Giving Shame the Finger!

Louise Clare Dalton. “Let’s talk about shame baby, let’s talk about it and me, let’s talk about all the good things and the … oh wait. Hon, let’s not kid ourselves, there isn’t much ‘good’ to speak of when it comes to the shame surrounding sexuality and queerness.

The Journey to Living a Queer Life

Bi-sexuality, Louise Clare Dalton, Motivational

An ‘At What Point Do I Qualify: My Bisexual Experience’ Post

By Louise Clare Dalton

“This year I’ve had a chance to be that kid again. To follow my instincts. I marched into a salon hungover and chopped my hair off just because I fucking wanted to. I came out to my mum over the phone on Pride, I even asked my now girlfriend (she’s fantastic btw) out on our first date …”

Last week, me and my wonderful pal were sat in the park, sipping off-brand lager and chatting all things love, sex and relationships, when we saw something totally majestic occur, followed by something very sweet and tentative. The two instances together inspired this month’s blog – so buckle up…

boy riding green kick scooter

Poised at the top of a small hill somewhat in the distance, were two tiny toddlers. The pair had their chubby fingers gripped around the plush, cushioned handlebars of two fun-sized scooters. With a hard kick, the first went zooming down the hill. It was superb – the fearlessness of it! Now, I know it was a small hill, but to a toddler? It must have been bloody massive. When they reached the bottom, the kid smiled, stuck out a T-bar clad toe, and strode off the moving vehicle onto the path.

Then came the second. After an encouraging nod from the child’s grownup, a teensy leg tiptoed out and lightly pushed off. Almost as soon as they’d started moving, the kid hit the brake and slowed to an eventual stop halfway down the hill. Of course, the first child had already forgotten their scooter. They’d swiftly moved on and were now playing with sticks in the mud, getting covered in muck in that way that quickly becomes unacceptable after childhood ends.

The two seemed to be siblings, and were very close in age, but their attitudes towards that hill (and possibly life in general) were starkly different. Bizarrely though, I saw shards of my own nature throughout the years reflected in both the boldness and tentative hesitation.

When I was a kid, following my instincts was easy. I didn’t think about consequences, I grabbed life and ran with it. I would have zoomed down that hill so fast back when I was small, but when I reached adolescence, a lot changed. The idea of consequence began to paralyse me slightly, and my ability to go with my gut. I became aware of how I was seen, how I was expected to behave, and how I should carve myself into a version that fit a predetermined mould of what the world would be willing to accept.

But about eighteen months ago, I started to think of who I would be if there had never been that pressure to conform. How much of me is who I am instinctually and authentically, and how much has been influenced by pressure from the outside world.

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As I write this, I look across at my own reflection, noticing the wispy tufts of hair framing my face. A few months ago, admittedly in a slightly hungover state, I chopped all my hair off. And just like that I’m reminded of a perfect example, of when I began following my instincts again.

Before I came to terms with my sexuality, the idea of cutting my hair short often entered my mind. But, back then, the thought of someone seeing my short hair and assuming I wasn’t straight because of it would have floored me. Because let’s face it, we’re still fed an idea of how straight people should look and how queer people should look. We live in a world that wants to wrap gender identity, gender expression and sexuality up in a neat bow, and one that sees short hair and boxy shirts (one of my best looks) as innately masculine, though really, hair and clothes don’t have to be gendered or related to our sexuality at all.

Us queer folk should be free to express in a way that aligns with these ideas, or one that rejects them, or (as most of us, including myself, will) a mixture of both. Because we’re complex, we’re layered and we don’t necessarily fit in to a neat package of how a person with our sexuality ‘should express’, though some people will, and that’s okay too.

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This year I’ve had a chance to be that first kid again. To follow my instincts. I marched into a salon hungover and chopped my hair off just because I fucking wanted to. I came out to my mum over the phone on Pride, I even asked my now girlfriend (she’s fantastic btw) out on our first date. But I know how lucky and privileged I am to simply be able to do these things safely and without too much resistance. To exist freely, be me, fuck up, live authentically, make mistakes, love without boundaries or expectations, and ultimately be a happier version of myself.

So how do we move forward to create a world where all people are totally free to follow their instincts, express as they choose, love freely and live their queer truth?

Well for a start, good representation really matters. Seeing whole, realised queer characters express themselves in mainstream media. Also, in depth education about the LGBTQ+ community at all levels, not just in our senior schools (which is a massive win), but in primary education, and for older generations too.

And for me, most important here is a willingness to unlearn. We’ve been taught that certain correlations between sexuality, gender expression and gender identity have to exist in order for the world to turn, when in fact they don’t. That certain ways of loving are ‘normal’ and the rest are not, that those of us who are ‘other’ should feel ashamed and not proud. These ideas are arbitrary not inherent. We all have learned ideas and prejudices, but in order to move forward and best protect our community, and to allow us all to follow our instincts and live freely, we need to break down these ideas of how all people (especially queer people) are allowed to exist in the world.

Basically, hons, we all deserve the freedom to express ourselves in whatever way we choose, whatever feels most natural and authentic to us. Whatever makes us fucking happy. So let’s keep educating, representing, opening our minds, our hearts, loving fully, accepting fully and living our god damn lives.

Peace and rainbow love,

Lou x

Louise Clare Dalton is a feminist, bisexual writer and poet interested in sharing her personal experience. She aims to open up the dialogue about common misconceptions and the biphobic narratives they perpetuate. Louise writes her own blog at www.louiseclaredalton.com, which focuses on ethical consumerism and healthy life hacks. Finalist in the Roundhouse Poetry Slam 19, her spoken-word poetry focuses on introspection and understanding how societal pressure affects human behaviour.

Lou was our featured poet in September 2020. Check out her performance of What They Told You

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Transitioning Triathlete: The World Rugby Ban

Kimberley Drain, Sports, Transgender

So, again, I’m left wondering if I have a place in the world of sport right now.

Well…

It’s been an eventful year (and it’s not done!). The virus, Brexit, world leaders threatening to die (made a nice change from threatening war), the government refusing to let trans people self-identify because they know better, World Rugby banning trans women and WOMEN LIKE US launching 🚀. These are just the teir-3 events – whatever the criteria for tier 3 is!

Soooooooo … World Rugby has been given scientific evidence and changed their trans-inclusion policy to no inclusion for trans women or exclusion from the women’s game, more accurately.

So many emotions…

I don’t play Rugby. I watch a little if it’s on, that’s about it, but the announcement in October of this change of policy has been a stake through my heart for so many reasons, and I’ve been in some dark places off the back of it. The hate this is propagating is scary, and I’m fearing for my safety more than ever.

The rugby policy change only affects elite or professional athletes, but elite levels of any sport can’t exist without the grassroots and vice versa, and it’s a tragedy that trans women are being shut out of the professional game.

Certainly, the kind of blanket ban introduced by World Rugby isn’t necessary. Safety is integral, as well as creating a level playing field, but some trans women are of a size that would put other women at no additional risk, so why ban all trans women? All sports have a responsibility to the health, safety and general wellbeing of all participants at all levels of the sport or sports they govern, but what about the wellbeing of trans women? There’s been a lot of fantastic work across all sports promoting good mental health. But the way trans people are currently being treated is certainly hammering my mental health, and I’m sure it’s the same for others.

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The study referred to by World Rugby looks to be a good quality, scientific study, I have to say. I believe in science, but science often throws up as many questions as it answers. Data can often be interpreted in different ways to suit different motives. The trouble is agreeing which study becomes more or less valid than another. I fear ending up in a situation like scientific studies into cancer. One week a study comes out saying something increases or decreases your risk of cancer; the next week they’re saying the opposite.

And scientific evidence already existed, 🤷‍♀️ but this new evidence suits their agenda better, as far as I can work out. They seem to make no reference to the ever-growing scientific understanding of how trans identities develop. The basics of current scientific evidence suggest that differences in the first and second trimester of pregnancy are heavily involved in the development of gender dysphoria. So my brain was born female, arguably making me biologically female anyway.

All sports have a duty to look at new scientific evidence, but discretion and common sense have to prevail. I’m yet to see a sport played on paper or in a science lab. Anyone that knows anything about sport knows that. There are so many more factors at play than hormone levels, and that’s a scientific fact as well. Diet, the weather, general health, sleep, age, body weight, natural talent, and so many more come into play. Mental health has a huge impact on performance as well. Current or past testosterone exposure is vilified as the bad boy, but so much more goes on. We don’t know everything about the human body yet. Half of what any medical student is being taught today will be irrelevant or very different to what we understand in a few years’ time.

Kayla Sauvao of Australia and Ireland’s Alison Miller at UCD during  a Women’s Rugby World Cup match that ended Ireland 19, Australia 17. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

And, of course, trans men are allowed to carry on competing at all levels of rugby. So, as well as maintaining transphobic attitudes, World Rugby continues to maintain sexist attitudes too. In fact, it’s interesting how keen World Rugby has been to exclude trans women. I don’t think women are fragile, inferior beings that require additional protection, but World Rugby seems to think otherwise.

To make matters worse, heterosexual and cis-gendered former athletes have been queuing up to take swipes against “biological males” competing against “biological females” in recent days, generating yet more hate. Online, it appears to be empowering transphobia generally, not just with a focus on sport. It all could have been dealt with so much more sensitively by World Rugby, by former professional athletes and every man and his dog. Some of the aggressive harassment of people speaking out against transgender people has also been wrong. It’s not wrong to challenge these views, but general decency needs to be maintained.

Triathlon is a very different sport to rugby. And for me personally, my continued participation in triathlon is based on the hope that, after much gatekeeping, I’ll eventually be able to compete in the right gender (female). I manage to get through being forced to misgender myself every race I enter, but I manage this by telling myself one day that torture will end.

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I sometimes wonder if there is a need for compromise. It, of course, isn’t just about the needs of trans people. Perhaps, as far as triathlon goes, separate trans male and female categories will be the way forward, with representation of these categories right through to international level. Personally I’d hate this sort of segregation; it would be as bad as separation of different ethnicities in my eyes.

So, again, I’m left wondering if I have a place in the world of sport right now. Over time it’s been an overwhelming force of good in my life and still is. But my gender identity and sport don’t mix very well and it’s creating some unsustainable difficulties, quite honestly.

I’m not making any knee-jerk decisions. If anything, I’m training harder than ever, fuelled by all the hate, but we’ll see …

I’m just thankful that there’s a huge amount of wonderful support out there as well 🤗

Kimberley Drain is a 27-year-old trans woman, and a club-affiliated runner and triathlete (average amateur). She is one of these strange people that enjoy training more than racing … and she’s not short of opinions. Find her on Strava.

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New Year, New Queer

Louise Clare Dalton on switching labels from Bi to Queer. But do we even need labels any more?

A Silent New Year’s Eve in a Field in the Middle of Nowhere

By Hayley Sherman: “At midnight, where fireworks exploded around the globe, just twelve hollow clangs of a cowbell sounded somewhere in the distance, then the disappointing toot of a depressed owl. Then more silence. Happy New Year to me!”

Sometimes I Look for the Love of My Life When I Pee … Illustrations by Odara Rumbol

Art, Mental Health, Motivational

Inspirational, motivational illustrations that make it just a little bit easier to be a woman.

Odara Rumbol is a 28-year-old multidisciplinary artist, currently focusing on illustration. London born but also half Brazilian, she has been in the arts all her life and was always that kid in maths and English that was doodling, drawing intricate patterns or just some random characters. After studying art, photography and graphic design in college, she decided to study graphic design as her degree. Big mistake! Although she completed the degree and started working as a freelance designer, she wasn’t creatively fulfilled. She always needed to have other artistic hobbies to get her through. She just felt so constricted.
 

Love is Love: A self-initiated illustration, created to celebrate Pride month and the power of love.

It was only last year after going travelling for a few months that she decided to give her dreams a shot. So she started drawing and posting on Instagram and reaching out to other creative people. She credits motivational podcasts with giving her the courage to make the leap, things like The Creative Pep Talk, Women of Illustration and Meg lewis. They inspired her to believe that even though it might be hard, she could do it too! She is still on her journey but she is excited and happy to be working on projects with people and brands that she admires and building her audience on Instagram.  

Let’s break the stigma: A creation for Vush to empower women to take control of their sexuality and break the stigma surrounding female sexuality. 

What/who inspires you most artistically?

Other artists (especially when you can’t put them in a box), universal human experiences, meditating, coffee table books, galleries and thoughts and things I see on the tube. 

Inspired by @mostlysharks_ twitter quote. When I saw this quote I felt like I needed to create something surrounding it as it resonated so much with me. I’m constantly thinking about our existence and how trivial some of our worries can be. 

What/who inspires your inspirational/empowering outlook? 

All the books and podcasts I listen to. About 8 years ago I started getting into the world of self-development, psychology, philosophy and spirituality. I’d say most of the ideas I have come somewhat through something I heard, or what it made me think of, or a conversation I had with a friend discussing it. I’m a real nerd for these kinds of things. 

This one came from reading and listening to a lot of podcasts about the self and how our mind can dramatically change the way our lives play out. The stories we tell ourselves ultimately become our lives and emotions. 

Do you find the process of creating art with an inspirational message healing/cathartic yourself?

Yes, a million percent. Especially recently, most of my creations have been from things I’m dealing with myself. It feels very liberating and freeing when I create. Also, I love having a look at my feed and things I’ve created, remembering certain points and what I was feeling at the time. Sometimes I look through to re-inspire myself on certain topics like self love. 

Inspired by the growtober prompts by @lauraklinke_art. Day 15 was ‘society’, and just that week I had been dealing with some personal issues surrounding being confused as to where I stood within it. That’s when I realised I was trying to fit in a box society had created for me.

What is your starting point for your creations?

My notes on my phone. Any time I hear something I like or have a random idea, I write it down to make later. Sometimes, if I have my iPad near me, I’ll sketch it out. But most of my ideas come when I’m going on a walk, taking the tube, in the shower, etc. The shower one is pretty hard, but I usually just run out and try and write it on a piece of paper. My desk is always full of random notes and ideas. 

Created after my legs were going numb as I was doing exactly this and thinking how weird it would be if I matched with ‘the love of my life’; would I tell them what I was doing at the time?  

Do you have a favourite piece and why?

I really like “Not being everyone’s cup of tea means you can be your own flavour.” I created that one after journaling about how I need to accept that not everyone is going to like me. Then that phrase just popped into my head and I started creating. It felt really incredible after I had finished and so many people messaged me saying how much they loved it and had the same kind of feelings. The pieces I most like are the ones that connect with my audience the most. My goal is always to connect and make people feel a little less alone and little braver. 

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Small Steps: Teaching During Section 28 and Beyond

By Janine Norris: “Don’t get me wrong, the insults still come thick and fast. Most recently I have mainly been ‘a short-haired, lesbian bitch!’ My general response to this is something along the lines of ‘You can’t insult me with fact and I’m not always a bitch’.”

2020 Vision

By Josie Quinn: “This year, Christmas is going to look very different, and it’s going to be really difficult for a lot of people, but that just makes it all the more important to be grateful for whatever moments of cheer we can manage.”

The Journey to Living a Queer Life

By Louise Clare Dalton: “This year I’ve had a chance to be that kid again. To follow my instincts. I marched into a salon hungover and chopped my hair off just because I fucking wanted to. I came out to my mum over the phone on Pride, I even asked my now girlfriend (she’s fantastic btw) out on our first date …”




Random Thoughts … Operation: Rescue Melly

Janine Norris, Lesbian, Relationships

By Janine Norris

What do you do when your girlfriend’s miles away and falls ill with a life-threatening condition?

Mel and 1/5 of a horse face.

I made a mad dash with a friend on Thursday morning to Lichfield in Staffordshire. My girlfriend, Mel, had been working up there since Monday. From the Tuesday she had struggled with a dreadful headache and violent vomiting. This was nothing new. She has suffered with migraines for a few years now (since she met me actually!) and in the last 3 months has had cyclical pattern of headaches and vomiting at least twice a week. She had finally agreed to book an appointment with the doctor and was due to attend soon.

On Wednesday evening she phoned me and was crying. Mel is not a person who cries easily. She’s my strong, brave, sensible girlfriend who gives me the power and permission to be the emotional cry-baby; it works well.

By now I know it’s serious. I ring her the next morning and she says she just wants to ‘go to sleep and not wake up’. That’s how bad the pain was. I messaged her best friend, Bex, who is our anchor. She’s bright, logical and a great problem solver. She immediately tells me to contact work and get to hers as soon as possible. We need to launch ‘Operation: Rescue Melly!’

“As I went in, the room was in complete darkness and it was obvious to me that Mel was very poorly. Her head, she described, felt like it was squeezed in a vice and she wanted to ‘dig it out’. She wasn’t totally lucid either. I got her dressed as best I could and got her in the van to begin the journey home.”

I jumped on my ‘pocket rocket’ Ninja 650 and whizzed to Baylham to meet Bex. We then began our 3-hour long journey to Lichfield. I messaged Mel to let her know we were on our way.

When we arrived, Bex drove straight off back to Ipswich; she had an important ‘Zoom’ call to attend that she might just get back to work for if she was lucky.

I went to the hotel Mel was staying in and found she’d left her key card just peeping out from under the door. As I went in, the room was in complete darkness and it was obvious to me that Mel was very poorly. Her head, she described, felt like it was squeezed in a vice and she wanted to ‘dig it out’. She wasn’t totally lucid either. I got her dressed as best I could and got her in the van to begin the journey home.

Now, everyone who knows us well, knows that Mel hates my driving! Not just mine, to be fair, she’s a nervous passenger. However, I’m her true love so she’s allowed to criticise my driving whenever she likes (that’s the law of girlfriends apparently). During this drive from Lichfield to home, I knew I was going to have to get her to hospital as soon as I could. Not just because she didn’t know where she was, what day it was and what she had been doing that morning, but mainly because she didn’t comment once about my driving!


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I am awaiting the speeding tickets through my door at any point. I drove super aggressively because I sensed the urgency. I was overtaking, undertaking, flashing my lights, beeping my horn, swearing – I mean, I do suffer road rage normally but this was different. (I apologise to anybody I may have upset on the A14 that day.)

When we arrived at A&E I checked her in and obviously couldn’t be with her. I found a car parking space and couldn’t even put the coins in to get my ticket. A very kind gentleman helped me out with this, and now I’m a pro.

Mel was admitted to the assessment unit and diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.

This was a shock to us all. The doctors said that 12 hours later and it would be a completely different story. I’m hoping this will give me special dispensation for my crazy driving that day.

It is Sunday evening and Mel is still in hospital. She has horrifically high blood pressure and is still vomiting and on pain medication for her headaches. She is due an MRI on Monday or Tuesday and if nothing shows in that, then she has to have a Lumbar Puncture. Oh, and her bloods have gone to Addenbrookes in a taxi for specialised testing.

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However, this isn’t really the blog I want to write. The best part of this situation is the ‘group chats’. We have various group chats but the two that kept us both going over this hideous time are ‘Everything BUT wood’ and ‘Whore Needles’.

‘Everything BUT wood’ includes Mel, me, an old colleague of hers (Milly) and her Paramedic husband, Shane. Shane and Mel are obsessed with everything chainsaw and how much seasoned wood they can collect to burn on their respective wood burners. When I informed ‘Everything BUT wood’ of Mel’s bacterial meningitis diagnosis, Milly immediately ‘googled’ to make sure she was thinking of the right meningitis.

                Milly: …. It came up with bacterial vaginosis … get those antibiotics pumping!

WhatsApp messages have been an absolute god send throughout this situation so far. The best part for me is that, during my 40-minute journey to hospital and back, I stay informed. The new van we have has the ability to read out messages as you go along. I can honestly say that I have been crying with laughter at some of the threads and some of the single comments.

My ‘siri’ is set to a female with an Irish accent. When she reads the messages to me it makes it even funnier.

We have another Group Chat entitled ‘Whore Needles’. This is taken from a character from an adult comic or something and was named because of the appalling behaviour of our friend Bex’s horse at the time. She (the horse, not Bex) was often referred to as a ‘Whore Needle’ or sometimes shortened to ‘The Needle’ when she was being particularly mare-ish. We spend a lot of time going to horse shows with Bex and her new horse, Harn.

Harn is a huge, ginger Arabian cross thing who knows how handsome he is and therefore shows it off at every opportunity. He has 2 favourite moves whilst out in public. His first is waving his front ‘paws’ in the air at his ever-increasing fanbase. His second is raising his back ‘paws’ in a game of ‘eject the rider.’ Due to this, Bex can become fairly nervous and can behave a little like a Diva at times.

Harn playing ‘Eject the rider’!

The following conversation occurred following Mel’s diagnosis:

Bex: Morning! I would just like to say that I know I can be a vile thing at competitions. However you didn’t have to go quite so far to get out of grooming on Sunday.

Mel: I was going to say the same – anything to avoid you at a show.

Conversations have continued pretty much in the same vein.

Mel: (prior to the show on Sunday) Good luck and enjoy and I look forward to reviewing all the photos of your shiny boobs.

Mel is usually in charge of cleaning Bex’s show BOOTS to the highest standard – without her there, she was concerned about the level of shine. ‘Shiny boobs’ was NOT what Mel wanted to write.

Following a hospital meal, Mel (who has a very healthy appetite, it’s fair to say) sent a message.

                Mel: Gosh, I’m absolutely stuffed after that hospital cottage pie, said no Melly ever.

Following a visit from the on-call doctor about her increasingly painful head, Mel reported:

I’ve just seen the duty doctor but unfortunately she was about 12 and was clearly on work experience so she’s probably going to prescribe me a lollipop.

It’s been a difficult few days for everyone concerned, and Mel can be a very serious character at times. However, her humour has stepped up and this is helping her to refocus her mind so that she is not dwelling on the ‘what might happen’ thoughts. Her observations of people, situations and the environment have been her saving grace, most definitely.

She’s not out of the woods yet, but she’s in the best place she can be. We are both so incredibly grateful and thankful for the work the NHS do, all day, every day. She honestly could not have had better treatment. Yes, the food portions are not as big as she is used to (which is no bad thing), but they are nutritious, hot and very welcome. Yes, the on-call doctor appeared not even to have reached her early teenage years yet, but that’s a reflection on how old we are now, not a reflection on the doctor. (I mean, who hasn’t recently looked at a police officer and thought ‘blimey, shouldn’t you still be in school?’) What we have realised is what is important in life. It’s not money, cars, houses, holidays, etc., etc. It’s people who love you/care about you/make you laugh and your health. Thank you for reading. Hopefully I will be able to update you on her progress soon.

Janine was born in Leeds in 1970 to working-class parents, the middle of 3 children. She graduated from Teacher Training College in Lincoln in 1993 and has taught in Norfolk and Suffolk ever since. janinenorris70@wordpress.com

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the moon is a lesbian … Poetry by Maddie Fay

Lesbian, poetry
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Maddie Fay is a poet based in Atlanta. She writes a lot about friends, recovery, illness, dirt, and the ocean. Her first chapbook ‘Cockroach’ is out now! Check her out on Facebook

the moon is a lesbian

the moon is a lesbian,
which i know because she has
kissed every inch of my body
more often than any lover
i’ve ever known.

i have watched the way
she kisses the ocean
and guides her gently home,
have seen her face reflected with love
in the ever-changing sparkling surface of the sea,
and i don’t know any other word
to describe a love like that.

the day we smoked a joint in the woods
and then walked eight miles in the rain
to gas station coffee,
we passed two other gas stations on the way,
but you were holding my hand and
i didn’t want it to stop.
you said
“you’re beautiful”
and i said
~~~~
because you were the most remarkable
person i had ever seen,
leaned up against the hood of a stranger’s car,
smoking a cigarette like a lesbian james dean.

you’d call yourself
“lesbian” sixteen times before breakfast
until it stopped sounding like venom
and started to sound like a prayer,
because how could i ever look at
love like this and feel anything
but holy?
my new church was the woods
by the river,
and i learned to worship
at the altar of your body.
you took me in your arms and you said,
“baby,
you’re beautiful,”
and i told you i loved you
because beautiful had never
meant anything to me
except that i had something
people could take.
i heard “beautiful” from your lips and it sounded
like a blessing.

the moon is a lesbian because
she knows how to love without taking,
i have scarcely loved a man
who has learned how to love without taking,
that is not to say that no man
can love without taking,
but it is a skill that is learned
through a grief
that i have shared with every
queer woman i have ever met.

when you kissed me in the attic,
it was not the first time
i had been kissed,
but it was the first time that a touch
felt like a gift and not a punishment,
and it was the first time i understood
why people write love songs.
i wanted to write you a love song,
but after a lifetime afraid of my own voice,
all i could sing you were hymns.
not because i had made you an idol,
but because your hands on my body
made me feel clean for the first time.

the moon is a lesbian because
the night i stumbled out of
the apartment of the man
who only loved me when
he thought he could keep me,
blood on my lips and nowhere to go,
the moon kissed my fingertips
and she said,
“baby,
what took you so long?
welcome home.”

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Pride, Love and the Power of Self-Acceptance

By Louise Clare Dalton: “Yes, for almost twenty-four years I was ashamed, I denied myself queer love and the joy of living my truth, but I’m here now. How great is that? I’M HERE! And I’m so proud of my journey.”

Pride, Love and the Power of Self-Acceptance

Bi-sexuality, Coming Out, Louise Clare Dalton

An ‘At What Point Do I Qualify: My Bisexual Experience’ Post

By Louise Clare Dalton

red and white wooden door

Forgive me, for this has been something of a love letter to myself, and to all you queer folk out there, no matter where you are on your journey. Here’s to the queer folk who never needed to ‘come out’, the queer folk who came out to immediate acceptance, the queer folk who came out with struggle, and the queer folk who are not safe to do so. We stand with you all.

Folks, today it’s something a little different. In honor of National Coming Out Day, and to celebrate pride and love, I’m taking a break from looking outside, in order to understand the inside a little better, while taking a moment to celebrate along the way.

So, the question today – why did it take me so long to be comfortably open with my sexuality, or to ‘come out’? Why did I struggle with this internal battle for years, as so many of us do? Why did I feel such confusion when trying to understand my bi identity, and where did my journey towards wholehearted self-love and unconditional self-acceptance lead me?

Let’s get into it.

Often, people can’t understand exactly what it was that made coming out so difficult for me, and honestly, for a long time I didn’t get it either. Even after I started telling people I was bi, I still had a shit ton of ‘stuff’to work through, because sadly, there were reasons I found it so hard to come out. The homophobia so deeply rooted within our society had brainwashed me in to thinking I had something to be ashamed of.

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For context, I’m about to turn twenty-five now (quarter of a century, baby!), but up until about a year ago, I told the world I was straight. I even convinced myself to some degree, that if I buried my queerness deeply enough beneath layers of outside validation, it would eventually go away.

But really, I was always aware of my queerness. Like many bi/pan people, for as long as I’ve had crushes on people of the opposite gender, I’ve had crushes on all other genders too. Looking back, my bisexual identity has always been clear, so why did I deny myself the opportunity to live my truth for so long?

Well, for a long time, I did find it confusing as hell.

Now, now, let’s not get it twisted, hons. I’m not suggesting I was confused in the way that biphobic rhetoric will have you believe – i.e., bi folk are all just eternally confused about which gender they’re attracted to.

For me, the confusion came from a learned idea that my sexuality had to fit into a binary. When I was a teenager, I thought I was gay for a long time, simply because I fancied women. I didn’t have a reference point to cling to, a version of myself to look up to, or any way to help me understand my place in the world as a bisexual woman attracted to all genders.

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It wasn’t until much later, when I started to see myself well represented, and make connections with other folk like me, that I began to love and understand myself a little more.

But it certainly took time.

Even after I came out last year, I was still so full of shame. Contrary to what people may believe, and what I subconsciously expected, coming out didn’t magically remove all the negative feeling I had surrounding my sexuality. It didn’t take away the shame over night, but it was a powerful step for me.

Yes, for almost twenty-four years I was ashamed, I denied myself queer love and the joy of living my truth, but I’m here now. How great is that? I’M HERE! And I’m so proud of my journey.

Of course, I know how fortunate I am to live in a country like the UK, and how my privilege in so many other areas as a white, non-disabled, cis-gender person has made the coming-out process (and my life in general) so much easier.

But if, even for me in my position of privilege, coming out felt so difficult that for nearly twenty-four years I couldn’t do it, how incredibly hard must it be for other people.

For this reason and countless others, we must keep fighting. For all of our LGBTQ+ community, especially our trans family, particularly those of color, who are still some of the most persecuted people in the world, we must continue to push.

blue green and red thread on persons palm

Today though, I raise a god damn glass to us all in celebration!

Forgive me, for this has been something of a love letter to myself, and to all you queer folk out there, no matter where you are on your journey. Here’s to the queer folk who never needed to ‘come out’, the queer folk who came out to immediate acceptance, the queer folk who came out with struggle, and the queer folk who are not safe to do so. We stand with you all.

Yes, for almost twenty-four years I was ashamed, I denied myself queer love and the joy of living my truth, but I’m here now. How great is that? I’M HERE! And I’m so proud of my journey. I’m proud of the struggle and the joy, the dark moments and the heady highs, the shame and the self-love. I celebrate it all and I celebrate loudly because if it helps me to write it, then reading it could help someone else.

So wherever you are on your own path, there’s a whole community of people waiting with open arms, ready to breathe through it with you and toast to your love, with a rainbow flag and a pint. Whenever you’re ready, we’ll be here.

Peace and rainbow love,

Lou x

Louise Clare Dalton is a feminist, bisexual writer and poet interested in sharing her personal experience. She aims to open up the dialogue about common misconceptions and the biphobic narratives they perpetuate. Louise writes her own blog at www.louiseclaredalton.com, which focuses on ethical consumerism and healthy life hacks. Finalist in the Roundhouse Poetry Slam 19, her spoken-word poetry focuses on introspection and understanding how societal pressure affects human behaviour.

Lou was our featured poet in September 2020. Check out her performance of What They Told You

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2020: Locking Down My mental Health

By Josie Quinn: “Addiction is sneaky like that; it reminds you of the brief rush you felt, not the days and weeks of regret and shame after, and definitely not the years of help and work it took to get to a stage where it finally felt under control.”

Sex, Drugs and Cowpunk! Lucy’s Story

“I wanted to be able to say, ‘Girls can do it too. We’re on the road, we’re in a band. Of course we drink, of course we take drugs, of course we go with groupies. We can do it too.’ I was always very fierce in that we shouldn’t be excluded because of our gender.” Lucy Edwards from The Well Oiled Sisters

Celebrating Female Desire … Art by Paola Rossi

This month’s featured art celebrates the free expression of love and passion between women while exploring the conflict between our inner darkness and light … Meet Peruvian-Italian artist Paola Rossi.

Postcards From Lesbainia: Sleep with as Many Women as You Can

Hayley Sherman, Lesbian, Sex

By Hayley Sherman

That’s right: you heard it here first. Sex is a good thing. Okay, that’s hardly news, so let me back up a bit.

woman lying on white bed

When I told my partner the title of this month’s post, she threw a sock at my head. I guess I was lucky there wasn’t a brick in it. I have a very good reason for the suggestion, though, and I’m standing by it.

You see, as queer women, we sometimes have a rough ride—there’s self-acceptance, homophobia, coming out, finding and keeping a partner, having to deal with the fact that all of our TV heroes get killed off as soon as we get attached to them—but we do have an advantage over our straight sisters and brothers that serves our mental health in a number of positive ways—sex!

That’s right: you heard it here first. Sex is a good thing.

Okay, that’s hardly news, so let me back up a bit.

Back before Covid-19 got its spiky claws into the world, I was quite active. I was running regularly, cycling, eating well. Then the country came to a standstill and my personal lockdown was sponsored by Mr Kipling and The Codfather chippie around the corner. I work from home, but pre-lockdown I would get out and cycle to the library or into town quite often. With nowhere to go, stuck indoors, the most exercise I did was the lift-point-press-repeat of the remote control. Consequently, I’m now a flab monster of epic proportions. I’m not just a little wider; I’m all the way chunky. My partner and I used to enjoy taking a bath together; now we can barely fit in the bathroom at the same time. No lie, someone actually asked me when it’s due the other day! But I’m still feeling pretty okay about myself. I like my body. I can’t help it. I always have and I always will, whether it’s fat or thin. And why shouldn’t I? Aren’t we supposed to love our bodies?

She had been heavier in the past, so her breasts hung low, although they were small, and they were marked with silvery lines. Her stomach was a soft pouch that was once far fuller, and I loved to run my fingers over it.

Well, no, not if all we’ve got to measure them against are images of flawless, mostly photoshopped, ‘perfect’ women in the media that are presented to us as normal. But this is where our big queer advantage comes in. If you’ve slept with any number of women, and seen more than a few naked female bodies you will have experienced first-hand what I wish all women knew: that we don’t look anything like that (most of us don’t anyway) and it’s pretty much okay to be any damn shape, size, colour, height or weight you damn well please.

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The first woman I ever slept with had tan lines that made her look like she was wearing a white t-shirt and shorts, although she was naked. She had been heavier in the past, so her breasts hung low, although they were small, and they were marked with silvery lines. Her stomach was a soft pouch that was once far fuller, and I loved to run my fingers over it. Another partner’s incredible breasts rested on the surface of her bulbous stomach when she sat up in bed and disappeared between her armpits when we made love; she had the most beautiful thighs I have ever seen. Another was sharp ribs and a xylophone spine. Another’s mottled, orange-peel bum still makes me smile. Scars, tattoos, veins, piercings, moles, birthmarks, skin tags, acne, stray hairs; none of us is ‘perfect’.

And I know we’re not supposed to talk about such things, but I’m officially lifting the fanny stigma too and telling you that I have never seen a symmetrical vagina. I have seen everything from discreetly enveloped folds to explosive, dramatic waves, and I have never seen two the same colour or the same shape. The perfect vagina is a myth that’s sold to us to sell products and make us feel like shit. Yours is absolutely fine. No two women’s bodies are the same, and we are so blessed as queer women to have this inside information. We don’t have to take the word of magazines and the internet about how other women look naked or semi-naked; we know from our own experience. And we definitely don’t need to listen to bullshit about how we should look. Why should we look a certain way when we’re all so different?

blonde-haitred Barbie doll photo

That’s the incredible, wonderful thing about our bodies – in fact, it’s where the true beauty lies; every inch tells the unique story of our lives. What could be more beautiful than that? Mine can’t look like yours because I’ve lived a completely different life to you, and I’m proud to wear it. Mine doesn’t look like the women in the magazines because my story hasn’t centred around the ambition of making my body ‘beautiful’ enough to qualify for these magazines. It hasn’t been a 24/7 regime of working out, colonics and drinking green goo; it’s been a seesaw with fitness on one side and over-indulgence on the other; currently playing is the story of my lockdown laziness: the plumper breasts and fuller belly; it tells other stories too: a slightly older tale of physical strength that’s still visible on my shoulders and back; it tells of my writer’s bum and the tattoo I had when I was nineteen to show my only ever boyfriend that I was braver than him; it whispers about the childhood bully who once pushed me over and called me ‘Ribena’ because of the long birthmark on my leg that looks like a map of the British Isles; and it proudly sings songs of survival with scars self-inflicted as a fucked-up young woman, struggling to cope with life, who didn’t understand the concept of forever. This is me. It’s my story. Your body is your story. It can only be your story; no one else’s.

So, yes, sleep with lots of women. Go out and hear as many stories as you can – each one so different but with the same ending – that we’re all incredible exactly as we are.

Hayley Sherman is a writer, ghostwriter, blogger and editor who just wants everyone to be nice to each other. Her blog smiles in the face of adversity, licks the cheek of the oppressor and generally reflects on her denial about being a middle-aged lesbian. hayleyshermanwriter.com.

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Women Are More Likely to be Bi, Right?

By Louise Clare Dalton … “Society (a male-dominated society, where men are predominantly in positions of power) will allow women to exist outside the binary because it suits the needs of men. Although this is undoubtedly a form of oppression, it can also make it easier for women to openly identify as bisexual.”

Trans in Lockdown: We Will Always Be There For You

By Wendy Cole: “I woke. Something was wrong. Something was seriously wrong. Where was she? Where was Wendy? With all the movements of the wrong body, I made it to the bathroom and looked into the mirror. The face was virtually unrecognisable. Slightly bearded; tired, woeful eyes and … unarguably … male.”

2020: Locking Down My mental Health

Covid-19, Josie Quinn, Mental Health

A ‘Chronically Fabulous’ post by Josie Quinn

Addiction is sneaky like that; it reminds you of the brief rush you felt, not the days and weeks of regret and shame after, and definitely not the years of help and work it took to get to a stage where it finally felt under control. More than anything, that moment of temptation scared me and made me realise just how far I could backslide if I were to give up.

I remember saying, on New Year’s Eve last year, something along the lines of “2020 is going to be my year!” (Finished laughing yet?! Good). Having spent the last several years putting in a lot of work towards improving my mental health, I was determined to keep making progress. I was volunteering at an animal shelter whenever able, had joined a regular D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) game group in town, and was even cast as the Cheshire Cat in a local theatre company production. So all in all I was feeling pretty good about things for the first month or so of the year. Then March arrived.

the new york times newspaper

When lockdown first started, I’ll be the first to admit I did not cope well! My depression and anxiety seemed to be vying for my attention at all times, locked in a battle which left me constantly bouncing between two states: either I stayed in bed for days at a time, listless and crying, or I was in a state of absolute panic, terrified that the isolation was going to undo years of therapy and hard work.

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Not long into the pandemic, I caught myself, after a decade of not giving in to the urge to self-harm, looking at one of the knives in the kitchen and hearing that little voice once more, telling me how much better I would feel afterwards. Addiction is sneaky like that; it reminds you of the brief rush you felt, not the days and weeks of regret and shame after, and definitely not the years of help and work it took to get to a stage where it finally felt under control. More than anything, that moment of temptation scared me and made me realise just how far I could backslide if I were to give up. I needed to find ways to feel connected (and, subsequently, sane), and it turns out that my fear of regressing was exactly the fuel I needed to motivate myself to do just that.

Despite having been a member of a number of online groups for some time, with the exception of ‘liking’ the occasional post, and having attended precisely one Book Group meet-up, I had never been particularly active in any of them. The first thing I needed to do was narrow these groups down a little, in essence creating a shortlist of those which (A) didn’t have an overwhelming number of members, (B) seemed more friendly/welcoming than argumentative, and (C) where I had something in common with everyone in the group, be they LGBTQ+, cosplay enthusiasts or tabletop gamers.

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Next was practically forcing myself to start commenting on other people’s posts; even if that meant setting myself reminder alarms to do so, or drafting and rewriting the comment multiple times until I felt comfortable enough to submit it. Admittedly, there were days where my anxiety would get the better of me, and I’d rewrite a comment ten or twenty times, then delete it completely, feeling like an utter failure. But on those days where I did manage to engage with other people, it began to feel like I was really on the right track.

“A small step forward is better than any in the wrong direction.”

Beginning to join actual online events and video chats was a little more daunting. In pre-covid times I’d managed to attend one meeting of a local LGBTQ+ Book Group, so when I saw that they were still meeting via Zoom it seemed the perfect place to start, and hopefully build from. Though incredibly anxious in the build-up to the first group video call, once it started I soon began to feel much calmer, and afterwards was so happy that I hadn’t talked myself out of attending.

macbook pro displaying group of people

Ever since that first online meeting, things have just snowballed in the best possible way. Not only am I still attending the (now bi-monthly, and slightly expanded) Book, Film & Music Group, but also regular online D&D and board game nights; recently I’ve even helped set up a new group and have hosted some of our online game nights.

Somehow I have made more friends in the last six months than in the previous six years, and my diary is fuller now than it was before lockdown and social distancing began.

So maybe 2020 isn’t going to be the year of glowing progress I hoped it would, and that’s okay. In all honesty, I’m a little proud that I managed to make any headway whatsoever considering all that has happened in the world this year; a small step forward is better than any in the wrong direction.

Josie Quinn (she/her) is in her early thirties. She is a proud bisexual, disabled wheelchair-user and self-professed total geek! She worked as a Legal Executive before becoming too ‘Chronically Fabulous’ to continue, having been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Osteoporosis, CFS, Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD. In her spare time she’s an avid reader (sci-fi, fantasy & graphic novels especially), amateur cosplayer and burgeoning tattoo addict. Twitter.com/Bendy_NotBroken … Instagram.com/BendyNotBroken

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Confessions of a Lesbian Cliché … The U-Haul!

By Kirsten Leah: “U-hauling is up there with plaid shirts and undercuts as one of the oldest lesbian tropes in the book. As someone who’s done it with no less than four different partners, I put my hands up and admit to being an absolute card-carrying cliché.”

Surviving Abuse: Finding My Strength in Breaking My Silence

By Josie Quinn: “The more I spoke to people about it, the more I realised just how prevalent domestic abuse is in the UK. Most of the people I spoke to had some personal experience of violence, abuse or sexual assault in a previous relationship. According to the ONS, nearly 1 in 3 women in the UK will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.”

Random Thoughts: Unexpected Guests

By Janine Norris: “We picked up Marjorie and she wriggled and fell. Straight on the floor. On her back. She squeaked, struggled to get up and eventually disappeared into a box. We were shocked. She was obviously badly hurt and we didn’t know what to do.”

Sex, Drugs and Cowpunk! Lucy’s Story

Lesbian, Music, Nineties

By Hayley Sherman

“I wanted to be able to say, ‘Girls can do it too. We’re on the road, we’re in a band. Of course we drink, of course we take drugs, of course we go with groupies. We can do it too.’ I was always very fierce in that we shouldn’t be excluded because of our gender.”

Picture the scene. It’s 1995, London, Friday night; you’re a sixteen-year-old babydyke dipping your toe in the water of a smoky girl bar, undercut and DMs still in the mail, necking snakebite and blacks like its Um Bongo to steady the nerves, waiting for the buzz to kick in, waiting for the band to start, waiting for life to start. The world beyond these walls isn’t kind to you yet, and you don’t know if it ever will be. And then they strut onto the stage … The Well Oiled Sisters … and you’ve never seen anything like it. Couldn’t-give-a-fuck, unapologetic dykes, all guitars and raised eyebrows. A blonde flat-top on bass, lesbian Animal on the drums, raw violinist, and Thick Eyeliner takes the mic, spitting dangerous lyrics into the crowd with a beautiful growl: “I know my legs will end up behind my neck! It’s not hard being easy!” … and she’s not singing about shagging a man. They’re playing fast, nosebleed fast, a kind of country punk on amphetamines. She smiles and snarls and smiles again, and you’re not just in love, but you suddenly feel a hell of a lot more comfortable in your own skin.

“Bunch of naughty girls we were,” lead singer, Lucy Edwards, enthuses twenty-five years later. “We were so uninhibited, so free.”

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The controversial band, who played to hungry audiences around the world throughout the nineties, made numerous TV appearances and shared the stage with Morrissey, Sioxie & the Banshees, Susanne Vega and so many other big names, gained a reputation not only for their unique sound and stage presence but for their heavy drinking and womanising. “When you come from Scottish culture in the eighties,” she says, “it’s just the way it was. It was about having a good time.” And the womanising? “I don’t know,” she says. “I’ve always been a bit of a serial monogamist. I did have the odd dalliance with keen members of the audience. There were always groupies throwing themselves at the feet of various members of the band. It was probably exaggerated, but I wanted to be able to say ‘Girls can do it too. We’re on the road, we’re in a band. Of course we drink, of course we take drugs, of course we go with groupies. We can do it too.’ I was always very fierce in that we shouldn’t be excluded because of our gender.” And, of course, London welcomed them with open arms.

“When I first moved to London in the early nineties,” she recalls, “there was a revolution going on that I don’t think has really been acknowledged or archived properly yet, but suddenly being queer was alright. It went from being dirty or kiddie-fiddling to being something that was cool and a bit brave. People were coming out en masse.” But this revolution rocked and divided the world of gay women and feminists. “You were either a traditional, vanilla dyke with no makeup and more traditional feminist values or this new ballsy breed, like us, that were flaunting our sexuality and being as naughty as we could be. It was the time of the whole Rebel Dyke crowd and everything was changing. We were coming out of the old school, sticking two fingers up at everything that came before – including from our own community. It didn’t always go down well. We were very well received by the younger lesbians – a bit tut-tutty in some cases by older lesbians.”

“Someone once said, quite unkindly that the songs were all about beer and fannies. I just wanted to do fast, wild music that people would dance and have a good time to.”

But these were also challenging times, and their hedonistic anarchy went hand in hand with activism. All of their early gigs were political rallies, marches, ACT UP nights and Gay Prides, back when it was about politics, when it was dangerous and illicit. Central to the fight was simply being visible. “As we used to say about AIDS, invisibility is death. You’ve got to be visible; you’ve got to be out – and that was the mission; to be as out as possible. You could do it in an apologetic, double-life way or be barefaced queer and out there. If we were going to be invisible then Clause 28 or AIDS were going to kill us. It was a question of survival. I’m proud that we were so in-your-face and we weren’t pretending to be something that we weren’t. Apart from putting a cowboy hat on, I was pretty much the same off stage and behaved the same. It made it easier because I didn’t have to act. I wasn’t secretly going home to my husband and kids. Also, I was young, so I had that ‘Come on then!’.

Not bad for a woman who grew up in a tiny, conservative town thirty miles south-west of Glasgow, where she didn’t even hear the word lesbian until she was sixteen. “I don’t remember rumours or mentions of lesbians when I was younger,” she said. “The occasional boy would be picked on for being a poofter. Obviously, I knew inside what was happening to me, but I didn’t have an inkling that it could be a lifestyle, just something to be buried and ashamed of.”

All that changed when she was sixteen, engaged to marry a dry cleaner called Colin, and she was seduced by an older woman in his biker gang who looked like Lauren Bacall, the only woman with her own bike. “It was the best possible way to be introduced to that world,” she smiles.

Lucy remembers telling her mum that she was in gay in a supermarket, and she almost shouted with joy, “Oh my God! My daughter’s a lesbian!” She thought it was great. “I was very lucky. Most people at that time were kicked out. Most of my friends had had run-ins with their parents, sometimes permanent.” That support made it easier to stand up, be herself and fight for what she believed in.

A few years later, and the conception of The Well Oiled Sisters was a drunken accident rather than a carefully planned birth. “The first gig we did was in a lesbian bar in Edinburgh call Key West. We were all horrendously drunk and decided to do it as a laugh. We’d played together drunkenly in bedrooms, but never out. It was supposed to be a one-off gig. I suppose the rest is history.”

The decision to play ‘cowpunk’ was a bit of a pisstake to start with. “Country is very much boy’s music with a token girly lead singer, so we wanted to pervert that a bit and write songs that weren’t about God, America and your little woman. Someone once said, quite unkindly that the songs were all about beer and fannies. I just wanted to do fast, wild music that people would dance to and have a good time to.”

“One guy took me aside and said we would have to change everything to go further – the lyrical content, the whole lesbian thing, the way we looked. If you want to make money in this business, you’re going to have to abandon your principles. I mean, fuck that! Imagine leading that kind of life. I couldn’t have done it and I didn’t want to. These A&R guys were all public schoolboys in the big club together. They didn’t want to see a bunch of gobby, Scottish lesbians with cowboy hats on.

Doors opened after moving to London when Joe Strummer spotted them busking on the Portobello Road and they became faces on the thriving London scene, signed to a small label. And then an unexpected punter at a gig in a bar in Islington resulted in the band playing in front of thousands. “A guy was there in a beret and raincoat, trying to look invisible. Turned out to be Morrissey. He wanted us to support him on his next European tour. Our manager’s first question was ‘How much?’. He said, ‘No, you have to pay me.’”

After negotiating a slightly better deal, they embarked on what would be an eye-opening tour, exposing them to both the thrills and burden of being adored by thousands, who were obsessive and almost cultish about Morrissey. They were renowned for terrorising the support bands – the lead singer of the previous support band got bottled one night – but they were actually kind to the Well-Oileds. The man himself was constantly hiding, miserable, trapped, and it was difficult to see his life as any kind of success. “I knew I never wanted to get to that stage. It just wasn’t very nice. It was a real eyeopener about the cost of fame, but it was an incredible experience and we were taken on by WOMAD on the back of it. They were fantastic; they took us to Australia, New Zealand, Europe. Our days of eating Ginsters pies and Quavers in the back of the van were over.” The highlight of what was an incredible period in the band’s history was a four-day train tour from Perth to Adelaide, across the desert, with incredible international acts playing gigs in the carriages every night.

By now they were playing more mainstream venues, although they were always loyal to their lesbian fans. The results were positive. “Some fear from the men, which was good,” Lucy recalls. “Some self-doubting looks from the women. But we were good natural musicians, so we got respect.” The only real homophobia that they ever experienced was from record executives. With the breaks they had, they should have had more albums out and made more progress within the industry. “One guy took me aside and said we would have to change everything to go further – the lyrical content, the whole lesbian thing, the way we looked. If you want to make money in this business, you’re going to have to abandon your principles. I mean, fuck that! Imagine leading that kind of life. I couldn’t have done it and I didn’t want to. These A&R guys were all public schoolboys in the big club together. They didn’t want to see a bunch of gobby, Scottish lesbians with cowboy hats on. I’ve never been fame hungry. If anything, I used to get quite private and embarrassed when I was interviewed and had to be a representative for gay women everywhere. After seeing how fucked up the Morrissey thing was, I certainly wasn’t going to change to get it.”

The band gradually went their separate ways after two of its members fell in love with women on the other side of the world. These days, Lucy says that she’s a little better behaved. She’s learnt a lot but hasn’t changed much. She would still lay down her life for the things she believes in and happily write a song to offend the right people – the homophobes, sexists, racists. But generally her musical talent is now put to therapeutic uses, bringing music to people with dementia, and the results have been a revelation to her. “The music awakens something in people, especially when they’re old,” she says. “An old lady always sticks in my mind with her head on one side, tongue lolling out. She couldn’t respond to anything, but when we started playing it was like the movie Awakenings; she came to and started mouthing the words. It just touches something from your memory, your childhood, early years. But, of course, sometimes, old people being old people, they’re ridiculously rude and shout, ‘Shut that bloody music up!’ but generally it’s a positive reaction.” Sadly, since Lockdown, with the quarantine particularly affecting those in care homes, the physical work has had to stop, but she is now involved in promoting the online app, The Smiling Sessions, that aims to do the same vital work with the elderly.

After fifteen years together, the book closed naturally on the incredible tale of a band of unapologetic dykes who smashed the world in the face with their fierce honesty and refusal to conform, leaving a ballsy legacy, encouraging queer women to stand up and be visible. “Lots of women would come up to us and say, ‘I feel braver now. Seeing you guys gives me strength.’ It was accidental, that part of it. I was just being myself. Our true legacy,” she said, “was putting the cunt in country.”

Find out more about Lucy and the other awesome Well Oiled Sister band members at http://www.thewelloiledsisters.com. Follow them on Facebook.

More information about the incredible work of The Smiling Sessions can be found at http://www.smilingsessions.com

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