Monday, 16 May 2016

I wore a suit to prom

In the summer of 2013, I overheard some girls talking in the school toilets.

"You don't think anyone would wear a suit to prom do you?"
"I was thinking about wearing a suit, but I would look like a complete lesbian"
"It would be quirky, but it's not worth it"
"Yeah you don't want anyone thinking you're gay"

I stayed locked in the cubicle, my back against the wall, until I heard the bathroom door click shut as they left. A few minutes later, I pulled back the latch, marched over to the sink, and stared confrontationally at my reflection. I prodded my jaw and run awkward fingers through my boyish hair.

It was a few weeks earlier that I'd been shopping with my best friend for our prom outfits. We'd gone to Oxford Street, of all places. I already had a suit I'd bought years ago. I found a £6 shirt in New Look, she found a dress, and we spent the rest of the afternoon trying on designer clothes and sarcastically putting on posh accents, laughing at how ludicrously expensive bits of fabric could be. 

Then it was a few days before prom, and I was in the toilets, having an inside battle over other people's words. I glared at my tearful reflection, thinking that maybe if I hated myself hard enough I would change my mind. Those girls made me ache like they were scraping a spade down my insides. I never wanted to be "normal" for them. But I wanted people to accept my "abnormal". I wanted to go to prom in clothes I felt right in. I didn't understand why that had to be so painful. I still don't.

I felt like prom was a bit silly. I think a lot of people felt like prom was a bit silly. This whole palaver of finding a date, and spending money, and getting dressed up. I just wanted to spend time with my friends and I didn't want to have to consider the social pressure that came with it.

I was the only girl in my year who wore a suit to prom. It was nothing fancy, just a grey suit with a white shirt, black tie, and converse shoes. I stuck with my mates, they made me feel safe and unextraordinary, and completely appreciated and loved, which was everything that I wanted, and needed. I worried that everyone else looked at me like an anomaly - that girl. That lesbian who didn't fit their tick box of what a woman "should" wear to a special occasion. They probably didn't think any of that - but it didn't stop me from worrying that they did.

I thought, everyone here probably thinks I'm a lesbian. I wasn't out at the time - I was asexual, although I didn't have a label for it. I didn't think that I liked girls, and at that point I genuinely don't think that I did. But why was I so scared of people thinking that I did? Why was I so scared of a judgement that was never a negative thing?

At the end of the night I was grateful. I had friends who loved me and supported me and didn't treat me like anything was wrong with me, or even different about me. I was lucky. But it sucks that my story is the exception. My friends were wonderfully supportive, but there are still too many queer girls who are only confronted by those girls in the toilet. And that's not fair. Because us girls who look ourselves in cubicles and wear trousers even though we're not supposed to - we can be beautiful too.

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