Monday 21 August 2017

How I came to terms with my heterosexuality

Julie Lombard began to question whether she was meant to be with a man and embarked on a lesbian relationship. Now in a straight relationship, she says you can't choose your sexuality or the person to whom you're attracted

Odyssey of Self-discovery: Julie Lombard, above, who says she loves that we don’t choose our own sexuality
Odyssey of Self-discovery: Julie Lombard, above, who says she loves that we don’t choose our own sexuality

Julie Lombard

I have thought about writing this piece many times over the years, but feel compelled to do so now because of to the upcoming marriage-equality referendum.

It might make someone consider or reconsider the true nature of sexuality, and perhaps recognise the beauty of the fact that in our own sexuality we have absolutely no choice.

I can vividly remember the first time I experienced what might be described as an attraction to the opposite sex. I was 12 at the time and it was during the summer holidays in Wexford. I would have been far too young and innocent at that time to recognise it as such, but I and the boy in question were sitting on a country lane, in the summer sunshine, just talking. And, seemingly out of nowhere, I was overcome. I had never looked into someone's eyes in this way and no one had ever looked into mine in that way either. It was a moment in time, it was beautiful.

As we sat cross-legged in that lane, our hands were resting maybe three inches apart. I felt intensely drawn to touch his hand, I could sense the same longing from him, but our youth, our innocence, or perhaps our total newness to this experience, stopped us. This would be the beginning of the awakening of my sexuality and the beginning of many years of struggling with the emotions that always came with this attraction.

By the time I had reached my late teens I had never managed to sustain any kind of a meaningful relationship with a boyfriend, unlike many of my peers. It wasn't that I didn't long for such a thing, it was simply because, when I was struck by the feeling of attraction towards someone of the opposite sex I would literally lose the ability to be myself. All of my confidence would disappear, I - as I knew myself - would be gone. Spontaneity, humour, clarity - characteristics that would have attracted the person to me in the first place - would no longer exist. I would collapse into my head, afraid of doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, completely overwhelmed with the intensity of the feelings I experienced.

It was at this time that I started to question my sexuality, I began to think that maybe I wasn't supposed to be with the male of the species. I really found it excruciating. I started to frequent Dublin's Hirschfeld Centre, which at the time (early to mid-80s) was one of the only places where gay people had to go to socialise and support each other.

I joined a lesbian drama group and hung out with some great women, but I never felt compelled to get romantically involved with any of them.

I went to Australia in my early 20s and it was there that I met a woman who I really fell for. When I say this, I fell for her emotionally, spiritually, mentally and was drawn to be close to her. We started to have a relationship and although I found the physical nature of our relationship strange, I was sure that with all the other feelings I had for her the physical would become more natural to me. She was beautiful to me, but that attraction that I have talked about earlier was just not there. What I didn't realise at that point was that it was that very attraction that defined my sexuality.

I really tried to make this work, as it was so good on so many levels. However, as time went on it began to dawn on me that the physical aspect of our relationship could never work. Even though for the first time in a relationship I felt I could be myself - and we had such fun - but she also started to sense my physical distance and it began to push us apart.

A while after our relationship ended it began to dawn on me that I had to face up to my heterosexuality.

It would be a few more years before I met a man with whom I experienced my first long-term relationship, spanning 10 years. By the time I met him I had got to know myself an awful lot better and, more importantly, I had come to a place where I could hold onto myself within our relationship and manage my exquisitely intense feelings towards him. Now I'm married.

I love that we do not choose our sexuality or whom we find ourselves attracted to. That is the pure beauty of magnetism, and I suppose it is nothing short of a mystery to me why anyone could be opposed to someone else's sexuality, because if they know their own, they will know that it is not a matter of choice, but a matter of nature pulling us towards what we naturally are.

I am no longer a reluctant heterosexual, but I am so glad I took the opportunity to explore who I might have been, to find out who I am, and realise the rare beauty of sexuality. Everyone should feel the freedom to express who and what they truly are. In my case, it is irrevocable, I am irresistibly attracted to males, I can't help it, it is beyond my powers to resist. Oh, the joy of it all.

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