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

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




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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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.”

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.”

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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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.

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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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.”

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.”

Hayley the Happy Lezzer: 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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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.”

Hayley the Happy Lezzer – Fingering After Dark

By Hayley Sherman: “I run downstairs for the butter, WD40, an organ grinder and eventually the fire brigade and trash the whole room trying to wrestle it off her while she miraculously stays asleep.”

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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Welcome to Women Like Us

“We are all so different and, sadly, this divides us at times. I’m not sure why that should be when we’re united by so many common challenges. Maybe reading about each other’s lives without judgment will help to bring us together. L+G+B+T+Q+any other queer letter that you want to throw in, all in it together.”

Growing Up Hated … Shona’s Story

“I’ve been hated for my skin colour, for my sexuality, for my mental health, things I can’t change. People are going to hate me whatever, so I might as well be who I am. I don’t care what people think anymore.”

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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Chronically Fabulous: Coming Out All Over Again

By Josie Quinn: “I was a proud, confident, bisexual woman, with every future stage of my life and career meticulously planned. At that time I had no idea that a few years later I would have to come out all over again, as someone with disabilities.”

Random Thoughts: This is Not a Diary … Cursed!

By Janine Norris: “So, ok, I’m ginger! There, I said it. I can deal with that. However, a test of my strength of (sensitive, ginger) character hit hard when I also realised I was gay. Come on! How unfair did this seem at the time?”

Celebrating Female Desire … Art by Paola Rossi

Art, Mental Health

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.

I am a non-heterosexual, sensitive person that has struggled through depression and TOC during my 20s. Having these characteristics, I have looked for ways to be more emotionally balanced and have found relief in many artforms and things such as meditation. I have created art since I was a child, often linked to surrealism because of my imaginative personality, but not limited to that, since I have also connected to other art styles, like abstract and figurative works. I have oftentimes tried to create artworks as original and authentic as I can, works that emotionally and visually impact the viewer. My creations are about the feelings that impact me the most, and I approach them using diverse mediums, ranging from traditional to contemporary, often mixing them to have more possibilities of expression.

Two women who have accepted their sexuality, freely enjoying sex and feeling intense pleasure due to that. Made in an experimental, playful manner using a handmade drawing I created, photographed and digitally edited with a mobile app and computer program.

What inspires you most as an artist?

I am inspired by feelings, especially the ones that I have lived more intensely, such as non-heterosexual desire, heartbreak, depression and the will to emotionally heal and become more balanced. Said in a more academic way, my works are related to Freud’s psychological theory on Eros and Thanatos. According to him, all of us have a life and death drive that are indispensable, exist in everything we do and are in constant conflict. Eros is life, vitality, dynamism, the will to survive, the search for pleasure, sex, sexuality, union and the wish to generate deeper, more complex relationships with oneself and others. Conversely, Thanatos, seeks one’s own death and tries to satisfy aggressive impulses directly and indirectly to oneself and others. It manifests in many ways, for example, in anger, denial, unhealthy behaviour, the absence of action or connection with the world, giving up under difficult circumstances, loss of hope and depression. So, I have created artworks on Eros and Thanatos, inspired by my own identity as a non-heterosexual person, someone who has identified as a woman and a man simultaneously (non-binary), that has had a strong Thanatos expressed in depression and TOC and that has found a therapeutic recourse in art.

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What medium satisfies you the most?

Nowadays, I don’t have a preferred medium. I use whatever medium I am most drawn to in the moment for the specific project I am working on. Over the years, I have noticed, I tend to have a period where I use a certain medium in an individual and traditional manner, followed by another period of a lot of experimentation, where I mix several mediums in ways I haven’t done before. As if it were a cycle. During my experimental phase, I often take my traditional works and rework them, using my curiosity, play and spontaneity to create something new. In my creative process, I use mind, body and soul. Parts of the process are done from a more rational side, planning things, making maps, lists, etc. I mainly connect directly with my emotions, impulses, spontaneity, playfulness and curiosity. I also use my body, sensations and explore movements and actions with it, training and taking care of it in the process. Some of the mediums I use are painting, drawing, photography, circus, contemporary dance, theatre, lights and shadows, mobile phone apps, computer software and video.

Photo by Paola Rossi on October 22, 2019. Image may contain: one or more people.
An experimental self-portrait from the years I first begun to work with my own body in artworks. Made in a playful manner, using a wig, a phone and an app to edit the image.

What would you most like to express through your work?

Art as the free expression of the soul and as a means of emotional wellbeing.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently in the creation process of a year-long, experimental project that will result in a video performance that expresses what I have felt during quarantine. The final video will combine the vast experimental work I have done this year on diverse mediums adapted to the house, such as: circus, contemporary dance, theatre, scenography, lights and shadows, painting, drawing (sometimes including writing), photo, sound, video, mobile apps, and computer programs. My conscious intentions with this work is to do something unconventional and experimental that combines my previous knowledge of different arts, especially those that I have been most passionate about whilst growing up, like painting, drawing and circus, with the new knowledge I have been acquiring through this year’s process. It is a way of expanding myself, pushing myself further than I have previously done. It is a creative process that includes mind, body and soul, involves very planned things, but also very spontaneous actions, and it even has an amount of unpredictable to it. This artwork is connected to mental health care, since the creation process has helped me feel better by liberating the emotions. It also involves exploring and registering the therapeutic qualities of art and sharing what I learn through social media and eventually in my thesis. It is my hope that I create strong images which impact visually and emotionally and which others can relate to. I also wish to connect with the public by showing the creation process in my Instagram. The final work will be published later this year through all my social media accounts.

 

Photo by Paola Rossi on September 07, 2019.
My own erotic drive showed in an oil painting. Painted in a more rational, traditional, manner than the other images here.

How are you received as a woman who paints naked women?

I have been very lucky, and I am grateful for the positive reception I have been having. When I first started doing nude and erotic lgbtq+ works in university, there was a lot of excitement in several of my peers. I started out doing very explicit and surrealistic images, so they caught a lot of attention. I was applauded for doing something taboo and unconventional in a very traditional society. Some people have told me that they think I am brave for being open about my sexuality and representing it in my works. They support what I do since it is linked to the acceptance of one’s own sexuality in a country that is generally not very open or accepting on these matters. When I started posting my works on social media, whilst still at university, I was invited to radio and tv interviews, as well as group exhibitions in other cities within my country and internationally, to places like the MAREA, which is a Latin-American Museum of erotic art, in Colombia. So, thankfully doing lgbtq+ works, which is something I am very passionate about, has opened doors for me. But above all, I think I am lucky and grateful for having such an accepting family that supports me.

Photo by Paola Rossi on December 24, 2018.
A very fast, impulsive drawing made as a way to sublimate desire.

How does your own sexuality influence your work?

My sexuality has been the main influence of many of my works. I have often represented my non-heterosexual desire, fantasies and experiences. It is my relationship with my own sexuality, the acceptance of it and the feelings and experiences that arise from it that oftentimes motivate me to create.

Photo by Paola Rossi on November 28, 2017.
I was exploring composition possibilities from photographs I had taken, and enjoyed the idea of an almost infinite perspective and two women posing in a sensual manner.

All artwork © Paola Rossi

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Hayley the Happy Lezzer: The Gender Dance-Off

By Hayley Sherman: “Had I been growing up now, ‘non-binary’ may have been a shoe that fit, but as I skidded through my teens in the nineties, gender was as fixed as the colour of your skin; you could change it no more than you could change the weather or Sporty Spice’s insistence that she was straight.”

Trans in Lockdown: Is Life Still Going On?

By Wendy Cole … “Gender dysphoria alert! Childhood equated to me: a boy. Yet, how can that be true? I am a woman; those memories should be of a girl. What had gone wrong? What would my father think if he knew? Was I dishonouring my father by not being the son he knew? The truth of the past jarred and fought the truth of today.”

Transitioning Triathlete: Hitting Barriers

By Kimberley Drain: “I can’t prove or disprove that sports are trying to put barriers up for trans-athletes, I can only tell you how I feel, and it certainly feels like sports are putting up any obstacle they legally can.”

British Habesha Girl: Poetry by Zelly Lisanework

Intersectionality, Lesbian, poetry
assorted-color textiles

Our featured poet this month is British Ethiopian writer, performer and human rights advocate Zelly Lisanework. She is a co-founder of Ethiopian LGBTQ+ Human Rights organisation, House of Guramayle. Her creative practice and advocacy work is about centring and amplifying intersectionality within marginalised communities. Through the lens of nature, mental health, social justice, feminism and identity, her work explores the injustices in our world whilst also celebrating the beauty to be found. She draws upon her own experiences, navigating the spaces as an intersectional feminist and queer black woman in the diaspora.

The poem that she is sharing is called ‘British Habesha Girl’. She says, “I wrote it to validate, celebrate and redefine the different parts of my British and Ethiopian heritage.”

BRITISH HABESHA GIRL

I don’t cook Injera meals

But I eat them pretty well

I speak and understand Amharic

But I don’t read or write Fidel.

I don’t go to Bete Christian

For my church has no walls

I don’t rise at dawn to greet the sun

Yet I love to hear the prayer calls.

Addis Ababa planted roots in me

Southwold nurtured me safely

I am a Habesha Girl

I am a British Girl

Existing with my duality

Liberated in my sexuality

Defined by no one.

Habesha – a term used to describe people of Ethiopian and/or Eritrean decent.

Injera – a rounded, sour flatbread that is spongy in texture and filled with air holes. It is the staple food in Ethiopian cuisine.

Amharic – one of 88 languages spoken in Ethiopia

Fidel – is the Amharic alphabet

Bete Christian – is Church; the phrase literally translates as Christian House from Amharic.


What inspires you?

People and places, I am interested in stories and lived experiences and the relationship we have with places. I find I am inspired most in non-binary exchanges with others and being able to explore ideas freely and creatively in places that I love, such as historical towns/cities, the countryside and by the seaside.

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How does your Ethiopian upbringing influence your work?

I have a complicated relationship with my Ethiopian upbringing, having been born to Ethiopian parents biologically and being adopted as a toddler to be raised as dual heritage by Ethiopian and English parents. My Ethiopian upbringing lasted 11 years from birth until I moved to the UK. I used to struggle finding ways to allow my upbringing to co-exist with different parts of myself, which in turn impacted the level of influence on my work. I have redefined what it means to me to be Ethiopian, I have written about Ethiopia from a slightly Romanized point of view to preserve the pride and nostalgia I have as a person who hasn’t visited their country of birth since 2016. I have also written about Ethiopia whilst being nuanced and critical about the culture and its influence on my own upbringing.

How does your sexuality influence your work?

My sexuality influences my work very much in the same way other parts of my identity, such as my dual heritage does; it is one of many elements. My Queer Lesbian identity is so intrinsically linked to many parts of myself, which is explored in my work. I write about Queerness through the lens of feminism and intersectionality, and the relationship my sexuality has with mental wellbeing and my Ethiopian upbringing. My work is also a celebration of Queerness, of love and desire as well as a validation of adversities faced.

Why do you write?

I write as I have a strong desire to express as well as to question and explore. Writing is one of my strongest ways of self-expression. Words usually stumble out of me when I speak on the spot, but when I can explore thoughts and ideas in non-binary and non-linear ways through words, I feel most free. It is also very therapeutic, as when my brain is full of thoughts that rattle around, they can go to live on the page once I have written them down.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?

I don’t think this was the first poem I ever wrote, but the earliest recollection I have is of a poem I wrote when I was 11 years old at school. We were exploring the poems of First World War poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon and the English teacher wanted us imagine and write our own wartime poems in a collage format, and so I wrote a poem in the style of a diary entry which was inspired by Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’. The first poem I wrote that led to me pursing writing was during my final year of university when I was struggling with life, the poem is called ‘Opposites Attract’ and is about Love and Hate personified as they sit side by side watching the day change from morning to night and sharing their reflections.

How do you find your way into a poem?

Many different ways! I always have my phone nearby as ideas spark when I’m out and about or I wake from sleep; sometimes it’s words and phrases and other times it’s ideas for a poem or a poem itself that I’ll work on editing. When I’m commissioned to write and working to deadlines then I usually start with an idea and list things that come to mind before I begin work on a structure.


Check out Zelly Lisanework’s website.

Find out more about the advocacy work of the House of Guramayle.

Find more poetry by incredible LGBTQ+ Women Like Us

Would you like to be our next featured poet?

Comment, like and share the love!

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At What Point Do I Qualify? My Bi Experience …

By Louise Clare Dalton … “It’s this same logic that leads some to think that bisexual people in heterosexual relationships have flipped on their straight switch, and are now no longer bi. Or that when a bi person enters into same-sex relationship, they are now gay. For some reason we’ve been conditioned to believe that the person we’re currently sleeping with is in direct correlation to our sexuality. Honeys, that ain’t it. I assure you.”

Who Am I, What is My Purpose? Art by Nicola Copsey

“It was my attempt to express all the elements of autistic sensory overload, for example light, sound and vision, to people on or off the spectrum, as many people have no idea what living with this aspect of life is like.”

What They Told You … Spoken Word Poetry by Louise Clare Dalton

“I wrote this poem to unpack a specific experience, in order to move on and continue the journey towards loving myself completely. Looking at the internalised homophobia I carried from my school years for such a long time was a huge step forward in accepting and celebrating my sexuality. Writing it down takes away its power, and gives the power back to me.”

Women Are More Likely to be Bi, Right?

Bi-sexuality, Louise Clare Dalton

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

By Louise Clare Dalton

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“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.”

Hello rainbow lovers, and welcome back! Pull over a chair and grab yourself a coffee, because this one’s a head scratcher.

To those of you joining me for the first time, welcome to the party. This blog was created to break down the common misconceptions of bisexuality, and shine a light on the microaggressions us wonderful bi folk face on a regular basis.

Now, for the problematic catch of the day. A friend and I were chatting about sexuality and our wonderful queerness, when something tricky came up. ‘Women are just more likely to be bi, right?’. Wrong, but surprisingly (or unsurprisingly in this messy world) this is a really common point of view.

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Our attitudes towards sexuality can be pretty complex, and are often influenced by a multitude of factors we may not even be aware of. In case you hadn’t guessed, most of them ain’t so groovy.

So, why is it so common to think women are more likely to be bisexual, and why do we feel more need to box men into the binary? How is this myth problematic, and how can we debunk it? Let’s have a look.

Unfortunately, women who love women (whether they be lesbian, bi, pan, etc.) are routinely oversexualised. When I hear about a film or TV show with a lesbian protagonist (or any story following women who love women), I get pretty darn excited! Representation – yes, yes, bloody yes! But where there’s excitement, there’s also apprehension. Which is often justified when I switch on the latest lesbian love story, only to see sex dominating the storyboard.

Don’t get me wrong, sex is great, and including sex just as you would in a film about a straight couple is important! But so often the sex between women on screen has been filmed through an oh-so murky filter – the male gaze.

“As for queer women, it continues to enforce the idea that we are hypersexual objects, as oppose to real human beings, whose relationships deserve to hold the same weight that hetero relationships do.”   

The kind of performative sex we see between women in movies has often been created for and by men, and don’t even get me started on porn. This minimises our experiences as real queer women, and reduces us to objects. And so, the idea that queer women exist purely for the consumption of straight men is perpetuated. Honey, it’s a no from me.

So hold up. How does the oversexualisation of queer women contribute to the viewpoint in question: that women are more likely to be bi.

The answer, my friends, is that 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. Make sense?

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So let’s talk about bi men, who by this same token, are apparently less likely to be bisexual. Let’s unpick.

For men, coming out as bisexual is notoriously difficult (this is changing, but the problem is very much still there). This is because the homophobia against men who love men is deeply rooted and manifests in lots of different ways.

An example. As a bisexual woman, expressing my bisexuality to a straight man has never been used as a reason for him not to date me. Yes, it certainly can be problematic in other ways – he may now see me as a hyper-sexual being, yawn – but it’s unlikely to be a deal-breaker. So, I’m allowed to exist somewhere in the middle of the sexuality spectrum because I’m a woman, because women who love women are seen as sexual objects, there to satisfy straight men. This is what he’s most likely been taught through media, etc., the same as everyone else. Ugh.

However, for a bisexual man in a similar scenario, i.e., dating a straight woman, he could receive a very different reaction. Multiple times, I’ve heard straight women say they would never date a bi man. Often people say things like this without realising there’s any issue or taking a second to recognise that what they’re saying is likely influenced by biphobic, and ultimately homophobic, rhetoric. If you’re a straight woman who’s said or thought something along these lines, no hate, but take a second to understand the real reason you don’t want a relationship with a man who loves women and men.

This is just one example, but it’s enough. You can imagine for a man who truly identifies as bi or pan, it can be really difficult to express this, for fear of the way the world might perceive you.

And as for the statistics out there that back up this viewpoint, that there are more bi women than there are men, I believe that, almost certainly, these statistics are skewed by the societal pressure bi men are under to force themselves into the straight or gay boxes that don’t fit. So really, all genders are equally as likely to be bi, but the societal pressure stops these numbers seeming more equal.

Feel Good – Mae Martin's immaculate romcom will have you head over heels |  TV comedy | The Guardian
Feel Good by Mae Martin

So here is the two-sided problem.

Men are further forced into the binary, because the homophobia instilled in us towards gay men means we’re unable to think of men as being outside our straight/gay labels. This homophobia (often unconscious) needs to be unpicked, and it needs to go. Now.

And as for queer women, it continues to enforce the idea that we are hypersexual objects, as oppose to real human beings, whose relationships deserve to hold the same weight that hetero relationships do.   

So what’s the solution? Now we’re talking!

A better understanding can lead us to a better world. Understand that men and women are both likely to bi, but women are more able to express themselves because of less hate towards their queerness. But we must also understand that women face a different oppression, with our queerness being over-sexualised.

It’s all about good representation, open-mindedness and critical thinking. Work on being able to unpick your own prejudice, because we all have some lurking somewhere. Watch the good stuff, the things written by queer women‘Feel Good’ by Mae Martin, I am obsessed. Listen to bi folk talk about their experiences, and approach all conversations on sexuality with an open mind.

Onwards and upwards, you gorgeous bunch!

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

Read all of Lou’s At What Point Do I Qualify? posts

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