Heather Peace: DIVA told me I was normal
"In between panic attacks, I now had to face the question, 'Am I a lesbian?'”
I’ve been thinking back to what it was like as a 19-year old Catholic girl getting together with a woman in 1994, the same year DIVA hit newsstands. I’ve been thinking about the things that were really important to me at that time. The things that helped me feel like I was not so different to everyone else. That was important to me then. I didn’t like to stand out from the crowd... unless I was on stage.
My upbringing had conditioned me, I think, to feel funny about sex. It wasn’t my parents’ fault. It was Catholicism. I went to an all-girls Catholic school where a message was read out by our headmistress, from the bishop of our diocese, which forbade any students to raise money for Comic Relief because the charity provided condoms to Third World countries. When Aids was at its height. Yep. No sex without the possibility of procreation. Even if that sex could ultimately kill you. So you can see where my headspace was.
When you’re brought up to view sex as something dirty unless it’s within a marriage, and you are meant to be a virgin before you get married, it can be hard to shake that off and feel liberated by your sexuality. But when I got together with my first girlfriend at drama school I did feel liberated. High as a kite. Excited and completely intoxicated both by her and how being with her made me feel.
I suddenly understood what I had read about love and how I’d seen it portrayed on screen. I became tongue-tied and said stupid things. I burnt up, and had hot flushes that would culminate in a beetroot red face whenever she was around. The slightest brush of her hand on mine would make butterflies in my stomach so intense I’d feel like I might be sick. Nope, I had never experienced feeling like this. And certainly never with a boy.
I spent 18 months with my first girlfriend before she broke my heart and left me for someone else. It was a heartbreak that I honestly didn’t ever think would go away. In between the panic attacks it caused and the sabotage of my final year at drama school, I now had to face the question, “Am I a lesbian?”
You can read the rest of Heather’s column in the April issue of DIVA, available to buy in print or digitally here.