Dear 13 year-old me
Kerrie Marsh writes her younger self a letter from the heart
Dear 13 year-old me,
I know you’re freaking out right now, I know that your head’s a shed as you’re watching that Beth Jordache and Margaret Clemence kiss on Brookside. I know your body is awakening to something that you didn’t even realise was actually a thing. It looks so visually right to you that you can’t deny the connection between you and the screen right now, but you’re shitting it in case any of your family walk in to your bedroom and see how flustered and short of breath you are. Clutching on to your chest and wondering, what the fuck is this feeling?
So, I’ve written you this letter because I want to let you know that things are going to be ok, when you’re staring at yourself in the bathroom mirror later that evening, crying. Saying to yourself, “I’m gay,” looking hard, and wondering when and how did this happen to you? “Shit, fuck, bastard, cunt, I’m gay!” you say, as the tears roll uncontrollably down your face.
I want to let you know, there’s no need to be scared. I know that right now you’ve got this throbbing heartbeat that feels like it’s going to rip right out of your chest! That you feel as though you’re going to barf all over the bathroom at any given moment. Those feelings subside, they get easier to deal with.
Silently at first, on your own - yes, but you start to accept it and in time, you’ll embrace it. I mean there does come a point where you embrace it a little bit too much, shall we say! Like a farmer with seeds, you’re sowing girl, but hey, you’re only young once, eh? And I’ll leave all that for you to discover on your own. It’s made you who you are today.
A slag, your friends might say.
Hashtag bants, hashtag jokes. Hashtag things are all good with the folks.
The next three to four years will be hard, ok? But just be prepared. They won’t be the hardest ones you’ve to face either. They are tough, kid, but you deal with it, and looking back, like a boss too. You did nothing wrong in trying to fight it, hide it and it’s a shame you had to feel ashamed, but the times were a little different and you were only little.
You think, well I mean, you hope you’re bisexual. So you do the “normal” thing and keep dating boys. If there is one thing I would advise you against, I’d say don’t bother with the boys. You just wound them up because you never put out, it’s a waste of everyone’s time really, and take down that topless fireman calendar because there is no way you are bisexual Ker, you’re gay. You tape Emmerdale just to fast-forward to the Zoe Tate sections! The fact is you date most of these boys to befriend their sisters anyway. If you think nearly getting caught by Gary while snogging his sister at a house party was pretty risky, you won’t believe what future scrapes you get yourself into. Some knowingly too.
There’s a lot of heartache to come, I won’t lie, from unrequited love and catching your first with another girl the very next night, to the break-up from your first love that you travelled the world with and the dissolving of a civil partnership you imagined would be forever. But don’t worry about any of that right now, this feeling is far too big for me to warn you of the whos, the whens and the don’t-do-that-agains.
Because there’s one thing about you Kerrie, you’ll always do what you want anyway.
I know your immediate worry isn’t about the future, it’s about your loved ones still loving you when they find out who you really are. You know your dad’s opinions about “the gays” and you know he won’t be happy. I know your stomach turns at the thought of life without your family. I just want to tell you now…
HA! You wish! Those thoughts couldn’t be further from the truth, Ker. Us Marshes are like a deranged version of The Waltons or something and you’ve earned the title of cool Aunty Kerrie to your 11 amazing nieces and nephews. A self-proclaimed title maybe, but one they don’t argue with nonetheless. Yes, dad takes it hard at first, but his dismay isn’t for long. He stops you in your tracks on the way to college one day, tells you he loves you and that he’s proud of you. He thinks you’re brave and he cherishes you.
You cycle to college beaming, feeling on top of the world, proper chuffed, so much so that when Kelly asks you if you fancy her, you’re brave enough to admit it. “Yeah, actually Kel, I do!” She tells you not to tell anybody that she likes you too, but that she has a boyfriend and so nothing can happen. You’re not beaming any more. If anything you’re a little bit embarrassed and wished you’d played it cooler. But I won’t warn you from not telling the truth in that moment Ker, because it seems one night, at a sleepover, Kelly forgets she has a boyfriend, for a whole six hours.
So, your whole family accept you and it’s not really the Jezza Kyle drama some of your other queer friends experienced and that you were expecting. Everything you fear right now does not come to fruition – you’re nothing but loved. Mum tells you she knew all along anyway and that she could have told you years ago. That would have been helpful eh?
From 13 to 37, it’s one hell of a journey Kezza. You have nothing to fear though. There are some lows, but they are overwhelmingly outweighed by the highs. You’re never not surrounded by love from your amazing family and your awesome friends. You may often take the path that leads you the long way around, but you learn along that route. You’ll learn that being true to yourself is key, that you know yourself and you know how to be happy. You’re not loaded, but you’re basking in wealth. It comes in the form of accepting yourself.
So, dear 13 year-old me, you have nothing to fear. Life is good, I can’t wait till you’re here.
This piece was originally written for the Hull City Of Culture LGBT50 celebrations.
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