It may sound ridiculous but sometimes I forget that I'm gay. By this, I don't mean to say that I wake up some mornings and suddenly feel heterosexual, although (in another life) that was something I used to pray would happen. What I mean to say is that it is increasingly easy for LGBT people to forget about their status as debated, inferiorised and lesser individuals when they are caught up in the hustle and bustle of the everyday routine.
I spend the majority of my life these days in an unconscious state of being gay, which is great. This relatively new found tranquillity is the reason I run an LGBT advice channel on YouTube, counsel young people who are struggling to accept their sexuality, attend gay rights protests and consider myself to be an LGBT rights activist. I want all gay people to get to that unconscious state of accepting their sexuality; where they don't live their lives fearing the ever-present beast of 'coming out' or find themselves falling into a deeper state of internalised homophobia which can lead to depression or, in extreme cases, suicide.
So, all in all, it feels fantastic to have arrived at this unconscious state of being gay. I used to wake up and the first thing I'd think about would be 'coming out'. Now I wake up and worry about the things I should be worried about: do I have enough petrol in my car to get to work? Do I have anything in the fridge for dinner tonight? Am I going to finish this work on time?
However, in light of this blissful state I now embody that the sixteen year old version of myself would be envious of, the sudden awakenings of homophobia which bring my gay identity back into my conscious reality have become more surprising than ever. Instead of becoming desensitised to them, I've become detached from them.
Let me give you some examples. Sometimes, I can go through a week or a month where I don't have to 'come out' to anyone. I'll be surrounded by family, friends and colleagues who either know I'm gay or have no interest in my private life and therefore just take me as I am. As a consequence of this, when I'm suddenly faced with an unknowing acquaintance who asks me if I have a boyfriend or assumes that by my 'partner' I mean male partner (obviously...?), my 'gayness' come back to life and panic mode is initiated.
This panic mode serves as a subtle reminder of a) how I used to feel when I was at the very back of the closet and b) how far society still has to go before I can be in a permanent state of being unconsciously gay.
Take straight people, for example. They experience their sexuality - I think - how it should be experienced. They are aware that they're straight and can express themselves in accordance with this. This may be through shamelessly having pictures of their opposite-sex celebrity crush in their room as a teenager, or confiding in friends about their love interest, or simply going to the card shop and having a choice of hundreds of cards for their opposite-sex partner.
They don't think about the fact that they are straight; they simply experience love, sex and relationships fluidly. They don't have a panic mode when someone enquires about who they're attracted to or who they're in a relationship with. Their 'likeability' factor is not jeopardised by declaring their heterosexuality to the world.
So when I hear a colleague discussing the ways in which he disapproves of 'gay marriage' and, after I challenge him, state that he "would never have a gay child...that just wouldn't happen" I feel this strange awakening of my gay identity that generally tends to lie dormant in my everyday life. I wonder why this 'closet mentality' - where I am made to feel embarrassed, ashamed or lesser for having a same-sex partner - continues to rear its ugly head.
There's even an extent to which people who know I'm gay exclude me from those 'other' gay people who really fit the stereotype. "I don't like that girl, she's really dykey". Que awkward silence. "Obviously that doesn't apply to you Anna because you're nothing like that. You're different to them".
But how different am I? How is my gayness any more or less gay than a butch lesbian? Why does my exterior femininity make me more bearable to society? I'm not entirely sure. Apparently straight people know the answer to this. It might be something to do with the pornography industry.
In light of this, the crux of this argument is that 'coming out' never ends and neither does the homophobia and ignorance that can - sometimes - ensue from it. I think I'm realising as I move away from my younger adulthood that the closet is not something I will grow out of; I will most probably be taking it with me wherever I go in life.
My resolve to this predicament lies in two solutions. Firstly, to remind myself that the unconscious state of being gay that I now reside in 90% of the time is everything and more the younger me could have dreamed of. And secondly, to make the most out of the awkward awakenings of my gay identity. 'Coming out' does suck on many levels but it also gives me and millions of other gay people the opportunity to change perceptions, engage with people and expose ourselves to the very fabrics of human understanding and compassion.