When I first moved to London I was so excited at the prospect of finally being open about my sexuality. It would be a fresh start, I could reinvent myself… or… uninvent myself. I’d always understood London to be a more forward thinking society – diverse and multi-cultural – completely different to my isolated home town in the Suffolk countryside. What I actually found wasn’t just that Londoners didn’t bat an eyelid, but that they even had an entire gay village in central London!
The first time a friend took me to Soho, I was completely stunned. It’s not often that I’m lost for words, but I remember a wave of thoughts and emotions taking over me. It was bitter sweet; I was so happy that a village like this existed in the world, but I also felt like I’d wasted years of my life self-hating and shying away from society, through fear of being kicked out of my home town and rejected from the rest of society like leper… if I’d have known a place like this existed I’d have booted myself out of town!
I felt like I stood out like a sore thumb the first year I lived in London and visited the gay district of Soho. I watched queer men & women and trans folk & non binary strut there stuff while I walked a bit more cautiously, glancing at my phone for directions to the only lesbian bar in London.
Flash forward 8 years, and I suppose I’ve become one of those strutting lesbians, tutting at those who pause to get their bearings or god forbid take another selfie outside G-A-Y. I now work at the only lesbian bar in London, SHE Soho, and have done for 5 years (almost). When I first started as a bartender I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of queer women there were, and how freaking hot we are! Androgynous women and femme women of all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, and they were all gay!! I could approach any of these women and the worst they could say is ‘you’re not my type’, but they were GAY!
Soho had taught me that I wasn’t the only lesbian in the world, but SHE Soho had taught me that there could be a whole world of lesbians within a 40 square foot radius of me every day from 4pm in the heart of Soho. The prospect was very exciting, and the first year of working in SHE is a bit blurry; I spent my days working in the bar and meeting lesbians, then heading straight to G-A-Y Late or Heaven with whoever I had met that day, only to repeat that process the next day… and the day after that… and the day after that…
Eventually, the excitement wore off, and the hangovers grew tiresome. I applied for a few promotions within the bar, and now find myself sitting quietly in the back-ground, leading events organisation for the bar, making sure there is diverse entertainment for all queer womxn to enjoy on a daily basis. Sometimes I see women come to the bar, and I recognise that same look of amazement in their faces that must have radiated from mine that first time I visited Soho, and I have a little smile to myself. Now their adventure really begins.