Isabelle Balch – My personal story

It’s crazy to think that through all the exams I have taken, job interviews I have had and even jumping out of a plane, the most anxious and scared I have ever been was telling my family, the people who have loved me the most in the world, who have raised me – that I am gay and have a girlfriend. 

At 24, I suppose I was quite late in coming out. Having previously been in a heterosexual relationship for 5 years, I look back now with both hindsight and the comfort of the relationship with the right, most wonderful person for me, and realise how completely wrong for me the heterosexual label was. It’s no surprise to me that so many of us take so long to live as our authentic selves, when society both expects and assumes us to be straight, making it so hard to be anything but. It’s the comments about a child’s first friend of the opposite sex being a ‘boyfriend’ or a ‘girlfriend’, it’s the judgement that two teenagers of the opposite sex can’t be ‘just friends’, the assumptions we probably all have made about the sexuality of others, alongside a media full of representations of the straight societal norm that creates this sense that being anything other than straight is wrong.

Things are definitely different in more recent years, there’s definitely some increase in the LGBTQ+ representation within the media, and some shift in societal attitudes, but things still aren’t perfect. Unfortunately, I had seen and witnessed enough negative that I agonised for a long time over telling my family and friends about a girl who I had fallen in love with, who makes me the happiest I’ve ever been, because I was frightened about what people would think, say or do. I was worried that my friends and family would disown me and that my work colleagues would find issue with it because there is still, even in 2023, so much hatred for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Despite my fears, both my sexuality and my relationship have been welcomed and accepted by those around me. This is especially true with the people I work with everyday, who have made me feel nothing but comfortable to talk about my relationship and I’ve never felt awkward to do so, and a picture of us together sits proudly on my desk. I would say I am fortunate to have experienced this acceptance, but it is still so sad that my experience is often not the norm and people are chastised for loving who they love. This is why it is so important that we continue to speak about our experiences, create a safe space for others to do so, and show support for all members of the LGBTQ+ community, because we should all feel safe to be who we are, and love who we love.

It may have taken me a while to get here but I am proud of who I am and the woman I love.