We’re calling bullshit on the old cliché of same-sex experimentation at Uni; as these couples prove it can sometimes turn into true love.
Rachael is 21 and a student at the University of Sheffield. She has been with her girlfriend Chanel for over two years, despite neither of them actually identifying as ‘gay’.
“Before university, I’d always dated guys,” Rachael said, stirring her coffee in the student bar she works at. “I’d never even considered the prospect of being with a girl; the concept of it didn’t bother me at all, but I just didn’t see it as something that was necessarily for me.”
Understandable, right? Most people grow up being aware of ‘which way they swing’, even if unfortunately, many gay people are still forced to repress these feelings throughout their lives. Gail Evans, a psychotherapist specialising in sex and relationships says: “Sexuality is on a spectrum – many more people than is generally expected do not simply categorise themselves as straight or gay.”
Despite this, changing sexuality after nearly two decades heterosexual is undeniably quite uncommon, however for Rachael it brought her into her longest and most fulfilling relationship.
“I was pretty disheartened by men throughout my teenage years,” she said. “I was still actually with my first boyfriend when I met Chanel and it was a really bad, negative relationship.”
Rachael struggled with depression when she first moved out of her family home and started to live in University halls, along with Chanel, who was one of her flatmates. “It was a really difficult time,” she said, reminiscing. “I was having a hard time adjusting, but Chanel was always there for me. We lived together in halls along with several others, and during that time became really close as friends.”
However, it wasn’t until Rachael’s birthday in early December when she first realised there was something more than just friendship between her and Chanel.
“We were having a house party and as it was my birthday, I’d had a few drinks,” said Rachael. “Chanel was sober as she doesn’t drink, but somehow that night we ended up kissing. I didn’t expect it, but I remember thinking ‘actually, that wasn’t too bad’.”
Just after that kiss it was time for the Christmas holidays and Chanel went back to her home in Singapore – but she and Rachael still spoke every day.
“My sister picked up on it,” Rachael said, rolling her eyes.
“I remember her confronting me and saying ‘you speak to Chanel more than you speak to your boyfriend!’
“I lied to her at first because I was still with the guy at the time, so told her Chanel and I were just good friends, but eventually I couldn’t deny it. My boyfriend and I broke up, and I started seeing Chanel.”
Telling the family
Of course, telling your family about any relationship is always daunting, let alone revealing that your new partner is a girl, when all of the rest have been guys. So how did Rachael’s family take it?
“At first, my mum thought I was just going through a bit of a phase after my break up,” she said.
“I expected that. But after Chanel and I had got to the year mark I think she definitely accepted that it was more than just a fling.
“My father isn’t in my life so my grandma has always been that dad figure to me, and, as she is a lot older, I was really worried about telling her. I told her over the phone and asked if she was angry, but she said she wasn’t; she just needed to talk about it some more.’”
Despite Rachael’s grandmother and Chanel being best of friends now, the generational gap still does show slightly on occasion.
“When my grandma introduces us to her friends she’ll say ‘this is Rachel and her friend’ whereas my mum would say ‘this is Rachel and her girlfriend.’ But I guess it’s just one of those things – she’s from a completely different generation so I understand.”
Chanel’s family were harder nuts to crack though.
“She’s from a very strict Asian family,” said Rachael. “All through her childhood her family told her not to marry either a white man or a woman, and I’m a white woman, so it didn’t exactly bode well for our relationship!
“She didn’t tell her parents about us until a year and a half into the relationship, which was difficult when I went to visit her in Singapore. Her mum asked me: ‘so, has Chanel got a boyfriend?’ and I awkwardly replied: ‘hmmmm, I’m not sure.’
“It was strange and uncomfortable lying to her face. But eventually Chanel did tell them and they were fine with it; her mother even said that she’d known all along!’
So what’s it like going from being two straight girls to each other’s lovers?
“I do say to Chanel sometimes that we act a lot like friends. It’s strange as it’s my longest relationship ever and it’s my first with a girl, and what a lot of people find strange is that we both still class ourselves as straight – we just happen to, on this occasion, have fallen for another girl. It’s definitely different from dating a guy because I’ve never been out with a guy who I would also class as my best friend.”
And what about the more, ahem, intimate side of their relationship?
“As far as sex goes, we didn’t do anything for ages until we felt comfortable, and it took me a while to feel properly comfortable with that side of it. It was weird at first; it’s definitely one of those things that takes a bit of getting used to, especially as it was all completely new to both of us. We literally had no idea what we were doing!” Rachael laughs.
“But we never forced ourselves to do anything; we waited until the mood was right so it would be more enjoyable and it’s been fine since then. If I’m completely honest though, I still do prefer sex with guys.”
Unfortunately, not all good things can last forever – Chanel is going back to Singapore after Uni, so the couple have decided to call it a day at the end of the year.
“Counting down the days is really sad but we’ve done our best to try and make these last few months as nice as possible for each other,” said Rachael.
And would she put a label on either of their sexualities after their experience? ‘Despite our relationship, Chanel still does identify as straight. I’d definitely say I’m bisexual now, if I had to put a label on I – I don’t really like to though. I think I’d always go after guys initially, but if I ever met another girl I liked as much as Chanel I’d go for it. It’s made me a lot more open.
“Whenever my friends and I would talk about the possibility of being with a girl, they’d always say ‘oh no, I’d find it too disgusting’. But ever since I’ve been with Chanel, they’ve said that they’d quite like to try it now!’
Liked this? You’ll love these:
The Truth about Lesbian Sex