‘Ini­tially, our dif­fer­ence in sex­u­al­ity was a big is­sue’

Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - REAL LIVES -

JESS, 26, is a ju­nior menswear de­signer; SARAH is a PhD stu­dent. Both are in re­la­tion­ships.

JESS SAYS From the age of about 15, Sarah and I ar­gued con­stantly. We were never re­ally sim­i­lar per­son­al­ity-wise and have al­ways known how to press one an­other’s but­tons. Grow­ing up, Sarah wanted all her hair cut off, while I wanted mine long like a princess. She’d wear Spi­derman stuff and I’d al­ways be in pink. Even to­day we’re quite sin­gu­lar peo­ple and we don’t see each other very of­ten – it can be as lit­tle as six times a year – be­cause we live in dif­fer­ent places. That said, we are much closer now. We talk ev­ery day and con­stantly FaceTime each other.

For me, sex­u­al­ity wasn’t some­thing I ever re­ally thought about. Then at the age of 16, Sarah came out. I re­mem­ber it vividly. I had gone up to her room, which was in the loft, and weirdly, she had the lights off – she ob­vi­ously didn’t want to look at me. She told me, ‘Oh, by the way, I think I’m gay.’ I burst into tears and she said, ‘Don’t tell Mum or Dad.’

It drove a wedge be­tween us for a long time. My mis­un­der­stand­ing and Sarah’s un­will­ing­ness to let me think on it for a bit caused ten­sion. She felt un­ac­cepted, and I can see that now, but it wasn’t the case. I was try­ing to un­der­stand it, but it was hard: I was very young, and went to a very shel­tered, quite big­oted school. We lived in the coun­try­side, we didn’t watch that much TV – this was one of the first times I’d even heard the term ‘gay’.

Now, I’m re­ally pro­tec­tive of Sarah and her sex­u­al­ity. I feel like a proud LGBT com­mu­nity mem­ber, even though I’m not gay. As I’ve got older, gone to art school and ex­pe­ri­enced dif­fer­ent peo­ple from dif­fer­ent back­grounds, I do feel there is a lot more flu­id­ity in sex­u­al­ity than peo­ple re­alise. It’s a lot more so­ci­etal than we think. We don’t have to be 100 per cent one way or the other. It should just be what­ever you fancy, re­ally. SARAH SAYS Jess and I were very com­pet­i­tive grow­ing up. It was al­ways, ‘I’m one cen­time­tre taller; I’m faster than you.’ I did a lot of sport so Jess was never re­ally in what you might call ‘the lime­light’. She was quite quiet. There was a lot of over­shad­ow­ing, and I think that’s where the bick­er­ing came from. It’s as though we had to win this nonex­is­tent game and be­cause of this we evolved into very dif­fer­ent peo­ple on pur­pose.

Ini­tially, our dif­fer­ence in sex­u­al­ity was a big is­sue. It ac­tu­ally sep­a­rated us for quite a while. It wasn’t a frac­ture per se, but more a time in our ado­les­cence when she wasn’t my friend and she wasn’t my sis­ter. But I’d kept it from her for a long time and that hurt her. You can re­late on a very emo­tional level with your twin but we didn’t have our sex­u­al­ity to share. It was in­cred­i­bly tough.

Nowa­days, we can sit and de­bate. We still don’t have the same views about the same is­sues, but it’s be­cause we have had very dif­fer­ent so­cial ex­pe­ri­ences. The en­vi­ron­ment speaks vol­umes about why we’re dif­fer­ent. We had sep­a­rate friend­ship groups at school: I was into sport and sci­ence while Jess is arty. The way that we think and the way that we prob­lem-solve are dif­fer­ent, but I think it’s all taught be­hav­iour. It’s all so­cial.

Jess and I got close again in the sec­ond year of uni. When she made a con­nec­tion with other peo­ple on the LGBT spec­trum we just clicked again and we started call­ing each other a bit more, open­ing up and rekin­dling what we had when we used to make dens in the liv­ing room. It took a long time but we got there in the end. I wouldn’t change it for the world. ➤


Sarah in blue and Jess in pink, above; Sarah wear­ing the trousers at four, be­low, with Jess; Jess, near right, and Sarah to­day

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