Bibliophile | ‘Not That I’d Kiss A Girl’ is a raw coming out tale

Not That I’d Kiss a Girl
by Lil O’Brien
Allen & Unwin

This Kiwi girl’s tale begins with a ‘bang’ – of her parents’ front door. Nineteen year-old Lil is on her semester break from the University of Otago in Dunedin. She stays at her parents’ place even though she knows that being gay is not a viable option that they will accept. When they hear her talking on the phone about liking girls, she finds herself on the side of the road.

It had taken her a considerable amount of time to actually work out where she was on the sexuality continuum. She writes about how she spent her awkward teenage years trying to fit in and trying to become comfortable with herself. While negotiating the constant expectation that she pair up with a boyfriend, she harboured romantic thoughts about some of her close female friends even though they had already paired up.

During this time she was also becoming more aware of her parents’ prejudices and the lack of information about where she fitted in if she wasn’t straight. This was 2003, before the internet had taken off, and the queer books at the university were incredibly theoretical. Even the word ‘queer’ was hugely radical in New Zealand at the time.

In writing her experiences, she says that “I had grown up thinking my life would be one way, and that I would be a ‘normal’ person just like everyone else. Not that anyone thinks of themselves as normal, but I didn’t know that yet. I started having the thought that I might be just a little different from everyone else”.

Lil’s life was quite privileged. She had been a prefect and sports captain at her private high school and her parents were covering her rent and giving her a living allowance while at university. She hadn’t planned to tell her parents about her sexuality beyond “no fucking time soon”.

Even though money was not an issue, she was devastated by being rejected by her family, mainly her mother. She also found that she didn’t quite fit in the lesbian world and copious amounts of alcohol ensured that she struggled through many inappropriate relationships and non-relationships.

Lil O’Brien wrote this raw tale of coming out and coming of age after talking to high school students in an education program organised by Aotearoa’s Rainbow Youth. It must have been cathartic to write with such honesty as she even has to question her own prejudices.

Lezly Herbert

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