In 1992 Natalie Brierley fell in love with a woman for the first time while living in Australia. After two years of being together her visa expired and she had to return back to the UK, but was determined to get back to Australia as soon as possible.
I was full of the excitement of my relationship and naively expected everyone to share my joy as well as my antipodean shiraz. What I got instead was a wall. Little by little, I gave up on my Aussie dream and resumed my heterosexual life, admittedly with fervour. I met my very wonderful husband and lived a blissfully happy life with our four children, moving to France four years ago. I was, as my friends would say, living the dream.”
But then things changed again for her when she met Cecile, a married French woman who lived nearby.
I remember my first kiss with Cécile. It was exciting, forbidden, incredible. All the feelings typical of a love affair. But I also felt a sense of relief. Relief that she was there, that she felt the same way as me and that 20 years since my first and last encounter with a woman, it felt as if I was where I should be.”
Then two years ago Natalie heard that her former girlfriend in Australia had died and she decided to go back to Australia and visit her old friends.
It took me two days to react and when I did I cried and cried until I decided that I needed to go back to the other side of the world to see the people who filled that very important period of my life. It was there that I realised that I was crying not just for the loss of my friend, but for the loss of me. As happy as I was with my husband, I wanted me back.”
Upon her return to France Natalie decided to leave her husband and be with Cecile, the woman she was deeply in love with and she was surprised to see how much easier it was this time around after the reaction she had from people in 1992.
we’ve been warmly accepted but we have, even in our tiny locale, paved the way for others. There is now one more lesbian couple in our town; two more women brave enough to follow their hearts. Two more people who feel comfortable enough to be themselves. We are just part of the increasing percentage of women in same-sex relationships.”
This same acceptance however did not come from all her family and friends. Cecile has three children and Natalie has four but the reaction from Natalie’s father was not good. He told her:
Gay, what a horrible use of a word that once had a more pleasant connotation. You should both apologise to your partners for the hurt you have caused and, though trust will take forever to earn, put the family back at the top of your list of priorities.”
Natalie explains that both her and Cecile’s children were really understanding when they found out their mum’s had fallen in love. She said that they didn’t bat an eyelid and didn’t question the fact they were both women at all. This also reminded Natalie how different things were this time around for her.
Love has moved on since my last same-sex experience.”
Now Natalie and Cecile are looking forward to the future and she is clear that she doesn’t really want to label herself:
I try not to define myself. I still don’t know if I’m a lesbian or if Cécile is just a wonderful rencontre. And though I’m inclined to go with the former, I don’t really care. I am, we are, Cécile and I and our seven children, in its “proper” sense of the word, thoroughly gay!”