Coming out was the 'beginning of the rest of my life', says Jersey woman
Natalie Longlois speaks to ITV Channel TV's Diversity & Inclusion champion Jessica Tidswell
A woman from Jersey has told ITV News that coming out was the beginning of the rest of her life.
Natalie Langlois identifies as a gay woman and uses the pronouns 'she' and 'her'. She says it was on her 18th birthday that she first got a "tummy flip and weak knees".
She said: "I walked into one of the local pubs and this lady behind the bar came over to serve me a drink and when I told her what I wanted she bought it for me.
"[She] then asked me what I was doing after the pub, and that's when I first got my tummy flip and the weak knees, and I thought 'oh god, something's going on here'."
Natalie then started going to clubs, but was disappointed to find that every time a gay bar popped up, it was "shut down again a few months later".
She said: "They introduced Cosmopolitan which we thought was the fantastic place to go and explore yourself, and be yourself, and feel safe and accepted.
"But they could only open it as a gay-friendly bar, which I always disliked because that made me feel like I had to be grateful to be allowed in."
Natalie said this experience made her feel like she couldn't be herself.
"I always felt like I was hiding, and I always felt some sort of shame because I didn't think I was normal, which is ridiculous to think now, because it certainly is normal, but at the time it wasn't. So it left a lot of confusion," she continued.
But as she got older, Natalie said she learnt to became comfortable with herself.
"I started to not feel so ashamed of who I was. I was out one night and my mum came into town to pick me up, and I'd had a few drinks and I got into her car and she asked me who I'd been out with and I told her.
"She said 'oh isn't she gay' and I said 'yes, she is' and she said 'are you?' and I said 'what would you say if I was?' and she said I always thought there was something special about you.
"And that was the beginning of the rest of my life. It was elation, it was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I could fly. I started to love myself. And that was a huge deal.
"To get married was something I never, ever, thought was possible for me, and meeting somebody that is my soulmate and knows every part of who I am. It felt untouchable."
As Pride returns to the Channel Islands, Natalie said: "[It's] not just a massive party, we all love a massive party, and that's the best bit and we will be there celebrating as we do every single year, but it's also a celebration of LGBTQ+ history and culture and activism.
"We march for Pride, we march for ourselves and we march for others who cannot."
Now looking back, Natalie's message to her younger self is: "Be brave and take that step to reaffirm who you actually are. Don't hide, because hiding doesn't do anybody any good, it's very damaging.
"To be as open as you possibly can and if there is any negativity or backlash, then take it on the chin, be yourself, straighten your crown and get on with your own life."