Editor’s note: I am thrilled to be launching OutNewsGlobal’s brand new advice column under the stewardship of the brilliant Heidi Gammon. A counsellor and therapist, Heidi is an out-and-proud lesbian and can advise you about anything from adoption, your love life and dealing with homphobia in the workplace.
You can write to Heidi at a firstname.lastname@example.org and you can read her column by clicking Ask Heidi in the menu at the top of the page on your laptop or by finding it in the A-Z dropdown menu on your mobile.
But, for now, let’s hear from Heidi herself.
RH, London, June 2022
Happy Pride everyone! Being a counsellor was not my first choice of career. From a young age my passion was to tend people’s hair, but counsellor and hairdresser are strangely linked. You know what people say: if you cannot afford a therapist go see your hairdresser!
Well, to be honest, it worked the other way around for me. Much of my hairdressing career went on to be hugely successful My CV is packed with me working with celebrities, the rich and the famous. My colouring talent meant I was also working alongside some of the biggest names in the hair world.
The rich and famous
However, there was always a burning desire listen to my clients’ issues and problems. Honestly, no matter who you are – a rock star, a socialite, or the biggest name in fashion – we all have the same issues: heartbreak, divorce, bereavement, anxiety, depression…and the list goes on. Yes, I’m sure some will argue that the people whose hair I’ve looked after have money; they don’t to worry where their next meal is coming from. However having dealt with both ends of the spectrum, money does not always bring you happiness. That 16-year-old girl who wants to come out to her family as gay, who lives in Chelsea in a five-bedroom house, is not much different to the one who lives in a council block. They have different opportunities but they are both still human beings.
My fascination for listening to people made me want to become a therapist and I retrained as one. It was not just my clients´ lives that inspired me but also my own.
Being a gay woman, I came out in the 90’s. It felt like a brave move as it was far from cool back then. We had few role models. There was K D Lang, Melissa Etheridge and Ellen, who were out front and centre. Let’s face it, lesbian TV and film characters were depicted as either mad, bad or dead. Most gay women’s refenece point was “The Killing of Sister George”. Though a classic movie with sensational performances it hardly depicts gay woman as happy people, which is why I very much enjoyed the documentary on the Gateways Club, the legendary lesbian club on the Kings Road where “Sister George” was partly filmed.
My coming out raised quite a few eyebrows even though I was working at the very trendy Vidal Sassoon’s in central London. When word got out, some of my regular clients changed to other colourists.
If things were a little awkward at Sassoon’s (and I must add there were some amazing supporters), moving on to other salons meant battling a load of homophobia. You might be surprised to learn that that included gay men also, something we seldom talk about. Much as my inner circle of friends included divine gay men, there were certainly those who did not welcome us gals with open arms.
Too straight looking
There was also the fact that even though my girlfriend was with me, looking too femme got me refused access to a lot of gay clubs. Apparently, I was too straight looking!
Thank goodness times are starting to change, but it is important not to take it for granted. There is still homophobia around every corner. By being positive role models, educating and fighting on, we can make a difference.
Even when I started college, one man in my peer group made me laugh when he was surprised as she had never met a lesbian, saying “So proud that you’re my first lesbian friend!” That broke the ice and we remain great friends to this day. However, as always there was one peer who was rude and passive aggressive to me throughout the course. Though it was never overtly said, thinly veiled homophobia was definitely going on. The rest of the class were amazing, welcoming and inclusive. My tutor was truly sensational.
Back in the day before coming out, it would never have been possible to be out of the closet in one good career, let alone two. So Happy pride, everyone. It’s so important to celebrate. There is still so much work to be done, but for now I am happy and proud to wave the rainbow flag and cannot wait to answer your e-mails!