Riley & Rebecca- Journeying through Life Together
Riley, the dreamboat brunette, and Becca, the charming strawberry blonde, are a continental couple if there ever was one. They grew up world’s apart and yet, in a true serendipitous fashion, met and fell in love in Paris, France. Riley and Becca are simplistically and wondrously genuine people. They’re the type of magnetic people you would stumble upon in a pub and instantly fall in love with. Riley and Becca, you are entirely lovely. Thank you for sharing your story with us! Happy reading fam. Xo Xo
Name: Riley Behrens, Rebecca Cameron
Hometown: Auckland NZ, Dundee Scotland
How do you identify? Lesbian, Lesbian
What do you do? Currently I'm a student and I teach English to secondary students in the evenings. I also run a blog called Away where I talk about food, travel and life as an expat in Paris.
What are your favorite queer resources? I've always found YouTube a wonderful place to remind yourself you're not alone, to learn new information and to see what life can be like for those living their best queer lives. When I was young, finding openly LGBT+ YouTubers was a large part of the reason I was able to accept my identity. What would your life hashtag be? I'm not one for hashtags, but my life moto? “This too shall pass.” It's an old Buddhist saying my Dad used to repeat to me ad nauseam. It basically means, if life's tough right now remember things always change, and it will get better. And if life is great, remember to appreciate it in the moment, because nothing lasts forever.
Name: Rebecca Cameron
Hometown: Dundee Scotland
How do you identify? Lesbian What do you do? I’m working in an International company called Tereos, a sugar co-operative, that aides in the innovation and development of agricultural processes. A couple of years ago I also created my own art brand, SpillOut, which allows me to host my own exhibitions in Paris (when I have the time). What are your favorite queer resources? I was a bit late to the game, officially coming out at the ripe age of 23, so I didn’t follow any YouTubers etc nor did I hear of any. I didn’t even have any lesbian friends to send me in the right direction! However I did watch The L Word religiously which helped me a lot in identifying who I was and gave me a real insight into the LGBT+ communities that exist. What would your life hashtag be? If I ever use hashtags, they’re normally carrying sarcastic undertones/puns. Like if I got a McDonalds for dinner, it would probably follow with #healthbeforewealth or #dreambigMAC. My life hashtag would therefore probably be #donttakeyourselftooseriously. Which I don’t think is bad actually, I generally don’t and I definitely have a lot more fun.
The heart of it:
Riley, let’s start with you. Tell me about your coming out journey.
Riley: I didn't even start to question if I was gay until I was 12 years old. I had crushes on boys all through primary school, had giggled and gossiped with my friends about the cute new kid, and even had a boyfriend. Even though I was infatuated with a girl on my bus to school, and had secretly made out with my friend at a sleepover, I completely suppressed any inward notion that I might be the slightest bit not straight.
By 15 however I'd find myself sitting on my parents bed as they folded laundry, trying to figure out how to tell them they had a gay daughter. After blurting out that “I liked girls” I was surprised to hear they both already knew, and were simply relieved I'd finally said it out loud. It was a hard process for me, as I felt like I had to destroy the idea of who I was, to leave room for who I was becoming. I was lucky to have four very supportive and loving parents (my parents divorced and remarried) who's only concern was my safety and happiness.
In what ways did growing up in New Zealand impact your coming out experience and did you recognize a culture shift when you moved to France?
But I was lucky enough to grow up in a country where LGBT+ rights were recognized, and where gay marriage was legalised when I was 14 years old. I struggled sometimes with harassment, was yelled at and spit on several times as a teenager when I was seen kissing another girl, but have always had a loving and caring support system to bolster me and keep me sane.
Paris on the other hand has been a new world by comparison. Both extremes seem to flourish here. At any given time, in any public place, if my girlfriend and I are holding hands it is guaranteed there will be a man sneering, leering, spitting or hurling abuse. While at the same time the LGBT+ community flourishes in the heart of the city. With a roaring nightlife, a quarter of the city dedicated to LGBT+ friendly shops, bars and restaurants (the zebra crossings are rainbow it's fantastic) and an eclectic array of gender expression and relationships walking the streets. Moving to Paris normalised being gay for me, it became a small but loved part of me rather than my complete identity.
What about you Becca, when did you begin to question?
I probably realized around age 20, but I can definitely remember having intense feelings towards certain women that had a strong presence in my life. I wasn’t sure if it was just because I idolized them, or if it was more. I also wasn’t ready to deal with it and quite enjoyed having a secret that was just for me. I continued to have boyfriends and male crushes all the way up until I went to University, where I was living in the city and away from home. That really helped open my eyes, being in an environment full of students where anything and everything was accepted.
Did anything particular happen in University to help you gain clarity?
Yes, in my third year when I went on my year exchange, to Paris, that I had my first real experience with a girl. After that, I had a lot of clarity and things got a lot easier for me. I honestly felt like the missing piece of the jigsaw had been found and I was so relieved! It still took a year or so after I knew to tell my parents, which started off with hysterical crying down the phone because “someone” had broken my heart, to hanging up the phone and writing a very lengthy text message coming out. I remember being so fed up of keeping the secret and telling myself that whatever fear I had of telling them couldn’t be as bad as the hurt I was feeling in that moment. Thankfully for me my parents were very kind and accepting. Of course it took time for them just as it did me, but with the added parental worry of whether their kid would be safe and how would they be treated by others. Just as Riley previously mentioned, it’s common to have derogatory comments hurled at you in Paris.
What made you decide to move to Paris, and what does your life look like now living in France?
R: I came to France as an Au Pair, but when I decided to stay and try make a life here I turned towards teaching. I enjoy my job, but school is my real passion right now. Politics and international relations are what I'm missing interested in and hope to work in! (Becca will confirm that no matter how hard sober Riley tries to stop her, tipsy Riley will invariably be found arguing about the American economy with a middle aged man.)
B: Likewise for me, I was only meant to be in Paris for a short while to complete the 9 month Erasmus programme and planned to go home shortly after. However, Paris had a strong hold over me and I decided to stay. It’s definitely been a ride; bouncing between bar jobs, socializing, building friendships that last longer than the typical “came to Europe for 6 months to find myself” friends, to then finally take the plunge and starting my business career. After a whirlwind 7 years things are now more calm and life in Paris is a little more sustainable!
So, at this point you both you’re both living in Paris, how did you meet?
R: So this is a funny story. Last winter my best friend and I, Maya, got caught in a snowstorm and decided to run into this little Scottish pub she knew down a tiny alley not far away. We spent hours stuck inside and befriended the bar staff. Eventually we became regulars. Becca happened to be the manager of said bar at the time, although we'd never met officially and were not friends.
B: It was on a manic Karaoke night in the bar and I can just remember my best friend T shouting out in front of everyone, pointing down at Riley, “Becca! She’s a lesbian too!”
I sort of shrugged it off and laughed at him saying, “just because we’re both gay doesn’t mean we’re going to get together”. Little did I know I would eat my own words…
I often commented things such as “she’s cute but she’s too young for me” and “i’ve been down that road before” but those judgements very soon disappeared!
R: A month or so later, after being assured nothing was going to happen, I stayed late one night and B, myself and a friend of ours went to sit down by the river and watch the sunrise. We had our first kiss at 7am on a Friday morning at Pont Neuf, which will always be a special spot for us!
B: I don’t think either of us really expected it to escalate as much as it did. Of course there was the excitement, after that fantastic kiss, of seeing each other again and seeing what happened next. But we had no idea we would have as much chemistry as we do and that things would be as serious as they are now! I feel like we were quite pragmatic about a lot of things, considering everything happened quickly. However there was also an easiness to our relationship, which has never tired over time, and we have an equal respect for one another which keeps us strong.
What are your favorite things about each other?
R: That's such a hard question to answer. I'd say my favorite part of her is her ability to see the best in everything and everyone. I can be pretty pessimistic at times, pulled down by the weight of the terrible things happening in the world that I can't change. She always finds a way to make me laugh, and see the beauty beneath the sadness. Not only that, but she also finds the beauty in me, the best parts of me I can't seem to find myself sometimes. She believes I can do anything, and that makes me believe it just a little bit too.
B: Such a broad question! There are so many qualities about my girlfriend that I love. One of my favourite things about her is her kindness and respect that she has for me and for others. She’s super intelligent and determined in making the world a better place, which pushes me to think about how I can be better. She teaches me to love myself more, makes me feel like I can achieve anything, always has my back, and will always be there to give me a cuddle when I’m down. All of these things make me so grateful to have her in my life.
What hope do you have for the future & young LBGTQ folk?
Riley: I hope that young people don't have to suffer so much to accept who they are. I know both B and I went through terrible pain and internal turmoil to get to where we are now, despite growing up loved and accepted. It wasn't my family that made it so hard to accept myself, it was the world. I want kids to see not only their future as limitless and non prescribed, but also their identity.
Becca: I hope that young gay people don’t have to be scared of being harassed by others who are too quick to judge. To encourage them to be strong and to remind them that they are better than those who are ignorant and refuse to be taught. I think it’s important that we continue to be proactive, and to be proud about the progress we’ve already made so far. Our support system is growing and with that comes positive change.
Finally, what coming out advice would you offer readers?
R: If you're not ready to come out that's ok, as cheesy as it sounds the only person who has to live with you is you...so start by loving yourself and then others will follow. If you are ready though, just know that there is so much strength within you, strength you won't discover until you do something that terrifies you. Once you find it though, it'll change your life.