June 2019
VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Nina is back for another episode! She was 24 when she fell in love with a woman for the first time. What's changed? She speaks about the formative time in her life, overcoming judgement and the necessity to break free of societal norms.

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"[Had] I been brought up in a different way, with queer sexualities being something NORMAL, maybe I would have considered going for it, because I think you have to try something in order to know if you like it or not."

"[Had] I been brought up in a different way, with queer sexualities being something NORMAL, maybe I would have considered going for it, because I think you have to try something in order to know if you like it or not."

"I started having crushes on my [female] co-students," Nina says, remembering the first time she developed feelings for other women. She was 24, and in the middle of a Gender Studies class at the University of Vienna. Up until that point, Nina had only been in heterosexual relationships, but spending time with queer people challenged her beliefs and made her question the societal norms that she had been brought up in.

"I started thinking about gender roles a lot and how society influences us, our gender and sexual orientation," she recalls. "Had [I been] brought up in a different way, with queer sexualities being something normal, maybe I would have considered going for it, or trying it, because I think you have to try something out in order to find out if you like it or not. And it was not an option for me before that." When passing an attractive woman, she would think, "'If I were a man, I would like to date this woman," which is absurd," she laughts. "I can be a woman and still like other women! But i
t didn't feel natural to me before."

It became natural when she devoured books on feminism and gender and immersed herself in a reflective atmosphere of her studies, where the idea of gender wasn't as rigid as in our society. "I like how [queer people] think and live and sometimes don't identify as female or male at all. That's something that really attracts me," she explains. "I'm much more playful with gender [now]."

As soon as Nina realised that her attraction to women wasn't pure curiosity but a serious evolution of her romantic feelings, she experienced shame having discovered this side of her through academic books.

"In the beginning I felt really embarassed about it," she admits wide-eyed. "I thought it was weird that I had to read about it [in order for] me to have these feelings. I felt like not a stable person! I just thought it was weird that I needed [academic guidance] to feel that way."

Apart from redefining her sexual orientation, the time studying the subject proved to be filled with important revelations, including her idea of masculinity, which, she realised, had been quite traditional. "I demanded from my [ex-]boyfriends to be the strong ones in our relationships," she admits. "Maybe that's also connected to my family story, that I really needed someone to be there for me. But I remember that whenever [men] showed weakness, I was like 'Ah, I don't like that.' That was something that turned me off. Thinking about it now, it was really immature of me."

"I demanded from my [ex-]boyfriends to be the strong ones in our relationships. Maybe that's also connected to my family story, that I really needed someone to be there for me. Thinking about it now, it was really immature of me."

"I demanded from my [ex-]boyfriends to be the strong ones in our relationships. Maybe that's also connected to my family story, that I really needed someone to be there for me. Thinking about it now, it was really immature of me."

Nina was quite lucky, because her girlfriend, Miriam, who she met through a mutual friend, was going through the same identity struggle. "I was happy to talk to someone who had a coming out at 23, because I felt weird! I was like 'Why is this only coming up right now?' I thought either you know it from the beginning or...I just didn't know anyone who came out later in their life."

When they met up for the first time, the two immediately hit it off. The conversations were real from the beginning, no small talk. They initially decided to play wingwomen for each other at queer parties, but the arrangement didn't last long. "I think we started making out at the first party," Nina laughs. In retrospect, the timing was perfect. "I think I would have felt like a baby had I had my first experience with an [experienced] woman," she admits.

Was her family supportive of her sudden interest in women? "Yes. I had prejudices towards my maternal grandmother who is quite religious," she says. "But she turned out to be one of the nicer surprises. "When I told her about Miriam, she said: 'Something's gotta give! Next time you're coming to visit, bring Miriam.'"

After her coming out as "bi", she felt awkward at times among her friends. "I mainly have female friends, so I thought maybe they would feel weird being friends with me now." Neither of them made a fuss about it though and accepted her change of heart quite easily, which wasn't exactly the reaction Nina had hoped for. "I had a strong urge to talk about it. [E]verything [was] changing in my head and I [was] thinking about it all the time. It bothered me for a whole year, that's all I could think about."

Nonetheless, she is reflective and understanding of her friends' reaction. "I think if you're straight and have not gone throught this, maybe you don't know how it affects [a person's] life and how to ask these questions."

"My [friends] didn't really make a fuss about [me being with a woman]. They were like 'You like women now, so what?' But I think at that time I felt like 'No, it's not cool at all for me, everything is changing!' I had a strong urge to talk about it!"

"My [friends] didn't really make a fuss about [me being with a woman]. They were like 'You like women now, so what?' But I think at that time I felt like 'No, it's not cool at all for me, everything is changing!' I had a strong urge to talk about it!"

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During her last relationship with a man, Nina decided to keep it open in order to have the freedom to explore her sexuality with women as well. "He pushed me to go out and meet and explore. I think with him I really learned how to communicate in a relationship and being open about this was important."

But with Miriam, she says, she also allows herself to be more vulnerable. "Sometimes I support her, sometimes she supports me. We're more equal." I'm curious, what does she love most about her partner? If doesn't take her long to come up with an answer. "I don't know if you noticed, but she's really BANG," she laughs. "Do you want just one thing?" "You can keep going," I assure her, and she does. In a long list of affectionate features, there is one endearing detail, and I can't help but giggle.

"She has a very special eye-gaze! She opens her eyes very widely in order to signal that she is very present and deeply listening. And I remember when I first met her, I was a bit irritated about that, like 'Why are you looking at me like that?' But now I really like that!"

The pair also went through difficult phases together, which Nina is convinced only made their bond stronger. "I really believe in this relationship," she says. At the sound of it, so do I.

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What You Call Home is an audio series, exploring the meaning of home through personal memoirs of people like you and me.

What You Call Home is an audio series, exploring the meaning of home through personal memoirs of people like you and me.