I didn’t truly find out who I was until my third child was born. She rushed into my life like a hurricane and brought with her a gust of joy and a hope to find myself, find my song. Turns out I had been humming it all along, I just didn’t know the words.
Soon after, I left my husband and partner in crime of 10 plus years to pursue my love for both vagina and the music in me.
I always knew that something was amiss. I felt as though it was my fault, like I always wanted more from my relationship and that nothing was ever enough. I was always searching for the right feeling, the right time, the right present, the right answer, when really it was just the wrong gender.
I grew up in a small town called San Remo, NSW, with a single dad who was homophobic himself. My childhood, however colourful and wonderful, meant that I always craved the norm. The three kids, picket fence, the family I never had. I clung to anyone who would take me in as their own and feed these symbolic needs, not allowing myself to be anything else but what I had wanted as a child.
But, as my knowledge that happiness is key grew, I learnt that all that matters is one’s self-acceptance.
At 36 I picked up a guitar and started travelling across Australia with a woman I barely knew to seek what I had been missing this whole time. Four years later, I realised that love is not enough.
I’d fallen hard for the guitarist in my ex-husband and I’s previous band, The Wayward Henrys. Yes, a bit of a Fleetwood Mac moment and a wake-up call for what was about to come. I didn’t truly comprehend that line in ‘What’s Up?‘ by 4 Non Blondes about the world being made up by this brotherhood of man until I cheated with the female guitarist.
Boy did it define who were my real friends and who left me for dead.
In my latest single release, ‘Leavin’’, I call her the snake charmer. If there’s something I’ve always been attracted to in any one person, it’s how they turn on their persona and she knew how to go from hot to cold in an instant. This whirlwind, tumultuous relationship nearly resulted in me losing all the women I held so dearly in my life as everyone else around could see the toxic but me.
Unfortunately, many gay women have that noise inside them that says “I’m different” and, if that voice is loud enough, they can really torture themselves and those they love. Just something I’ve picked up in my infancy of lesbianism.
The one thing that was holding me together was also tearing me apart. See, not everyone you love will love you back. For myself, I found it incredibly challenging to embrace who I was and face the voice inside my head that held me back for so long. It’s hard to truly hold your own in life as an openly gay woman and I’ve found this a common theme throughout my friendship groups.
Despite the times, I still copped a lot of homophobic behaviour. It was like I had grown a big fuck-off sign on my forehead that said “Hey, look disgusted at me, I’m a joke.” Amazingly, none of this has affected my confidence in being open about who I love or how many times I love them. Aggressive inbox messages from both men and women have become the norm, including things like, “don’t you miss the cock?” or “maybe you just haven’t been fucked right”
None of this stops me singing my songs embellished for women alone.
The hardest part of discovering who I am so late in the game is that I often feel undervalued as an artist and underpaid as a 40-year-old woman who has to make financial decisions financially for her family. It often gets in the way of a ‘good’ gig – stating that I feel I deserve a higher amount to be the opener is obviously not applauded in this industry, usually meaning that I won’t be asked to perform again.
There were already so many challenges I faced in my work, like being valued and fairly paid as a female musician, but coming out seemed to really be the icing on the cake.
Music has taken me on a wild ride. I certainly don’t feel I have a use-by date, but at times we are used up and spat out in life, in love, and in music too. Still, it makes for a better, fiercer album the next time around.
‘White Heat‘ is my sophomore album and placed in the ARIA charts on release. The album was only made possible by all the real-life fixins’ that go into cookin’ up good stories. I did the heartbreak in live-action technicolour; the lovin’, the leavin’, the drinkin’ and grievin’. They disturbed all of the peace in me and what came after the happenings were the songs. I hope it feels like I’m speaking the truths of many folks out there. ‘Cause lord knows I didn’t hold back to make myself seem shinier.
Three kids an ex-husband, a tornado of self-discovery and heartbreak, a less than stable mother, a dead father, an ex lesbian-lover and a new album – well, hello world, here I am.
Natalie Henry is an ARIA charted country singer-songwriter from New South Wales.