For Pride, we invite our LGBTIQA+ community to explore the theme of past and present identity, encouraging acknowledgement of the commendable journey of self-identification. Whether after a physical transition or openly expressing sexuality, we hope that reflection can give a renewed sense of appreciation for the adversities faced by the community.
In continuation of our ‘Who I Am, Really’ series, queer French singer-songwriter, musician and actress SoKo, born Stéphanie Alexandra Mina Sokolinski, reflects on the challenges of her childhood as a new mother. From finding her feet with self-expression, grief and anxiety, SoKo has managed to craft a life that she once dreamt about, raising her son Indigo Blue alongside her partner Stella while continuing to make music that inspires emotional honesty.
I grew up in a small town in the south-west of France. I was dreaming of living in a city.
I lost my dad when I was 5 years old. I became an adult that day.
Kids were very mean to me after that happened, saying things like "He died because you're mean, he's in hell because of you..."—pretty traumatic for a child. Therefore, I had no friends. I barely have any memories from my childhood; I must have blacked it out. I've heard people can do that to avoid the feedback effect of trauma.
I was forced to eat meat. I already knew that wasn't for me, and that alone made me stand out and be a weirdo.
I was already thinking about the planet and sustainability when most kids my age were just thinking about their crushes.
I grew up loving colourful clothes and with a bit of OCD, so my closet was always sorted in a way that every pile looked like a rainbow.
There was not much room for anybody to be different and I couldn't resonate with my small town's mindset. I felt very judged. I was.
Mostly I just wanted to grow up and live on my own, so I left my five brothers and sisters and my mom and stepdad and moved to Paris by myself when I was 16. That's when my life really started.
But I had a lot of anxiety, I still do.
I was an introvert-extravert, I still am.
I was vulnerable and hypersensitive, I still am.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to escape.
That's why I started acting; I wanted to be someone else.
Someone with less problems, less grief, a happier life, a different life.
I'd always been wondering about "homosexuals" but it was always referred to as two men together so I never knew that it was a possibility for me. I didn't have any role models inspiring me to be my true self and explore who I was... really!
I kissed a girl for the first time for a movie that summer after leaving home. I was scared about what people would think but I made sense of it by saying "It's just for a movie". And although I didn't actually like the girl like that, I liked what I was discovering in this whole new world that I had always wondered about.
I had a lot of emotions and a lot that I wanted and needed to share, but no one would listen.
After that, I had to take every little step towards my queerness on my own. This new generation is a lot more fluid, and it's a lot easier to date whoever. It wasn't back then.
I only liked straight girls, so I faced so much rejection. I had to push through until I could turn some straight girls not-so-straight any more!
All my relationships with men were very complicated and toxic and I would put myself in situations where I felt like I had to play the part of the straight girl, which wasn't fulfilling.
I remember coming out to my mom when she said "If you have a boyfriend, you can bring him home sometimes" and I said "I have a girlfriend, can she come?" and she just said "Oh wow, oh yes, of course she can! I wish I had explored that when I was your age!"
The first girl I brought home looked like a young Brigitte Bardot. The comments I got were "She doesn't look like a lesbian" and "She's way too pretty to be dating girls". I had to witness my brother hit on her like she was a random hot girl and not my girlfriend. That was a big blow. They were not taking my choices seriously or with respect.
I called myself bisexual then. "Queer" wasn't yet an option. And slowly I realised that dating women made me feel so much more like myself, less oppressed, more equal and more empowered.
I had a lot of dreams: of travelling, of making music everywhere in the world, of telling my stories through music and movies, of living in LA. I worked so hard on all of this, and I did it.
I had dreams of motherhood and family, of a partner that truly sees me and that I truly see, who understands who I was then and who I am now.
I've always wanted to be a mom, although I always thought it was impossible and that I would have to be a single mom.
Now, I'm 34, I'm raising my baby Indigo Blue with my partner Stella. She is French too, we live in LA but speak French at home!
The fact that my baby gets to be raised with two moms is the wildest thing I could have ever imagined! I'm super proud of my little rainbow family. Now we can celebrate each other's journey and all it took to be where we are now.
We'll be donating 30% of profits from Friday 26th - Sunday 28th June to GLAAD plus $10 for every time the hashtag #whoiamreally is used. To get involved, use the hashtag #whoiamreally with a photo of yourself and your story of past and present identity.