Your personal journey to finding yourself¬–whether you’re queer or not¬–is a universal thing we all experience. As unique and individual those journeys may be, the feelings and emotions are something we all share, and I find that to be so beautiful!
Love is love, hurt is hurt, heavy is heavy, hard is hard, joy is joy. Remember we all experience these things together and no one should judge anyone’s story and compete over struggles, but rather find connections and how much we all share as people. Let’s all continue to grow, love and support each other and continue this wave of self-love and discovery!
So that said, I would love to share my experience publicly for the first time, in the hopes it helps someone else find their truth. <3
I’m Kaleen and I identify as lesbian, queer and gay. I am 28 years old and I’m an art director and actress in San Francisco. For me, and I’m sure many of you, finding myself and accepting myself are two very different things and came at very different times in my life. Next week, I proudly celebrate my 4 year wedding anniversary with my amazing wife (we’ve been together for over 8 years) so my story has a very happy ending! But it definitely didn’t start that way.
For most of my life, I did not realize I was gay. I didn’t even consider it as an option. I grew up in a religious household with a mother who I believe after years of therapy to have Borderline personality disorder (BPD). It was not a healthy or emotionally safe environment for me. I truly believed that I was just an amazing Christian who was waiting till marriage (for you know)… but waiting was super easy for me because I had ZERO desire to be intimate with a man. Even when I had boyfriends and would kiss them, I would find myself counting down the seconds till it was over. I truly thought everyone felt this way and it was something I would learn to like and we all just have to get over that hurdle of disgust. I would see my friends falling head over heels for their boyfriends and wonder how they got over that hurdle, and think I’ll get there soon too… that day didn’t come for me.
Knowing myself now and looking back, there were so many “clues” that I was gay, but it still did not cross my mind. I remember watching the show House and there was an episode when Olivia Wilde’s character, Thirteen, came out as bisexual. The scene where she kissed another woman, I remember rewinding and watching it a few times. This was one of the first times I’d seen this on T.V. and it was the start of my eyes opening into what is possible. This is why representation is SO important!
Fast forward to college. This is when my life flipped on its head! I found myself in a relationship with a man and we got engaged (for his privacy, I will call him John). He was a wonderful human, and I truly thought I was “in” love. I did love him, but just not the way he deserved to be loved, and not the way I deserved to experience it. At this time, I also built a wonderful friendship with a girl and we became best friends. When I got engaged to John, something in me snapped because my mind knew that eventually I will have to have sex with this person. This tossed me into a deep depression and in doing so, also opened my eyes to a past I had bolted shut. I realized all in one moment, that I was gay, in love with my best friend, and I also had PTSD with memories of being sexually abused by a family member for half my childhood flooding my mind, all while going to school full time and holding a job to pay rent. It was a lot to discover all at one time and I felt completely overwhelmed and alone. The only person I felt comfortable sharing all these pieces of myself with was my best friend Kay. Little by little I had to confront and try to accept all these things happening in my life.
At this time, I asked John to give me space. He understood that I was having trouble with my PTSD and needed to distance myself from him. We were fully separated for over 3 months with no communication as I worked to find myself again and heal from my past.
Kay was patient and helped me heal, and through all this we became unbelievably close. At this time, she was not out as gay either. Funny enough, we did not even realize that our relationship was different than other girl/girl relationships because it felt so natural to the point we didn’t stop and ask ourselves if this was “normal”. Needless to say, we figured it out together. At this point, I still wasn’t sure if I was going to allow myself to live an authentic life because I knew in doing this, I would lose family. Before I said yes or no, I gave myself one day to openly (in the privacy of my home) love Kay and acknowledge how we felt for one another. We spent the day just holding each other, laughing, and enjoying how we felt. As the clock drew near to midnight, our hearts began to sink as we knew we only had this moment. To this day, I can’t watch All Dogs Go To Heaven because that was on in the background. We shared one last amazing kiss and then walked into separate rooms. Oh, did I not mention we were also roommates! Yeah… that made things even harder!
Days turned into weeks of me pretending like I could live without her, till I just couldn’t take it anymore. I decided I would let myself be gay if, and only if, my sister could be ok with it. Lucky for me, she was open to trying to understand. It was at this point I officially ended my engagement with John. I returned the ring and we had a wonderful moment of thanking each other for all the good times and wished nothing but happiness and healing to one another. A few months after this, I began my first true relationship with Kay.
I came out to my family and my father and stepmom were amazingly supportive and even helped pay for my therapy during all this, but my mother would not accept my truth. She said to me “I would rather you be unhappy in this lifetime, but forever happy in the kingdom of god” and asked me to deny myself love and live alone. I gave myself the best gift I could and will ever give and decided to fully embrace my love for Kay regardless of what this person thought. It was hard, it’s still hard to think about, but it’s what was best for me. Years later when we became engaged, my mom officially removed herself from my life and we haven’t seen or spoken since.
Like I said in the beginning of the story, Kay and I have now been together for over 8 years and we are about to celebrate our 4 year wedding anniversary on April 2nd. She is my absolute best friend and I don’t have words for how much I love her. She is the first time I have experienced unconditional love, and I value her with everything I am. Deciding to accept myself and live an openly gay life is the best decision I’ve made for myself and it’s a privilege I will never take for granted.
I wish everyone who reads this love and acceptance within themselves. You are love, you are here and you stay. Xoxo