This story will include a lot of binary-ness in order to properly convey my thoughts and feelings, since that’s how I saw the world for most of my life.
It was sometime around 7th grade when I began to realize that I liked girls. Of course, there were signs way before then – always wanting to be the “man” when playing house, always using the pronouns “she/her” when making up love songs, constantly removing the clothes from my sister’s Barbie dolls…and this all happened when I was in the single digits. But around 12 years old was when I became curious about other girls in a way that – looking back now – was more than just friendly. I liked boys, they made good friends since I had more in common with them than with other girls, but something about girls was more alluring to me. I had a curiosity for them that was indescribable. Of course, now that I’m an adult, I know exactly how to describe it…GAY AF.
There was this one girl that I found really attractive…we’ll call her Anne, for the sake of anonymity. Anne was in my class in 7th grade, and I found myself looking at her (AKA, checking her out) quite often. In 8th grade, Anne was in the same P.E. class as me. When changing out in the locker rooms, I always chose the locker close to hers. At the time, I thought it was because I just liked that particular locker…NOPE. Turns out it was just because I liked that particular Anne. I would steal glances at her body, which I’m a little embarrassed to admit now because it seems very stalkerish, but if you’re not creepily stalking your crush at 13 years old, are you really even 13 years old? See, I had no idea it was possible to even be attracted to girls like that, because my parents did an excellent job of shielding me from the “gay lifestyle” (nice try, ‘rents). So, I didn’t think anything of it. I just assumed that I was obsessed with her because I wanted to be her, not because I was attracted to her or anything. So I proceeded to carry out the rest of my middle school career with the carefree mindset that I was just like everyone else my age. Ah, the serenity.
Then I went to high school…and 9th grade was a game changer for me. I found out that, plot twist, you actually can be gay! (insert well-known Home Alone Macaulay Culkin picture here)
I started to notice myself paying more attention to (eye humping) girls around me, and I began to question my sexuality. Do I like girls? Am I gay? I like boys too though, right? I mean, I must, because obviously in every single movie and TV show I’ve ever seen, girls like boys…I’m probably bisexual. Yep, that’s it. I’m bisexual. Mystery solved!
…that lasted all of three days after making the dreadful mistake of looking at porn sites with naked men on our home computer while my parents were out of the house. *shudders*
Nope. Definitely not bisexual. I only like girls. 100%.
But then, a thought occurred to me…”can I really say that if I’ve never had a boyfriend before? I don’t think I can…I need a boyfriend!”
A couple months later, after daily bartering and promises to a god that I didn’t believe in that I would do my chores every day in exchange for a boyfriend (as if god somehow cared that my room was kept clean and the dishwasher was emptied regularly), a miracle happened…the very awkward boy in my P.E. class that I had never spoken more than two words to passed me a note that said, verbatim, “I like you. Will you be my girlfriend?” And of course, I said ‘yes’. I was beyond excited…until the next day, when the initial excitement of the thought of having a boyfriend had worn off, and I realized that this guy was my boyfriend. Before, I was only thinking about the label ‘boyfriend’, not about what the job actually entailed. I took one look at him and had this sinking feeling in my stomach that something wasn’t right. I had a boyfriend…not a girlfriend, a boyfriend. I had to hold this guy’s bulky hand, and hang out with him outside of school, and converse with him while he looked at me like I was special, and kiss him. And none of that sounded appealing to me. Needless to say, that relationship didn’t last very long. And honestly, I’m not even sure if I can call it a relationship since we never held hands, never kissed, and never spoke outside of that P.E. class. In fact, I barely even spoke to him *during* P.E. class. I avoided that boy like the plague, and the only thing that dictated that we were even together was the fact that I had changed my status on Myspace to “in a relationship”. I mean, I had a better connection with my dog – who was a female, ironically.
It wasn’t until I was 15 and nearing the end of 10th grade that I had finally told one of my friends that I liked girls. She was one of those friends that I was kind of close to, but not super close to. I specifically chose her because I knew she would be okay with it, but just in case she wasn’t, I wouldn’t be super heartbroken about losing her as a friend. I texted her (of course) that there was this girl that I liked – not Anne, someone completely different, because teens move fast – and she was super cool with it!
A couple of months later at band camp, I was eating lunch in the dining hall with the guys on the drum line with me, and an attractive girl from another camp walked by, and one of the guys said, “Whoa, that girl is hot!” The rest of the guys at the table verbally agreed, and I naturally nodded my head in silence. He noticed, and with a surprised look asked me, “You think she’s hot?” I paused, doing the whole internal dialogue of do I lie or do I use this moment to come out? I chose the latter, and nodded my head. With an even more surprised look, he asked, “Are you gay?” I nodded my head again. The guys at the table looked around at each other and basically said, “Oh, cool.” Some were surprised, some were not so surprised, but nobody said anything negative. By the end of band camp, pretty much the entire band knew, and I was out!
After that, I decided to change my newly created Facebook profile to say “interested in women”. I set it to where only my friends at school could see, since they already knew, and it felt really freeing.
…turns out it was set to public, and my mom saw it. This was a couple of months after band camp. It was a September day, and she was driving me home from a lesson I had with my percussion teacher. With a small laugh she asked, “Why does your Facebook profile say that you’re interested in women?” She obviously thought that it was a mistake – and a very amusing one at that – and I did the internal dialogue thing again. Am I ready? Do I take the opportunity and just run with it? There’s never going to be a good time, and everyone at school already knows. Might as well just get it over with now. With a very small voice, I said, “Because I am.” She stopped laughing, and the car got really quiet. The amused smile was wiped from her face, and was replaced by a look of something that resembled a mix of pain, disappointment, and confusion. I had never been more terrified in my entire life than I was in that moment.
You see, I come from a very religious, very conservative family. So, to say that she wasn’t okay with it was an understatement. (Author’s note: What the FUCK was I thinking??)
She was quiet the rest of the ten-minute drive home with a frown plastered on her face, obviously trying to figure out what to say to her ‘confused’ daughter, since she had been completely blindsided. And I just sat there looking ahead at the road, trembling with sweaty palms and a racing heartbeat, realizing that I had just made a terrible mistake. I wanted so badly to go back inside my comfortable little closet, but it was too late. The damage had been done.
When we got home, she forced me to tell my dad. My dad has the same personality as me – witty, unassertive, avoids confrontation, wouldn’t hurt a fly, nerdy. Growing up, my mom was the ‘scary’ parent. I wasn’t afraid of what my dad would say in response, because he’s a very calm man, unlike my mom. Not that she’s a man, but she’s not the chillest cube in the tray if you get what I mean.
But as soon as she said I had to tell him, I began to freak out, because it meant that I would have to come out again. Having to unexpectedly come out like that two times in a span of 15 minutes is a lot for a young 16-year-old. Not only that, but I had never actually said the words “I’m gay” or “I like girls” out loud to someone before. I told my friend through text, I nodded my head at band camp, and the only words I had said to my mom were “because I do.” In order to tell my dad, I was going to have to actually tell him that I was gay, which terrified me more than anything in my entire life. I wasn’t ready for that, and yet I was being forced into doing so.
I walked up to my parents’ bedroom where he was lying in bed reading a book, with my mom following closely behind me. She told him that I had something to tell him, and he got up and just looked at me with confusion. I stood there, frozen, unable to get the words out. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out.
“Go ahead, tell him what you told me.” My mom said as she waited impatiently with her arms folded sternly across her chest. I instantly broke down and started crying, and my dad just hugged me. I finally was able to choke out the words “I like girls” through my sobs, and my dad just audibly swallowed in response and proceeded to hug me tighter.
The rest of that day is a bit of a blur, considering that was over 11 years ago, but basically once I had calmed down, my parents told me it wasn’t right. That I was confused, that marriage is between a man and a woman, that two women can’t even have sex together because their “parts don’t fit” (lol…I wish I had drawn them a diagram), blah blah blah. After that, my mom would sit down with me every night and we’d do ‘bible study’ together. This was on top of the Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night church services I had already been forced to attend since I was born. I was never a religious person, and even as a little kid I hated going to church, so you can imagine how awful it was having to read a book I didn’t believe in every single night with my homophobic mother, basically hating myself. This lasted pretty much until I graduated and left for college, two years later.
I never officially came out to my older sister. My parents told her, and she and I never really talked about it because I was too afraid that she would treat me the same way as my mom, but she was respectful. Everyone at school was supportive though. Nobody in my life had a problem with it except for my parents, so I began to gravitate towards my friends and away from my family.
In 12th grade, I had this friend that I was getting really close to. I worked up the courage to tell her that I liked her, and it didn’t go as well as planned. She blocked me on Facebook and never spoke to me again. Whenever she saw me in the hallways at school, she would move to the opposite side and avoid eye contact. That was a bit difficult to get through, seeing as it was the first time I ever told a girl that I liked her. But a few months later I got my first girlfriend, so it was okay. I didn’t need that girl anyways. *holds up ’90s ‘talk to the hand’ gesture* Oh, and I was with my first girlfriend for almost a year and a half (with the first year being long distance), but we weren’t compatible. Honestly, we were both tops, and even more honestly, I would’ve said yes to any girl at that point. But she was cool, and we still talk from time to time. So it’s all good.
When I got to college, I wasn’t shy about my sexual orientation. I got my degree in music education, and the majority of the guys at the music school were gay, so I knew it was a safe space. Nobody had a problem with it, and I was actually pretty popular and had a lot of friends. There were a lot of gay guys, but I was pretty much the only gay female, which made me pretty well-known. So, college life was great! Whenever I would have to go home for breaks, I felt sick to my stomach. I didn’t want to go back to that house. I didn’t want to go back to my parents. I wanted to stay in my safe little world with my supportive friends where I could make my own decisions, be who I truly was without feeling ashamed or embarrassed, and wasn’t forced to go to church. My college was only two hours away from ‘home’, but thankfully it was just far enough that I didn’t have to go back often.
Skip to 2020 (two bad relationships later), and both of my parents are still unsupportive. But at least they don’t say anything when I bring my wife to family get-togethers. They’re polite. My sister LOVES my wife, and we often hang out with my sister and her husband. Even though religion is very important to her, she’s way more open-minded than my parents, and is accepting of my sexuality and recognizes my marriage as one that’s equal to hers. After I came out to my parents, I kind of lost that relationship I had with them. I’m not super close with them, since they never truly made me feel loved and accepted. They supported me in every other aspect of my life, but couldn’t fully embrace who I was, since they don’t believe that my sexuality is real but rather just a sin and a man-made thought put into my head by modern society.
I currently only live 30 minutes away from my parents, but only visit them for special occasions. I don’t have the best relationship with my parents, but honestly, at this age I am 100% okay with that. I don&##8217;t rely on them for anything anymore, and I have an amazing wife, wonderful friends who I consider my family, and a supportive sister. I don’t need my parents to accept me in order to feel validated about who I am, and that’s okay.
So, if you’re a young person who is currently in the closet or who has come out and is having an awful experience with it, just know that it truly does get better. I know everyone says that, and it’s probably difficult to believe at this point in your life, but it really is true. I promise.
And if you’re a parent whose kid is struggling with their own gender or sexuality, then my advice to you is to be supportive. Tell them that you love them. And tell them that you support them, even if you don’t. The last thing you want to do is make them feel like who they are is invalid or wrong, because you will lose them. Even if you’re there for them through everything else, if you can’t get on board with something that is an integral part of their very being, then you will lose them.
Thank you for reading my story, and I hope this helps someone out there