I had to write the following for OUTspoken, the YPI group that I’m a part of. My personal story is supposed to incorporate my story of coming out and how I view my own identity journey. I’d really appreciate comments and feedback because eventually this will be part of the presentation that we give to educate schools, businesses and other groups in the community about what it does and doesn’t mean to be gay and other community issues. I’m going to be part of the training group and I’m really excited about it.
I had known Amanda since third grade but when she came out to me our freshman year of high school, I freaked out on her. We were sitting in the cafeteria and I’m pretty sure I just got up and walked away when she told me that she’d been harboring a crush on the senior Simone for a few weeks now. They had gone to Georgia for a protest of School of the Americas and she came back a different person in my mind. I threw the worst accusations at her: she was confused, she’d been tricked, she just hadn’t found the right guy yet. What had happened to the boy she had gone out with in 8th grade? She said she hadn’t really been into him like she thought.
As Amanda more thoroughly embraced her acceptance of her sexuality, the more uncomfortable I became. I couldn’t understand what I was feeling; the inner struggles that were going on every time I thought about what I considered to be her horrible secret tormented me. I guess on some level I felt betrayed. How could someone I considered such a good friend have been keeping something like this from me? How could she like this girl we didn’t even know, who was so beautiful and just the epitome of the self-confidence I aspired towards. I was jealous – Amanda was in love with Simone and not with me.
Well that was a ridiculous idea in my mind the first time I thought it up. I didn’t want Amanda to be in love with me – why would I? I liked boys, I thought they were pretty cool, although I’d ever even kissed a boy and didn’t really know any very well. I had never been attracted to girls, but here I was, green with envy every time Amanda glanced Simone’s way. In the end, I decided that it would be better for Amanda and me not to be as close because of how uncomfortable I began to feel around her.
Throughout the next two years of high school our relationship was very strained. At times when she was dating classmates of mine I would work as the go-between by passing notes and relaying messages but again I began to feel extremely self-conscious and uncomfortable and inevitably we would have a big fight and not speak for a few months. Whenever I had a class with her, I still tended to find myself watching the way the collar of her shirt hid the freckles on the back of her neck or how the tiny wisps of hair around her ears curled under. I guess I just avoided thinking about how distracting she was when I wasn’t around her but she was all I seemed to think about when we were together.
The fall of junior year brought a lot of changes for me. I developed a closer group of friends and had a falling out with some old ones. I started going to football games and out with friends on the weekends. I even had my first kiss. His name was Mike and he was pretty cute in my opinion. We dated for about three weeks before I realized that he was far more into me than I was into him. Kissing him was sort of like kissing my mother and I didn’t really like him touching me. I was just generally uncomfortable with our relationship. I broke up with him, realizing it was unfair for me to be with him when my heart was somewhere else. A few months later, we tried things out again because I was feeling lonely. It was a lousy excuse on my part but it solidified in my mind that I really had never been into him, just into the idea of him. None of it meant anything; none of it gave me butterflies, none of it made my head spin. There was nothing between us when I thought there ought to have been. As the year went on I fell into a depression, losing myself somewhere in the shuffle of day to day life. All my life I had been taught to live up to the expectations of everyone else and I was failing. I didn’t want to look at myself in the mirror; I didn’t want to face this girl who couldn’t get her life straight.
In the springtime of junior year, during a time when Amanda and I had somewhat reconciled and were speaking, she confided in me again. I had long since apologized for my awful reaction when she came out to me and our relationship seemed to have matured. I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped when she told me that she’d developed a crush on my friend Laura. I was completely flabbergasted. What on earth did she see in her?
That night I went home and stood in front of my mirror, scrutinizing myself, facing what I didn’t want to see. I was almost as smart as Laura. We had been part of the same group of friends. I was musical and so was she. I was nicer than she was, I was prettier than she was, and so what was wrong with this picture? Laura had taken my place as head of the class, and I had acquiesced. She had changed my group of friends and made me enemies and I had acquiesced. At that moment I realized that if I did nothing, she was going to take something else from me but this time it meant so much more than ever before. I realized that Amanda meant more to me than any fears that I had about accepting who I was.
The spring and summer between my junior and senior years of high school really was the best summer that I’ve ever had even if it was very hard for me to face myself. Looking back, being 17 was the best year for me because it was about discovering who I was. I decided that I was unhappy being the person my parents expected me to be.
I spent that summer being a nanny and it gave me a lot of time to sort things out in my head. I didn’t want to live the life my parents had planned out for me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to marry a boy somewhere, I wasn’t comfortable with living a lie for them anymore. It was more than about Amanda, it was about me. It was about choosing to live as I wanted to, with my own expectations and with my own rules. It was about loving who I wanted no matter what anyone else had to say, even if she didn’t love me back. I realized that I didn’t have to answer to anyone about my sexuality, that it had always been a part of who I was, and that embracing myself felt good. Being free made me feel good about myself again.
The first person I officially came out to was my best friend Kayla. We were in Maine for one of the final weekends of that summer and we were jumping waves in the ocean. I had been agonizing over the debate of telling her vs. keeping everything a secret. I finally decided that keeping it a secret was silly after I’d kept it a secret from myself for so long. I couldn’t have asked for a better response when she threw her arms around my neck and told me that she didn’t care one bit. Actually, none of my friends who I’ve come out to have cared and I received support from all of them. I felt that deep down inside they were proud of me for choosing to live my own life and saw how happy I was with my newfound confidence.
They also really understood how this was affecting things at home for me. No one broke my trust and went to my parents. As a matter of fact, everyone I told let me take my time telling my story. I come from a very conservative home and I felt that I would be a disappointment to my parents if they knew the truth. I hid from them, living a double life. I felt like I took lying to my parents to a whole new level but even though I know I should feel guilty, I don’t. It was very easy for them to see only what they wanted and I let them by feeding them what they wanted to hear.
I really alienated myself from my family and eventually decided that there was one person I couldn’t lie to anymore. My relationship with my little sister had matured since I had started making my own choices. I felt that lying to her wasn’t fair. I was scared that growing up in my house she would hold the same values my parents had, that she would reject me the way I feared my parents would. Besides them, she is probably the person I was most scared of telling but she took everything in stride. I tried to be diplomatic as I told her one morning on our drive to school. I explained to her that this was what I wanted, that it was who I was. I think I talked to her for a good half hour as we sat in the parking lot and afterwards I asked if she had any questions or if she wanted to talk about it anymore. The only thing she asked me was if it made me happy because to her, that’s all that mattered. I was still the same person, I was still myself and if anything, I was more of myself than I ever had been. Since then, we really have become the best of friends and I consider her the most important person in my life.
In all my sorting out that summer I had just assumed that I would tell my parents before I went off to college so they could think on things while I was away. I thought they would be ready to hear what I was choosing but they weren’t and so I still live my double life. At home I’m a different person and I’ve begun to hate myself for it. I am comfortable now after such a long time with who I am and I want them to be.
My sister was able to give me what my parents cannot. I guess I’m not looking for their approval (because that’s what I used to want) but just for them to accept me. I’m looking for my mother to tell me that all she wants is for me to be happy without the clause that it has to be in the life she envisioned for me. I’m honestly just looking for my dad not to make bigoted statements in my presence. I know that they love me and really do want what is best for me but I feel like they don’t understand what that is. I desperately want them to be a part of my life in the future. I know that my sexuality shouldn’t matter to them but what if it does? I want them to look at me and see the same daughter they always have because I’m the same person but what happens if they can’t see that?
I guess that’s why I haven’t come out to my family yet. I was prepared to deal with the consequences of my friends not accepting me and even somewhat of my sister but right now I’m not at a place where I can deal with the possibilities of my family rejecting me. I want them to be in the right place to hear what I’ve been telling them for years but they aren’t yet. I really look forward to the day when they are however and when they can embrace the whole of me, not just the parts they want to see.