I was 15 the first time it happened, having feelings for a girl. I did’t really understand them at the time. She was one of my best friends. I think she felt it too because for no reason at all we just kind of stopped being friends and haven’t been since. After that I didn’t give my feelings for girls another thought. It’s not like I was gay, right? It was just a fluke, easily explained by a deep friendship. I continued on with dating boys. It wasn’t for another couple years before I felt anything like that again for a female.
I was about two months away from being 18 when I started having feelings for an older woman and she for me. And so began my first same-sex relationship, once I turned 18. I wasn’t sure how my parents would take it and I didn’t want this woman to get in trouble for being with a minor, so we waited the couple of months before pursuing anything. It was very shortly after I turned 18 that I decided I was going to come out as being bi-sexual. This was not a decision I took lightly. I thought for sure I would lose at least two of my immediate family members, but I didn’t want to live a lie, I wanted to be free to be who I was (even though I wasn’t entirely clear on who, exactly, I was yet).
To my surprise only one of my immediate family members struggled with this news, and also to my surprise, it wasn’t either of the two I thought I would lose. It didn’t take too long for the other one to come around. That is a lot for a family member to wrap their mind around, especially 19 years ago. It wasn’t just my immediate family that was accepting of me, but it seemed all of my extended family was as well. I am one of the lucky ones, and I do not take that for granted.
And rather than telling my friends and risk losing them, I just sort of disappeared from the friendships, and built a new life around my newly discovered identity. I was fortunate enough to not lose any family, I didn’t figure I would’ve been as fortunate with all of my friends. Roughly 15 years later, I learned differently and that I wouldn’t have lost many of them at all. I heard only one had an issue with it. Being rejected by my friends wasn’t a risk I was willing to take back then, so I removed myself on my own terms, it was easier that way.
It was a confusing time for me, discovering this part of myself. It wasn’t until I was 20 that I came to fully embrace my sexuality as a lesbian. And once I finally came to terms with this piece of me, my entire life made sense. That best friend of mine when I was 15, yeah those were real feelings. The “tomboy” label that had been given to me as a child…nope, I’m gay! It is funny how there are so many little things that you’ve questioned about yourself over the years that suddenly make sense.
As I said before, I was/am one of the lucky ones, I didn’t really lose anyone and my family was very supportive for the most part. It could’ve been so much worse. I know people who have been disowned by their family or certain family members. It breaks my heart to know that this happens to so many members of the LGBTQ community.
We have come so far as a society since I first came out at 18. I remember saying in a conversation with a friend, “Same-sex marriage will never be legal in my lifetime.” I can say with elation that I was proven wrong. With that being said, we still have so far to go.
There is still so much ignorance and hate around LGBTQ folks. People still think being gay is a choice. I love who I am, and I wouldn’t change who I am, but nobody chooses to be gay. It is a tougher life to live in many respects.
I was involved in a conversation the other day about left handed people, and how years ago (not that many years ago) parents, teachers, and doctors would try to train left-handed children to be right handed instead. It was an undesirable characteristic to be left-handed (the shit society comes up with is so mind boggling). During this conversation one of the people said, “I was just born this way.” and without a thought I said, “you mean you didn’t choose to be left-handed?” She said, “no, I didn’t” and we both laughed. “She” is my sister. I don’t judge her for being left-handed anymore than she judges me for being gay; we’re open-minded like that.
The discrimination I’ve experienced is mild compared to what others have and continue to have to endure. Again, I will say that I have been so very fortunate. But I have had issues in the women’s bathroom. That has primarily been my biggest issue. Not so much anymore because I grew my hair out and I wear women’s clothing (mostly). Right after coming out as Bi, I cut my hair. It was down between my shoulder-blades and I cut it all off so I only had about an inch left. I had already been dressing in boys attire on occasion (I found it to be more comfortable), but after coming out, I went full on with male clothing. So with short hair and boys clothing, I got a lot of shit for using the women’s bathroom. I had an issue in a wal-mart bathroom once, and I’ve had issues in bar bathrooms as well. But that is about the extent of the discrimination I’ve experienced.
We have come so far, but still have a ways to go. I can’t say enough how fortunate I have been in coming out. I have a loving family and group of friends who love me just the way I am.
The only choice to be made as a member of the LGBTQ community is whether to live a lie or to live your truth. Being gay is no more a choice than is being straight. To live a lie is not living at all. It is very damaging on so many levels. There needs to be more love, acceptance, encouragement, and support for members of the LGBTQ community so they can live their truth, to live freely as themselves without fear of discrimination, losing loved ones, and being beaten or worse, killed. Allow us to love freely, without hate.
We have many many differences among us…gender, ethnicity, skin color, sexual orientation, religion, left/right handedness (handedness is actually a word, who knew?), and the list goes on. The one thing we all have in common without argument is that we are all human. Peel away all the things that separate us from one another, and we are all the same. Blood runs through our veins, our hearts beat, we love, we hurt, we feel anger, we feel joy, we dream, and we hope. We are all perfectly imperfect humans. We are one race, the human race. It’s time we all gain an awareness of that.
It’s time we all start living daily, together, as one human race.