Kelly Verstynen

California + USA + Westlake Village

Always Be True

Female + Genderqueer + Lesbian / 17 and Under + 18-22 + 23-29 / Catholic

Growing up, my mom had gay/lesbian friends. As I child I wasn’t introduced to them as such. I knew John had a boyfriend, but no one ever told me it was different. As I got older and society played more of a role in my life, I began to understand that same-sex couples were not the norm. As a young girl I had formed crushes on girls and all my Barbies dated each other; there was no need for Ken.

Just after high school I casually mentioned to my mom one day while baking cookies that I liked girls too. She just smiled and said, “As long as you’re happy.” And I knew that she truly meant it. Slowly, over the next couple of months and years I started to come out to my step-family, my cousins, my mom’s mom, and pretty much all my friends, they were all very accepting. My grandmother even confided in me that, at one point after her divorce from my grandfather, she thought she might be gay. Turns out that was not the case, but her willingness to share that with me meant more than I can express. After dating a few women I realized I wasn’t bisexual, I was a lesbian. There was a reason relationships with guys had never felt quite right.

It would be another few years before I came out to my father. I was a total “daddy’s girl” and he was conservative, Catholic, and retired military. I too was raised Catholic. I was terrified that even though he knew I was an LGBTQ equality activist, he wouldn’t be alright with HIS daughter being a lesbian. The time finally came because I had agreed to a daddy-daughter date of going to his friend’s roller derby bout. Turns out the girl I was dating was on the same team, and I wasn’t going to deny either of us the affection we usually shared. So after watching Whip It with him at his yacht club, I asked him out on the deck to talk, and as the sun set over the harbor I told him I was gay, that pretty much everyone knew except him, and that the reason I was finally telling him was that he was going to meet the girl I was seeing at the match. He looked me in the eyes and smiled, then pulled me into a hug and said, “You’re my daughter. I love you no matter what.” The relief I felt was palpable.

I know that I’m very fortunate that my coming out story is an incredibly happy, and a seemingly easy one, but the thing is, that fear was still there. Yes, for me, everything ended up peachy keen, but I didn’t know it would be that way until it happened. I was preparing for the worst and got the best. With every new person I become acquainted, I have to come out because I’m a femme, and you can’t tell by simply looking at me that I’m gay. There’s still that little bit of fear every time – that they won’t be okay with it. But you know what? I’m okay with it. Better than okay. And so are the people that I hold most dear. I know I am loved for me, and that is something that will always be true. Always.