I knew I was a lesbian before I even knew what a lesbian was.
Before I recognized that it was wrong or bad, for societal norms, I used to play with Barbies and marry 2 Barbies instead of the hetero-normative Barbie and Ken. My neighbor friend (and I call her that because we did not remain friends after she moved) would get so upset with me. “No, that’s wrong. Barbie is supposed to marry Ken!…” I didn’t understand.
I remember having a conversation with my father when I was 11 or 12 and he mentioned that, “Gay people go to Hell.” When I was 12, Hell was a scary place to think about… Any courage I had to tell my dad went away in that instant.
But this isn’t a story about my Dad and his flaws.
I never dated in middle or high school. I did have a boyfriend in 6th grade, and he was in love with me so to speak, but I didn’t care, nor realize what I was doing to him. I still have major regrets for letting it last so long and doing it in the first place. But I was trying to fit in and appear normal, as a lot of people in the LGBT+ community do.
I went through high school wanting to come out, but never did because of fear and a tad bit of laziness. I feared bullying, I feared alienation, I feared it would get back to my parents, I feared losing my best friend… I knew how my best friend felt about gay people, or at least I thought I knew. She came from a Christian family. She was black. Not that that means anything. But there is a stereotype on how black people feel about gay people…and I believed it. Jeez, was I stupid.
I didn’t tell my best friend in high school, I didn’t tell her when we started college together and I didn’t even tell her when we moved in together when we transferred to the same university. I guarded myself. I was so fearful of what she would say or what would happen. And it is a regret. Because it affected our friendship when she found out.
I never actually had the chance to tell her. She found out on her own. Maybe she knew all along and my safe-guarding was for nothing. But I remember the moment when it all changed. I was at my part-time job. I worked at a daycare and she texted me during the kids’ nap time. We often texted during this time and it seemed like any other day. Until she just happened to text these exact words: “Are you still into girls?”
I remember my heart stopping. My stomach flipped. I immediately got a headache. She said ‘are you STILL into girls’… I never told her or anybody. How did she know…
I wasn’t sure what to text back at first. I went to the bathroom 3 or 4 times while my co-worker watched the children in my care. I was terrified, for some reason. Should I say no? Lie. Should I say maybe? Lie. I ultimately decided to text her that I would prefer to talk about it when I got home. And then I spent the next 3 hours at work with a bad stomach ache and absolutely dreading the minute I walked into our 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment as if I thought it would be the last time.
When I got home, she was playing video games as she often did. (I did too, and still do.) I contemplated not telling her. I contemplated ignoring the situation or lying again but at what costs? After many deep breaths, I stepped into her room and I told her the truth. I told her everything: that I hid it, what I feared and I apologized for not telling her sooner. She was my best friend, after all.
This was it. My moment of truth. Literally.
My best friend said, “Girl, I always knew. And I don’t care. I’m just mad that you didn’t tell me after all these years.”
I was so relieved. She didn’t care. I could have told her a long time ago. But I just explained to her that I wasn’t ready. And the fear was what kept me from telling anybody, not just her.
For a while, everything appeared to be normal. We had good and bad moments but it did change our friendship as I had feared. We ended up separating and we’ve had rocky moments in our relationship ever since. Especially when I got my first girlfriend…but I’m not going to talk about her.
We’ve come a long way and we’re still friends today. After much space and personal growth (for both of us), our friendship is now pretty solid and I think we’re closer than we’ve ever been. We support each other and we listen to each other a lot more than we used to, actually. And we’re both constantly educating each other on both, or all, of our identities (nobody has just one). She was actually the one who convinced me to come out to my family and everyone else I knew. And she’s come a long way from when we were kids. We both have.
I guess the point of my story is, don’t hide who you are. Especially from the people you love most. If they don’t support you, then they don’t love you. And I truly believe that.