When I was about 6 years old, I had my first tugging feeling that I wasn’t like the other little girls running around in the playground. They’d all talk about makeup, princesses, fairy tales, and how they thought the boy on the jungle gym was cute while I sat in a corner, my nose buried in a book because I couldn’t contribute to the conversation in any way. Any of the conversations, for that matter.
I chalked it up to the fact that maybe I just didn’t like traditionally girly things, and that was okay until I started to realize one specific thing happening over and over. All the girls would be talking about a boy and I wanted nothing to do with it. I was perfectly happy sitting under the shade of a tree, losing myself in the wonderful worlds of magic and friendship, mystery and discovery, exploring places others could only dream of experiencing; that was where I felt the most comfortable being.
That same year was when I would meet someone who would have such a profound impact on my life that she’s still part of it to this day. At the time, I would have been much happier had she just left me to my own devices instead of pestering me every day of the week until I finally talked to her, but looking back, I will be forever grateful that she never gave up on me. With all the struggles I’ve been through over the years, she has been one of my biggest supports and I never would have made it as far as I did without her. We had our ups and downs over the years, but I am thankful that she has remained my best friend through it all.
Fast forward a couple years to middle school when things started to really become strikingly apparent to me that something about me was different. I was probably around 13 years old when I understood that I wasn’t interested in men and it terrified me. Since I was two years old, I had been going to church nearly every Sunday with my mom, listening to all the lessons about how God punishes the sinners who don’t repent and how you would only be saved if you followed the words in the book they put in front of you. I didn’t really know what it meant to be gay because I had been sheltered from that, so I didn’t realize that other girls didn’t get these thoughts until I heard them all talking about different boys they were into and how they would have these thoughts about them, but they never mentioned having those thoughts about girls.
My parents had already pretty much decided my life for me at that point. I remember them telling me I had a crush on this boy at the church and I believed them. I thought they probably knew me and how my mind worked better than I did, so I agreed and for years tried to convince myself that this guy and I were going to be together when we grew up, but it never felt right. I never thought about him as anything more than just another friend, no matter how hard I tried. I thought that maybe if I tried to date boys at school, I’d start to feel the connections that so many other people were feeling, but nothing felt right. I don’t remember the exact moment I first heard the term, but it was probably right around this time that I found out that there were people who were attracted to the same gender and for once, something felt right. I knew right around age 13-14 that I was gay.
You would think realizing there were others out there who had the same feelings as you would make things easier, but all it did was scare the daylights out of me. I started hearing about how homosexuality was a sin and how you’d go to hell if you were a gay person. I tried all through high school to force myself to be interested in men. I flirted, I had “relationships”, I kissed, but nothing I did changed the fact that I always felt wrong afterward. I thought I had finally overcome it my senior year when I met someone at a beach meet up that I fell for. They were tall, muscular, sweet, and all round enjoyable to be around. I thought I had finally found a guy I was interested in.
Remember that girl I mentioned meeting when I was 6? She’s the first person who got me to admit that I wasn’t straight. I had been dating the person I met at the beach for a while by this point when we went on a double date with her and her boyfriend. We were all enjoying lunch when she looked around the table and said, “I think (her boyfriend) is the only person at this table who is straight.”
I froze. I had never told anyone that I was interested in women before, so the statement hit me like a brick to the face. I denied it, trying to still play off that I was straight, but she knew. She stared me down until I finally admitted that I wasn’t straight, but I wasn’t gay. The answer seemed to satisfy her and my date didn’t flinch at the statement, so the rest of the day went on as normal until both of our dates decided they wanted to run off to ride something neither of us wanted to, so we sat and talked for a while. She told me that she had known for a long time that I wasn’t straight and couldn’t think of any other way to get me to admit it out loud other than to put me on the spot. I guess after you’ve known someone for more than half your life, they tend to pick up on some things before you’d really like them to.
A few months after that, I was talking to my date when they told me they had something they needed to say. We had been dating off and on for nearly a year and a half at this point, so I thought I was prepared for anything. They took a deep breath and finally uttered three words that shook me and opened my eyes to not only who they were, but who I was as well. They looked at me and said, “I am transgender.”
I didn’t know how to respond. It wasn’t the fact that she was trans that shocked me, but the realization that I wasn’t straight in any way. After my silence, she started to get worried and asked if that changed anything I felt about her and apologized for not coming out sooner, but I just smiled and replied, “No, it’s okay. Because I’m gay.”
Admitting that out loud for the first time was a refreshing feeling, but I knew nothing would ever be the same after that. After we broke up, I started to allow myself to experience the feelings I had been suppressing for so long. I fell for this beautiful girl in one of my theatre classes and for a while I thought everything was going right. Even after the girl ended up breaking my heart and telling me she wasn’t interested because she was straight, I still felt better than I had ever felt in my life, so I decided to start testing the waters of coming out to my family. It didn’t exactly go as planned, since every question was either met with accusations or a total shut down. I decided that it wasn’t the right time.
It’s a bit of a shock how quickly your life can change in one day. Never take any second you breathe for granted because you never know if it might be your last. February 21, 2014 was one of the most terrifying moments of my life and I will remember it for the rest of my life because it’s the day I decided to make the change and live for myself instead of trying to please everyone else. I guess that happens when you step out of a car that has been hit by a much larger vehicle going 60mph with only a few scratches. The officer on site told me that if there had been even a second of difference in that accident, it would have been a very different scene that night.
After my accident, I spent a few days resting up in my bed when I got the urge to send a message to a girl I hadn’t spoken to in over a year. We chatted for a little while about how neither of us were really having all that great of a month and wished one another well, nothing super out of the ordinary. Once I was healed up and things had settled down a bit, I agreed to help out some family friends and watch their dog while they were on vacation for a couple weeks. I was sitting on the couch one of the nights, messing around on my computer when I started to see posts from the girl I had messaged after my accident. It came to my attention that she was being asked about if she was dating anyone and she mentioned that she had just gone through a break up, but she knew the right girl was out there somewhere. My heart skipped a beat. She was gay and I had never known.
I started messaging her and on April 19, 2014, we started dating. It finally felt right. All the things they say in sappy love stories about how first kisses should make you feel and all that other crap actually happened. I finally decided that it was high time to come out to my family and started to get advice on how to do so, even going so far as to come out to a select few family members. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to tell my parents myself. Just a couple months later, I was outed to my father. I still don’t know exactly how it happened, but regardless, the damage was done.
I got a phone call from my father the day before Pride that year where he told me that he knew I was in a relationship with another woman. All he asked was her name and her age, nothing more. He said that he loved me no matter what and that he hoped I had fun while I was out for the weekend. It seemed like everything was going to be okay. I came home a couple days later, after having spent a day at Pride with my girlfriend and went home like nothing was different. Until I was called into the living room that night. I was confronted about my “sin” and they claimed they would be doing the same thing if I had been in a heterosexual relationship, so it was nothing to do with me being gay. I was issued an ultimatum of either breaking up with her or leaving my family and my home and was given a week to make my choice. I “chose” to leave my home.
The next few years were all over the place. I lived on a mattress in my aunt and uncle’s office with a few boxes of stuff for a few months, then with my other aunt in a condo for another several months, then finally in a friend’s family’s guest room for just over a year. None of the situations were very ideal, but at least I was never without a roof over my head, which I know is a lot more than many LGBTQ youth can say. I never went without a roof over my head or sustenance in my stomach, but each of those living situations came with its own set of troubles. The worst of those being the last one, when I was in the guest room.
Living there taught me several things, but the main one was money can’t buy everything. The family was incredibly wealthy and lived in this huge 8-bedroom, 10-bathroom house, even though there were only 3 family members and myself living there. They had a housekeeper who came in every weekday, and a nanny who did all the grocery shopping and took the girls to school and their various appointments every day. For a while, it felt like I was living the dream. All my needs were being met, I had a decent job that was giving me quite a few hours every week despite being part time, I wasn’t having to worry about any kind of bills besides paying for my transportation; everything was working out so much better than I could have ever imagined. Until it wasn’t.
The people in the house started to change. Before I knew it, they were practically acting as though I didn’t exist. I was scrounging for food to eat, got kicked out of my room for a few days because they had someone over who wanted to stay in it, verbally bullied, lied to, and completely ignored unless my “friend” wanted something from me or realized I wasn’t at the house. They practically treated me as though I was subhuman, often villainizing me for things I had no part in. Towards the end, the environment was so toxic, I hated going back to the house because I knew going back meant I was going to be abused.
April 2016 I got a text from my mom while I was at work and it changed everything. My father, the man who had tossed me aside because of my “sin,” had left my mom and sisters. The news hit me like a knife to the chest. Even though my family and I didn’t always see eye to eye, I was always proud of the fact that my parents were still married when most everyone I knew had parents who had split. That last little bit of idealism shattered before my eyes and I had to leave early. I went back to the house and was basically told I was selfish for being upset that they were splitting up because the parents should do what’s best for them above anything else instead of being comforted. I locked myself in my room and called my mom, knowing there was going to be a lot to talk about.
I knew my time in that house was running short when I started getting angry messages from the person I thought was my friend, claiming her father was tired of me living there and that the agreement had always been that I would only live there for a year while I got back up on my feet (which was a total lie; I had been told that I could stay as long as I needed to, regardless of the situation) and that I needed to find a place to go soon. I had nowhere else to go and was beginning to panic when my mom sent me a text, asking if I wanted to come back home and rent the spare room to help her out while she tried to find a second job to support my sisters. I have never said yes to anything faster before in my life. I told her I had to stay through at least August, as I had just picked up a summer job and didn’t want to leave on such short notice and she agreed.
I spent the next couple weeks preparing for a convention and packing up the little things here and there that I didn’t need when I was told that I was going to have to leave practically right after the con. I was given an official date that I needed to be out by and quickly informed my mom that I was going to be coming home early. When the day of the first half of the move came, I remember bringing all my stuff into the foyer at the bottom of the stairs and seeing the father of my “friend” come out of his room to see all my belongings stacked up. I thanked him for his kindness and hospitality, to which he replied with a rather shocked, “Oh, you’re leaving?”
I had always known that nearly everything I had been told while living in that house was a lie, but that moment made everything real. I knew there was no truth to all her accusations and demands simply because her father didn’t even know I was moving until the week before it happened. I haven’t spoken to any of them since the week I left and I have never been more relieved to wash my hands of a person before in my life.
Since then, I have been living at home with my mom and sisters, happily rebuilding what we once had. There are still a lot of struggles and I’m not entirely comfortable here, but I’m glad to be home again. I hope to be able to find a place to call my own someday, but for the time being, at least I know I’m safe again. My story is a long one, full of all kinds of twists and turns that this nearly three-thousand-word story has only barely touched on, but one thing is for sure. It does get better, so never stop fighting and never be ashamed of who you are. I hope this can inspire at least one person, hopefully many more someday.