I fell in love with my best friend when I was 12 years old. I know now that I knew my whole life I was different. That I felt about girls the way I should have felt about boys, but when I was 12, I found real love for the first time, and it changed my life.
I remember the exact moment I knew. I was standing by a streetlight outside my childhood home as her family took her away in their mini-van, wearing my sweater. I looked down at my beat up converse as my phone went off. I read the text that said “I miss you already.” I looked up and the van hadn’t even turned off my street yet. That moment I knew I’d never loved anyone like I loved her — and in that moment, my life changed.
When her mom found out months later she separated us. My mom reacted by yelling at her mom as she defended my “obvious” heterosexuality. I sobbed in the corner on the couch watching her pace back and forth in the living room. “My daughter likes BOYS! Do you hear me? BOYS!” I’ll never forget it.
That night after I’d run out of tears, I tried to tell her the truth, that I loved that girl… That I was in love with her… My mom didn’t even look at me as she responded, “You’re too young to know that. You’re too young.”
We never spoke about it again after that night.
Four years, and several South of Nowhere episodes later, I knew, without a doubt, that I was gay, and that the time had come to tell my mom. I spent days trying to figure out how to tell her, because I knew she wouldn’t listen. So, after long thought and a bunch of soul searching, I came up with a plan. I would record everything I wanted to say to my mom on a digital tape recorder and leave it for her in her purse so she could listen to it on her way to work. That way I could say everything I wanted to, she wouldn’t be able to interrupt me, she’d be forced to listen, and I would convince her it wasn’t a phase. This was my life, I wasn’t too young, and beyond rhyme or reason, I was sure. I recorded the tape about a dozen times that morning. When I felt I had said everything I needed to, I snuck downstairs and slipped the tape into my mom’s purse as I got ready to leave for school. I hugged her goodbye, she smiled at me and I told her I’d left her something to listen to in her purse on her way to work. She looked at me puzzled, shrugged and told me to have a good day at school.
I remember looking at her and trying to burn that image into my brain, because in my heart, I feared it would be the last time my mom and I would ever be as close as we had become.
I went to school, my heart racing, and waited. Waited for the call, the text, anything.
But nothing came. Not a single word from my mom. Finally during lunch I decided to break the silence and text her.
“Did you listen to it?”
A few minutes passed, then I jumped when my phone buzzed.
“Yes.” Was all the text said.
“Well???” I wrote back, my heart in my throat, tears in the back of my eyes.
Then she called me and told me something I still hold with me to this day.
My mother said, “Baby, I’ve always known. I’ve just been waiting for you to be sure. This life isn’t easy, and people aren’t going to accept you and who you love. That’s scary for a parent, I want to protect you from that. I want you to be ready to face that. If you are telling me now that you’re sure, that you’re ready, then I will support you, defend you, and love you no matter what, like I always have.”
I cried in the middle of my high school quad, and she cried and then we laughed when I told her that she needed to tell my dad.
That day brought us closer than we ever had been — my mom is still my best friend to this day. I’ve come out many times since then, sometimes daily. But, it was her reaction that day that gave me the strength to own who I am, who I’ve always been, and to be proud of who I love. I got lucky — my parents didn’t hesitate to accept and support me at such a young age, during a time when it wasn’t socially acceptable to be a lesbian. I learned so much from that, and spent most of my young adulthood trying to help other teens who didn’t have what I had. I like to think that,together, we all changed this world. That we created the better one we live in now.
I can’t wait for the day my kids bring home whoever they’re in love with or crushing on and no conversation is needed, when coming out isn’t a thing anymore. I hope my kids laugh when I explain I had to tell their grandma I liked girls, I hope that this is the world we are shaping, and I can’t wait to see how great it gets.