A typical question I get on a daily basis usually goes something like; “How did you know you were gay?”. And I can always utilize old grade school crushes, or Roxanne from the Goofy Movie, as suitable examples. I can think of them right off the bat, without hesitation. However, just the other day my Mom asked me a question I don’t think I’ve ever heard her ask.
“When did you know you were gay?”
This question to me back a bit. In fact, since my “coming out” my Mom has never really asked very much about my journey because she knew all along. Every step of the way she has always allowed my growth to be at my own pace. She has never pushed or pried, which sometimes has led to wonder if that would have made a difference? Who is to say that my pace was slower or faster than anyone else’s? I’ve questioned before where my life would be if I had a better idea or grasp of who I was when I was younger. Would I be at an advantage? If I learned and accepted myself earlier? Could I have avoided awkward relationships or dodged the feeling that I was just ‘behind’ sexually.
The very first words that came out of my mouth following that questions was: “Always, Mom.”
But how could I have always known, but never known at the same time? It didn’t make sense. So I rambled a bit on the phone with her, trying to piece my words and mind together. How was it possible that I knew I liked girls, but didn’t pursue that desire? It wouldn’t be uncommon for me to say that I was in denial, in the closet, or actively repressing these thoughts. Here I am, with the worlds most accepting parents, and I’m choosing not to be me? Why, Samantha.
Denial has always felt like a heavy word to describe my own thoughts about myself. I’m sure there’s still some truth behind the word in my situation. The early 2000’s were prime to sappy romance movies, including (a still current fave) A Walk To Remember. I gushed at the conception of love and how it brought two people together in such beautiful and unique ways. But watching these movies only seemed to irritate me. Boy loves girl, girl loves boy. The representation (a key word in all of this) showed a heterosexual love that I just couldn’t seem to connect to. The plot and characters in these movies drove my straight friends absolutely wild, where as I found I typically just enjoyed the cute gestures and soundtracks. So I was annoyed, because they felt this deep association with the male lead, wishing a boy like him would love a girl like them. And there I was, wanting to DO the things he did for a girl like her. Nonetheless my first romance movie I can recall watching as a kid was The Princess Bride. The beginning of everything confusing.
I grew up a tomboy after this point, wearing clothes I figured my favourite lead characters would wear. Picking up romantic habits by the guys I saw on TV, hoping I too could swoon a girl. If that’s how you found yourself a girl, then I would be that person that girls desired. To be fair, it was all I saw. Naturally I hung out with more boys than girls in grade school so copying male habits wasn’t a hard feature for me. The humour and mannerisms became apart of who I was (and honestly, who I am today) so effortlessly. Girls liked boys, and boys likes girls. So to get a girl to like me, I had to be a boy. This approach made so much sense, that I really didn’t even think about it. I remember asking an extraordinarily cute redhead in my grade two class if she “would date me if I were a boy”. And when she said “yes”, I had never felt happier. So I continued my ways, hoping that any girl I found cute would look past the fact that I was a girl, and see that I’m just as ‘cool’ as a boy (in 1997 boys played mini stick hockey and touch football, heck yes they were cool).
Time went on and girls still didn’t pay attention to me. I was invisible when it came to anything romantic (or as romantic as it can get when you’re 11), so I started to feel a bit off. The end of grade school was approaching and people started dating, school dances became a thing, and so of course did kissing. How the hell could I date someone if I couldn’t even get them to talk to me? I remember sitting with my best friend and watching everyone pair off to dance to slow songs. We were the odd men out. Of course that made me feel even more out of place. Everything I thought I was didn’t seem to be working, or making much sense anymore. I decided I needed to make a change. If girls weren’t noticing me, then maybe I had my priorities mixed up.
Enter my first boyfriend in grade school. The first guy to ask me to dance, and my first kiss. At this point, I started wearing pink (because that’s what girls do right?) and hanging out with more girls than guys. And in doing so, I started to get attention from a party I had never once considered: Boys. So I went with it. All throughout grade school, right into high school. Of course, there were parties where girls seemed to kiss for fun. And lucky for me, my best friend kissed me once at a party. I remember losing my mind internally and not wanting those three seconds to end. Still, I pushed it away. Because why would a girl like me now? I was dressed feminine, I had more feminine qualities. And from what I knew, girls weren’t attracted to feminine qualities.
Fast forward to my five year relationship with one of the best guys I’ve ever known. We dated my Junior year until my third year of university. Everything felt wonderful, because I knew I was loved and I felt extraordinarily safe. He was my best friend. And as time passed and my friends continued to date, I realized that’s all he could ever be to me. Despite the fact that I loved (and still) him with all my heart. 2013 was year of self expression when we broke up and I started to experiment with girls and boys to see what I truly liked. It wasn’t until my first girlfriend did I feel anything emotionally. My heart would beat out of my chest like an angry gorilla, and I couldn’t breathe. When we kissed, it felt like someone shoved fireworks down my chest and in my head. I finally felt a connection. I finally knew what my gal friends were talking about when they gushed about a boy in their life. That was my confirmation. All those years later. Can I truly say I repressed my feelings? Yes, I know I did. But I really had no idea why. Until the phone call with my mom just a few days ago. It wasn’t like my Mom had preached against me liking girls, or anyone for that matter. She was first to help me pick out ties and vests for picture day. The question ‘when’ was what immediately drew my attention in. Where were the movies and TV shows that showed two girls falling for each other? Where was the representation for kids and teens to follow their hearts desires, despite what they were? Social media then definitely wasn’t as large as it is now. Which mean I saw less of what other girls were doing, or feeling or thinking. There wasn’t an LGBT community, there really wasn’t even talk about it. There was in fact, no representation. No common ground. So I had no idea what was real and what wasn’t.
Do I wonder what my life would be like if I had known I was gay before? The place I’d be in life, the girls I would and would not have dated, the way I have felt and now feel about myself? Quite often. To have felt a connection to other, to have known that there were (and are) hundreds of other voices who wondered the same thing as me. That is the kind of community and delineation I would have killed for. Similarities, support, relation.
We have for sure come a long way when it comes to personification in LGBT communities. I can think of nothing more important than someone accepting who they are as a whole. Whatever and whoever they choose to be or love or feel, should always be flourished. It is completely suffocating to be someone or something you’re not. To keep your hand over your mouth when all you want to do is breathe. Everyone is entitled to breathe, and to express that breath. I believe that togetherness is what creates a fellowship between people. It lets vulnerability in which creates more sun than dark. It let’s people know among all of the adversity, diversity is a blessing. We are a mosaic society an everything about that can be and is, beautiful. There will always be those who do not see things this way. Who feel that oppression is a tool to bring with them no matter where they go. We are not there yet. We have an extraordinarily long way to go. That fact alone scares people alike. The idea of our world not accepting or liking who we are or choose to be. It’s like we’re constantly drowning in who we are.
Despite it all, the mess and fear and isolation, we exist. We love. We live on. We live on with those who love us, and choose to know us, and hold our hand along the way. As long as we know that we have each other, no matter how far or wide, we can continuously push to break the divide. Through our terror, and worry, we can still rise together. Took me a long time to figure this shit out, but…better late than never, right.