I had my first “Aha!” moment when I was in 6th grade. At that time, I didn’t even know what “gay” was.
The story goes like this: I was playing soccer with my team and an older girl named Caitlin was playing with us. She was from a more experienced team called Lightening and she had played with us many times before. This time, however, I found her in my vicinity more than usual and as she ran past me, I stopped in my tracks. I stopped running, I forgot the ball, I was just standing there like an idiot.
It was her smell. She smelled like flowers and it was intoxicating. I had NO IDEA what the fuck was happening, but I got it together and continued to play the game.
I told my mom about it immediately and she said to worry about those feelings when I was a little older and not to stress about it now.
I didn’t seriously evaluate what I felt that day until about 4 years later when I fell in love for the first time. It was incredible.
This post is about my internalized homophobia, though. So, let’s jump in. Between 6th and 10th grade, I learned more about what some of my family and community and a great deal of society thought about those who experienced same sex attraction. I learned more about God and his apparent disapproval of the same behavior. I learned more about sexism and double standards.
I learned that gay was not good.
Fast forward 2 serious relationships with other females plus a 3 month adventure with another girl. I was now 19. I found myself in a position to explore a relationship with a man. I took it.
I dated him for 8 months. I put everything into the relationship, but to no use. I was gay.
I have wished for my “gayness” to disappear before. I remember feelings of disappointment and irritation for not being a good person. Because gay people aren’t right. There’s something wrong.
I remember feeling angry and confused when people said that I was choosing this “lifestyle”. I still get so angry when I’m told it’s a choice. Who in their right fucking mind would choose to be looked at so disgustingly?
I feel like to my more conservative family members, they see me and think, “if only she would date men, she would be the perfect person, granddaughter, daughter, etc.” I’ve always done well in school. I don’t enjoy drugs and I don’t drink often either. I visit my relatives, I volunteer, I’m always employed, I have friends. I even went to church on my own accord for a few years and even now, even though I am not religious anymore, I have no problem going to church with family if they want me to join them.
But I’m gay.
I’m almost the perfect package. I’m almost the perfect granddaughter. Almost. There’s just that one little flaw. “If only she’d just come to her senses, accept the Lord, and realize that it’s unnatural to date the same sex. It’s disgusting. It’s not right. It’s not Christian. It’s not decent.”
“You turned my daughter gay”
“She wasn’t like this before you”
“You took advantage of her good nature”
“You’re too young to know this is who you are”
“You can be gay, you just shouldn’t act on your desires”
“I understand that you’re gay, but I don’t want to see it”
“It’s okay to be gay, just don’t wave it in my face”
“It’s only okay for women to be gay, but two dudes is fucking nasty”
After being told these things, it should come as no surprise that I found myself absolutely hating my sexuality. Everyone around me, it seemed, was telling me how wrong it was and how I shouldn’t act on it, especially not in public.
The worst types of homophobia are the indirect moments of it. For example, 99% of my family NEVER asks me about who I’m seeing or if I’m interested in anyone. When I was presumed to be straight, there would always be questions about the current boy I was interested in.
I also recently went through a breakup. It sucked. The woman I was dating is an amazing person and our reasons for breaking up were primarily distance and conflicts in our future desires (children, mainly). There is no bad blood between us, so I had nothing to be angry at. I was just sad. My family knew that I had been seeing her. They even met her. When I returned back home without her or mention of her, there were no questions. There were no “how are you dealing with this” or “are you okay” questions. I was disappointed because I thought some of my family was more okay with my “lifestyle”, but apparently not interested enough in it to ask how I was handling something very emotional.
In the past 2 years, I have learned to truly love my sexuality and the community it allows me to have. Being around other people who are on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum makes me feel most loved and safe. I don’t have to act straight or omit information when telling a story or talking about my hopes and dreams. I don’t have to answer uncomfortable questions and I’m not gawked at when out with a partner. I am so thankful for that community.
It’s a daily obstacle to assure myself that I’m enough exactly how I am. I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not and I don’t have to change myself to make others more comfortable in their ignorance.
I’m learning to live my life with pride in myself and I hope you do, too.