When I was in high school I explored my sexuality by dating a man and a woman. I tried so hard to be straight. I almost had myself convinced that I was straight until I realized it was her. She was my game changer. I turned around one day and my best friend had turned into my girlfriend. I came out of the closet when I was seventeen. I had known for many years that I wasn’t straight but it took a long time and a lot of soul searching to accept that I was not heterosexual and was going to blow up my entire world by accepting this alternative reality for myself.
Up until that point I only knew ONE lesbian. She was my gym teacher. I didn’t see any other gay people in my life except for her. She was a good role model and yet I couldn’t bring myself to talk to her about my feelings or how on Earth I should accept myself.
I felt isolated, alone and scared. It was hard to come to terms with my sexuality. To be completely honest, I’m the oldest child in my nuclear family, the oldest grandchild and in a pretty religious family. All of these things contributed to the fact that I was terrified to own my identity – an identity I knew I held as early as age eight. Yup, eight years old.
At the age of seventeen I was ready to explode my life for the relationship and guess what? I did. We only dated a few months before everything came crashing down around me. We were a secret – A HUGE secret. So, when her family found out, it sent my life into a spiral because I was to blame. I took the heat for the relationship and because of the turmoil it caused in my own home, I chose to make some serious life changing decisions. I moved into my father and step-mother’s home and began a new life at a new school, which yielded me some amazing friends, new opportunities and to be completely honest, it changed my life.
As a result of the nuclear fallout, my life was altered. I had the opportunity to fall apart but rather than completely crumble and think my life was over, I accepted my new-found identity and embraced my sexuality. This level of self-acceptance at such an early age was such a blessing. While not easy or comfortable at times, it was necessary.
This Pride month I am celebrating the fact that I am still standing. Not everyone is so lucky. Being out is not easy. Acceptance of self isn’t always easy and not everyone has the same experience as I had. I find that it’s important for me to reflect on the journey to loving and accepting myself as I am. I am one of the lucky ones who had a hard six months of coming out, but that was sixteen years ago. I chose to own my identity young and am lucky that I was not disowned, banned, cut off or shunned. I know too many people who aren’t as lucky. During Pride month, I know there are many folks who are not as lucky as I am to be so clear with their identity. I am a lucky one because I’ve known most of my life who I am and I continuously aim to provide support for those who are questioning or struggling because the process of self-discovery can be isolating.