"I Struggled To Come Out To Myself"
A personal story about coming out and facing the fear.
I grew up in a very strict and conservative home. I was raised by my great-grandparents who were born in 1928 and 1932. So, needless to say (I will, anyway), they were very old-fashioned. And I hate to say it for fear of it being misjudged as a stereotype, but they were also very devout Catholics. There is no wrong in that, of course. But as a young adult who has done enough research and from experience, I know that the Roman Catholic religion has some very intense views and beliefs of the Bible and of God. With all this being said, you can only imagine all the horrible things that I was told about the LGBT community. I believe that being raised a Catholic really shaped me as a child and had a huge impact on me growing into my adolescence and even adulthood. Some positive things were instilled in me but also some very negative things. One of those was my sense of self-worth and confidence. Finding peace with myself and being able to stay true to myself was something that I had to build in myself and by myself. I struggled from a very young age to accept who and what I really was because I feared rejection from the people I loved the most.
I was taught to love and be kind to everybody. That was a big thing for my dad. He was the friendliest man I have ever met. Everybody knew and loved him for the man he was. He was honest, loyal, intelligent, hard-working, even funny when he wanted to be. My mom had a lot of friends too, but she thought differently than my dad. She is very opinionated and judgmental. She really is set in her old-fashioned ways and will not move from them. And to her, every woman had to fit a certain image and she was hell-bent on trying to mold me into that image.
She especially spoke about and lectured me about people that are gay. It was always negative. I heard things like "gays are diseased, gay people are damaged, gay people kill themselves, gay people are an abomination." It was not until the first time she said the word "faggot" that I really started to pay attention to how she felt about the LGBT community.
It was early Saturday morning, I was playing around outside when I heard my mom yell for me to come inside. I knew that tone of voice all too well by then... I was in trouble. I was about 9 years old and by then I had already started to develop an attraction to girls. And even at this young age, I tried to force myself to like a boy. So I wrote this boy a letter saying "I want to be your girlfriend and I want you to like me." Well, my mom found it under my mattress. Ironically though, she thought it was a letter to a girl. So this was the first time that my mom accused me of being a "faggot." I cried the rest of the afternoon because I wanted to know why she called me such a foreign name that I wanted so badly to understand. I couldn't bring myself to ask her about it so I made my own interpretation. All I knew was that it was really bad and it had something to do with liking girls. So there stemmed my first negative connotations with being gay. I knew how she spoke about it before. But now, the woman who raised me had wrongly mistaken me for being gay. And her attitude changed towards me in an instant. I was now diseased. I was a sinner. I was the abomination. And my own mother hated me for it.
After clearing it up with her that the letter was actually written to a boy and not a girl, from then on, I forced myself on to guys. Not in any promiscuous way but in a way that would at least make me look like I liked boys. I had two boyfriends in one school year when I was 10. I was bullied for it, A LOT. Even my teachers would try to sit me at a table with all girls. Which I think worked out in my favor rather than theirs. But because of all the scrutiny and humiliation that was brought on by my "liking boys," I forced myself into a world of hiding and pretending. At young age, I was able to master the art of covering up who I really was and how I really felt. Which in turn, was not very healthy because it became a habit. Hiding became a habit. And I was good at it. I even convinced myself for a while.
For about 5 years I hid my true identity from everyone, even myself. I wasn't happy. But you would have thought I was the happiest kid to ever live. I lived in a fantasy world that I created just for me. I lived whatever life my mother wanted me to live, but behind closed doors I was someone else. Every day I was someone different. I was a power ranger, a wizard, a detective, a vigilant crime fighter, and many other people. A lot of kids go through a phase where they like to play pretend. But I was acting for different reasons other than just recreation. I was trying to escape real life and be someone that I wanted to be, not who I was forced to be.
I found myself playing outside in the mud more often than inside with dolls. I hated them. They reminded me of myself and I hated myself. I struggled with self-image from a very young age. And not because I wanted to look pretty like all the other girls. Because I looked just like all the other girls thanks to my mom. But I was envious of my male classmates. Why couldn't I wear shorts and sneakers and run around without a care in the world about my clothes getting dirty? Why did I have to have long hair that was always in my face? Why couldn't I be faster, stronger, and meaner? Because I was girl and girls don't act like that. But I so desperately wanted to be one of the boys.
I also hid my attraction to girls. At the age of 13 is when my attraction started to deepen, it made me very anxious and scared. I forced myself to get into a relationship with a boy in the 7th grade. I had a crush on my best friend (who was a girl) and I wanted a boyfriend to be a distraction from her. I wanted him to be my excuse not to hang out with her so often. I stopped sitting with her lunch and in class. I stopped going over to her house and never asked over to mine. I was embarrassed and ashamed of my feelings towards her. I even started bullying her. I forced myself to find every flaw and every downfall in my best friend. And it really hurt our relationship.
On the other hand, I also bullied myself. Forcing myself into self-loathing and self-consciousness. I prayed every night for God to make me normal. I was already traumatized from the bullying at a younger age. I did not want to give my classmates another reason to ridicule me. I tried to coerce myself into liking boys, to no avail. I became very depressed very quickly. I started to believe that there was no God to hear my prayers. Even worse, I thought if there was a God, he must hate me already. He will never listen to my prayers.
I taunted myself. I looked in the mirror and made myself cry with all of the negative comments. I could say now that I forced myself into a type of conversion therapy in hopes that it would "cure" me and make me normal. It only hurt me. I was raised to believe that being gay was a disease and only damaged people are gay. Children that are abused, are raised by an unfit parent, or bullied are the only children who turn out to be gay. In my mom's opinion, I had a great life. I had everything I wanted and needed. I was raised by two loving parents that did everything for me. Please don't misunderstand me here, I love my parents with all of my heart. I just wished they loved me for who I really was and not who they tried to make me out to be. My mom tried so hard to mold me into the perfect daughter and I'm sorry but it didn't work. It was never going to work.
I was 14 when a sought comfort in my best friend. I scribbled on a dry erase board "I'm bi." Though I wanted to come out as a lesbian, this is what I was comfortable with at the time. I explained to her that I had started liking girls in the 3rd grade but never told anybody. And I told her that I was crushing on one of our classmates at the time. She was very understanding and actually thought I was "cool" for being different than everyone else. She helped me accept that this was who I was and I shouldn't try to change it. We cried together all that afternoon and then laughed about it later. This moment was a climactic turning point in my adolescence. I slowly started coming out to all of my friends. Though some kids picked on me at first, most had positive reactions. It even gave me enough confidence to come out to the girl I was crushing on.
After my coming out to my best friend, my life felt more real than it had ever felt. It was liberating to be able to go to school and be who I really was. Even though I had still had to lead a double life at home, I was happy that I could be out and proud at school. Slowly, my friends started to realize that I wasn't actually attracted to guys at all. I was an out and proud lesbian by the age of 15. This was very liberating. School then became my sanctuary. I was able to be myself and be happy.
Since my final coming out to myself at age 14, I've realized that I am what GOD made me, not what anybody else wanted me to be. I used to be sorry for not becoming who my parents wanted me to be. But now I am not sorry for being me. I am who I am and I am very happy with that. I have come out to my mom since then but that is for another story. The story here is that after struggling with coming out to myself, I have found a safe haven in the LGBTQ community. Being a part of the LGBTQ community has taught me very valuable life lessons. And the most important of those being love. I know now that everything I am is because God made me specifically for one person to love and cherish. I have found nothing but joy and solace in the LGBTQ community. I would never change or try to hide who I am just to please other people. My happiness is just as important.