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Growing up I always knew I was different. Besides the obvious differences like my skin colour, my weight, or my family situation, there was always another feeling that I was different from those around me. At a young age I discovered what this difference was but soon learned that it wasn't allowed. It took me years of trying to be "normal" to get to the place I am today, where I can share my story. To start this story, we must go back to when I was around 13-14.
Take it back ten years, it's 2007. Shrek the Third, Ratatouille and I am Legend have all come out in theatres. My MP3 Player consisted of Sean Kingston, Rihanna, Hilary Duff, and of course Panic! At The Disco, oddly enough what my music still consists of. If I wasn't out with friends you could find me at home watching CSI: Crime Scene Investigation or reading J-14 magazine, while lounging around in my denim mini-skirt and cropped leggings. I had a small group a friends, that was slowly growing. In particular, I had this one friend who just lived up the road from me, so we would be together all the time. Seventh grade is a weird time, people are talking about sex, kids are finding their parents porn, and I was getting curious about myself and my body.
One of those kids finding porn, happened to be this friend of mine. For this story we’ll refer to her as Cammy. Every time I would go hang out at Cammy’s house and no one was home but us, she would put porn on. At first it was just weird because I didn’t really understand it, but eventually it got to a point where it was normal. My other friends are talking about boys, and dating a different guy every week. I don’t seem to have the attraction to all these boys that my friends do, sure I think they are cute and want a boyfriend to fit in, but I’m not interested in them honestly. Cammy was very interested in boys and very confident in her sexuality, at the time I didn’t know what to call it. Things progressed to a point that not only my first kiss, but a few other first things happened with Cammy. A secret I though I would take to the grave.
After things had happened between Cammy and I, I started to wonder if I was a lesbian, a thought that was quickly suppressed. I come from a very white christian conservative family. Being the one black kid in the family (my sister and I have different fathers), I was already different from everyone and wanted nothing more to fit in. My grandmother, who essentially is the controller of the family’s beliefs started taking me to church at a very young age and it became a weekly routine to go. While at church with her or even at family gatherings the LGBTQ+ community would get brought up, and it was always frowned upon. Listening to your family think they very thing you are is disgusting and wrong really messes with you, especially at a young age. It got to a point where I decided that I wasn’t gay, because “being gay isn’t right,” and turned my focus on boys.
Growing up and even still today, I have always struggled with my weight. I’ve always been active, but due to a health issue it makes it hard for me to lose the weight. When I was in high school having curves was not something that was praised, as it is now. All people seemed to care about was being skinny, including myself. Being overweight, getting attention from boys didn’t happen as often as it did to my skinny friends, which upset me. I often found myself convincing myself I liked those few boys who would give me attention. Note, my first kiss with a girl was when I was 13 and my first kiss with a boy was a few weeks before I turned 17. Before this point I had fooled around with a boy, but oddly enough had never kissed one.
Throughout all of this I had convinced myself that I was a straight woman and I had no attraction to women. I was always conscious of making sure my eyes didn’t linger in the changing room, making sure no one saw me when I saw a pretty girl, and especially keeping calm and collected when I saw what was considered a stereotypical lesbian at the time. High school passed and I went onto university. In my first two years I was focused on boys and only boys, dating guys on the football and lacrosse teams, actively on tinder, etc. I thought I had finally made myself a straight woman, emphasis on the thought.
There came a time where all those feelings about girls came back to the surface and I couldn’t suppress them anymore. One of my best friends was confiding in me because she thought she might like girls, and all I wanted to do was scream at the top of my lungs “me too.” Instead, I was a supportive friend and talked through her feelings with her. In my third year of school I started dating a guy, it was more of a fling really and less dating. We had been seeing each other for a few weeks, and each time I enjoyed it less and less, I knew this wasn’t what I wanted, but again I was trying to please my family’s beliefs. That summer my friend and I had started jokingly calling each other our girlfriend and joking that we were a couple. Neither one of us realizing we were both on our way to coming out.
By the time I started fourth year there was no question, I knew I liked girls. The issue was I didn’t know how I was going to deal with it. Would I tell people, or would I keep it a secret? Does my family need to know? Will I fit into the lesbian community? What is a lesbian community? I was so nervous and scared, that I thought secretly changing my Tinder settings to girls would help me. Which in a way it did, but it also outed me to all the lesbians using Tinder. Shortly after the switch, I slowly started telling friends and becoming more comfortable with it. Over the year I started dating a girl and I finally felt like I had truly blossomed into who I was suppose to be and I was no longer hiding myself.
There was just one major obstacle, telling my family. My mom and I had gotten into an argument at one point and I let it slip, but quickly retracted it when she started to freak out about it. I don’t know if she ever mentioned it to my dad and I guess I don’t really care. I told my sister almost immediately, and as I expected she was more than accepting. Time passed, and I hadn’t said anything to my parents about it, until National Coming Out Day 2016. I decided enough was enough and I had to be honest with them. I sent my mom a carefully worded text explaining everything and told her that she could tell my dad. In which she replied, “You can tell him when you’re ready, and even though I don’t agree with your choice I still love you.” There it was, that one word that brought back my childhood living with christian conservatives. “Being gay is a choice,” “Why would you choose that lifestyle,” “How could a man ever find another man attractive.” Choice, choice, choice, that one word kept playing in my mind and it still does. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. I wrote out a reply ten different times, each time deleting it, and finally deciding not to send it.
So here we are over a year later, my mom and I have never talked about it, my dad has never mentioned it, so I’m not sure he knows, and for the rest of my family I don’t think I’ll ever tell them. I know people are going to defend themselves and say “Not all christian conservatives are like this,” and I agree with them, not all of them are. This is simply what it was and still is like for my living with my christian conservative family who think my sexuality is wrong and disgusting and make me fear the day they might find out. I envy my friends who have parents and extended family that accept them with open arms, when I’m terrified to tell my dad because of how he will react, or scared for my grandmother to find out because she’ll tell me I’m going straight to hell. There’s nothing more I would like then to be able to bring home my future girlfriend and it not cause a scene, not cause my family to speak poorly of me, or not have the judgmental people in my family make all their comments.
I wanted to write this to express what it has been like for me and to share with others who may be in a similar situation. I just want you to know that yes you’re family may be your blood and you love each other, but when you’re not accepted by them as tough and horrible as it is, it’s not the end. I always have felt like home & family rely on the people and atmosphere. I have my biological family, my step family, but I also have my family I chose. I have an amazing group of friends who love and accept me just as much as I love and accept them. They don’t judge me or think any different of me because of my sexuality. When I get down about my parents and extended family, I always remind myself that I am so much more than a label and I am so much more than what people think of me.