I feel like my body goes into overdrive—an almost fight or flight response—when I'm telling a secret of some kind. Do I stay here and confess a secret that could potentially ruin a friendship or relationship? Or do I just uncover a feeling so natural and innate that it doesn't feel like a secret at all?
I thought me being a lesbian was old news to everybody, and completely obvious, to be honest. I was your typical "tomboy": I loved sports, video games, and getting my hands dirty. I never wore dresses. I didn't wear makeup. These traits of mine did not cause me to be shunned by friends throughout school—actually, I was cool with everybody. But what would they think when it wasn't just my behavior that was similar to a boy, but my attraction to women just as much as them?
I remember sitting in class in first grade, six years old, and I had this attraction towards the new girl. I couldn't stop looking at her. The boys kept trying to flirt with her and make her laugh, and all I could think was that I could treat her better than any of the boys in the class. I had never heard the word lesbian, but I was in a private Catholic school, so I knew something about me wasn't right. I was first attracted a boy in third grade. He was new, green eyes—really cute. We became friends, and I felt like I liked him. Looking back on it, I think I was forcing myself to be normal by liking a boy and not girls. (Spoiler: that same boy is actually gay).
I battled with my attraction to women for the years to follow. It wasn't until seventh grade where I actually said to myself, "I'm a lesbian." Oh, the conversations I had with myself. How could I like women? Why wasn't I attracted to men? There were a lot of times where I would cry, wishing I was born a male so that I would be normal with this attraction towards women. Of course, that wasn't going to happen. I needed to learn to accept who I was, but it wasn't going to be easy.
I don't think a lot of people understand how difficult it is to confess to somebody that you're LGBTQ+. Why should I be ashamed of who I am? This is how I feel, and it's not hurting anybody. This is who I am, and I'm not going to change because somebody doesn't like it. But as much as I would tell myself that, I was too much of a coward to be disliked, or shunned, or alienated from people who I cared about. I hid my true self, and I became this fake person with a deceivingly genuine smile. I ended up going to an all-girls Catholic high school. I met some of the best people there, who I still cherish today, but I still didn't reveal I was a lesbian. There were girls in my grade who were lesbians, and I was jealous of them being able to be so open. Then again, they would get caught kissing by faculty and/or staff. In a Catholic school, this wasn't the best situation, and a lot of them ended up leaving to go to public school. But I stayed, and with an all-boys school right next door (of course the other girls loved it), I actually had multiple boys confessing to me they liked me.
Me: the girl who never wore makeup, would forego the skirts for the shorts, and was into video games, anime, and computers. I then started to realize there were people who did not care about appearance, nor interests. I realized these boys, bless their hearts, liked me for me. They didn't know I was a lesbian, and that they didn't stand a chance, but regardless of that fact they saw me as a person and not who society told me I needed to be. They wanted to play sports with me. They wanted to loan me their anime, and play video games with me. It was actually these boys who helped me realize that I needed to see myself the way they saw me: as a person.
The summer after sophomore year, I told my best friend I was a lesbian. I cried and cried because I felt she would hate me and be disgusted. I braced myself to lose her as a friend for being something I thought was unfathomable and just all out horrible. I was wrong. She cried with me, said she kind of thought I was, but she was waiting for me to tell her when I was ready. I wasn't ready, but I needed ONE person to know my secret. Again, telling her was such a difficult moment in my life, but goodness, did I feel amazing. I felt free. I felt like I could finally say things I withheld about girls I liked. I felt I could just be. I didn't have to impress her. I didn't have to wear this façade anymore. It was liberating to say the least. Now, being gay or lesbian or transsexual is not really a secret, at least not to me, but we are almost forced to "reveal" these facts about ourselves. We don't owe it to anybody, but hiding is no way to live. The more people I told, the more I started to realize there was nothing wrong with me. I was different, okay, but so is everybody else. Difference makes each person unique, as cliche as it might sound. I needed to remember I am who I am, and I was living my best life, even if it was without people who didn't agree with my lifestyle.
I lost people because of me being a lesbian, but I have gained some amazing friendships that completely overshadow that loss. I have gained the love of my life (Christine), and all because I showed her my true self. If I continued to hide, continued to lie about myself, I would have never taken a chance with her. I would probably be miserable.
To anybody struggling with their identity: it's not going to be easy. Life isn't easy by any means. It's going to be so hard. There are going to be people who want to hurt you for being different. I have actually been physically assaulted for being a lesbian, but I wasn't going to let that deter me in any way. I am who I am. I know my worth. I know my importance. I wasn't going to let people dictate MY life. I have surrounded myself with friends and family who allow me to be myself. I know everybody is not fortunate to have that, but sometimes being surrounded by people who force you to behave a specific way is a lot worse than being alone. Toxic people beget a toxic lifestyle. Nobody should have to hide in any way. I did, for a lot of years, and it didn't do me any good. So be yourself, and use that strength to thrive in a world where so many people want to shape you. Resist hatred and always, always outshine it with love. The heart will always be the most formidable enemy.