This is a personal essay I wrote for my Women’s Life Writing class based on the question “If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?”
Have you ever pleaded with The Universe to change something about your life, begged the all encompassing “creator” to please just make you normal? I have. I spent much of my life wanting to change my sexuality. Although I grew up in a house hold where I was exposed to homosexuality as a young age this exposure did not help me in my own accepting of who I was. My first memory of homosexuality was when I was seven years old while watching the sitcom Ellen. Ellen was my mom’s favorite show and I remember her becoming very angry when the show got cancelled. I recall my mom angrily stating “I don’t care if she’s gay, she’s funny and I want to laugh when I get home from work!” I don’t remember how I knew what gay meant at the time all I knew is that Ellen liked girls and therefore she couldn’t be on TV anymore. I still remember the episode in which Ellen came out. She was rushing to the airport before her soon to be love interest left on a plane, Ellen reached over to the PA system at the airport and proudly shouted “I’m gay” over the intercom, for some reason that always stuck with me. My next exposure to homosexuality was within my own family. My uncle came out when I was nine and I very vividly recall the moment my parents told my sister and I. My mom gathered us in the living room and sat us down on the couch, her and my dad sat on two chairs, directly facing us. Both of them had serious looks on their faces. At this point I was sure someone had died or at least was very sick. My mom continued to explain to us that my Uncle was gay. My parents asked us if we had any questions and neither of us did so my dad told us we could go back to playing. My uncle’s coming out didn’t change our family dynamic one bit, everything went on as normal. My parents never had anything bad to say about my uncle’s sexuality. They told my sister and I that he was the same uncle we had always had and that the only difference was that he may bring a boyfriend to family functions rather than a girlfriend. They told us not to be afraid to talk about him and that no matter what anyone said about him he was still a good person and being gay wouldn’t change that. I still find it shocking that I came from such an accepting family and yet I was so ashamed of my sexuality for so long.
I was about eleven years old when I became permanently confused about my sexuality. All the girls in my grade were getting “feelings” about the boys in our class. At recess they would write down who they wanted to marry and how many kids they wanted. “I’m definitely marrying Mark*, and we’ll have 3 beautiful children and we’ll live in the biggest house in town!” Laura* would say. Mark* was the hot commodity for most of the girls in my class. He had dark skin, green eyes and luscious pink lips, he drove all the girls crazy, except me. I played along with these recess games, but I had yet to feel anything about boys or girls for that matter. At twelve I was still more interested in winning the basketball game after school then who I wanted to date. By thirteen I still had yet to be interested in anyone, but I continued to gossip with my friends about the new boy in class because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. At this point I began to think there was something wrong with me, why wasn’t I interested in dating boys? Instead of wanting to date boys I wanted to avoid them. I began to feel uncomfortable around boys; I didn’t know how to communicate with them. Was I supposed to be flirtatious like my best friend Zoe* or was I supposed to fit in with them like my friend Morgan* who was the “tom boy” in my class? I didn’t know, all I knew was that I’d rather hang out with Jessie*. Jessie* was a new student and had these beautiful, glacial blue eyes and short golden blonde hair. She was tall and towered over me but she had the most gentle smile I had ever seen. Jessie* and I became fast friends and we spent much of our time together, until Jessica started dating Mark* and then our friendship became more of an acquaintance relationship.
Fast forward a year, to the week before my fourteenth birthday. For an early birthday gift my aunt sent me to camp with my younger cousin. That week at camp changed my life forever. I met a girl. She had sparkling blue eyes, and her dirty blonde hair was always pulled back in a pony. She dressed in baggy pants, and I distinctly remember she wore a mustard yellow sweater almost everyday we were there. She had a boisterous personality, she was loud, funny and wasn’t afraid to make a fool of herself. Most of all, she was confident and I loved that about her. In many ways she reminded me of myself and I gravitated towards her. Luckily for me we were in the same activity group and spent everyday attached at the hip. She was a long time camper at camp and was very popular amongst the campers and staff, in turn, I too became popular.
On the last day of camp my parents had to pick me up early because we had a wedding to attend. That morning I watched as she got ready for the day. I remember myself laid out on her bed with tears streaming down my cheeks. She insisted I not cry and that we would stay in contact, after all we only lived a half hour from each other. My heart dropped the moment my camp counselor came to the door and told me my parents were there to pick me up. I didn’t understand why I was so upset about leaving, I would see her again and I would be back at camp next year. My parents came and carried my luggage to the truck, she took my hand and laced her fingers with mine. That moment, that feeling, of her fingers intertwined with mine was the moment, the feeling, I knew. I knew that I had fallen for a girl. I had never felt more content in my life then during that walk along that path with our hands in embrace. She refused to let go of my hand even once I was in the vehicle. As my parents drove away she ran along side the truck and our hands were eventually torn apart by my dad’s lead foot. That night as I laid in bed crying I said to myself “I’m gay” and then buried it deep down inside me. I buried those feelings because other then my uncle no one else in my town was gay and I certainly wasn’t going to be the only one. Soon after my realization I decided I would change, I would no longer be gay. I didn’t want to be different, I didn’t ask to be different and I wasn’t strong enough to be different, or so I thought. I went back to school and continued on my escapades of “fitting in” and gossiping about boys. I eventually went to high school and by the time I graduated I had buried my feelings so well that I almost never thought about my sexuality. I had decided I could live my life as a single woman and never have to tell people about how I really felt. I was wrong.
By the time I had turned twenty-three the denial of my sexuality was no longer as easy as it was in high school. I began to have anxiety attacks regularly, my personality changed from being a happy, bubbly, talkative person to being a more tense, reclusive person. A friend set me up on a date; I sat nervously and anxiously through it all the while knowing that this poor guy had no chance. At the end of the night when he leaned in for a kiss I simply put out my hand and said, “Thanks for dinner.” I began to be resentful of The Universe for making me this way. I would cry myself to sleep pleading with whatever power existed to make me straight. I didn’t want to be gay and I didn’t want my family to have to deal with having a gay daughter, sister, niece or friend. I would occasionally come across a television show discussing “coming out’ as if it was something that would make everything in my life better. What a lie! How could coming out as a gay individual make my life better? How would going from a normal, white, heterosexual woman become better if I gave people a reason to discriminate against me; and it wasn’t just me who would face discrimination. My parents would undoubtedly face the dreaded “coffee row” in town and hear whispers about their gay daughter. How would my niece and nephew be treated if they had a gay aunt? Would they be taunted at school, would they be ashamed of me? Would they wish I was normal just like I wished I was?
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After ten years of forcing myself to live an inauthentic life I had finally given up. I had decided I could at least date women and keep it a secret rather than denying myself love forever. I dated a couple people but it never felt right, sneaking around, lying about who I was hanging out with. None of the relationships were healthy and this created further shame about who I was. However, everything changed in May 2013 when I met my now girlfriend on an unsuspecting, sunny, Saturday afternoon in the parking lot of Pet Smart. She and I started to date in December of last year and through her unwavering support I began to accept my sexuality. She said to me one day, “You know babe, before I came out I used to wish I could change my sexuality, but the moment I came out I felt whole, I felt happy, I felt content and I knew that being gay was not something that took away from my life, it enhanced it.” I wanted to feel content, I wanted to feel happy, I wanted to be whole. We dated for nine months before I got up the courage to come out to my family and friends. During that nine months we had many ups and downs. I still often felt guilty and ashamed about my sexuality but on August 23, 2014, the eve of my 26th birthday, my best friend, my sister and my parents received letters from me informing them of my sexuality. In the letters, I confessed that I still sometimes wished I wasn’t gay and that I tried for along time to change who I was but I could no longer fight it. Within minutes of receiving the letters I got phone calls and texts from my loved ones saying, “We don’t want you to change, we love you exactly as you are and if you were any different you would not be the Lindsay we love.” I could not believe the outpouring of support, acceptance, and love I received from the most important people in my life. That was the moment I stopped wishing I wasn’t gay. It all ended there, all the doubt, the pleading, the shame, the denial. All of it gone, permanently.
If you asked me 5 months ago if I could change one thing about my life what would it be? I would have said my sexuality but today I no longer feel the need to change that part of me. If I could change anything about my life today it would be the memories of the shame I felt about being gay. Now I wish I had never felt those things, I wish I had never wished to change who I am. I wish I could have had the courage to come out sooner however, I know when and how I came out was the way it was meant to be. Today I have got all the things I wanted, I’m happy, I’m content and I am whole. As for those episodes I saw on TV suggesting coming out would help my life, they were right. Coming out has been the most important moment in my life to date. I hope that in the future I can help other LGBTQ youth realize they don’t need to change or deny their sexuality. I realize now that the change I had to make was a change in mentality from denying who I was to accepting who I am. I know that if I can change the perceptions of myself after years of self repression and denial then others can change their perceptions too.