I was straight all my life. At least, that’s what I thought.
It’s what I was told, anyway. It’s what I learned. Society, my enviornment, and my upbringing taught me that I was just “jealous” of the girls I thought were pretty and fun, because that is what girls are – jealous of each other. The idea of attraction to girls wasn’t even entertained, by me or anyone around me. As I got older, I was obsessed with what the other girls were wearing, how they looked, and how could I make myself look that way too. Maybe if I looked that way, I wouldn’t be such a weirdo.
Public middle school introduced girls in jeans to me, as I had been in a private Catholic elementary school through 6th grade, and we had uniforms. This was brand new and I liked girls in jeans. Or rather, I told myself I was just envious that they looked good in their jeans. I know better now, but back then, not so much. The idea that I was a lesbian, attracted to girls, it truly didn’t enter my mind. I was just a jealous weirdo who came to the school knowing no one at all, not wanting to stand out or be teased.
(Aside: my obsession with jeans also had to do with the fact that once we started in public school, my mother forced my brother and I to “dress up” for school 3 out of the 5 days of the week. That meant no jeans. She was convinced that we would learn more if we were dressed up. Instead, with my mother apparently not knowing the painfully shy child I was, I couldn’t concentrate because when you are 12 years old, you just want to be the same as everyone else. So when I started going to a school where the dress code wasn’t uniforms, I was excited. That didn’t last long. Since I already felt like a freak, I would bring jeans and change on the bus, behind a tree at the end of our yard, in the school bathroom. The jeans I had weren’t even my own, they were hand-me-down Wranglers which were embarrassing, but at least they were denim. Honestly though, I’d kill to have those jeans back in my life.)
I’ve been quiet, shy, and most especially, awkward my entire life. That hasn’t changed, but I know it contributed to not living my truth until the ripe old age of 31. I was involved in relationships with guys, which were also awkward. I wasn’t attracted to them, but if they were giving me attention, I thought I was supposed to go with it. Thanks, Catholic church, bible, and patriarchy. Literally though, I thought I was supposed to do whatever dudes wanted. I remember there was a kid I worked with and went to high school with who seemed to be an actual white supremacist, and I didn’t know how to “let him down easy” because I was worried I would hurt his feelings. This is how people raise their daughters, and we daughters have to figure everything out on our own, hopefully before it’s too late.
Because I thought I was supposed to bend at the whim of men, the relationships I had were abusive – mentally, emotionally, sexually. This isn’t easy to write, in fact my hands are shaking. Reliving those feelings is hard, but I know it’s important. I was made to feel like a cheating whore, an ungrateful bitch, a selfish prude, a histrionic head case. I became more and more broken, and allowed more and more to happen to me.
When I got engaged to my ex, I figured that was it. That was going to be my life. Living with a man I feared, who pressured me into sex, encouraged me to starve myself, and who was never on my side. I was miserable. And then I met my wife.
Five years ago, my wife walked into the store where I was working. I knew of her, because of Facebook, but when she walked in, I was captivated. I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was off work that day, and we talked and laughed for several hours. I was hooked.
As our friendship quickly grew, I started to realize that I was feeling something else. Something I couldn’t tell anyone. The reason I couldn’t stop thinking about her was because I was falling in love with my best friend. I had growing resentment towards my ex, because I started realizing that maybe, just maybe, I didn’t deserve the abuse. My wife was in a relationship as well, so I wasn’t about to confess my feelings and ruin our friendship or her relationship. I had never met anyone like her, and we had so much in common it was downright freaky at times. But I felt trapped, so I stayed in my relationship, growing sadder every day, because I knew I could never be with her.
It unfortunately took us until after we both were married to other people to have the courage to tell each other how we felt, but when we finally did, I felt so much clarity. I felt a literal lightness, as though I was floating around in a dream and would wake up any second. Even though the timing was unfortunate, and my ex had been so subtle with the abuse that my oldest friends actually sided with him when I told them, I still felt free. I went about telling my three closest friends in an impersonal way, over an email. At the time I thought that was the best way to get the information to them all at once so there wouldn’t be a game of Telephone before I could contact everyone individually. I was afraid of how they would react, and evidently for good reason, because they no longer speak to me. While I regret hiding behind an email now, it was the mindset of what I had to work with at the time and I can’t change it.
I do have thoughts of reconnecting, explaining, and apologizing every now and then, but then I remind myself – it’s been 4 years. They don’t miss me, I am a bad person in their eyes, and I should leave things where they are.
My parents didn’t take the news well either – my mother suggested marriage counseling. She couldn’t seem to come to grips with the information that I was in love with a woman. My parents are pretty religious, and we didn’t have much of a relationship after I came out, but things have gotten much better recently. I used to be a champ at holding a grudge. It’s something I’m working on, and honestly, I would like to have a relationship with them.
Coming out at age 31 was pretty difficult. I lost friends, people who I thought were friends, and my parents weren’t supportive. I had to pack and move all my belongings by myself in 3 days. I was constantly looking over my shoulder, because of the way my ex reacted, I was afraid things might get violent. It was not an easy process.
If I could go back in time, would I change things? Hell yes I would. Since I can’t, I’m sharing my story in case there are other late bloomers out there like me. It takes a lot of strength and courage to overcome a situation like this. If you can figure out what will make you happy, you will eventually find your people. They may not be who you think they will be, but they will be on your team.
Today is the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day. For more information, check out this from the Human Rights Campaign. Visibility matters.