As I sit down to write this—I have no way of knowing how it will turn out. I hope coherently.
A little about me. I am an out and proud queer person. A lesbian. A lady who loves ladies. But it wasn’t always that way…
I grew up in Savannah, Georgia in a different time and space from where we are now. There were no Pride Parades and conventions celebrating LGBTQ+ communities. You didn’t see a lot of rainbows and Pride flags. I had no idea. Growing up, I had crushes on so many, but did not define it. Looking back, there were crushes I had from elementary school thru college. I always remember the ones at summer camp (thank you Shrimp & Bird & Summer and a host of other female counselors for allowing this little obviously gay—but truly didn’t know it at the time—camper to leave you “I think you’re cool” notes and follow you around and make you crafts that I snuck into your cabin and left on your bed.) And, thank you to the many teachers for not calling me out or embarrassing me for all the cards and letters and awkward conversations you got from me. Those friends I looked at longingly and felt such intense feelings that I could not accept or understand at the time. I didn’t have the words for what I was feeling back then, but I do now.
Where the pain from all those buried feelings I couldn’t reveal—didn’t know how to reveal, was afraid to reveal—all those hidden crushes would almost crush me.
But alas those crushes… those feelings would remain non-defined thru childhood and my teenage years and into college. Where the pain from all those buried feelings I couldn’t reveal—didn’t know how to reveal, was afraid to reveal—all those hidden crushes would almost crush me in the process. (Another story for another time.) Younger me did not have the courage to look closely at myself. The courage to acknowledge the feelings as something “not bad.”
So… I lurked in those gay shadows…the proverbial “closet”… crushing, longing, crying, feeling, loving in secret. Vehemently denying who I was. And if some astute person happened to ask “are you gay?” I would quickly dispense the 4 D’s—Deny. Duck. Deflect. Depart. So, instead of using that moment to exhale and come out. I just learned to hide it better. I did so many things that were courageous. Yet I could not stand up and accept myself and love myself and come out loud and proud. I did not have that courage I see in so many younger people today.
I tried to date guys. To be “normal” to fit in. Or the heteronormative view society deems as “normal.” It was easier. It was familiar. Especially in a world that tells you—you are confused or sick or just making a crazy choice if you don’t choose to be “normal.” So that’s what I did. And I refer to this as my “half-life”. Not living my whole authentic life. Because I was scared. Scared of what people would think… how they would feel about me. Would they love me? Like me? It was really exhausting to chase other’s ideas and feelings of who I should be. It was like being on that ride at the fair that spins and you’re stuck to the wall… and no one is shutting it down. You just go round and round…dizzy with fear. Unable to stop. But I knew I wanted off the ride. I wanted to know what it felt like to stop spinning. To step off, be still and be me. But that wouldn’t happen until my twenties.
I choose to be me.
In the words of a friend…
“I’m worth it!”
When I decided to come out (and there were a myriad of factors that contributed to that—a big one being the amount of positive representation and supportive voices in the world at the time), it was as if a cloud lifted. A weight left my shoulders. I’m not saying it was easy—there were hella “almost coming out” convos, a lot of tears, a few laughs, some friends who still “don’t quite get it”, a lot of hugging and at the end of the day… acceptance. The movie Love, Simon got it right. I stopped spinning and finally exhaled. And now I am happy in a way that kid me could not have imagined. I looked around and realized I could now be and do and say all I’d kept hidden. And the super amazing part… I get to be exactly who I want to be… every day. I have people in my life who love me just as I am. And I’m grateful for that. I’m also grateful I don’t have to hide or deny who I am. No more being scared. No more spinning. I have pride in who I am. And I love me. Not just for this month but for the rest of my life. I choose to be me. In the words of a friend… “I’m worth it!”
Is there a part of me that wishes I’d done it way sooner? Of course, there is. But I didn’t know what this freedom would feel like. What being proud of me would feel like. What just getting to be who I was would feel like.
You deserve to love who you want to love. You deserve to be happy in this life. You deserve to choose you. You deserve to be proud of exactly who you are.
If I could go back and talk to kid me, I would say… it’s okay. You’re gonna be okay. Everything you’re feeling is okay. Love will be there for you no matter what. Support will be there for you in spades. You deserve to love who you want to love. You deserve to be happy in this life. You deserve to choose you. You deserve to be proud of exactly who you are.
So, I say to those reading….
Feel how you feel. Love who you love. Be who you are. Just do it authentically. Just know, this life… your life… is a beautiful journey. A journey that only you can take. But at the same time, a journey you can only take once. Make it memorable. Make it exciting. Make it count. And know however you choose to live your life—whatever path you choose to take. It’s okay. You’ll be okay. Choose you. You’re worth it. And… Be proud, because I’m proud of you. You matter and you are loved. No matter what.