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I think that sometimes I wear my gay pride as a badge of honor. Some may consider that to be strange but I don’t. It is 2014 and gay men and women are still being persecuted just by being who they are. Do people not understand that? We have come so far but still have so far to go. I love to live openly and freely to show the people who don’t understand this ‘lifestyle’ that we are all the same. My fiance and I love each other, we make dinner together, clean the condo together, go to the grocery store, spend time with our families. We do what every other straight couple does.

When I was a teenager. I was obsessed with Alanis Morissette. I wrote her fan letters. I wrote out her song lyrics and taped them all over my bedroom walls. I realized at 13 this wasn’t a normal fan experience. I imagined kissing her. And I wondered what that would be like. Then I felt ashamed because a girl kissing another girl was wrong. Then people started to realize how obsessed I was with her. My friends and I all read teen magazines. Seventeen, YM, I don’t even remember the others. And some teenager wrote in to one of them asking about their obsession with Alanis and how much they were in love with her. My friends actually thought it was me. The girl said she was 16 or 17 years old and I remember my friend saying “I just assumed you changed your age so that we wouldn’t think it was you.” I was embarrassed and I felt ashamed. Also, for the record, it wasn’t me!

Flash forward throughout high school. I dated a guy, for a little over 2 years. I felt normal being with him. He gave me his class ring, I gave him mine. We went to prom, homecoming, he was a football player and drove a big truck. We’d make out in his bedroom and he’d take me home. I look back now and think that really, all we ever did was make out, watch movies, and make out some more. Was I in love with him? No. When we broke up I thought my heart would break into a million pieces. Because there went my normalcy.

After high school life got a little easier. Mainly because I lost touch with so many friends from school. I moved out of my tiny town. I got a full time job. Spent time in the city, away from all the small towns. I lived with my brother and his girlfriend for awhile. I then moved in with my aunt. I worked random hours. Moved back in with my brothers girlfriend then he moved in. Here and there dated men. Even fell into a relationship that I thought that could end in marriage. All the while thinking ‘is this it?’ My grandpa was a minister. My grandparents were incredibly religious. My parents didn’t understand homosexuality, not at all. I felt incredibly alone, then I started hanging out with this girl from my old job. We’d make out. She claimed she wasn’t gay, or even bisexual. My gaydar is on point but I knew she’d never admit she was anything other than straight. We’d go out, get drunk, make out. Go back to her place and make out and drink some more. I was definitely on a path of destruction. Driving drunk, meeting strange people, inviting them over to hang out. Bar after bar after concert after concert. Drink after drink after drink. I guess in the grand scheme of things it was kind of normal behavior for a 25 year old single female. Or maybe not, maybe I am just trying to make myself feel better. I started to fall for my friend even though I realized it would never work out between us. And I was right. She refused to accept who she was and ended up falling for a guy all wrong for her, married him, and now has a few kids and we never talk after a horrific falling out. Ah. Such is life.

After that debacle one of my friends came out of the closet (and this came way out of left field) and it gave me courage. Even though it was still a long time until I told anyone. I went to see my friend (she lived on the East coast) and she had a new girlfriend. I told my friend “If I was gay, your girlfriend is the type I’d go for” which was basically a hot butch lesbian with short hair, wore flannel, and was all around a cutie. I went home and started watching The L Word and listening to Tegan and Sara. I mean, how gay can somebody get, right? I started very, very casually dating girls. Nothing special, just casual. Hanging out, going to see movies, going to gay bars in St Louis. All the while this was going on I told my parents I was dating this guy or that guy but it was all very ‘casual’. Or I would tell them I was not dating because I really just needed ‘me’ time. I’d nod firmly and puff out my chest a little. Like I was so mature for this, I just needed to be ‘alone’. Then I’d have a girl over and we’d giggle at the deception while inside my heart was breaking over lying to so many people. I finally started to slowly come out to friends. I swore them all to secrecy. The kicker? I don’t think I talked to one friend that was surprised. Most said “yeah, I’ve known” or “really, this is no big surprise to me.” Sigh.

I tried online dating and ended up talking to a girl in Finland. During all that I flew to Belgium for Christmas to see my brother and his wife. I told his wife first. We were in the car, I told her and she slapped my leg and said “I knew it!” We went out to eat after and we giggled over her lesbian encounter the ONE time she had one. We came home that night and my brother wanted to take me out to a bar down the road. His wife told me it was the perfect time to tell him. I didn’t have the courage so she told him. He said “Brittany, I don’t care. Women are beautiful.” Within seconds I felt relief. My best friend, my brother, he knew and I knew he would always have my back.

Things with the girl in Finland took a weird turn when we decided we wanted to meet. Then we decided we didn’t want to date anyone else until we could figure out what ‘this’ was. So I planned a 3 week trip to Finland. But a week before I left to follow my heart, my brother and his wife came to visit. And we had all decided it was time to tell my parents. It didn’t go well. I told my mom, over the phone, on my brothers birthday. To this day I don’t know why I chose that day, of all days. My mom, at first, accepted it whole-heartedly. “Brittany, I love you, you’re my daughter, I’d never feel ashamed.” She told the family (which I said was okay because I didn’t have the energy to come out to everyone else). My step-sisters sent me text messages basically also saying they weren’t surprised. My step-brother too. Even their mother sent me a text congratulating me on coming out. Then my mom told my step-dad and all hell broke loose. To defend my parents, I realize this was all a shock. But I had no idea it would turn into what it did. They just could not get over the fact that I lied to them. And I get it, now, I get it. But what exactly do parents of gay children expect? My step-dad wouldn’t talk to me except to yell at me about lying. We had a surprise party for my brother that same week, a hundred people showed up, and I just tried my best to steer clear of my parents. When people were around my parents were nice to me but it didn’t last. The day before I left for Finland my parents yelled at me about what a liar I was. They refused to take me to the airport and I had to scramble for a ride. Before I left I told my mom I was flying to Finland because I was pretty sure I was in love. That if things worked out they could possibly lose me to Finland (and this girl) forever. That didn’t go over well. And I left. I went to Finland and didn’t even call them from the airport. The only reason I even had contact with them in that 3 weeks is because my sister ended up in the hospital while I was gone and I wanted and needed updates.

Things didn’t work out with the girl in Finland. It was to be expected. I had a lot of baggage. I refuse to blame it all on her or all on me. We were just two women that didn’t work out. 3 years later we are practically best friends and email each other at least once a week. Sometimes I wish I could fly back to Finland to hang out with her, just as best friends. Maybe one of these days I will.

I met Angie a month after the girl from Finland I broke up. I think it may have been love at first sight. We spent that first night together, watching 10 Things I Hate About You and she made me her famous grilled cheese and dip. I spent every weekend with her after that and 4 months later I sold most of my stuff and moved in with her only bringing artwork, books, movies, and clothing. My parents eventually came around. They even felt ashamed at how they acted, what they said. They adored Angie. Angie was there for me when my step-dad got sick, when he died. She was there for me when work was awful and I ended friendships and when people on Facebook upset me. If it wasn’t for my whole process of coming out I would have never found her.

I wrote this blog because, as lame as it sounds, things can and will get better. Find a great group of friends, gay or straight. Because if your family can’t accept you, your friends always will. The more we ‘normalize’ gay the more people will come around. A lot of straight people don’t understand gay pride. They don’t understand why we even have it. The history behind gay pride is in 1969 LGBT people rioted after a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, in NYC. It is considered the ‘watershed moment’ for LGBT rights of modern times. Gay people aren’t going anywhere. In reality so many are coming out because they feel more secure coming out when before it was scary. No matter what, it is scary. But it is definitely not the end of the world like I thought it would be. Once I came out I felt instant relief even though I had to do deal with so much bullshit after. I really thought I’d lose my family. And for about 6 months I thought I was losing my family. Things were not okay until I basically told my parents that either they accept me and keep accepting me or I was done. I wasn’t going to deal with flip flopping. Being okay with it, then flipping out about it all over again.

If any parents are reading this, some advice. Don’t accuse your children of being liars. Yes, they lied. But think about it. Why did they lie? Why were they terrified to tell you? How are you reacting as they tell you? Therein lies your answer. These are your children. I don’t care if you are worried about his or her salvation. Think of your child now, in this life and what they are going through.

If I have learned anything in 2014 it is that life is very fragile. You say good-bye to somebody and it could very well be the last time you see them. Make that good-bye count. And make wonderful memories before that last good-bye. Don’t worry about who they prefer to share their bed with.

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