Coming Out (Again and again and again)

I always knew I was gay.

At least a little bit. I grew up admiring others girls in school wishing I looked like them, and feeling warm and safe with my closest girl friends. I grew up looking up girls kissing on the internet and quickly deleting my browser when my parents called me for supper.

As crazy as it sounds, I didn’t know that it was an option to date women, love women, marry women. I was an ally, loudly rooting on the LGBTQ+ community when marriage equality finally became the law of the land. I loved others so fiercely, but honestly, I didn’t know anyone who was actually gay.

I come from a very small rural farm town, and my family was one of the few blue votes in a deep red community. I left for college and I prepared to grow as a person more than I ever imagined I would.

My freshman year, I joined a sorority. I developed connections with diverse, passionate, wonderful women that I will have for the rest of my life. One of my role models in the organization was gay and she led us with grace, and lived her truest life.

My sophomore year, I spent my time mostly seeing men, but it was also my sophomore year that I first set my Tinder to men and women. I would match with women, chat with them, but chicken out with anything more than texting.

One day, junior year, I was hanging out at a close friend’s house and we were both laying on her bed, swiping through our respective Tinder accounts and she noticed on my phone that a woman came up. She asked if I had my account set to men and women, and I said yes – I’m just seeing who is gay around us. She proceeded to change her settings so we could match each other and it would be so fun.

Shortly after, I deleted my account.

I spent my time fantasizing about being with women, to the point that when I was sober I couldn’t be with men anymore. It pushed me to drink more, to party harder, to put myself in unsafe situations, I was pretty numb for a while, binge drinking every weekend, leading guys on until I got bored and moved on to whatever or whoever came next.

I just wanted to have a good time and begun accepting that maybe I wasn’t right to be in a relationship with women, I wasn’t deserving of the love and the life I wanted.

Honestly, I was always smiles. The binge drinking really took off my sophomore year of college, and I often look back at old pictures and think “how much of this was the alcohol and faked smiles” as I often drank to drown out everything else.

My senior year was when everything really changed.

I made it a personal goal to finally push that barrier and do something with a woman – go on a date, kiss at a party, or anything else that happened. I just didn’t want to be the bisexual woman who hasn’t ever actually done anything with a woman anymore, which in retrospect, didn’t invalidate my sexuality at all.

I started by messaging a girl from my college that I knew of; we had mutual friends and a lot in common. We messaged for a while, hung out once, and there was nothing more. I think we both thought it was something that it wasn’t, and the more I’ve grown, the more I thank my lucky stars that we didn’t settle. But we kissed. She was my first kiss, and honestly I felt as if I pushed past a threshold that would allow me into this community that I desperately wanted to become a part of.

Shortly after things fizzled out with her, I met another girl in one of my classes. She and I also had mutual friends, and sat across from each other in class, and always worked with each other on assignments. I messaged her through our school’s online learning portal and gave her my number which was an incredibly bold thing to do, probably one of the boldest moves I had ever made. I saw her at one of the clubs we went out to regularly, and I thought we had hit it off.

We spent a few nights together where nothing really happened, and eventually she stopped messaging me back, she stopped going to class, she seemed to have cut me off entirely. I used to drink back then, a lot. She did too, we were used to having most of our exchanges through shots and stumbling home late at night. She was the first girl I did like, but things sizzled out once again.

I honestly started regressing back to feeling like maybe, things weren’t going to work out for me right now. I accepted it, and just focused on everything else.

I stopped trying after that. All of a sudden, it was my last semester of my undergraduate education and I was applying for graduate programs, interviewing for assistantships, and savoring the last few crazy weekends with my best friends.

I was set on flying halfway across the country to Arkansas to study Higher Education and Student Affairs and work at one of their programs, but I didn’t get a job. I decided to wait and work in Massachusetts for a year while I figured things out. I wasn’t going to move, I wasn’t trying for a relationship. I was just focusing on me.

Then I met Jenn. Jenn, a gorgeous, tall, sporty, soft butch woman, and a close friend of one of my close friends. Typical. Jenn started going out with my group of friends on the weekends.

She was in a relationship, I kept an eye on her but was careful not to show interest out of respect for their relationship. Things were going downhill between the two of them, and one night she asked us for advice about what to do. We were all in unison, do what makes you happy. Period. Later that week, she was single Jenn.

Jenn was different, so different than any of the men or women I had met before. She was calm, gentle, and so sweet. She had the patience like no other, and became a friend immediately and my girlfriend shortly after.

A bit after Jenn broke up with her ex-partner, she began getting closer and closer to me. We started with a single kiss, to spending the night together, to her practically moving into my dorm room.

We went on our first date to a Celtics game (TOTALLY not my thing, but I sure as hell pretended it was). We spent St. Patrick’s Day together with our friends in Boston, and we held hands all day and danced and kissed all night.

I wasn’t sure if she was the one, but I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else. I felt comfortable, beautiful, and so safe with her.

I knew I had to officially come out to my family, who assumed I was straight and would marry a man one day. They knew about my past boyfriends and wouldn’t assume otherwise.

My older sister and very best friend didn’t bat an eye, I could have sworn that she knew all along she was so nonchalant about it.

I texted my stepmom that I had a girlfriend, just to let them know. My stepmom was out of town at a retreat and responded with something along the lines of: yay!!! I just told all of my coworkers and we love you and are so proud of you, we are all crying”.

It was so cute and heartwarming. I let her tell my dad, because I knew he would be happy for me but not make a big deal about it, which was perfect. She proceeded to make at least 5 LGBTQ+ Facebook posts within the week.

Jenn was in my room with me while I packed to go home for Easter weekend, and my mom came to pick me up. She came up into my apartment to use the bathroom, and gave a quick “hi, nice to meet you, see you later!”. I went home with her and we didn’t talk about Jenn.

On Easter morning, I told my mom that my friend Jenn that she met in my dorm was my girlfriend, and she was casual, said it didn’t matter to her if I dated a boy or a girl as long as they respected me.

I posted on Facebook that I was in a relationship with Jenn, and my cup was just overflowing with love. Aside from one comment “I didn’t know you were like that” from a friend (and another friend immediately jumping in saying “yes she is and we love her!!!”, nobody really bat an eye.

My mom called me a few days later to let me know that my Nana knew I was dating a woman. Somebody saw it on Facebook and got to tell her before I could. Her first response was “Tell her to take it off Facebook – not because I have a problem with it but because future employers might discriminate against her”. I struggled with all of this – being outed, being a shame to her. Today, I realize that she just hated anything being on Facebook. She refused – and always begged my mom not to post pictures of her. She lived her life proudly, but hated pictures and others knowing her business unless it’s being told by her.

Nana now loves Jenn as much as she loves me. Grampy took a minute to realize that my beautiful butch girlfriend was in fact a woman, but a few months ago, Nana texted me and asked if Jenn wants to be hugged by Grampy or if she would prefer a handshake. He now hugs her as tightly as he hugs me.

Graduating was so both exciting and scary for me. I realized I had real abandonment issues, and Jenn didn’t want to leave me either.

So we did the typical thing gay women do, and she basically moved in. She was living with her parents for the summer and would be living in the dorm for her last year of college. So she stayed with me in my dorm room that I had while I worked at the university for the summer until I found a place and an adult job.

By the end of the summer, I had two good jobs and an apartment with roommates. Jenn moved into her dorm room for her senior year, but stayed at my room every night.

I gave her a key and she lived out of a suitcase for the year, going to her dorm here and there but 100% living with me.

A wonderful year passed by us, I learned so much about myself, how to love myself and someone else with my whole being. How to root for her success as she cheers on mine.

I learned what my values were, the standards that I deserved to be treated, and grew into my sexuality as I grew into my independent young adult life.

I became a part of Jenn’s very close knit family- they welcomed me with open arms. I love them like I love my own family. Jenn is my better half, my best friend, my whole world.

And now we have a puppy, which is basically the equivalent of a wedding ring. Ha ha ha!

A sign proudly displayed at one of my favorite restaurants in America, Yassin’s Falafel House in Knoxville, TN. I have only been here prior to coming out, but I remember feeling so safe enjoying my meal looking at this sign.

Aside from my relationship, since coming out and becoming a more authentic version of myself, I have developed some of the truest friendships that I will ever have. I learned who was really there for me and who wasn’t. I figured out who my healthy friendships were with and who I had to cut off for my own wellbeing.

I learned who I was, what some of my greatest strengths are and what I need to continue working on. I let myself grow, past my comfort zone, beyond anything I ever thought I was capable of.

I learned to love myself so much that I started going to therapy and work out some of my issues, manage my mental health, and to always keep moving forward.

Labels have always been hard for me. Before I came out, I felt as if I couldn’t be anything before I was really with a woman. How could I be sure when I’ve only dated men my whole life?

I was though. I knew.

Men made me uncomfortable, I could not be friends with men and after being with Jenn, I would never date another man. I said I was bisexual for a while “just in case”, but I am sure.

I’m a lesbian.

I love my Jenn, I love my community, I boldly, proudly, and fiercely love who I am. It has been quite the journey to get to where I am, but my journey is what made me who I am. The good, the bad, the lessons I’ve learned have brought me to the 24 year old life of my dreams.

As a “femme” straight passing woman, I will have to come out over and over again, but I’m glad to do it. I can finally push back my internalized fear of not being accepted, because all that matters is I accept myself.

This is my 3rd Pride out of the closet, confident in who I am and who I love. This Pride is focused on BIPOC, and that’s how it should be. Pride started as a riot led by Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman that threw the first brick at Stonewall in 1969. That’s the focus right now, that’s what this Pride (as should every pride) be about.

We will continue to lift black and brown queer voices to truly be proud. No Pride for some until there’s Pride for all. I needed to grow in confidence and figure out who I am.

My coming out story is finished but I won’t stop learning who I am and what power I have to make the world better for the LGBTQ+ community, but particularly the black, brown, and indigenous voices, the transgender voices, the most marginalized group of our community.

Now more than ever, it’s time to use my privilege, influence, and power to elevate those voices.

BLM. ACAB. No justice, no peace.