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I was raised in the United Methodist Church. I was married and had a son. In 1984 at the age of 39, I went to college and then seminary. While in seminary in 1993 I fell in love with a woman. In 1994 I divorced my husband. J. and I had a long distant relationship firing my ministry. After I retired our relationship began to come to an end. I finally came out in 2015 at the ad of 70. On Feb. 8, 2016 I moved to St. Petersburg, FL. On June 16 I met a lesbian who happened to live in my building. I knew when I saw her she was the one. We talked and dated and on Aug. 17, 2016 we were married in Cuchara, Colorado. Europe’s family had garnered to celebrate Eunice’s 80th birthday. We even had a honeymoons cabin behind the house where family was staying. We spent a week there. We are very happy and very much in love. It is possible at the age of 71 and 80 to find the love of your life?!!!
Growing up I suspected I was different when I was very young. I can remember vividly my dad mad over something trivial and screaming in my face til it was covered with his saliva and threatened me with death and to be buried in the back yard at age 7 after he had busted my nose. Later he continually pushed me to do things I didn’t want to do. I was continually attacked by him on a regular basis and it seemed to happen more so after hearing a commotion downstairs and when I went to check he had my mother in the bathtub smacking her head off of it. They separated for a short time and then got back together. He never hit her again but it seemed all his rage was then passed to me. Setting on the floor watching Saturday mourning cartoons in my underwear he came home upset again. Not a word was said. I have two other siblings. Each only a year apart. He grabbed me by the hair and pulled me from the ground feet dangling while he shook me by the hair screaming that I needed to clean the house. These are just examples. Later in life since I couldn’t do arts, musicals etc. (Got beat over a grease musical in which I got a lead role in.) Because it wasn’t manly or interfered with football which I was forced to play all through my school years. I started experimenting with alcohol and other things. And then had a break down at 17. I had gotten in trouble while running around with two other outcasts who happened to be girls. We had taken golf carts from the local golf club and played bumper cars late at night. During this time I had an epiphany. There was nothing I could do to change the fact I was gay. I cried, prayed, my face went paralyzed temporarily on one side (bells Palsy) stress induced. I later confided in a friend. And it felt so good. I however made a mistake and told a girl who had a tendency to tell everything ever told to her. The next day the whole school knew. This school was your typical small town football school with no mixed culture. We had one black girl who was raised by white parents and she was harassed and called racist slurs. Next thing I know I’m plunged head first into a battle field. That first day of getting outed I fought. I beat the kid badly after class. He said before the altercation he was going to “catch me on a backroad and slit my throat”. Things like that continued for a good while and now life is slowing down. I’m just ready for comfort.
Pierrot Obi, 25, singer-songwriter, London.
I was born in Northern Italy, in Central Reggio Emilia; we moved to the very outskirts of Reggio when I was 8, to an in-the-middle-of-nowhere type of town called Campagnola Emilia; to this day, Campagnola is the place I call “hometown”.
I’m the first of three, born in a very strict and poor Nigerian family. I always knew I was different; to be quite frank, I thought I was pretty normal until I was told that, in fact, I was different. To me, it was normal to prefer having girlfriends, playing dress up. My only guy friends, where the ones I would kiss under the slide. As far as I can remember, I was always physically attracted to boys. My very first crush was on a cartoon character from an old Japanese anime. I didn’t have a name for what I was feeling inside, until, one day, a classmate of mine came up to me and asked me “is it true that you’re a faggot?”; I must have been 9. If I recall correctly, I went straight to the teacher and asked her “Miss, what does “faggot” mean? “. I can’t remember what was her answer.
I was relentlessly and mercilessly bullied for most of my school life; I was an easy target, the only black and flamboyant kid. From the minute I hopped on the morning bus to school, up until I got home in the afternoon, it was a daily Calvary. I used to get pushed around, thrown things at, chanted at; any action you associate with bullying, I probably went through it. One time, I’ll never forget, I was part of the school musical and at the end of the show I came out for my bows; this guy, one of my most avid bullies, came to my ear, as I was taking my bow, and whispered “you die, you faggot”. I didn’t react, I never said anything, I never defended myself. My only defense mechanism was to pretend I wasn’t there, my brain would shut off and I would convince myself that that was not happening to me.
By the time I got to high school, I was basically a recluse. I didn’t go out, I didn’t socialize much. I was mostly in the classroom, church and home. Home life was just as problematic. I was on the receiving end of a childhood filled with physical, verbal and psychological abuse from both my parents. My parents were very young and inexperienced when they had me. As far as I’m concerned, my childhood was loveless; what I can mainly remember were the daily beatings, the yelling, the verbal abuse, the violence. I ran away from home 3 times; the third time, the police got involved, took me back home and convinced me that, if I really wanted to leave, I had to wait until I turned 18. I believe my parents always knew I was gay, but in a Nigerian family homosexuality is a big No-No; so the fact that their first male child was gay, needless to say that they didn’t take it well. I didn’t tell them though, they simply found my collection of gay porn in the computer. “you can’t be gay, because gays go to hell” was my mum’s opinion on the matter; “I won’t allow you to be a faggot in my house” was my father’s. I was 14 by then but they didn’t know that I had been sexually active since I was 12.
I was 12, he was 28, but I told him I was 17. Looking back, I was looking to fill the void my whole life created in me. I did not care if it was coming from a complete stranger I had met at the swimming pool, all I wanted was to be loved, to be held.
As soon as I finished high school, I moved as far and as quickly as I could to London. I wanted my own space, I wanted to be on my own. I wanted to become a professional singer, I wanted to be happy. I knew that the only way I could be happy was to leave my hometown, and so I did. But that’s when things down-spiralled almost out of control. All the issues that I failed to deal with in my childhood, they all jumped at me at once and I was not ready for it. Depression and anxiety became my daily companions; I have attempted suicide 3 times since I moved to London; because of my lifelong need to be loved I got into toxic relationships that, by the time they ended, left me lonelier, sadder, more broken.
Luckily, I found friends along the way who loved me dearly. I found the strength to come out to them and they’ve accepted me with love, and I’m so thankful for that. They pushed me to seek help, which is what I did. Fast forward to the present time, I’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, which allowed me to start therapy, get on medications and to begin my recovery.
I’m just at the beginning of my recovery. I’ve come to terms with the fact that life is tough. Life is like a wind: sometimes it blows against you, other times it blows in your direction. It’s all about what you make of those moments, it’s all about never giving up on yourself. We are alive; we have the utmost privilege to be here now, to be alive. It is our gift back to The Creator to make the most out of it.
I’m learning to put myself first, I’m learning to love myself. I’m nowhere near fixed, I’m still working on bettering my relationships with my parents, who have shown the desire to redeem themselves and to make it right now. I’m learning the immense power of forgiveness, the peace it gives you. There’s still so many questions I have, I don’t know what will be of me tomorrow; but today: I am trying
I deserve peace. I deserve to be happy. I am ready to be happy.
In and after high school I dated girls, and at about age 20 I entered a strict religious community and took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. During those years I had doubts about my sexuality, but honored the vows. After leaving the community, a man whom I knew asked me if I was gay, and I responded that I was a 42-year-old virgin. He said if I wanted to do something about that to give him a call, and I did. Later I met and married an amazing woman, and after more than 20 years of marriage, we decided to separate, and later divorced. When the horrible massacre of 49 gay young people at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando happened, I finally admitted to myself that I was gay, and came out to my former spouse and the world.
Here’s the backstory: Ever since I was young I always pictured myself with boys, you could say I was as straight as a line. But one day in 6th Grade I was in line with my best friend. She was so sweet and nice and was just an all around good person. That’s when I realized something that even surprised me. I totally got butterflies when I was around her and I thought she was the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen. I stared at her as she talked to me. I’m pretty sure I had my mouth open. When we went to lunch one day we sat down at our usual spot together. “Happy Pride Month.” She randomly said (it was around June 3rd), mind you I discovered I was bi a few months back. Did I make it that obvious that I liked her or something. Stupidly I asked her if she was gay, bi, etc. She said she was straight but she didn’t know yet. I waited a second. She seemed nice enough to tell. “I’m bi” I told her after hesitation. She was so supportive but I just couldn’t come to tell her I liked her. I moved on with my life and even started to like a boy. I wondered if it was just a phase. Nope! That summer when I hung out with her the same butterflies hit my tummy. To this day I still like her but am totally scared to tell her. I also am totally scared to tell my parents (Hardcore Christians). I don’t even know what to tell my grandma because every time we see a gay couple she turns to me and sticks her tongue out. It felt nice to come out, but I’m not sure how to tell my parents, please help.
So I randomly decided to share my still not complete coming out story. When I was about 11 years old I was sitting next to a beautiful girl in french class. I live in Germany so if you don’t know that we have a few classes. I was in class 6e and that girl was in class 6b. At this point of time french and religion (or philosophy if you’re not catholic or evangelic) were the only combined classes at my school. Still some of us had friends in the other classes and I really wanted to become as close as possible with her. I started to get some kinds of romantic feelings for her and I was kind of scared. I didn’t really know if that was possible to feel something like this for a girl or if it is ok to feel like this. I did some research and thought “well, since I like boys too I must be bisexual”. I was bullied really hard at this school and didn’t really talk to anybody there so I didn’t even feel like telling anybody about that. I was in camps really often and there it was no secret that I was bisexual. Because of the bullying I changed school after the first semester of 7th grade. When I changed school and started to feel comfortable at my new school I didn’t keep my bisexuality a secret anymore. I never told anybody who I was in love with. In 9th grade I started to become really proud of my sexuality. I thought I was in love with my best friend back then (a boy). It didn’t really work out, but I met a boy because of him. One of his best friends who I was swimming with a few years before that. He changed a lot but in a good way. He had a crush on me back then and I didn’t but when we started talking again he told me one day that he had a crush on me “again”. I told him that I need to think because I wasn’t in love with him or anything. Everyday when we video-chatted he asked me if I already thought about all of this. I got tired and told him that we should start a relationship. It worked out but I still had no real feelings for him. He knew about my bisexuality and all he said about this was “well almost every girl is bisexual”. I didn’t really care about all of this. After a trip with his mom he told me really disgusted that he saw some lebians kissing on the street. We started arguing. I thought out that he was homophobic and since that time I just thought about how to break up with him. He started to make rude comments about my sexuality. After another fight I broke up with him because I couldn’t take it anymore. During our relationship I met my now best friend. When I told him about my boyfriend being homophobic he told me to break up with him. Many may think now “well he had a crush on you” but no. We’re still best friend and he has a girlfriend who knows about how close we are and about the fact that I’m a lesbian. A month after we broke up I was at the mall with my friend. I met my best friend with two girls there. I barely talked to him. Just said hi and went back to my table. Well to be honest I thought he was there if a girl and a boy. Later we were talking and I said something like “well the boy…” he told me “those were two girls, lesbians, a couple”. I didn’t say anything about this, but I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Two 15 year old girls and they were so open about there relationship. I know that’s not a big thing, but for the first time I thought something like “I want to be like them”. I found them on social media (no I’m not a stalker my best friend just posted a picture with one of them) A few weeks later I told him that I think that I may be a lesbian. The more I thought about this the more sure I became that I really was. I found out more about the community and was really proud to be part of this. I figured that I was never really in love with a boy. He basically said ” I knew it all the time”. I was really happy. I told 3 other friends about this and they accepted it so much. I told more and more people. Put it in my insta bio. Some people I only told that I like girls more than boys and that I’m not sure if I’m really a lesbian. One time when I was drunk I yelled that I was gay. All the people at the party heard that and accepted it. I was so happy. I was proud of a community that was just so amazing (I know that bisexual people are also part of the community but back then I didn’t really know anything about it). On a trip to China with my school my sexuality was no secret anymore and some of my friends asked me a ton of questions about it. They asked me if they could make jokes or comments about it and I said yes. There are still people that don’t know about it. My neighbor who used to be my closest friends doesn’t know YET. She would accept it but she would make comments about it which would be really mean at the beginning. I’m just not ready for it. My parents? Same thing for them. They would accept it but I don’t like the comments they make about gay people. The rest of my family is another story. I’m polish so they are really conservative and not really educated about it. Some of them are just homophobic. Like my grandma. I don’t hate her for this. She just doesn’t know about it. So most of the people know about it and all of them accept it. I never made any bad experience with that and I’ really glad about it.
As a young boy growing up in a very conservative, very baptist family, I was very aware of the stance my dad and brother had towards homosexuality, I knew from birth that God hated homosexuality, that it was an abomination, that it was punishable by death, these feelings were only supported by the gag-reflexes of my father and brother at any gay mention or individual they found in public. Yet among all the homophobic commotion brought up in my family, grew a young boy who shared their hatred, there was no way the oldest of both sons, the one destined to be an architect, with straight A’s, could be gay, right?
I got a job working in a health store at the age of 18, by that time, the feelings i was feeling only continued to grow. It was not much to think about when i was younger, but as my hormones grew in tension so did my attraction; an attraction i didn’t share with my younger brother, an attraction for other men. Confused, frustrated, and all alone, I found myself curled up in a ball in the corner of the health store where i worked, crying and praying that God would heal me, that i could be normal. I didn’t know what to do, the girlfriends I swooned never lasted more than a week with me, women just didn’t excite me. I sought outside help, a school mate I knew from high school. I didn’t know he was gay, but one day surfing through the dating sites i used, i came across his picture on the men seeking men category where I instantly recognized him. Communicating with him came to a surprise to both of us as he was also surprised that I am gay. I was desperate for help and I hoped that my classmate could help me figure out these feelings i wanted to get rid of so much. It was the last straw for me, I tried everything. I tried going to the gym, took testosterone boosting supplements, dated women, surrounded myself with very masculine guys, all in an attempt to drown out my feelings, to smother them out before It was too late. Unfortunately to my dismay, they never did, they persisted, and they got MUCH worse! I started having feelings for my best friend, my schoolmate argued with me every single day to come out to my parents. He was the child who had no issues coming out to his parents, in fact they told him they knew and they loved him; i on the other hand, knew without a reasonable doubt, that my dad would all but stone me to death in his living room.
Come one early morning, the week of picking classes for college, I’m sitting on the couch talking with my dad about my future and the path he helped lay out for me, when his phone rings. My dad owns his own business, so it was not uncommon for him to receive calls during all times of the day, not to mention I was used to conversations being interrupted by his business calls. This call however, was different, my dad remained silent, and his onlooking glare turned from interested, to a complete disgust and hatred I’ve never seen him make, in which he turned to me to ask. There is a guy on the phone, he says he is in front of our house waiting for you and is threatening to call the police on me, he said you are gay and he is waiting to take you away. The only guy I knew whom i put my trust in to help me, had looked up my fathers number and just outed me, my life had just ended that moment. The heart of an innocent young adult who never got into trouble, who did his best all his life, his life was now over, left bare to the wrath of his father. I did the only thing I knew, I submitted, I told my schoolmate that it was over, and to never call me again. My father among his slinging insults and slander to my fragile emotions, had taken a metaphorical hammer and bashed my heart into a thousand pieces. I was brought to therapy, held susceptible to my feelings by rules of engagement. I was not allowed to partake in certain activities, for fear of sprouting further corruption in my life. I was to be cured, by a strange man I’ve never met in my entire life, a man who beat into my head the errors of my way. He confused me more and what’s more, infused a fear in me that i still have issues with to this very day.
One year later I managed to convince my dad to stop my therapy, that my feelings were gone. However three months later my brother discovered a secret in the form of a boyfriend, but the ensuing altercation went differently. i managed to call my best friend and put my phone in my pocket, he listened to the whole commotion from the other line, the slander, the hate, the yelling and wall banging of my father. “You are not my son, you are a demon, possessed. My son is dead. You are disgusting, how can you like ass, get out, and give me your car keys! You can only take what you can hold, but i want you gone,” My dad was gone, my feelings were shattered, my mom was hysterical, she begged me to stay, begged me not to leave her alone with him and my brother. I needed out, It was over for me, my sanity was at its lowest. Meanwhile my best friend was waiting to pick me up in front of the house where he was currently in an altercation with my younger brother. I got in my friends car and we drove to his place so i can get back on my feet with time.
Since that experience, I’ve had no help adjusting to my feelings, I’ve been watching videos on YouTube to feel better about my choice to leave, they hardly helped. One day I opted to overdose and take my life but failed, I was caught mid act and forced to stop by my coworker. Since then, I have been working to get into my own place, i am still at odds with my dad and brother, a situation that i fear will never change as long as i live.
I came of age and came out of the closet during the “Decade of Decadence”. Yes, the 1980s: cocaine, credit cards, bathhouses, designer jeans, Reagan, the gay cancer, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Act Up, fear, persecution, death and more death followed by more death, some more fear and countless funerals that added up so quickly that most of the gay men I knew felt guilty to be alive. By 1988, we were so paralyzed by fear and guilt and numbed by cocaine and alcohol that it took us some years to realize that our communities, our country, our government, our President and in many cases even our families had abandoned us because they assumed we would be dead soon anyway. By the end of the decade more of the gay men I knew were counting Christmases than were not.
“Counting Christmases” was a phrase my friends and I would use to differentiate between the people we knew that had the gay cancer and those of us that were merely waiting to get it. You see, from what we observed, from the time in between when someone became sick from HIV to the time they died you could count two Christmases. It was very late in the decade when I got the news that I had two Christmases left. I was in the middle of graduating from college, trying to make decisions about what I wanted to do with my life and trying to first find and then explore every back alley gay club I heard about when i had to break the news to my family that i was “counting Christmases” too. I thought to myself, “I don’t have time for this!” Just locating the gay clubs was a full time job because none of them had signs in front of them. Randomly figuring out which unmarked, dusty, back alley, inner city door had a fabulous Gay Emerald City behind it was no easy task and now I only had two years left to find every one of them in the world.
So my coming out story never really truly happened. I am sure there was a huge amount of screaming clues and screaming queens around me that my parents had to suspect I was gay anyway, so I skipped talking with them at the time about my sexuality and merely announced during a family dinner one Friday night that I was counting Christmases. My Mother’s first reaction is going to seem cold to you, maybe even crass and self-centered but don’t dwell on it. Her response was fairly typical for near the end of the 1980s, when admit it out loud or not, most of us were more focused directly on ourselves and how and if we would survive until the cavalry (the 1990s) arrived than we were on anything else. So, she turned to my father and said rather indignantly and with more than a little disgust, “I told you this was going to happen.”
And that was it. That was the extent of the discussion mostly. We went back to acting like we were a family that was above having any kinds of problems and pretended that it wasn’t happening.
The 1990s arrived with many a year’s long haze and the family churned on. The people I knew were continuing to die and i was just waiting to, but before I knew it, 1997 rolled around and something in my body that no one could explain had kept me alive until breakthrough medicines were discovered and dispensed that offered those of us with HIV/AIDS a new beginning and many more Christmases.
Those of us who navigated this 15 years in history the best we knew how at the time were extremely lucky, but there was a cost to us, a loss, what feels like a great amount of wasted time. Every generation will indeed have its plight, but i encourage the young people of today to find a way to embrace the fact that they are living in the best time in history to be exactly who they are openly and as early as they become comfortable in their skin. I encourage you to take full advantage of this, stand up, be exactly who you are and who you want to be, come out to the world because even though the current world is not without its problems, I promise you that there will be what feels like a huge coming out party awaiting you and that you will feel exponentially more alive when you live your authentic life out of the darkness and in the light where the world can see exactly how beautiful you are.
So…no matter how much you’ve tried to deny it, you’ve come to the realization that you ARE gay. You’ve really known it for as long as you could remember, but hoped that it would magically go away or fix itself. This is how I felt when I was still in the closet. The thing is, is that you and I are NOT broken. You are merely at a crossroads in life that millions of people have, are, and will struggle with. I did.
I remember when I was in my grade school years lying in bed at night not able to sleep, clenching the sheets over my head asking myself, “Why me? Why did this have to happen to ME?!” I thought that if my terrible secret got out it would hurt all of the important people in my life. So I played a part. I played a part of someone I was supposed to be. Someone that was NOT me. There is nothing more damaging to your soul than “living” life pretending to be someone else. It puts you in a dark place that seems to get bigger, darker, and more empty, every lonely day. You may think you’re all alone, and in all of your despair you don’t realize…there are so many (just like (but not exactly like) you) that are sharing your pain. It’s that damned closet. Well…step outside. It gets better. Life is so much brighter outside of the closet.
My sisters were the ones that helped me over my threshold. I was close to them and they knew, but I didn’t know they knew. I thought I had everyone fooled, because the man I lived with was my “room mate.” They had me over for dinner one night and after dessert just flat out asked me. I was so shocked and blindsided that I couldn’t do anything but confess the truth. And as I heard myself for the first time admitting to someone, “I am gay,” I overwhelmingly felt scared, yet liberated. I knew that from that point on life was going to change in a major way. I knew that I had to tell my parents, and when the time was right, I did. My mom cried and tried to deny it for a week, but eventually (probably from some coaching from my sisters) came to a realization. She told me, “You are my son, and I will always love you no matter what. I just want you to be happy.” With my dad I thought it would go one of two ways. Either he’d blow his top and exile me from his life or he’d be like, “Okay.” In hindsight, I was silly to think he’d react any differently than the latter, because he told me, “You are my son, and I will always love you no matter what. I just want you to be happy.” I truly am one of the lucky ones to have had such a supportive and unconditionally loving family to help me through one of the most difficult times in my life.
That’s how simple everyone’s coming out story should be. Unfortunately…it’s not. There’s a full gamut of conditions that will determine the outcome of your coming out. What IS consistent in everyone’s coming out story is that you must rise above the fear and doubt. When the time is right you will know. And you simply won’t know what the reactions of the people in your life are until you tell them. Luckily there are plenty of resources that will help you out of the dark, over the threshold, and into the light – especially now. I suggest checking out the It Gets Better Project online. Watch some of the videos. They will inspire you, make you smile, and probably make you cry.
In my experiences I’ve lost some people and found new people. The important ones – the ones that really mattered – stuck around. I’ve discovered a whole new gay world that I never knew existed. There have been ups and downs just like anyone’s roller coaster through life. Some people will love you and some people will hate you. Some really won’t give a damn. There will be romance and heartache; new life and lives ended. Life will be life – gay, straight, whatever. But at least you can go through yours and own it as the person that you truly are. Don’t wake up one day in your fifties and realize that you’ve lived someone else’s life, because you can’t get those years back. Come out while you still have your life ahead of you.
People choose how honest to be with the world, and that is their right. I don’t shove it down anyone’s throats or introduce myself to people like, “Hi. I’m Jimmy. I’m gay.” But I sure as hell don’t hide it either. I am so proud to be a gay man. And I wouldn’t have come to this point if I hadn’t unfurled from the fetal position, stood up, and walked out of that closet. You won’t know how people will react to your coming out until you make that jump over your closet’s threshold, but know that there is a wide support net out here waiting to catch you. It’s our gay community. That’s why we call ourselves “family.”
I thought I would marry a prince, always waiting for my white knight to show up and whisk me away. But when my boyfriends kissed me, it didn’t feel like that moment in the movies; the ones with the fireworks and romantic music when the guy finally kisses the girl at the end. Instead it felt off, like when you lie to a friend about their terrible hair cut or when a stranger is standing too close in your personal space. I thought that was because I hadn’t found the right one yet.
My friend Jon called me his “Fag Hag” one day sitting on his bed in his room. “Yeah, that’s right”, I said claiming that label as soon as it passed from his lips. Jon was 17 but had been out for all his life and he was my best friend ever since we were in Journalism class together. I told Jon we should go to the teen LGBT support group meetings, to help him to find a boyfriend. I had a car, after all, and he didn’t. I told myself I was doing him a favor and I liked gay people anyway.
At the first meeting, all the other teens were going around the table proudly announcing, “I’m gay”, “I’m a lesbian” etc and when they got to me, all I said was “I’m Jon’s fag hag!”. It felt welcoming to be there, even though I wasn’t truly one of them. Everyone was going around the table describing their coming out stories and how they had told their friends or family they were gay and this one guy said, “I feel ashamed”. Ashamed…. That word just felt too real. I turned it around in my head for weeks. Did I feel ashamed about myself? Did I like girls? I’d look at myself in the mirror, turned my head to the side like a puppy who doesn’t understand, and wonder who was looking back at me.
I realized there was only one way to find out; I had to kiss a girl and then I’d know for sure. Yes, this would settle everything. Then, I’d be able to go back to my normal life. Hmmm… But there was no Tinder back then. How would I find a girl to kiss me? I just kept going to the support group meetings with Jon every week. After one of the meetings we all decided to go to the gay coffee shop.
In walked a familiar face and sat down at the end of our table. She watched me, she watched the group. She had short blonde hair, masculine style clothes and I had no Idea how I knew her. Finally, she just called my name and I turn to get a good look at her. I squint my eyes as if it would help me remember and finally she said, ‘French class!” Like, duh, how could I forget? I smiled and a flood of imagines ran through my mind.
Three years before, I sat behind her in rows of desks. Neither of us had an ear for languages and she made jokes to make me feel better about my bad test scores. She joked, “Grey Poupon is the only French I can pronounce”. I remember staring at her long blonde hair from behind as it hung over the back of her chair during class. And I hadn’t seen her again since that semester.
That night at the coffee shop, we talked for hours. She walked me to my car and she was staring at the ground when she asked me out on a date. The instant I agreed, I wanted to cancel. Was this going to make me gay? Why was I even agreeing to this? The questions seared in my brain unanswered. I had never felt so scared and nervous. I couldn’t think about anything else in the days leading up to my first date with a girl. I desperately wanted to see her again but was ashamed that it made me a sick pervert to have had those feelings for another girl. I only told Jon who, of course, wanted to dress me up pretty for my date. So, we spent that day bleaching our hair and trying on different dresses together.
We decided to meet at our old Elementary school. She pulled up in her Ford Ranger and I climbed out of my 1982 Cougar. We walked around the campus, sitting on the swings and talking about Elementary school. She was a year ahead me but we were both on the volleyball team together and had classrooms on the same floor. We talked about all the times we should have met but didn’t and then she grabbed my hand. Sheer panic set into my body like someone dropped an ice cube down my spine. This felt kind of normal and it was terrifying. Her hands were soft and she interlaced her fingers with mine like they were designed to be together.
We went to dinner, where she explained that she had never been on a date before, never kissed anyone either and she was nervous. I thought it was kind of cute to be her first date ever. I admitted that I was maybe “a little bisexual” and she teased me for being so shy.
After dinner, she took me back to my car. As I got out, my heart was beating so fast I thought it was going to burst right out of my chest and run down the street naked. Oh, My God, THE KISS. The Kiss that would determine if I was truly gay or not was about to happen. I leaned against my car and told her I had a good time. She smiled and started to lean toward me. It suddenly felt like my whole life was leading up to this moment. Like fate was trying to bring us together our whole lives and finally, it was happening. It was like time stopped and she was coming closer and closer and then…. She hit my nose with her nose in a kind of head bump. Then the top of her lip hit my lip, I was off balance and had to take a step back to prevent falling. A few more nose bumps later, she leaned back with a silly grin on her face.
I smiled at her and told her I’d see her later and drove off in that ’82 cougar like I was ‘born to run’.
In the car, I kept thinking about that kiss. It was the worst, the absolute worst and best kiss of my life up till then. I said out loud to myself “well, I’m a lesbian”. The words feel real on my tongue and to my ears. My whole body just burned with relief and fear. I feared, I would never get married or have children or have a full filling relationship since I had no frame of reference of anyone who had done it. I knew no older gay people and technically, sodomy was still illegal.
My family is Italian and like the Mafia, they always seem to know more than they should. It was only a few months after Ellen came out on TV and ‘Coming out’ was all over the media and on the talk shows. I was living with my grandparents for the summer and they kept dropping hints they knew what was up, Grandma would comment, “Oh that Ellen, she did a brave thing” looking at me knowingly. The girl, Jennifer, was picking me up from the house lately, I wasn’t dating anyone else and I was watching marathon Xena Warrior Princess on TV. Thinking back, clearly, I was hiding it like a pro.
One night, my mom had called to grill me on what I was up to. She kept asking leading questions, “So are you dating anyone new?”, “Who are you hanging out with these days?”. I wanted to just get it over with and stop stressing about everyone’s reaction. The words felt like they were burning a hole in my throat and I was going to choke on them. So, I took a deep breath and let out three hardest, heaviest words I had to say “I am gay”. I tossed out the words like I was rolling the dice for a board game and I was just hoping to pass GO. My mom responded, “But you like to wear dresses”. I said, “I can still wear them.” She said, “But you want to have kids”. I said, “I still do”. “Well, then, I’m going to be the coolest mom about this!” As had been her style my whole life to be supportive, this didn’t change that. But, it took her a while to truly catch up to me. She had her own journey to acceptance that had entirely nothing to do with me.
18 years later and I am married, I am a mother and yes, I still wear dresses.