Be nice to yourself. You are the only you there is. You probably won’t fit every mold. And that’s okay. Being your own person is the best thing you can be.
I had no real challenges or hardships growing up. I wasn’t bullied in school (no one was really my friend either, but I’m counting my blessings), my family never came into any super financial struggles, my parents got along splendidly and hardly ever fought. The hardest thing I really had to go through in my life was doing my homework when I didn’t feel like doing it. In fact, it was so easy that I almost don’t feel like I deserve to be a part of this project. But after some deep thought, I decided that I should write my story anyway.
When I was younger, I didn’t really realize that a girl could have a crush on a girl, that’s just not how that was. I would have crushes on boys, but then I mostly thought it was just that I really wanted to be that girl’s friend, and that was all it was. I never thought of it was anything more, because in my head it really never had the option of being more.
I lived in Indiana for a lot of my childhood, and I was raised as a part of the LDS church and there they talk all about a man and a woman. Strictly heterosexual. It’s all about how when the man finds his wife, they’ll get married in the temple and be together forever. No one ever mentioned anything about gay people, so I never really heard any of the “gay people are going to hell” thing until I got older. I thought about how exciting it would be to get married in the temple, but I also always wondered in the back of my mind about what it would be like to get married to a girl. In hindsight, I don’t know how I ever thought that thinking about that so much could possibly be normal.
We moved to Utah after I turned eight, and that’s when I started hearing more about these so called “gay people,” because that’s where it started becoming a problem. I would hear kids at school calling people “gay” as if it were a bad thing, and I just didn’t understand how that could possibly be an insult. It was just describing who a person loved, that’s all. But of course, being around such negative use of a word can really change the way you perceive it’s meaning, so I started to associate that word with bad things, and I pushed all the gay thoughts out of my head and tried to focus on how I felt about boys, because that’s what was “normal”. I tried to avoid that part of myself for a very long time, and it worked. I had pushed it so far down that I hadn’t thought about it in years.
My family never really talked about being gay and whether or not it was an issue—at least not that I can remember—until I was a little older, so school was the only place I heard about it for a large part of my childhood. But, it did start becoming more relevant, like when I joined color guard and started meeting a whole bunch of gay people, I started asking more questions and we started having more open conversations about it and about the consequences that would happen if I or one of my siblings came out as gay.
The thing is, I learned there wouldn’t really be any consequences.
My parents love me, and they just want me to be happy. This confused me immensely, because all the coming out stories I’d read or the videos I’d seen of people coming out on YouTube always had some explanation of how they’d had to cut people out of their lives because of it, or that there was some tremendous heartbreak after they admitted to other people that they were gay. So, where did any of that fit in with me?
I knew my friends would be fine with it, because half of my friends had already come out as gay, and the other half were already friends with my gay friends, so that wouldn’t be an issue. My parents told me they would be fine with it, so that wasn’t an issue either. But there was always an issue when people came out. Someone’s heart was always broken. It looked like it wasn’t going to be anyone else, so the only heart left to break was my own.
When I really started to think about the possibility of being gay again, it absolutely mortified me. I had nothing wrong with my friends being gay, or the idea of other people being gay in general, but there was something terrifying about the fact that it was also me. I ended up representing a letter in the LGBTQ+ acronym. I tried to rationalize it to myself that I would only be half gay and that would make it only half as bad, considering that I am bisexual. But oh honey, that’s not how it works.
I was having this identity crisis, not only because I was beating myself up constantly, but because at that time I was also the token straight friend. If that doesn’t give you an idea as to how gay my friend group is, I don’t know what will. Which also makes the fact that I was having a crisis sound even more ridiculous. I was fully aware that it was completely ridiculous because I knew in the forefront of my mind that I didn’t need to be doing what I was doing, yet I was doing it because some small part of me felt like I had to.
I was trying so hard to deny who I was, and there was no real reason for it. I would face no problems when I came out, which I think just made it worse for me. Like I said, there was always conflict, and since there wasn’t any in my case, I had to make some. Even if it was entirely internal. I never talked to anyone about it, and it just kept getting worse. It really wasn’t hard to beat myself up, I really didn’t like myself anyway. I just kept telling myself that I was unlovable, because at that point I really believed I was. I was taller than almost everyone my age because I’m six feet tall, and I’m not exactly thin, so there was an abundance of things to hate about myself. No one had ever really liked me as more than a friend in the past, so it was hard to tell myself that those things didn’t mean I was unlovable. It had gotten so bad that I started self-harming and giving myself little scars to try to feel something really real again. I drew little symbols on my body to remind myself that things would be okay.
I had almost come to the point of telling someone about my struggle or just straight-up coming out, but then we learned my brother had cancer. Of course, that wasn’t really good for anyone’s mental health, so I continued to struggle by myself as we tried to help my brother. I didn’t want to add any more burden to my family, though I was aware that I wasn’t seen as a burden.
Eventually, after all the stuff with my brother had blown over for the moment, I felt sick and tired of being sad and conflicted all the time, so I came out to one of my most trusted friends. Not very well, considering I hadn’t talked to her all day then suddenly out of the blue she gets a text from me at midnight, telling her that I think I might be gay. It was nerve wracking to send that text. I had been struggling, and I had been hating myself for about two years at that point. She was, of course, very supportive, and she gave me the courage to tell everyone else, which I did slowly. Of course, everyone was very nice and encouraging, and when I did finally tell my parents, they basically said “Okay, good to know,” and moved on. It really wasn’t a big deal after all.
I felt such a relief after I came out, and I realized that all the stress and self-destruction that happened in private really was all for nothing. Things do get better, and one constant reminder is a little heart scar on the back of my hand that’s slowly starting fading, and I think there’s something deeply symbolic about that.
So, be nice to yourself. You are the only you there is. You probably won’t fit every mold, and that’s okay. Being your own person is the best thing you can be.