I always knew I was different. I couldn’t describe it or put it into words then, but I knew from a young age that something about me was different than the other girls I befriended. I was always drawn to girls, always wanted to be their friend. I chalked it up to admiring girls for their beauty, intelligence, or athletic abilities. I wanted to be like them. It wasn’t until I met THAT friend.
My first love was my best friend. We spent years hiding our “friendship” because that’s all we were, “best friends” who were completely obsessed with each other and refused to acknowledge any other possibilities other than that. I never thought we could be more than that. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be.
My family wasn’t extremely religious, but I grew up going to church every Sunday and Sunday School. From what I understood, I was doing something wrong. There was something wrong with me. I had heard my parents express homophobic comments infrequently when I was young, but I guess with queerness becoming more prominent on screen, in movies and T.V. shows, I started hearing them pretty often. It was like a gut wrenching, sucker punch every time. I always thought, “If they only knew, would they still say these hateful things?” And again, it also made me think, “My feelings are wrong. I shouldn’t be feeling this way.” I was so determined to never disappoint them, that I was in denial myself, throughout high school and college.
It was my senior year in college before I ever said the words out loud. I pulled two of my closest friends out of their classes, individually, and practically sobbed as I told them, “I’m gay.” I was nervous and shaking and could barely get the words out. My best friend thought I was going to tell her I had cancer and my cousin thought I was going to tell her I was pregnant. That’s how emotional I was trying to speak those two simple words. But it was the biggest weight off my chest and they both told me they loved and supported me without question.
I went to my first Philly Pride that summer right after graduation. I remember feeling so free and happy and accepted that I made the decision. I was going to tell my parents. At 22 years old, I was ready to stop living my life to please them. I told my sister first. I sat her down and again, I was met with love and acceptance. Specifically, she said, “That’s awesome!” And she ended up being my person, she had my back when I told my parents, and when my parents reacted exactly how I feared they would, disappointment, anger, denial, my little sister stood up for me and said the words that I couldn’t say at the time. “Just tell her you still love her.” She said, as I was hysterically crying.
Thankfully, my parents have come around. They’ve finally come to accept me for who I am and who I love instead of the person they had planned for me to be. And I have recently, forgiven them. For their reactions, for their anger and horrible words, and for their lack of support and acceptance. Those two years after coming out were awful and filled with so much animosity and resentment, and I realized that I was still holding onto that years later, even though they had changed.
Now, I am focused on self-love and forgiving them was the biggest, most important step for me. I had to forgive them, so that I could find my own peace. The next step, was to forgive myself for denying my feelings and happiness for so long, and to let go of my own internal guilt and self-loathing for being different. I am still learning to love myself, accept myself, and become the adult that I needed when I was young. Someone that would tell me that it’s okay to feel different. Someone to guide me through confusing feelings. Someone to accept me for the person that I am. Someone to love me without conditions or judgment. Someone to assure me that I am enough, just being me. I want to be that someone because everyone deserves to know that they are enough, they are accepted, and they are loved.