Dear Stranger

Dear Stranger
Name: Carly Campbell
Pronouns: She/Her

Dear Stranger,

Strangers stare at my girlfriend and I in public. Strangers and I catch eyes as she and I hold hands. A quick glance as I play with her hair, foolish to think their head turn will go unnoticed. Who is behind that stare, that glance?  In a different life that was me.  I’d watch as same sex couples laughed with each other. I’d take a mental inventory of each time I saw them support one another. I admired, as my flamboyant dance coaches loved their partner with the deepest of loves. I stared at the hand holding and glanced at the hair playing.  Were my eyes fixed on them in judgment? No. My looks were of longing, a humble jealousness.  I longed to walk as  “freely” as they each did. To have confidence to own my truth as they were. A truth I couldn’t even tell myself until I was 25 years old.

For a very long time I couldn’t admit the truth to myself, I am bisexual. I was unaccepting of this in myself and worried of judgment. I was worried what people would think and what questions they would ask. How could I expect them to understand when it took me so long to understand myself?  I couldn’t bear to be perceived as less than “perfect”. Realizing that “perfect” is an un-serving alter to worship was a life-changing realization for me. This became the start to my free rebellion.

I came out first to myself while driving home from work.  “I like a girl”. But how was this possible? Didn’t I also like boys?  Wasn’t it easier to like boys? This was a concept I had always known deep inside, one that I hinted at with my closest friends but something I had never, ever, verbalized.

When I said these words out loud I panicked. I panicked so much I enrolled myself in therapy a few weeks later. This realization and a few other circumstances made life suddenly seem unbearable. At my first therapy session we talked about my life; my job, my relationship, my family, and my history of anxiety dating back to preschool.  My therapist took notes as I rambled off every life detail I could think of. I waited until she said “ ok let’s plan for our next appointment” to hastily say “ I think I like a girl!”.  I couldn’t believe I said this, it just came out as if it couldn’t stay in any longer. My therapist looked slightly surprised, I think I shouted a little. She replied with a gentle “thank you for sharing with me. That seems like big news. Let’s revisit that next week.” My therapist was the second person I came out to.

In the months to come I formally came out to my family and closet friends. I came out on a couch, in a car, at the kitchen table, and even in a hot tub. Each time a little better than expected. I was and am in awe of the support my favorite people are giving me.  This is my first full pride month completely out, I came out to my dad last June. This month I have celebrated by holding a t-shirt fundraiser at work raising thousands for the Trevor Project. I have attended pride nights and block parties. I even hosted my very own backyard pride with friends.

This month it has been more apparent than ever how blessed I am to be surrounded by acceptance and love. How cool is it that my co-workers are wearing “Love is Love” t-shirts or that because of those shirts our patients will feel seen? How awesome is it that my friends, donned in rainbows and heart-shaped glasses, celebrated in my backyard because there was no pride parade downtown? These moments do not go unnoticed.

In juxtapose, I know that not everyone’s coming out story is as celebrated as mine. I am not naive enough to think that every stare is a desperately closeted little queer and not a prejudiced jerk.  I still find myself wondering, “Is this too gay?” or “what will this person think if I talk about my girlfriend?” I waited 25 years in the shadow of fear and rejection.  Not everyone lives in accepting places with supportive people. There are still policies and communities that allow blatant discrimination of us.  Our nation has an abundance of “coming out” to do, coming out of judgment and homophobic realities, but we are together. For those who can’t walk as “freely” as a stranger may perceive, I stand with you. I stand proudly with you.

Happy pride, sweet stranger.

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