Old Closet, New Perspective

April 6, 2009
By , Shoreview, MN
Coming out was the hardest thing I have ever done. There are so many social stigmas attached to homosexuality, that at first, even admitting to myself that I was gay was a huge challenge. And then finally accepting that that wasn’t a bad thing… Well, that took years. I mean, come on. Walk down the hall of almost any high school or middle school, and I can guarantee you that you’ll hear something along the lines of “That’s so gay!” “This is gay!” or “What a fag!” at LEAST once, probably more. But, as you can tell, I have finally embraced the fact that I am gay. This is my story.

The start of it all can’t really be traced back to one specific time, because I’ve been gay all my life, you don’t just suddenly become gay; you’re born that way. But, when I first started to figure it out was back in sixth grade, during a basketball game. There was this one girl on the other team. I couldn’t stop watching her, and for a couple of weeks after that game, I couldn’t get her off my mind. I kept remembering how good she was, and how she was the first girl that whole season that I just couldn’t guard. At first I was able to lie to myself; say that I was just examining my memories of that so I could become a better basketball player; that my fascination was only respect for her ability, nothing more. But the truth? I just kind of liked to remember her. To this day, I still don’t even know who the heck she was. But after that, I started to wonder, “What is up with me?”
I didn’t even actually know the word lesbian yet. I didn’t even know what gay meant. I didn’t know that there were other gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gendered people in the world. I thought I was some sort of freak of nature. Which was pretty scary. So, I turned to good ol' Wikipedia and Google. When no one else was home, of course. I was very relieved once I figured it all out, but still pretty nervous.
I was starting to notice the girls around me. I would be walking down the hall, and all of a sudden, I would just think, “Dang! She looks good!” and then immediately blush, look down, and hurry away. I was paranoid that a girl would be able to read it on my face; would be able to tell what I was thinking... And then they would start a whole big issue right there in the hallway... And then EVERYONE would know... And then my friends would hate and fear me. So I kept my head down, kept to myself.
I had always been pretty quiet, so no one noticed when I started to retreat inside myself. I got quieter and quieter; I hid behind books. I had never really been one for hugs, or other displays of affection. But, now, I started to completely refuse any physical contact with my friends. They would touch me, and I would flinch. People would try to hug me, and I would shy away. After a while, my friends mostly stopped trying to hug me. I told people that I just liked my space; I didn't like to be touched. I used the fact that I'm extremely ticklish as an excuse. I never told anyone that the real reason I wouldn’t let them near me, was because I didn’t want to risk starting liking them as more than a friend. Or that I was afraid if I let people hug me, when they found out I was a lesbian they would feel like I had betrayed them.
All through middle school, I steadily retreated within. I made softball my everything. I focused completely on it and based every single decision on whether it would help or hinder my softball game. The softball field was the one place I felt completely free from all the confusing feelings of being gay. My teammates were my family, and I loved them.
Then the worst happened. At practices, or at games, I would be watching my teammates, and would have these quick, fleeting thoughts. Like, “Woah, she’s really graceful!” or “Dang, shes got style!”. Just silly, little things like that, but they completely killed what little was left of my self-confidence. I felt like I was breaking the trust of my teammates. My family. I hated that. So, I started to build walls inside my mind. I completely walled off my emotions. I hid from my feelings behind imaginary cement and steel barricades.
I needed a safe place from all that. It was the summer before my freshman year, and I was in a weight-training program through my high school. But, it was mostly just guys getting in shape for football season. Which was how I discovered football. It was perfect. At practices I could release pent-up frustration, and get in superb shape for softball. And, as an added bonus, I was completely surrounded by guys. Now, you might think that's a very strange thing for a lesbian say, but think about it. Why would the guys hate me if they found out I was a lesbian? Man, they’d probably love that! And, I definitely did not have to worry about being attracted to my teammates.
Except, when I was in the girls locker room getting ready for practice, I felt really awkward. I would usually go to football as early as I could, and stay after for a bit. All that was to avoid the crowded locker room. I hate locker rooms. With a passion. I always keep my head down, my eyes locked on my toes. I change as fast as I can, and then get the heck out of there. I do not want to accidentally catch a glimpse of someone changing.
The best part of football though, was that it started to slowly restore some of my confidence. Those football practices and games made me start to feel pretty good about myself again.
Without the small confidence boost that football gave me, I would never have been able to start talking to Kirsten. And without Kirsten… Well, I’d still be hiding in my closet, scared of myself. I think of her as my angel. She was the one showed me that it’s OK to not be straight. She was the first openly bisexual person I had ever met, and I was completely enthralled by her. I met her first period of the first day of freshman year. To me, that first day was the start of new beginnings, the start of good changes. So it seemed like fate when I met her right at the beginning.
I just felt so comfortable around her. We hung out quite a bit, and I loved every second of it. When I was with her, I didn’t feel like I was such a horrible person. The only bad part was that Kirsten hugs people. Everyone. All the time. And I knew that I liked her in a more than just a friendly way, and I just couldn't stand it if our friendship got messed up. So every time she hugged me, I just stiffened like a board of wood until she let go. I hated doing it so much, but by that time it was already a habit anyway. One day when she was hugging me, she said “Someday, I will get you to hug me back!” and that made me feel bad about refusing to hug her. So I hugged her back. I'm not sure who was more surprised at that moment, her, or me! After that, she wouldn’t let me not hug her. It gave me a warm feeling inside, knowing that she wanted me to hug her.
I’m not sure when I decided, but I knew I had to tell her I was gay. I already knew she was bi and she wasn't going to flip out on me, but I was still terrified. I can still remember the day I finally told her extremely clearly. It was December 13, 2007 early evening. We were at my house, in my room, sitting on my bed. I knew that she had already guessed. She knew that I knew that she knew. But, she wouldn’t let me not tell her. She told me that if you said it the first time, it got easier after that. We sat there for 40 minutes, me literally not being able to say it. I would start but then my voice would stop working. All that came out was, “I’m-” and them my voice would cut out, and I was basically just mouthing the word “gay”. Eventually, I was finally able to say it in a mumbling, slurred, barely understandable way. She immediately leaned over and hugged me. Knowing for sure that she accepted me was indescribably relieving. Afterward, she told me it was the cutest thing ever. I still refuse to admit to her that she was right, it did get easier once I had finally said it for the first time.
The next day after school, and before my basketball game, we were wandering around the school, and ended up in the library. After some hesitation on her part, well, a lot of hesitation, and some gentle teasing by me, she told me she liked me. As more than a friend. I was already pretty sure she did, but I couldn't tell if it was just very wishful thinking or not. After she told me, she hugged me, and I happily hugged her back immediately. I was so incredibly happy that I was grinning like a fool, but I didn't care one bit. Unfortunately, I had to go get ready for my game then. She stayed to watch, and that was quite literally the best game I have ever played. That whole day, my soul soared with the birds and I was in the best mood you could imagine.
Once I had come out to Kirsten, and we were dating, I knew I would have to tell my parents that I was gay. I was absolutely terrified. This was different than when I had told Kirsten. I did not know what their reaction would be at all. And, if they did not like that I'm gay, didn't approve? Well, I would have some really big issues to deal with. I was most scared that they would forbid me from hanging out with Kirsten. I was also nervous they wouldn't let me play softball anymore. Both of those would be unbearably horrible. And added on to how depressing having my parents disapprove of me would be! I just can't stand disappointing them.
It was towards the end of winter break when I finally got up the courage to tell them. For days beforehand, I was extremely nervous. I couldn't sit still for long, I was kind of twitchy, I wasn't sleeping much, and I didn't eat a lot either. Finally, one night I walked up to my mom and said that I needed to talk to her. I was silent for a minute, and then, in a rush, I said, “GuesswhatI'mgay.” She was quiet for a little bit, then just smiled and said that it was fine, that her and my dad loved me no matter what, and were very proud of me. Later that night in my room, I literally cried with relief.
During the time Kirsten and I were dating, people would figure out that I was gay, either because they were told or because they guessed. At that point, I didn't really care anymore. We did break up after a couple of months, but are still very close friends. I've pretty much come out to everyone, though it's still kind of nerve-wracking each time I tell a new person. I know that without Kirsten and all the truly amazing people I've met because of her, I would not be where I am today. I wouldn't be able to look myself in the eyes. I'd still be hiding in my personal closet.

Join the Discussion

This article has 14 comments. Post your own now!

Liz_N11 said...
Oct. 7, 2009 at 5:30 pm
Hey! You have no idea who I am, but just remember I am fighting for your rights!!!! I am winning; my opponents are quite asinine.
SarahBirk replied...
Oct. 8, 2009 at 9:09 pm
Thank you very much. I appreciate knowing that there's people out there fightin for what's right. It's a struggle, be we'll break through eventually, I know it.
Liz_N11 replied...
Oct. 10, 2009 at 12:50 pm
Have you read my own article??
SarahBirk replied...
Oct. 11, 2009 at 3:03 pm
Yes, I have read it. I like it. I wish there more people with the common sense that you seem to have
Liz_N11 replied...
Oct. 16, 2009 at 1:04 pm
Yes!! I rule! :) You should have a profile picture so I can see my comrade!!
SarahBirk replied...
Oct. 17, 2009 at 12:12 pm
Oh, wow... I completely forgot that I didn't have one yet!
SarahBirk replied...
Oct. 24, 2009 at 3:34 pm
So... It hasn't been letting me upload a picture... And I've tried multiple times with many different pictures... I feel kinda like a failure.
Liz_N11 replied...
Oct. 26, 2009 at 7:19 am
It took me months to upload a picture! I don't know why!
SarahBirk replied...
Oct. 26, 2009 at 7:19 pm
Well, at least I'm not alone! I'll keep trying. Hopefully it'll let me soon.
Tweety_Saniah said...
Sept. 9, 2009 at 4:36 pm
This was an awesome story and I enjoyed reading it. Congratulations and continue to be all that you can be!!
Just_Me. said...
Sept. 5, 2009 at 9:06 am
I'm so glad you wrote this. It is almost identical to mine, especially the sixth grade situation, except I absorbed myself in academics instead of sports. At my school, I feel like I'm the only lesbian there, even though it's probably not true. I'm afraid I might get kicked out of the house if I come out to my parents. You are truly brave and I commend you for sharing your story. Thank You. :)
SarahBirk replied...
Oct. 8, 2009 at 9:07 pm
You are exactly why I've decide to share my story. Well, not YOU specifically, since I don't actually know you. But people like you. Who are afraid to come out, or who know that based on circumstances, they cannot come out. Just remember, you aren't alone. We're everywhere, ya just gotta look sometimes.
SarahBirk said...
Sept. 1, 2009 at 11:27 pm
Thank you very much Rynne :) I'm not sure why it has "anonymous" as the author instead of my name, but.. Yeah, unimportant.

I'm truly sorry that your parents aren't understanding and accepting of you. It really is horrible when things like that happen. I wish you the best of luck
Iiae H. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 30, 2009 at 11:13 pm
This is a great story and I am so glad to hear your parents accepted you and that you have the courage to come out. :) AND the courage to write about this.

If only more parents were understanding... like mine *sigh*
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