I tried my hardest not to like girls. For as long as I can remember, there's always been a whisper in my mind, an inkling in my soul, but I've always forced it down. If my sexuality was a piece of clothing, it would be the ugly blouse your aunt gave you on Christmas that you stuff in the back of the closet because you’re too lazy to donate it. In elementary school I used to imagine my future, like most kids do. I would think about finding my “true love”, getting married, having kids, etc. One day, I distinctly recall wondering what it would be like to have a wife instead of a husband. The thought didn't disgust me. In a weird, instinctual way, it felt almost…right. The minute I realized this, I immediately shrugged the idea away and told myself that it was a phase.
I've never been homophobic, and I never thought that same sex couples were wrong or immoral. I just thought that I couldn't be that way. My two older sisters, one transgender (who now identifies as a male) and the other bisexual, were both open about their relationships with women. While in normal situations this should have encouraged me to embrace myself more, that wasn't the case with me. My older siblings were not the greatest role models growing up. They drank, did drugs, had bad grades, and even got arrested. Seeing the disappointment etched on my mother's face everyday, I knew that I didn’t want to be anything like them. In the classic middle child way of thinking, I wanted to prove to my parents, my friends, and even myself that I was different. For me, this meant being the ¨good kid.¨ I began to suffocate any part of me that I shared with them, including my feelings about girls. Despite my best efforts, my sexuality still lurked underneath the surface of my skin, a shark waiting to strike. Like the first victim in a horror movie, I had no idea what was coming.
I wasn't the only one that had doubts about my sexuality. All throughout middle school and high school, multiple people questioned the idea that I was straight. I was never mad when they asked, but every time I reaffirmed that I was straight a chip to the fragile persona I was subconsciously clinging to fell. Why didn't they believe that I was straight? Was it because I didn’t wear makeup? Or because I was shy? On the other hand, when someone said they “saw in my face” that I was straight, I was a little taken aback. I should’ve felt glad that someone knew my “sexuality”, but I was instead a bit disappointed, and unsure why that was.
A lot of my friends and teachers are apart of the LGBTQ+ community. No one at my school has ever been publicly bullied for being gay (at least, not to my knowledge). My parents weren’t homophobic, despite my Dad making gay jokes from time and time. I had no logical reason to be afraid. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t allow myself to even dwell on the fact that I might not be straight.
By the time I reached senior year I had pretty much completely sold myself on the fact that I was straight. I accepted my denial as truth. My other straight friend and I would even make jokes about how we were the only straight ones of our friend group and were being overpowered. It was also in senior year that I began to go on dates with a boy.
While I’d had crushes before, this was the first one I’d ever acted on. I pursued him and wanted him to like me back. I was head over heels in infatuation. While it was awkward, as most teenage dates are, I was generally happy. To be fair, I think there was a part of myself that forced me to like him. After all of the people that challenged my sexuality, I wanted to prove to myself once and for all that I was attracted to boys, and push the notion that I may like girls out of my head. However, as we hung out more, I began to realize that our relationship wasn’t all that normal. The biggest indicator would have to be how I felt when we kissed.
I only shared two kisses with this boy. My first kiss with him was my first kiss with anyone. Going into it, I was no longer the little girl who believed in true love’s first kiss. I wasn’t expecting fireworks, or for a choir of angels to sing in the background. When our lips met in front of my car as we said goodbye, I felt nothing. His lips were warm and soft, but my heart didn’t race. My stomach wasn’t fluttering with butterflies. My first kiss was as clinical as shaking hands during a job interview. Despite my feelings, or lack there of, I wrote it off as a fluke. It was just a first kiss, right?
The following kiss is what really made the alarms go off in my head. During that kiss, no matter how hard I tried, I still felt nothing. No flare of excitement. No red blush staining my cheeks. I was certain I felt more emotion eating chocolate than I did kissing him.
Driving home the night of our soon to be final kiss, I was at a loss. Is this how kissing worked? What did this say about me? My friends assured me that it didn’t mean anything, but there was a part of me that was left feeling unsettled.
In that moment, that moment of confusion and vulnerability, the shark attacked. As gears began to turn in my mind, a question popped in my head: Did I not feel anything when I kissed him because I was gay? At first, I brushed it off. It wouldn’t be the first time I questioned myself. Still, the more and more I thought about it, the less certain I became.
The next day, the last day of the fall semester, my friends and I went on an adventure to celebrate the end of finals. Throughout the whole night, I was having an existential crisis. Thoughts of my sexuality were finally beginning to be brought to the light. The ugly blouse was now pounding at my closet door, screaming to be heard. The questioned that I had tried for so long to avoid raced through my head like a freight train.
The moment that changed my life forever was on a hill at the beach. Buried in the thoughts of my mind as we walked towards the car, I almost forgot to look up. When I did, however, I forgot how to breathe. One of my friends, who was openly gay, decided to light a cigarette. As she took a drag, her face illuminated by a Jesus lighter, blood flooded my face and my tongue caught in my mouth. In that moment, she was the most beautiful human being I had ever seen. My heart, which was stubbornly calm kissing a boy, was now beating erratically at the sight of a girl.
For the next two weeks I was in full blown panic mode. I perilously tried to smother my feelings of attraction, but every time I tried they clawed their way back. My head became a file folder of incomprehensible scribbles and crossed out words that was becoming too big to to contain. Finally, a week after New Year’s Eve, I did the only thing I knew how to do: I wrote. I wrote down every emotion, every thought that threatened to escape my lips, every indication I’d had for the past 18 years of my life on those pages. After I finished, my hand cramping with exertion and stained with black ink, the answer to the question I had been searching for stared back at me.
The words that I wrote then was the beginning of my journey of self-acceptance, and the words I’m writing now are my last. In the moments following those first words, when I uncovered the small part of myself I never knew I had, I wanted to hide it. I wasn’t ready for the world to see this new part of me; I didn’t want the world to realize that I had changed. As time passed, however, I began to become proud of who I was. I was never ashamed, exactly, but I didn’t make a point to voice what I was. Now, however, I want to. I want to scream it from the rooftops. I want to tattoo it on my forehead. I want to be able to shed who I once was and climb into a fresh, more comfortable me. And because writing is the only thing I know how to do, I’m going to finally give that ugly blouse a voice:
I like girls.