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Not a Dyke
I remember the first time I heard someone call someone else that word. It was an Easter family get-together back when I was in 4th grade. Everyone was outside having a picnic. I was walking to the kitchen to grab a fork, but hesitated at the door when I heard voices inside.
“Dad, please. I want to come out to the family today. I wanted to tell you first so you wouldn’t get a shock, but…” The sound of a hard slap echoed from the room. With the curiosity of a child, I peeked in through the door, which was ajar. My cousin, Sarah, was holding her cheek and it was evident that she had been crying. Uncle Dan had a look of pure disgust on his face.
“What did I do wrong? I raised you in a good Christian home, even after your mother left, and now you do this? Don’t you dare embarrass me in front of my family, d*k*. You’re no daughter of mine.”
I didn’t know what it meant, but somehow I knew I had just witnessed something terrible and that that word must mean something equally awful. Later, I asked my neighbor when she was babysitting me. I don’t remember her name or her face, but I can perfectly recall her voice, tone and disgusted expression that exactly matched Uncle Dan’s. I can still repeat every word she said to me verbatim, even though it was so many years ago: “It’s like a ‘f*g’, which means a gay guy, but for a chick. So a girl who wants to do things like kiss other girls on the lips. Gross, right?” I vaguely remember feeling like I wanted to cry, even though I wasn’t sure why at the time. I had never had a crush on a boy like all of my friends, but I figured I would eventually. I had always admired girls, but didn’t think anything of it until that moment. I hadn’t even known it was possible for a girl to like another girl that way and it was like a new world was opened and a side of me I didn’t know existed, exposed.
From that point on, I desperately threw myself into the things girls were “supposed” to like and do. When it came to be high school, I wore the right clothes and styled my hair right and wore my makeup perfectly even though I thought it made me look like a clown. I found myself getting jealous of boys and hated myself for it. My first and last boyfriend was freshman year. Kissing him felt wrong and whenever his body pressed up against mine, I couldn’t help but think it was somehow too hard and firm. I lost my virginity to him a few months after we started going out. It hurt and I threw up afterwards. I broke up with him on the pretense of “being too busy for a boyfriend”.
Despite the fact that most people would label me the “popular” type, crowds of people make me feel uncomfortable and anxious. I have this irrational fear that someone might touch me and somehow know my secret that I squeeze close to me, afraid it will escape.
Then there was last week. It was in the cafeteria and a table was set up, a few students handing out muffins and pamphlets.
“What’s all this for?” I asked a girl who was standing in front of the table. She had short, choppy hair and a lip piercing. I tried not to think that the piercing made her look sexy.
“GSA. Would you be interested in coming to a meeting?” she smiled brilliantly, exposing a line of perfectly straight, white teeth.
“Uh… what is it?”
“It’s a student club,” she waves her hands enthusiastically. “It stands for ‘Gay Straight Alliance’ and it’s for anyone who would like to increase the empathy toward homo- and bisexuals. We meet after school in 102.”
Not remembering that this girl probably asked this question and gave this reply to the entirety of the student body, I thought that she had somehow seen right through me. Panicked, I blurted out, “Eww. They make a club for you guys? How much do you think someone like me would wanna spend my free time with a group of d*k*s and f*gs?”
She flinched a bit and her friendly gaze shuttered, lips pursing into a thin line. “About as much as we would like to spend our time with ignorant bigots like you. It’s people like you that created a need for a club like this, you know. Our job is to educate and remind others that despite our sexuality, we’re people just as much as you are and some of us will go on to do greater things than any of you. And for your information, the correct terminology is “lesbian”, not “d*k*”. Please step away from our table if you don’t want to be around us so much.”
Shocked, I turned to do just that, but not before I noticed the glances of the other people at the table: shamed, disgusted, sad and furious.
Today, I blew off all my friends, telling them I wasn’t feeling well. I knock on the door to room 102. I’m early. Maybe no one’s here yet. I should just leave. Just as I’m ready to bolt, the door suddenly opens and the girl that thoroughly chewed me out earlier is standing in front of me. Her eyes widen and she smiles at me, more than a little warily.
“Changed your mind about us ‘d*k*s and f*gs’?” she asks sardonically.
I cringe when I hear my own words thrown back in my face like that. I look down at the floor and nod. She looks like she’s contemplating slamming the door in my face but, instead, opens it wide. Chairs are arranged in a circle and I sit down. I’m the first one here besides her.
“Despite our name, not many straight people join,” she says suddenly, almost questioningly.
“I’m not really… I think I’m… I mean, I’ve always known…” I can’t get the words out.
She beams suddenly and holds out her hand. “Hi, I’m Lisa. I'm bisexual. It’s okay if you can’t say it yet. It takes time and it’s hard. It’s nice to meet you. You’re Jess Silvers, right?”
I nod and take her hand. It’s warm and I swallow hard. Her warm smile suddenly sends a burst of courage, driving my next words: “Yeah, I’m Jess. And I’m not a “d*k*”… I’m lesbian.”