Coming out as ‘gay’ almost always ended in losing one’s support system when I grew up. Many people were disowned by their families, shunned by their friends, and harassed by anyone and everyone.
As I look back at my life, I recognize that I’ve been ‘gay’ for as long as I can remember. I had the biggest crush on my first-grade teacher. I preferred to play ‘Army’ with the boys instead of ‘Barbie’ with the girls as a child. I imagined myself married to a girl, not a boy. When I was around 11 or 12, I told my friend that I would ask her to go steady if I’d been born a boy. She got up and walked away without a word. I was crushed. After that, she was polite to me but refused to be my friend.
That was when I buried my true self. And she didn’t come back out to play for more than ten years.
I tell you this abridged version of my life because I believe this incident is related to my lifelong battle with depression. Because I buried my authentic self, I suffered from anger issues and hurt many people along the way. Mostly, though, I hurt myself. It wasn’t until I worked through my own self-hatred at not being ‘normal’ that I was able to accept who I am. My self-esteem is much healthier than it was forty years ago. Having experienced the inner turmoil that goes with that self-loathing, I know how important it is to be true to oneself.
Growing up, I had few role models for the life I imagined living. I listened to my parents ridicule the burgeoning gay-rights movement and say unkind things about early protests for recognition and equality. I crawled further into my own personal closet. At the same time, I dreamed about the soul that I knew I would eventually meet.
I graduated high school and went on to do what was expected of most young women of my generation—I got married and made babies. Little did I know I was unsuited to both, though I did try my best. I played the game until I couldn’t stuff myself into that mold anymore. That was when I wanted it all to go away—permanently. I guess I inherited enough of my father’s optimism to make it through that crisis. After my divorce was final, I began to explore those most private desires that had been ignored all those years.
And that was when I discovered my Tribe. I finally found where I belonged.
I won’t say it was an easy journey because it wasn’t. I made many mistakes along the way, faced my baser instincts, and came out more decisive than ever. It took me a lifetime to get where I am because I had to forge my own path. And that is why Pride is important.
Many like me march for our kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids who know that, even at age 10, they like girls or boys of their own gender more than the opposite gender. First Reader and I are the role models for our lesbian, gay, and transgender kids. We are role models in that we accept people for who they are on the inside, not who society says they should be.
Somewhere out there, someone thinks the world would be better off without them because they are gay. I’m here to tell you that is not true. You have worth.
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