For some Americans June 26th, 2015 was just another day. For many others, it was a day that changed everything. Lives. Families… Even futures.
I awoke that morning to a stream of text messages from my sisters congratulating me on finally becoming a first class citizen of the United States. A text that I wasn’t sure I would see in my lifetime, much less during a period when men like Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump are potential presidential candidates.
In March 1989, I was born in Corinth, Mississippi into a working class family. My mother was a nursing student, and my father worked construction in Alabama. The two of them divorced almost immediately after I entered the world, but they loved us dearly. I was a very happy child.
As a young woman growing up in the south, I was expected to fill a certain mold that had been predetermined for me by an underdeveloped society. Women were expected to help in the kitchen, rear the children, take care of the men, and support the family inside of the home.
I can recall girls talking about their dreams of marrying handsome doctors and raising their (at least three) perfect children as early as middle school. It wasn’t until I began college that I met women with dreams of actually becoming doctors, and saving (at least 300) lives of starving children in third world countries.
Mothers have my upmost respect. I think that offering love, care and a promising future to a child is a wonderful thing, and also an incredibly difficult job. However, I was always different from the other girls. I wanted to be the doctor, and raise the kids. I wanted to save the children, and be a wife.
Even at nine years old, I knew that I was different . My stepfather lashed out at me for echoing my older stepbrother when he told him to “chase down” a car full of young women. It was wrong for me to say things like that. Sinful, even. That was the first time I ever heard the taboo word “lesbian.”
At age eleven, I was getting into fights with boys at school. My first bloody nose came from the fist of a fourth grader named Eric who I stood up to for bullying my best friend. I chased him fearlessly through the playground, not caring that there was blood dripping onto my nice new blouse. I couldn’t understand at the time why I was told to act like a lady, when he was never told to be a man. “Boys will be boys.” they said.
By fifteen, I realized that I was in fact the shameful dyke that my stepfather had predicted. The next three years of my life were spent torn between hiding everything I was, and trying to convince those who knew about my sexuality not to condemn me because of it.
As an eighteen year old woman, I was paddled by the principal of my high school for wearing men’s jeans, harassed in the women’s locker room because of my sexuality, and had my life threatened by one very angry father who was convinced I was a direct relative if not the actual spawn of Satan for “converting” his already very lesbian daughter.
I never even applied to colleges in Tennessee. If I were ever going to be happy… be myself… I knew that I had to leave my home in the south.
I spent eighteen from twenty-two just trying to figure out how to be both a woman and a lesbian. I know that the two seem like they should go hand in hand pretty easily, but they don’t always.
Women stereotypes claimed that we should wear frilly dresses, heels, and fake eyelashes. We were supposed to do the dishes without chipping our perfectly manicured nails, and not come off too strongly or be too opinionated for fear of being labeled “bossy” or “a bitch.”
However, the stereotypes forced upon lesbians were much different. They all had short hair and wore plaid or cargo shorts. Sometimes both. Lesbians only dated women because they hadn’t found the right guy yet. And my absolute favorite, in every lesbian relationship there had to be a “man,” AKA: a noticeably dominant and masculine female.
Let it be noted that some women and lesbians fall under those stereotypes, and that’s awesome if that is how they feel most comfortable. At different times of my life I have fallen into them too. However, that’s because I was convinced that I had to fit inside of a tiny box for people to accept and understand me.
I am twenty-six now. I alternate between short and long hair depending on the season and my mood. I am a feminine woman with slightly boyish mannerisms. In large I contribute that to my athletic and outdoorsy nature, and not necessarily to the fact that I am attracted to women. I cry over literally everything. I like sports, beer and boobs. Pink is my favorite color, and I have dated females for over ten years now, but never once has there been a man in my relationship. (That stereotype is just bullshit. My apologies to the people who need everything to be black and white for their small minds to understand.)
Which brings me back to why June 26th changed my life. Up until that day, marriage equality had only been granted in 37 states. Tennessee, unfortunately, was not one of them.
The truth is, I can’t wait to get married and walk down the aisle wearing a beautiful dress next to a beautiful woman. I’ve often contemplated gorgeous rooftop weddings overlooking the LA skyline, and serene beachfront weddings with sunsets that would bring me to tears. I’ve thought of every possible scenario, but the one that still makes my heart skip a beat is a small outdoor wedding at my parent’s farm surrounded by close family and friends.
In my mind I can see our hand built barn in the background, birds chirping in the distance, and strands of honeysuckles draped across the backs of every guests chair. There are lanterns hanging under a mesh canopy covered with flowers, and lighting bugs flickering in the tree line.
My sisters are crying in the front row, my little brothers are giggling in the back tugging at their neckties, and everyone is there to celebrate our love… because no one believes that we shouldn’t be together.
As the ceremony winds down and we say our vows, I see a woman standing across from me who is happy to be there. She isn’t ashamed of what we are doing. She’s not afraid to spend the rest of her life with me, because society has made it so difficult.
Instead, her only shortcoming is her lack of patience. She is so excited to love me forever, anxious to exchange our last gaze as an engaged couple, and eager to share our first kiss as a married couple.
This fantasy wedding of mine has never made it to the reception, because the fantasy became a nightmare. It was painful and degrading to know that as a citizen of the United States, there were still parts of our great country where I was unable to share in the same rights that all of my straight friends and family had.
On June 26th, SCOTUS ruled that marriage equality is a constitutional right. Marriage is no longer gay, or straight; it is beautiful. Touching. Heartwarming. Promising. Inspiring. And available to everyone.
And even though I’m not even currently in a relationship, so many people reached out to congratulate me. Hugs were shared, handshakes and laughter exchanged, and I found myself in tears once again; overwhelmed by the support surrounding me.
We still have so far to go with many civil rights issues, but in this moment I am no longer a second-class citizen of the country in which I was born. Today, I am a future bride who can marry whoever, wherever she would like.
Today, I am happy. I am free.
June has been an interesting month for me. I disconnected myself from my entire roster of social media apps; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snap Chat, etc. I have been reading a book called “Be Free Where You Are” by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh from which I have realized social media in a sense has held me captive for quite some time.
In his book he speaks of mindfulness, and one thing he suggests is when we walk we should do so mindfully. By focusing on each step, we are more aware of our self and our surroundings. Before my detox, I was so focused on my phone that I would walk everywhere from point A to point B with my head down staring at the screen. I was never aware of anything else around me.
I’ve learned that when I walk mindfully, I also walk more confidently. When I walk with purpose I am immediately more aware of each step and the growth I have made between each one.
My goal is to constantly improve myself. I’m not critical of myself and don’t have unrealistic or unhealthy expectations, but I am always trying to change the things that I can that will make my life better. I began with my mentality.
I have become a happier person over the last few years. I realized this about myself a few months ago when I had to deal with my first really big disappointment in a very long while. Happiness isn’t a constant state of mind. You can’t control the factors that constantly affect your happiness, but you can control the effects you let them have on you.
I am always reminding myself that no matter what happens, I am still alive. I am free. I have a nice life in a great city with amazing friends and a family who loves me. I am at the beginning of a very long and hopefully, prosperous career. Maybe I’ve stumbled along the way. I’ve certainly made decisions that I haven’t always been proud of, but have learned from them – and eventually, somehow they led me here.
After staying with me for eleven days, my little brother flew back to Tennessee this morning. He’s fourteen, and it’s only the second time he has ever flown. He’s even doing it by himself. The way he projects an air of bravery when he is terrified reminds me so much of myself. I want to tell him that he doesn’t have to carry that chip on his shoulder. That it’s okay to be afraid sometimes.
I want him to know it’s also all right to be unapologetically happy. Rarely will your happiness come at the expense of someone else’s, but if being happy requires being selfish – you should do just that.
I thought that the next few weeks were going to be very difficult for me. A few months ago I reconnected with a woman who I thought I had found something really special with. She decided to move to California and wanted to explore our relationship. Against my better judgment, I began to fall for her – and then she disappeared the same way she had so many years before. I would be lying if I said that it surprised me…
She was supposed to arrive in LA next Thursday. Instead, now she is somewhere in the Midwest, pregnant with her ex-boyfriends baby, and I am here in Los Angeles trying to convince myself that I dodged a bullet.
I miss her. Still, I have no other choice but to carry on with my life. Now, my best friends will be flying in Thursday night instead. I’ll pick them up at the airport that night and they’ll stay through Sunday. Best Friends… they just know when they’re needed.
is a writer, artist and human/animal rights activist based in Echo Park- Los Angeles, CA. The Stephens College graduate loves poetry, camping with her rowdy friends and tequila of many varieties.