National Coming Out Day
One day my mother and I were driving to the tanning salon together. Terrible, I know, but that’s the south in the early 2000’s for you. We listened to the radio nearly the entire way there, and if you’ve ever met my mother you know that it’s very unusual for the two of us to stay quiet for that long. That’s when I knew that something was weighing on her.
About a mile outside of town, my mother turned down the music. She began to choke up, and I noticed that she was on the verge of tears. “Is there something you want to talk to me about?” She asked. A pit grew in my stomach. I was a pretty good kid, and stayed out of trouble, so I knew what she wanted to talk about.
I must have stayed quiet for longer than I realized, because after all of her silence – she spoke again. “Do you have a girlfriend?”
I wanted to vomit. I wanted to cry. I wanted to jump out of the van speeding down the highway at sixty-five miles an hour. What I didn’t want to do was look at her, or respond. But my mother was my best-friend. So I took a deep breath. I nodded, and told her that I was gay.
I wish that I could say that she laughed, and told me that it was fine. That we looked cute together (or not.) That she would love me anyway. But I was fifteen years old, and it was a very different time eleven years ago.
We wound up still going to the salon. The twenty minutes that I laid baking in that bed, listening to my mother sob in the room next to me, were the longest minutes of my life. I never wanted to disappoint her, but I couldn’t lie to her. I respected her too much.
Over the next six months she spent a lot of time crying and reading the bible. She blamed herself, my father, the school systems. She even blamed me to an extent. Finally, she told me that I had to “wait to be gay” until I was eighteen, and living out from under her roof.
I became really depressed, and began cutting myself at sixteen years old. That was also around the time that I first began thinking about suicide. My mother took me to our family physician, and after a thorough exam she requested I be put on anti-depressants. He then told her that what I needed was a girlfriend.
My mother was a nurse, but she is also a Christian. In her heart, she still felt as if what I was doing was wrong. It wasn’t until a few months later when my (secret) girlfriend’s father threatened to kill me that my mother realized that her love for me was more important than my sexuality. She filed a restraining order against him, and became my biggest ally.
The next two years of high school would be extremely difficult for me. I lost friends, and a few family members. Guys called me “Dyke” as I walked down the hallway. Girls acted uncomfortable around me when we were alone. The rumors were vicious.
I went on to attend Stephens College, a very supportive and liberal women’s college in Columbia, MO where I met women and made friends that would change my life. My time there carried me to California, one of the most diverse and accepting places in the world, to pursue a career writing television where my voice could be heard.
Ten years later, I look back at the young girl that I was. I have grown, become more comfortable in my own skin, and learned to love myself. I made it.
Many young LGBT people didn’t make it. A few of them will die today. That’s why it’s so incredibly important to support your LGBT youth. If you know someone who is struggling, reach out. You could save a life just by being an ally. Just by speaking up, and being vocal about your support. If you’re not sure how to help them, please offer them my email. -
I’ll talk to anyone. No questions asked.
Today I’m sending out my love to all of the people young and old who have been brave enough to take that step. To be themselves, and do so unapologetically. Thank you for your bravery.
You are beautiful, you are important, and you are not alone. There are millions of us out here, just like you. Today I am celebrating#NationalComingOutDay and I’m sending my love and thoughts to each and every one of you.
9/15/2018 01:29:46 am
I am sorry that you were one of the unlucky ones to not have immediate support when you were forced to come out. I'm glad it turned out alright in the end, but im sorry you have a rough journey. You're a strong woman, Tennessee, never forget that!
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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.