Multi Magazine is proud to present “Closets are for Coat-Hangers,” a series about self-discovery and coming out celebrating LGBT Pride month this June.
I love to talk. It’s a passion of mine; dialogue, exploration, teaching, learning, and listening. Especially listening. When I was younger I would do nothing but talk, but as I got older I realized there was more to words than talking, hearing what others had to say was almost as, if not more important than just running a conversation.
But as soon as I began to question what I was, I took listening and hearing into a different meaning. I never used to let other people’s opinion change who I was, but that changed on one night when my friends and I in middle school were talking about sexuality. Two of them knew they were queer, but the others were so certain they weren’t. So I asked one of my friends that night,
“Do you think I could be, idk, gay?” Just a shot in the dark, because why not. I never really knew why I asked that question, and to this day I still don’t know why. But she responded with, “What? No? Of course not Grace, you are obviously so straight omg I mean look at you, and you’ve dated boys.” And after asking that, I felt disgusting. Even looking back now, I shake. After I asked that question and she said no, I couldn’t help but feel a feeling of relief, yet sinking feeling because I knew she wasn’t really… correct.
That summer, after the eighth grade, I went to a new camp for the first time. I liked a couple boys there, but one thing struck me every time I was near this girl. I started to shake, get nervous, started to care about everything I did, and why? Because I knew she was in fact gay and I thought, “Hey maybe this could work and I don’t know, be happy?” It was mixed emotions. I went home that first day I felt feelings for her and cried. I was petrified. And there was more than just feeling that this was new and scary, it was more of what I would be.
In the 5th grade, this guy came up to my friend and I, and called us both “butch, ugly lesbians”. After he made that comment, I shouted, “What? Ew No! How could I ever be one of THOSE?” and at that point it was an insult. I hated being called one. Maybe it was just a harmless joke, but maybe I still see him through the halls now and wonder if he thinks that he “called it from the start”. When I was in the 7th grade, my mother came to me once and said, “honey, you know, if you’re a lesbian, it’s okay. It’s not that bad. I won’t mind.” And I snapped. Again. I slammed the door shut and didn’t talk to her for a week, because at that time, how could I ever be gay? That was wrong, unspeakable, just weird. But I was considered weird in middle school, so “that would explain it”, right?
So bringing this into context, at 1 am on a hot August morning, I couldn’t stop panicking. Everything that people had used to tease me with, was I proving them right? Was I weak for simply feeling something different?
But I convinced myself that it was fine. I swept it under the rug, as camp was ending in a week, and I avoided her for the rest of the time. I started high school pretending like nothing ever happened, and I liked a boy, for a while. Underneath it all I still knew some things were different, and then I liked a girl, a close friend, for about a month.This time, I didn’t panic. I had some friends who were queer, as well as the PHS GSA, and they helped me through it. I became deathly quiet, and I listened instead. Soon, after I realized that I was attracted to boys, girls, and even some people who identified as neither, or knew I could be, I started to be comfortable with what I discovered. It took some time, but then I came out to my friends, my very close ones at first. And the results were mixed. Some were as open to it as I was, some didn’t believe me, some thought it couldn’t be true because I discovered too late, and some just said “Oh, wait really? Oh, I’m sorry Grace, it’s not that I hate you or anything, I just won’t support you, I can’t.” With that, I felt my heart settle down to a slow murmur, like a horse going from stampeding to trotting, then just stopping. Everything seemed to freeze. I went so cold I didn’t know what to say. I just sat there, and all I could respond was with a small laugh, and an, “Oh hey yeah, I get it don’t worry”. I went home that night and re-lived what I had experienced the summer before. Dreaded, awful panic. I just wanted to be gone. Completely, utterly gone.
So instead of giving up, I went to my mother that night in the car, and I go,
“Mom, I-uh, I’m pansexual.”
“What the, what does that even mean?”
“It means I like boys, girls, whatever I love, I love”
“Oh, does that include animals too?”, and she laughed. I was at ease for a bit, she made it a bit better. But from time to time, she’d make jokes, and even to this day, she, as well as my dad, treats it as something that will go away. I don’t really think she realizes that I’m not going anywhere- my sexuality, I mean. It’s one of the same now.
In the spring of freshman year, I started dating a boy, and refused to do anything sexual. I knew I could and would be sexual, just not with him. I kissed him, and it felt numb, wrong, and that’s not on him, that was me. I know first kisses are supposed to be weird, but I just knew I couldn’t do that for much longer. People said that maybe he was just a bad kisser, but I knew otherwise. I said I was demisexual, where I needed such a deep emotional connection to experience sexual attraction, so that I wouldn’t have to do that for a while. Knowing that just wasn’t right, I came out as asexual, where a person experiences no sexual attraction, and we both went our own ways. And while dating other boys, I literally had convinced myself I was just asexual, because doing those sort of things with girls was wrong, creepy, just really weird. However that summer I had my first girlfriend, who was just as confused as I am I think. We were just best friends, both a bit gay, both looking for fun. And while being with her I knew there were some things I wanted, but she and I just didn’t click like I felt I had before, emotionally, with boys. So then I went back to a couple more boys that summer, on and off, on and off, etc. I knew what I loved though, and that was girls.
I went back this year and told my friends what had happened. They all laughed and said it was obvious I was gay, I wasn’t asexual, just gay. And at first I agreed, but as it went on, that didn’t feel right either, I just was sick of having to justify why one thing didn’t work, and why another did. And again that wasn’t them, that was me. I was confused.
Soon, I started liking this girl exactly how once I did for boys, and I was so excited I had finally found something not uncertain, I genuinely, really liked her. I told some people, and they went, “Are you sure, she just looks like a boy, maybe you just want boys or something, Grace I really doubt you’re gay.” But I couldn’t help it, I just really liked this girl, and erased that thought from my mind. So I told her, and everyone said she’d like me back, because she “looked gay” and i would look good with a “boyish gay”. But ultimately, she turned me down. She said she was straight, and for once, I couldn’t push, I couldn’t talk and reason, I just had to listen. It was something I’d never experienced before, liking a straight girl. And even in my mind now, it sounds spooky. Just to say out loud feels weird after all those years as a child terrified of being a “butch tomboy lesbian”, and then realizing I was in fact gay, and having to deal with the fact that the same realities would apply to straight people- it’s not like the movies, not every girl will like each other back if one does, no one can “turn someone gay”.
And after her, I was fully invested in being gay, and damn was I proud. When I met the girl I’m currently dating now, I fell hard and fast, and people made the comments about her being more tomboyish, they still do now. And I didn’t care, I still don’t now. I know I love her, and that’s what matters. When it came out to people that I was gay, and dating a girl, I would get every comment under the sun- “Wow, you don’t look gay!” “I would never have guessed it, you, gay? No way, you’re so, feminine!” “You guys seem like a weird couple, you don’t really look gay Grace, it’s kinda offputting”. And after a while, a long time of getting these comments, I kinda just gave up and started to own it. And I love being gay, I own being part of an amazing community and knowing people who have shared struggles similar to mine. And things started to go great.
Until I get called a faggot. And a dyke. And still “craving dick because the girls I’ve liked have been more tomboyish”, that “It’s a shame I’m not into men more.” Then they say it’s a joke, but it’s never been a joke to me. Never has, never will be. My sexuality is not a lifestyle, it’s my life, and my life is not a goddamn joke.
If I dress down more, with more “boyish” clothing, I’m “such a stereotypical gay”. If I dress girly, I “don’t look gay”. So I struggle every day with thinking if my outside matches my inside, and while I know I don’t experience this as hard as many other people, it’s always in the back of my mind. There’s just one day of the week I’d like to go to school and just not get pegged for a “femme gay” or the “girlier one in the relationship”. And maybe it’s not always said, but if it’s ever been said to me, it’s constantly in the back of my mind. When someone says that, they discredit what I am, and accuse things on my partner that shouldn’t be assumed. There is no boy and girl in the relationship. There are two girls in my relationship, please stop asking me who is the man. There is none.
I’ve been struggling for a while to put what I’ve felt into words. I don’t talk about my coming out a lot, because for me it wasn’t big, and while all these things were happening to me, there were more important things happening to people in my life that would come way before this. So now, in June, the month of pride, 2017, I’m finally releasing my story. And this is so little of what I have to tell. And I quite love to talk about what matters, and LGBTQIA+ is no exception, So please, if you have a respectful, meaningful question, please ask me. As I said, I love to talk. And even more, I love to listen. So if you wish, share your stories with me. If you have no else to hear you, I will. Always. But for now, for the words I haven’t spoken, and for the words you feel but may never want to say, here’s this.
i’m queer, who needs labels anyway.