Mom sat me down at the kitchen table. We were on opposite ends with only cardinals on the plastic tablecloth separating us. I’d wanted to have this conversation for months but instead of asking, I did what any self-respecting teenager does and made jokes hinting at it for months, trying to force the conversation out of her.
Now it was here and I was considering what it would feel like to be struck by lightening. That had to be what was next, right? Not to mention, I was going to hell for sure.
My mom took a deep breath. She was sitting in dad’s chair, underneath his collection of Titleist golf hats that hung on the cabinets. It was easier to count those than look her in the eyes.
“So.” She began slowly.
I swallowed what felt like my tongue swelled into a softball the size of Ohio.
“Yeah?” That came out more aggressive than I intended. I was the one who wanted to have this conversation in the first place. Or did I? I didn’t know anymore. There were four hats.
My mom was staring at her hands now. She’d folded them on the table like a CEO about to tell me she was letting me go and I had to go home to my spouse and children to explain why we were suddenly being evicted from our house to starve on the streets.
“This whole,” she sighed, “gay thing.”
My body went rigid. I kept telling myself I wanted to have this conversation. Playing it over and over in my head like a song I wanted to believe I liked but knew deep down it was horrible.
“Yeah?” I said again. Still aggressive. Still stressed. Still angry. Still defensive.
“So,” My mom paused to take a deep breath. “You’re — ?” She paused, waiting for me to finish the sentence.
“Bi.” I said it through gritted teeth. “Sexual.” I was now staring up at the ceiling fan hanging over the table, wondering just how much dust could stick to the other side of the fan.
My mom nodded slowly. She looked at me, the side of her mouth crumpling like it does when she’s about to cry.
“So you want to be a boy?”
I don’t think I managed to keep a straight face for longer than four seconds before I burst out laughing.
I should’ve known I wasn’t straight from when I was twelve. But I justified it away.
I was fascinated with girls in cartoons but that was just cause I’m a girl. I told myself I was watching Pirates of the Caribbean for Will Turner not Elizabeth Swann.
I saw that I was noticing things about my older friend and felt sick. I was disgusted with myself. Angry too. We had never covered that in church. The closest my mom got to talking to us about it was when we finished an episode of the Price Is Right and a commercial for a steamy romance CBS show came on after.
“Why were two girls kissing, Mom?”
Mom turned off the TV and sat us all down to talk about what the Bible said about marriage. She explained it was between a man and a woman and that not everyone believes that. My younger siblings and I had nodded, wishing we hadn’t asked in the first place.
Months later, I remember sitting outside on the swings in my backyard, crying to God asking why I was the way I was. None of my other friends ever said they thought other girls were pretty. None of them wanted to kiss other girls. I was like those girls in the CBS commercial that Mom said didn’t obey God. I was broken. Messed up. I’d done something wrong.
By the time I went to high school, I was deep into the closet, cowering away from the guilty feeling I had as kid. High school taught me there were other types of sexualities. Other people like me. But they loved who they wanted and didn’t feel guilty.
Whatever was wrong with me came back in a fury. I had a new best friend by now. We told each other everything. Had sleepovers every chance we got. I thought she was beautiful. When I was sixteen, I started wondering what it would be like to kiss her. But I didn’t. Instead, I switched out the infatuation for self-hatred and put my focus into that, determined to dig a hole for myself that no one could pull me out of.
I didn’t tell her for years afterwards. But when I did, she wasn’t angry at me. She had known that I was gay long before I did.
In high school, I met a girl who told me her brother was gay. She said that he’d decided to remain single and not pursue his desires because of his convictions to God. I didn’t understand. I was too caught up in myself thinking “Glad I’m straight. I don’t want to give up a future where I’m married with kids”.
There was another girl, who heard the girl’s story and was furious. Furious that her brother was holding back who he was to please some unknown, invisible dictator. I had to hand it to her, it didn’t sound like she was wrong. Who was God to tell people who they could or couldn’t love?
He couldn’t tell me, that was for sure. I jumped into a relationship with a guy I’d been friends with for over a year, despite numerous warnings from my family, friends and people in my church.
Repressing was all I could do. I had been dating him for nearly 3 months and perfectly fine with saying I was straight. I might’ve believed it too. If you tell yourself a lie long enough, it has to come true, right?
In my first year at college, I met a girl. A girl like me. She dressed like a walking advertisement for Spencer's or Hot Topic. She’d kill me for saying it but it’s the easiest way I can think to describe her. The more I hung out with her, the more similarities I noticed. We had the same self-deprecating humor, we were both brutally honest with our friends and we were both gay. She helped me become more confident and comfortable with myself, and my sexuality. I could finally name the feelings I had.
Funnily enough, naming didn’t help all that much. I had a label but it didn’t erase the guilt I had. The unease and frustration with myself made me sick. It was chewing away at the inside of my chest.
I wasn’t sure what to do or where I stood with my faith because of it. There were days I’d yell at God for making me broken. Then there were others where I laughed it off because at least now, I had more people to commiserate with.
It took me breaking up with my boyfriend of two years to realize how stuck I was in believing I could deal with all these feelings on my own. In the following months, I was single but already looking for someone else to fulfill my desires. It backfired again, surprise surprise, leaving me lonelier than before.
Now, let’s get something straight: wanting to be married, to have kids, to live a fulfilling life, aren’t horrible things. Well they might be purgatory for someone, but ultimately each desire isn’t “wrong”. The problem was I was obsessed with the idea. It was directing my life. I needed to be needed by someone, anyone that got close enough.
Here we are, a year and a handful of change later. I’ve been able to label my attractions. I’ve been able to pinpoint my motivators. But I’ve also been able to let them both go.
I’ve been able to enjoy life as it happens and worked towards letting go of the endings I’ve tried to pick out. Because as it turns out, I’m horrible at guessing endings. Unless it’s a Netflix Original or Wattpad Exclusive.