“I firmly believe that you see being bisexual as a cool thing to try. You’re experimenting.”
“If you hadn’t have gone to that high school you wouldn’t like girls.”
“You are going to hell.”
“You aren’t my daughter anymore. My daughter wouldn’t do this.”
Saying my parents didn’t take it well when I came out as bisexual over the phone on September 10th, 2013 would be an understatement. They did everything short of kicking me out, though I believe that is partly because they still believe in their hearts that I am not, in fact, attracted to more than just cis men. That I’ll marry a nice boy and they can forget it ever happened.
I haven’t gotten around to telling them that, since that phone call, my orientation has morphed to panromantic demisexual. I doubt they would take it well.
The first time I can remember liking a girl I was twelve years old. Her name was Alex and she wore glasses and had short brown hair. She liked metal music and played video games I had never heard of. At the time I thought I just wanted to be her best friend but, looking back, when I grabbed her hand during a scary part of a movie and made sure my sleeping bag was right next to hers, it was different.
I wanted to be her girlfriend.
My freshman year of high school I became infatuated with my best friend. She was funny and cute and had curves in all the right places. One day I wrote her a letter and left it on the kitchen counter. My mother read it and accused me of being in love with her. I lied and said I wasn’t. A rumor went around the school that we were dating and she stopped talking to me.
I couldn’t understand why a rumor like that was so bad.
During my junior year of high school I developed a crush on a trans boy named Cody. He went to the public high school in my town and I told my mom in the car that I liked him and that he’d been designated female at birth. She told me I couldn’t like him because he was a girl.
I stopped talking to him.
I went with a girl to my junior prom. She was beautiful with long blonde hair and we slow danced together and took prom photos at a lake. I had no romantic feelings for her but when my mom saw the photos she asked me if I was gay and said it would be okay to tell her. My “yes” stuck in my throat and I told her I wasn’t.
We both lied that evening. I was gay and it was far from “okay”.
I went to senior prom with someone who identified as a girl at the time (they now identify as genderfluid, using they/them pronouns). We took photos together on the pier and slow danced. I ended up having my first kiss with them during Soulja Boy beside the dance floor. We saw each other for a month after that, stealing kisses in the hallways and going on frequent lunch dates. We weren’t official and parted ways after I graduated and moved to New York City. I never told my parents and they never told theirs.
Both of my parents are ordained ministers. My extended family is extremely religious. None of my “non-traditional” relationships have graced my Facebook pages. My public Twitter is blocked to my parents, my private Twitter my true safe haven.
I used Tumblr to sort out my feelings. My mother found it and I cried for an hour before taking down any vaguely personal posts.
LGBT teens living with homophobic parents have nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. I came out to them two years ago and we haven’t spoken about it since. I cannot tell them about a cute girl I saw at work or how I was in love with my friend’s younger sister for the majority of high school. I cannot correct them when they say future “boyfriend” or “husband” when they should say “significant other”. I cannot share a large part of my life with them. Because of this, I cannot share this part of my life on Facebook, Twitter, any form of social media that they might see.
Here’s the slightly good news: the tired saying of “it gets better” is actually true. You make better friends, you move out, you start unfriending those homophobic relatives. You create your own life with people who love you no matter your orientation.
But that isn’t fair. LGBT kids and teens shouldn’t have to wait for it to get better. It’s not fair that they’ll have to suffer through incorrect pronouns and heteronormative expectations. It’s not fair that they aren’t allowed to live the life they want, to love the person they want.
I was visiting conservative relatives when marriage equality was passed throughout the nation. While I was celebrating silently everyone around me was declaring the country damned, that it was the end times. Fox News played endlessly.
I went on a rant that night on my public Twitter, my hands shaking and my breathing rapid, on how I wished I was straight, how everything hurt, how my parents had abandoned me, how I would always be in hiding. I was beginning to believe that I was wrong, that my God had damned me from the start.
As a queer person of faith this brought an entire new level of terror.
I got a text from a friend saying that he’d followed the tweets, that he was praying for me, and that he was so sorry about everything I’d gone through. With a short conversation I was reminded that my extended family wasn’t my life, my parents yelling Bible verses at me wasn’t my life, that I had at least one person in my corner.
But for some LGBT teens it is their life, it’s the only life they know. And it isn’t fair that they must wait until the unforeseeable future to be comfortable, to be loved, to be themselves.
I’m lucky. I was able to be out in school. I was accepted. I was loved. My best friends were queer. My teachers were queer. I had a safe space. My parents chose to outright ignore my coming out instead of telling me to leave and never come back.
It’s sad that I’m considered one of the lucky ones.
The ugly truth is heterosexual teens don’t have to wait. They don’t have to count down the days until they can move out to be seen in public with their significant other, they don’t have to say they’re going to prom with someone as ‘just friends’, they don’t have to worry about their parents finding out about secret relationships or desires.
I have a friend who ordered a binder for themselves and their mother got to the box before they got home and threw it away. I have a friend who has to use their birth name on Facebook because, even though their parents accept them, their extended family wouldn’t.
I had to watch a news broadcast tell me that people like me are destroying this country while everyone around me agreed.
As you get older, what your parents think of you and what you do matters less and less. You find yourself, you find your group, and you find peace.
It gets better. I’m sorry that it has to.