I remember as a young child feeling very different. I was always shocked by the autopilot nature of the adults in my life. Wake, work, eat, TV and bed – every single day the same thing. When presented with a new situation, I was sad to see how quickly people could take such harsh negative views. Judgments were made without knowing facts, without questioning and without thinking deeply about it. As a child I drove everyone crazy by always questioning everything, never taking things at face value. I was also always incredibly accepting of others’ differences and generally saw them as assets rather than something to fear. I remember looking within and thinking I must be from another planet, nobody else is like me.
I attended a private religious school through 8th grade. At school I was offered a sound education and a physically safe environment; however, emotionally those times were difficult. My classmates were quite well-off financially and made it known they felt superior. I was picked on and bullied for most of my earlier years. Everything that was “different” about me was a target waiting to happen.
During my years at school they taught us sex education. I only remember three major points: no sex before marriage; sex is for procreation only; and same-sex relations were unheard of. These behaviors were an abomination, and against God’s wishes. At that time I had not yet realized I was attracted to women in the way most people were attracted to the opposite sex. I just assumed I was not interested in boys the way other girls were yet. I loved my best friend and was very jealous of her love interests but I hadn’t connected the dots.
I never forgot that sex education class, though, and it echoed in my thoughts more and more as I began to feel attraction to females. I began to really think something was wrong with me, something terrible. As I stuffed it deep down, ignoring who I was, I started creating a false self.
I pretended to like guys to fit in with everyone else, writing “I love Stephen” on a piece of paper and dropping it on the ground “accidentally” so someone would find it. I pretended, like every other girl, to be infatuated with the famous male actor of the week. Meanwhile inside I was eating myself up and wondering why I felt so different. I looked to the media, family, and neighbors for someone else like me, but I saw nobody.
This continued into high school where I mostly kept to myself, befriending only the teachers. I finally found art club and drama club and began to meet others like me; and I can honestly say, the arts saved my life.
I have been seeking inner growth since my teenage years. I have overcome many bumpy roads and learned many lessons, all of which I am eternally grateful for. My life has gone from dramatic and chaotic to peaceful, blissful, and blessed.
Most of all, though, I’ve been a teenager, been through turmoil, been bullied, felt bad about myself, thought I was all alone, been depressed, tried to commit suicide, used drugs, tried to be someone I wasn’t, and lost but also gained many friends along the way. Though these trials and tribulations I have garnered immense knowledge and discovered and applied ways to cope and overcome that have been priceless. I know one thing for sure, it does get better – because we can create it to be so.
I also have been part of spearheading empowerment movements over the last five years. Through this work I’ve met who thought very little of themselves. Through community and collaboration work they obtained tools in which to begin creating their lives instead of just letting the chips fall as they might. After gaining a sense of power and confidence, their lives took off!
I currently work as a youth programs coordinator at a non-profit LGBTQ organization and speak to many youth about the issues they are facing at home, school, and work as well as coming-out to family and friends. I hear much of what I’ve gone through each young person who shares with me, each story with just with a slightly different twist.
By empowering LGBTQ and allied people to love themselves, develop a support system and stand strong together we will create a new generation of unconditional acceptance and bright futures for those who follow.
Wishing you all the best life has to offer!