My Journey to Queerdom

Had you told me 8 years ago I’d be spending this snowy afternoon listening to romantic music and dreaming up potential date plans with a woman, I  can honestly say I would have been very, very confused.

I never had one of those “epiphany moments” I’ve heard other queer-identifying women describe. I never fell in undeniable love with a female classmate or found myself envisioning marriage with any celebrity but JTT.

It was more of a buildup of ignored clues. I didn’t think there was a mystery to be solved.

All throughout school, I don’t think I knew of more than one openly gay girl, let alone someone who was bi/pansexual. If I was capable of liking boys, which I (mostly) was, then I was straight. Simple as that!

Who wouldn’t rewind that kiss between Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair 15 times and only play scenes with SMG in it after that?

It wasn’t a crush on that girl in English, I just wanted to be like her… gorgeous flowing hair, a perfectly executed tomboy wardrobe, a laugh that could cure disease. *cough* I digress.

I can, however, pinpoint the moment when I must have stuffed whatever inkling I’d had far, far down. I’d experimented with a friend in middle school. At first, we justified it by pretending the other person was the boy we liked. I found I wasn’t satisfied with that. I wanted what we were doing to be…well, real.

Although I didn’t have romantic feelings for her, I did want the physical aspect to continue and boy, did that scare her. It turns out that urge wasn’t consistent for all women after all. I had yet another quality to make me feel like an outsider.

A year or so later I was told by a friend that girl had expressed discomfort with me because she assumed I was a lesbian. I shrugged it off despite feeling ashamed for those feelings for the first time.

“Pfft, you guys know how obsessed with Zach I was.”

It wasn’t a lie. Things carried on and it was labeled a miscommunication.

From then on, I dove fully into a “boy crazy” persona. Some of it was genuine, some of it wasn’t. As I began being sexually active, I noticed that I was having far more sex than I was enjoying and most of it became validation based instead of romantic.

I thought girls were pretty still but now my casual rationalizing started to have a tinge of shame to it. I would switch my dating app preferences to “everyone” and quickly switch back in fear someone I knew would see.

I was ashamed. Women were being objectified and held to pornographic standards and here I was contributing to it. I’d still never fallen in love with a girl like I thought I had done with a boy so where did that leave me? A perv. A disgrace to feminism.

I started to ease up on myself a bit after college as my network continued to expand. I more openly acknowledged my attraction to other women and even began identifying a “type.” Slowly, I felt myself open up to the possibility I could even feel an emotional connection with some of them.

I’d constantly play with the idea of holding hands and cuddling in a theater. As quickly as the thought arrived, I was tucking it back into its safe place.

Eventually, it snuck out. Perhaps I should say, it broke out in explosions of rainbow and glitter.

Years ago I started volunteering at Girls Rock Denver, a feminist summer camp that prioritized LGBTQIA+ youth and found myself surrounded by badass rocker women who mostly identified as queer in some way. I had too many” girl crushes” to call it that anymore.

I recall coming home from one of our conferences on a new kind of high.3 margaritas into our flight back I loudly declared to my cohorts that I think I knew my taste range and it was definitely not just men.

They told me I’m good at vulnerability and we moved on. No moments of terror, no plane crash, no guilt thinking I’d deceived myself or anyone. Just a simply stated fact.

Once that declaration had been made, the world seemed to open up for me a bit, but not as quickly as I would have liked. I was locked in a pendulum now, swaying between “I’m straight but a perv” and “I’m so god damn not straight it’s laughable.”

Soon I started re-evaluating my dating patterns. I was locked in a pattern of dating emotionally unavailable men and being hurt over and over again. The only way I had left to fix it was to simply stop sleeping with them.

Eventually, the feeling that I was jumping into a void of loneliness shifted to the feeling of being my own best friend…something I thought was a cheesy cliché at best. Finally befriending myself could very well have been the final step toward accepting who I was.

Despite not having officially come out to everyone else and still experiencing serious doubts, I was far more open to the clues now and boy, did they come!

I finally caved after a woman who was so attractive it made my heart hurt put her arm around me and made a comment about hating to sleep alone. My palms sweat. I giggled nervously. Most of all, though I wanted to hold her hand and kiss her. What more was left to deny?

I decided to come out and start dating women. Like, real dates. The first one I went on was everything I could ask for…she was kind, smart, extroverted and yes, attractive. She asked me how I identified and I felt my face grow hot as I stumbled through terms and visibly panicked. She’d known she was gay her whole life and I felt like an imposter.

I’d love to say that after that I came to some sense of euphoric ease. That wouldn’t be even close to the truth, and I think I owe others who might be struggling with this an insight to the darker side of my experience.

From the start, I’ve been battling the biphobia of myself and others, queer or straight. The amount of stigma around it that remains in all communities has baffled and hurt me.

It took some intense therapy sessions to prove to myself I wasn’t a liar, that my experience counted and that bisexuality is a valid identity. That I, too, belonged in the queer community. It wasn’t that I wasn’t straight enough or gay enough. I’m just the right amount of both to be true to myself.

My dating habits didn’t just disappear…as my brother reminded me “wherever you go, there you are.” I’ll still need to work on declaring my needs and finding people who aren’t afraid of the open-hearted, feely person I am. People who can comfort me like I can them. Who see their own value and celebrate mine, too.

I’ve also experienced my first moments of being the target for homophobia. The indescribable weight of the hate you feel placed upon you by someone whose world you seemed to have ruined by existing. Angry yelling from drunk men on the street while I held hands with a woman, my date being harassed by a fellow Lyft passenger after he saw us kiss goodbye.

The journey isn’t over, as I quickly learned I’ll have to come out over and over again and deal with the heart-clenching feeling of not knowing how they’ll respond, no matter their gender or orientation. I’ll have to answer countless questions about which genders I prefer more and why. I’ll be asked to prove the value of my orientation time and time again.

So what made it worth it, you ask? Everything.

The feeling I got watching the blue and purple concert lights flash over the face of the woman I was seeing and watching her eyes lock with mine in mutual admiration. The first time I walked down the street holding a woman’s hand and feeling like I’d done it all my life.

Expanding my capacity to love and more than I even knew possible. Waking up next to a woman I care about, wrapping her arms around me and knowing the feeling I’m feeling goes far beyond sex. Sharing my story with teens and young girls who are experiencing the same shame cycles. The list goes on and has only been growing.

I wouldn’t take back coming out. For every snide remark, I’ve been blessed with 5 kind ones. I know some aren’t so lucky. My family, while admittedly a bit surprised, didn’t change how they treated me. My friends, a bit less surprised, were there to help fish me out of every hole of denial and guilt I tried to escape down. Even most women I’ve dated have shown less wariness than I expected.

As of the last few months, I declare my sexuality proudly to all who ask and some who don’t. I fawn over ladies (or men, or non-binary folks) as I please, and indulge guilt-free in connection regardless of gender. For the first time in my life I can truly say I’m proud of my journey and looking forward to the love that comes my way, in whatever forms that may be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear Healer

I have a hard time speaking about

Dreaming about

Writing about

You.

 

You’re a better poet than I am, anyway.

 

In fact, it seems you were born painting words with your mouth.

Shades of gold and green dance around you

As syllable by syllable

You make each moment your canvas

 

I imagine you arrived here quietly.

Solemnly,

Like an ancient monk who took a wrong turn on his way to the next life.

 

I bet you didn’t cry until you realized where you were.

 

Born into a world built to destroy you,

You decide to heal it anyway.

 

They hand you guns and bandages,

You turn it to sound and light,

Defying the elements in the best kind of magic there is:

The kind without tricks

 

I noticed you recognize the art in others and sometimes I wonder if ,

from afar

You can see the smoke signals from my stifled flames of desire, and if 

from afar

You can tell that every time I catch wind of you, I find them reigniting.

 

Adrift, pt 1

I. Adrift

The moment she felt the sand shifting beneath her, she knew the wait for the tide was over.

It was time to make a decision: turn back to the only land she knew, or dive.

Once those on the beach saw her turn away, eyes lit by the ocean, their alarmed calls for her to come back retired into worried goodbye’s.

She dove, bracing for the cold when it had already encompassed her. She began counting down her remaining breathes and for a brief moment almost lifted her head to swim back, but the tide that had called to her continued to draw her in.

This time her feet were not on the ground to fight it, but this didn’t alarm her. In fact, the powerlessness seemed to put her back at ease. It was familiar to her.

She cringed as the waters heaved and hurled, dragging her through coral and rocks, but was too numb to feel the sting.

She did leave with bruises, however.

Bruises that reminded her of innocence: long days as a child spent by the creek, too drunk on imagination to notice the bumps along her journey.

Bruises that reminded her of the loss of; freckling her thighs and serving as the last reminder of the greedy grasp of those she had mistaken for lovers.

As she examined the damage and prepared for the next wave, she felt the gaze of another upon her wounds. She hadn’t realized she was lonely in her journey until she felt a flush of immediate fondness for the floating stranger.

She reached to touch him. He accepted her touch, but as he stretched to return it, his wave pulled him just out of reach. Reach, pull. Reach, pull.

Before she knew it she was exhausted from treading water, and could only watch him float away.

Soon she realized he hadn’t even been paddling. He was a slave to the ocean and could spare no energy for her.

Was that how you survive here? Giving up?

She too began to float.

With rest came fantasies. She dreamt of a boat, simple and sturdy. One that would take her on these adventures that plagued her mind and demolished her focus for as long as she could remember.

She didn’t need anything fancy. Just something to serve as refuge from the harsh whip of the ocean, a dry place to put her feet, and the freedom to go where she pleases.

It wasn’t long before her visions were interrupted. She felt the bump of an unfamiliar object and flipped over to to find another presence. This one was tattered but proud, tightly grasping a piece of driftwood.

He explained his dreams to make it a boat, and she fell in love with how his eyes lit up as he decribed every board and nail.

“Grab on.” He offered the first words she had heard since she had begun her journey. They warmed her.

For a few precious moments she could feel the relief in her body as she let the driftwood do the work she had been struggling to. Each time she glanced over to be sure he was okay he smiled back reassuringly.

There was plenty of room for two. He promised.

Enough time had passed that she was tired…much too tired to swim more and needed much more than the support of one board. She began to have doubts that she couldn’t afford.

Now, her options were to ride on the driftwood dreams of a stranger or drown.

Or…

“It can’t be,” she thought, as she felt her toes brush sand. But it was. She had returned to dry land.

At first she was overcome with panic, “My journey!” she wailed to herself, “it had just begun!”

She tentatively lifted her gaze over the beach expecting to see the same line of familiar faces she had left behind waiting with an artillery of “I told you so’s.”

To her relief there were faces she knew, yet everything seemed to have the faintest glimmer of new hope.

Smiles had grown more genuine. Colors brighter, food more appetizing. The sunlight’s warmth came over, urging her to stay.

She turned to thank her captain to find he was gone as quickly as he had arrived. Although her heart was present, her sight remained glued to the horizon.

Perhaps he made the boat she dreamt of. Perhaps he was on his way back.

After days of waiting, she knew the feeling she had while she sailed back to land was true…the driftwood was made for one. His calling was to remain adrift and alone.

If a ship was truly what she desired in the end, it was time to build her own.

A Million Kinds of Love

They say there are a million kinds of love. I say that’s maybe half.

Right now a cat purring beside me and soon she will gently butt her head against mine to be pet and tell me it’s time to start a new day. Perhaps it’s nothing for her but company and a scratch, but for me it’s my first taste of love in the morning.

In an hour, my mother will text me “Good Morning, baby girl. Love Mom” and I’ll FaceTime her later to check in on her and the dog we got her on Christmas. Our service may drop. She’ll text me 4 times afterwards just to be sure I’m ok and tell me she loves me.

In 2 hours my roommates will meet me at the coffee pot. We’ll tell each other good morning and giggle about something funny that happened last night before going about pursuing our dreams in our own unique ways.

30 minutes later, I’ll be greeted by a one year old yelling my name and running to my arms. I’ll snuggle her as I sip my coffee and catch up on the weekend with her mother, who I’m lucky enough to call a friend.

If we’re lucky, we’ll get to go on an outing with a close friend of mine who also nannies a one year old and ogle over their cuteness together as if they were our own. I’ll spend the day with that sweet little girl and get to laugh about her newest tricks with her equally sweet parents again later.

While she naps, I’ll clean up, then open my laptop to do the other things I love. A bit of writing, a bit of working, and a whole lot of reflecting on this community I’ve been blessed with. That’s where my love for you comes in.

You, the mother. The father. The friends. The artist. The big dreamer. The comfort hound. The one hurting, and the one helping.

You, who I don’t see every day or probably even every month. You, who I greet with a smile or a hug in passing. You, who maybe it didn’t work out with. Whose life path leads them on journeys miles away from mine but I still feel close to me.

Perhaps you were a piece of my past or will be a piece of my future. Either way, you’re a piece of me now. I see you. I feel you. Even when I don’t realize it.

When I’m low, you’re voice is part of the chorus that tells me it’ll be okay. When I’m scared, you’re woven into the net that I know will catch me once I leap. When I succeed, you’re one of the hands presenting the trophy. When I fail, you’re the glimmer at the finish line telling me to get up and keep going.

Our brief encounters may be a drop in an ocean of memories but know that you have made your mark on me. Your story rings in my ears and the warmth of your smile is a lantern in the sea of light that encompasses me in times of darkness. For that, I love you wholly.

The Glow

I can’ help but feel I chose this life.

It seems  that from the moment my mother’s umbilical cord was unwrapped from my neck and the life was breathed back into me I was grateful to be here. Every recovered breathe and brush with death since has only made me celebrate more.

I remember other times this feeling has risen…8 years old: catching a glimpse of the sunrise in Estes Park and crying, knowing that if life was else it was worth being alive to simply gaze upon such miracles.

12 years old: noticing my life was very different from the people around me. Reflecting on the hand I’d been dealt and beginning to realize that it was time to not only be a healer, but a warrior. That my fate would be determined by me.

15 years old, in a new home and feeling fully fed and well educated but so, so alone; my fall into a new world cushioned by the warmth of this familiar glow, somehow burning brighter than ever…the nameless glow my mom has called my guardians angel, books have called my soul, friends have called my heart. A collaboration, perhaps.

No matter though, because I’ve learned it doesn’t need a name. I know because sometimes, when I’m lucky, I can speak to it. It soothes me to sleep by reminding me of the blessings around me. It wakes me up whispering clues of the journey before me. It reminds me that along as I’m here, so is it. If I continue to let it grow, perhaps it will remain even after I’m gone.

 

You’re More Than Enough: A Letter to Myself at 17

7/30/07

Reading my last entry should make me feel really sad at where I am now, but I’m feeling the emotion a notch lower than that. Indifference. Cold, empty, life-wasting indifference.

So- let’s update. 4 jobs down to 2. Quit Carter’s because I thought I had a back up plan. No such luck. Quit showing houses because I wasn’t fast enough. Which brings me to my second point- family approval? Hardly.

I never feel good enough for my own family, so I turn to friends, who lately I’m not comfortable with either. I wish I could collapse into my mom’s arms like I used to. I wish I could collapse into my own arms like I used to, but you can’t collapse into someone you don’t trust.

I don’t know my moral standards. I don’t know my passions. I know I’m made for great things, but even that seems to be rapidly fading. I’m needy and I don’t know my needs.

_____________________________________________________________________

10/14/17

Dear Ellie,

I wish I could pull you into the future, if only for a moment, to feel the immense amounts of love, support, relief, and clarity you’ll find in the next decade. The best I can do is tell you this:

  1. You’re not a quitter, you’re a passion chaser. You settle for nothing less. Learn to focus this energy unapologetically on the things that have always driven you…community, music, activism, humor, adventure…all of it. This lesson won’t come easily, as you’ll find that leading an untraditional path requires forging many parts of it into the unknown. The abundance you’ll find on this journey will never cease to amaze you.
  1. Family love is unconditional, family approval is fluid. There’s no perfect family where everyone pats each other on the back and laughs lovingly over family dinner every time little Timmy learns a lesson in growing up. Families are made up of humans in their rawest essence… just as they can be loving, supportive, and joyous they can be flawed, afraid, and judgmental. Hold fast to your unique journey, and they’ll be supporting you in the ways they know how.
  1. You’re more than good enough for your family and friends…you’re perfect for them. Through these life lessons you’re learning, you’re teaching them. You bring strength in your vulnerability, joy in your vitality, and inspiration in your resilience.
  1. I know you well enough to know I can’t tell you to “trust yourself” and that be the end of it. You’re a hands-on learner. For now, I want you to lay in your safe, cozy bed, let out the tears, then take a moment to realize what you have survived as a 17 year old…the chaos you have pulled yourself through with more wisdom than you even know you possess; the times that you really didn’t have anywhere to run to and still lived happily and enthusiastically, loving your very hardest. Journey through every moment that you deserved a badge of honor and give it to yourself. How could you not trust that super hero?

 

You say your purpose is fading, however I noticed that even at your lowest point you     couldn’t shake the feeling that you’re meant for great things. That was your light shining, and it’s the only eternal thing about you. If there’s one thing you don’t have to fear losing, it’s that. Let it soothe you to sleep tonight. Wake up tomorrow, thank it, and let it shine. Your needs will be met before you’ve even named them.

I love you.

Elle