Thanks, Heather, for making me aware of the video at the end of this entry.
I grew up a very lonely child, because I grew up instinctively knowing I was different and that that difference was not necessarily welcomed by those around me.
I fell in love with girls. I crushed on boys. I felt I was born into the wrong body, but I didn't necessarily want a boy's body. I was a combination of things I had never heard of before. Kids at recess made jokes by giving creepy, overly intimate handshakes and then saying "Lez be friends", because apparently lesbianism was hilarious, but nobody shook my hand like that and said "Lez be friends but also look at boys and maybe dress up like we're intersexed with a male-leaning gender experience."
That last one might not have caught on because kids in grade five in 1982 lacked the vocabulary. Also, it was a little long to be catchy. I'm pretty sure that was it.
So, I kept quiet about it. Secretly, I wrote coming out letters to my parents and rehearsed magnificent speeches under my blankets at night about who I was and why I should still be loved. In my fantasies, I was the Martin Luther King of my kind, leading my protest of one, but I never let my truth be said out loud. I didn't know how to start without a vocabulary that could convince them. If I had no words for what I was, I certainly had none that would help them to understand what I was.
I grew up in a world artificially devoid of anything that deviated from heterosexuality. Throughout elementary school, when people did mention homosexuality, it was done with a sneer at the sexual acts engaged in by faceless men. They were Other. We didn't know them. There was no mention of love. The concept of being gay was reduced to its pornography. It was disgusting, it was animal, it was a degradation of humanity's higher nature.
I eventually came to believe this about my own desires, about who I was becoming as human being, only I was certain that it was much, much worse in my case, because I wasn't just gay. I was GAY. My desire for girls was gay because I had the body of a girl, and my desire for boys was gay, because I was in the wrong kind of body. I concluded that the mere existence of my desire as it stemmed from my experience was an abomination. By the time I was fifteen, I was terrified that I was some kind of sexual monster whose sure end was in pedophilia and beastiality, because isn't this what my kind of spiritual debasement led to?
I tried, as they say, to pray the gay away. I thought surely that a loving God would remove this horrible affliction from my heart. I was a Mennonite kid, but I slunk around the parking lots and grounds of Catholic churches, attempting to screw up the courage to enter a confession box. I had sins I could speak to no one, and I felt bereft of God's presence. I needed an intermediary. I wanted redemption. I needed to know that I was not condemned.
When my deviance didn't disappear, I weighed the possibility of suicide, sure that it was the only option for someone so soul-deep sick. I felt as though God had denied me as his child, and I wrote the note that would explain my death as a kind of gift to those whom I was sure my deviance was hurting.
People knew that I was sad then, but no one knew the depth of it or why it was there, because I had no voice to share with them who I was. When I look back on that time now, I feel so very lucky that I stuck it out and that I can be here living this beautiful life I get to have on the other side of that silence.
I didn't really start talking about the real truth of who I am until I was in my thirties, and, even now, I don't mention it very often. Coming out, though, writing it down and being open about my identity and experiences, has been nothing short of liberating. I have shifted from someone who felt unworthy and invisible to someone who feels and is worthy and seen.
I am beautiful, and I am loved, and I am here fully in this life in a way that I only dreamed of when I hid what I once thought of as my great sickness but I now know is the gorgeous fact of my personhood and humanity.
When I watch younger people in their teens and twenties speak out about their identities as queer and transgendered people, especially out of an environment that can make them feel less than loved like the students at Brigham Young University have in the video below, I feel so much pride in them, and I am nothing short of down-deep-in-my-soul grateful that we have come to a place in our culture where we now have the vocabulary and the means to speak out, share our stories, and find our tribes.
If you are gay or trans or some other variant of the vast spectrum that makes up humanity who has felt silenced, I want you to watch the following video and know that you are, really and truly, by thousands if not millions of people, believed and honoured and loved.
Speak your truth and spread the word, because it does get better.