This Pride Month, I'm partnering with My Therapist to bring you This Blog Post
I used to think I needed a husband. There wasn’t any other option in my mind. I used to daydream about what he’d look like, how he’d sound, how he’d save me. It was everywhere in the movies I watched and books I read. It took me almost until adulthood to realize that other types of relationships existed – ones that reached far past the confines of the limited options that had always been presented to me.
Everything I learned about LGBTQ+ topics growing up pointed to it being a laughable or dangerous subject. When my brother was around three, a family member grabbed his shirt when they found me brushing his face with colorful makeup and said “You are a BOY” before making him wipe it off. At a sleepover when I was a teenager, two of my friends were criticizing queer relationships and laughing. “It’s not like they have real sex.” My family and friends would say a man seemed “bi-curious” if they wanted to suggest he was sensitive or weak. A family friend warned me not to trust “The LGBT” because “they are a dangerous organization.” Gay and trans people were “flaunting it” or “throwing it in our faces” and prompted most of the evangelical Christians in my life to say the classic phrase, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
The first time I heard the word “lesbian”, I was around 10 years old. I sat in my room thinking about it for a long time before asking a family member what it meant. She said, “A girl who wants to be a boy.” A few years later while having a sleepover with a friend from school, I was listening in disbelief as she complained that nobody wanted to date her. I shook my head and said, “If I were a boy, I’d date you.” It was the sincerest compliment I could think of giving to someone I adored. At the time I wasn’t even thinking of that conversation I had years before, but something inside of me felt so determined to say it, even if I didn’t understand the weight of what it truly meant.
I spent years feeling confused about my attraction to women. I shied away from dating anyone, feeling nervous and uncomfortable even thinking about it. One of my aunts pulled me aside one Easter to tell me she was worried I wasn’t living a full life as a teenager by choosing not to pursue anyone. As a simple rule-follower with the Holy Bible app downloaded on my iPod touch, I forced myself not to think about dating or desire and instead focused all my energy on schoolwork… until I left home and moved away to college.
The first time I fell in love with a girl it felt like magic. There’s a beauty in surrendering to something that’s been so tightly wound for years and years. I thought to myself, I think this is how it’s supposed to be. Curiosity, passion, reverence all rose to the surface where before there was only a desperate emptiness. For the first time I began to envision a future life with the person I was with instead of a made-up Prince Charming I’ve always daydreamed about in my head. But still, it all felt painfully temporary. One day, I told myself, I’d still need to find a husband.
During a therapy session once, I was explaining this to my therapist. “I think it’s just inevitable that I’ll marry a man. That’s just how I’ve always felt.” She challenged me, asking if it’s what I’ve always wanted or just what I’ve been taught was the only way to be. I pushed her. “I do feel attracted to people of all genders, so why can’t I just pick a guy? Should I just give my future children a father? Won’t they hate me if I can’t?”
She thought about it for a moment, then responded with something I’ll never forget:
“What would it mean for your children to see you truly happy? What would it be like for them to know that you are honest with yourself, confident in your choices, and in a healthy, loving relationship, no matter the gender of your partner?”
This is the danger of internalized homophobia – ignoring your own needs to pursue a life that other people decide is “right” for you. I’ve watched countless people – particularly women – in my life completely abandon themselves for the benefit of others. Stay in an unhealthy relationship for the children. Marry him for stability. Keep quiet to avoid backlash. Don’t be weird. Don’t be loud. Don’t be too much. It’s both exhausting and unbelievable to realize how much effort some people put in to keep others contained for their own comfortability.
I see news stories daily about new policy proposals trying to silence a discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in elementary schools. Many people think that offering children a different perspective, allowing them the space to explore their identity, and showing them diverse family structures is somehow “endangering children.” So many times, I’ve heard the excuse that children are too young to be introduced to these topics. But, keeping topics like these from children will only lead to more confused, ashamed, and fearful adults.
Though I am living a happy and fulfilled life now, it’s not to say that it came at no cost. I have spent so many hours of work to try and convince myself that I am enough as I am, that the future I want is possible, and that my needs deserve to be met. If I had resources and representation as a young person, who knows how many of these obstacles I’d have already overcome? Including young people in LGBTQ+ conversations is not only beneficial, but it is lifesaving.
What would it mean to support each other in modeling a lifestyle for future generations that isn’t restrictive or shame-inducing? How would our children benefit from witnessing self-fulfillment instead of self-abandonment? When can we begin to honor ourselves, and act on it?
Well-expressed. And much-needed. Thank you.
Another great piece Nina... I was totally engrossed in your words and thoughts. I wish Uncle Billy were still here to witness your writing...discoveries and bright light! I’m glad I am though...🙌🏼💓🙏🏼