I'm sure the subject alone leaves you with preconceived ideas of me. Some may be true, some of them may not be. Ultimately, this is not about me, I'd still like to tell you a little about myself.
I grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan with two incredible people who possessed an immense amount of love and energy- I'm lucky enough to call them my parents. I also have one sister. She's hilarious, an optometric assistant with a ridiculous laugh and an attitude as large as our vast prairie. My upbringing was as normal as they come. I was a little girl who had a great obsession with her doll called, Emily. I played princesses with my friends and watched movies that paraded women with extravagant costumes and makeup I longed to wear. I loathed math, I loved to read and was full of daydreams of what I could write when it came time for creative writing class. I was a child fortunate enough to get along with everyone. I was never bullied, I had plenty of friends and the only thing that ever had me disciplined in school was the inability to cage my social butterfly. If you put me in a line up with every other girl in my class, no one could've pegged me as different. But I felt it.
I have no real concept of when it "happened" or how I noticed it. It was an underlying current, always there. My best friends began to whisper about the boys, they were invited behind the big tree in the school yard to have their first kisses and they giggled endlessly about the notes they wanted to send to boys across class. I watched and I waited. I found boys with nice eyes and kind smiles and tried my very best to see what all those other girls saw. Imagine my disappointment when, despite my best effort to force them, those feelings never came. For those other girls, it seemed natural and easy. They saw movies and watched television and even as small children they understood that the butterflies that come up when "Michael" or "Josh" asked to walk them home, would one day become a thing called "love."
As a young teenager I became terrified that I would never find that thing. It didn't seem possible for me. I didn't have the same feelings or thoughts as those other girls and the feelings I did have, I didn't have a name for. I was liked, I was smart, I was pretty. But I was lacking. I wholly believed that. I thought I was lacking, I was strange, surely something was wrong. If I'm not capable of "love" like everyone else- something must be broken? Of course, I got a little older, I found words for the feelings I had. I recognized a community of people that perhaps I didn't always fit into, but had people like me.
But people waving pride flags and proclaiming "gay is OK!' didn't mean I lost those feelings. If those feelings of shame, of inadequacy, of being "wrong" had left me, I wouldn't have carried the same fear throughout my life.
I didn't come out until after I graduated high school. I saw kids who were teased and bullied. I saw how ruthless we can all be and I sat in fear. I decided that now was not my time. I watched my parents handle my adolescence and young adult struggles with as much empathy and understanding as they could muster. I saw them do the same for my sister and the friends between the two of us that they welcomed into their home. I did not have an upbringing that instilled a fear of being honest with my parents. But I was terrified. It was a feeling that no amount of "we love you no matter what" and "you can tell me anything" would ever fix.
Can you imagine that? Can you picture your child sitting across from you at the dinner table with a real fear inside of them that you have no concept of? Living in their own world of confusion and unease, looking to you for an answer that you don't even know you're supposed to give. I'm not a parent. But I am a friend, a daughter, a sister, I've been a significant other and the idea that someone could look at me, feeling terrified and ashamed of something they cannot help- it makes me feel physically ill. I can feel, in the tips of my fingers and all of my toes, just how wrong that is.
My experience was not to be filed under "coming out horror stories." It was simple and relieving. My parents were, as I should've known, taken aback but willing to accept and adjust to what would come. While no one was bouncing off the walls in excitement or calling family members to let them know, the quiet acceptance was an amazingly inconceivable alternative to the shame, banishment and threats that I'd read and heard about in the years prior. While this was the best possible outcome for me and something I will be eternally grateful for, I know it's given me an unrealistic view of how these moment often go. It's incredibly difficult to go from watching your mother clink wine glasses with your girlfriend, sharing laughs and hugs, to remembering that somewhere a parent is tainting their relationship with their child over something as beautiful and rare as finding someone in this world to form a happy, healthy, partnership with.
I've come to understand that this is a privileged point of view. And it's absurd to me that it should be considered as such. It's a luxury to think that as long as I'm happy and healthy, I will be loved, I will be treated with respect? I will be invited to Thanksgiving with the person I love? It's wrong to ignore that a parent could hesitate saying "I love you" after a conversation that has nothing to do with them and lasts only a moment. Because that is the reality. I loved to spend time out on the boat with my dad before I told him I was gay. I still do. I used to love when my mom offered to do my makeup or play with my hair. That never changed. I loved my parents, I respected my parents, I laughed with my parents and shared what was good and what was bad with them. That never changed.
I never changed.
While it deeply pains me to know that there are people who cannot handle or accept the reality of others, I understand it. I understand what it's like not to know if you can accept something or even where to start. I understand what it's like to feel fear of the unknown. What it's like to prefer self-preservation over total honesty. I know what it is to be consumed by confusion and anger. Because I had to go through it too. Acceptance doesn't happen overnight and luckily, most of us have the patience to understand that and honour that. The only thing we seek is the reassurance that you will try. That your love does not waiver because our love looks a little different. We need to know that we won't mean any less to the people who mean the most to us. And that when all is said and done, if you feel you cannot move past it, recognize that we too have the right to put ourselves first.
Love & understanding,