Growing up in a religious home, listening to the pastor rebuke homosexuality on Sundays, and hearing people around me use the term gay as an insult often made me feel small, ashamed, and like an outcast. I never had the desire to come out to my family out of fear of rejection and hate, and after a while, my parents started to suspect I was gay because of the masculine clothing I preferred to wear or the fact that I never talked about boys. Oftentimes, innocent moments with girl friends would turn into uncomfortable moments of accusations from my parents. I tried to avoid any conversations about the entire topic of sexuality.

As I began to grow, I wanted to be more open about my sexuality outside of my home. I remember the day gay marriage became legal in my home state, Pennslyvania, on May 20, 2014. It was a couple of days away from my eighth-grade graduation. I was so excited. I called all of my friends, screaming, "I can legally marry a woman!" After that, I began to feel more seen in the world. I had already decided to attend an all-girls high school, hoping that I'd have a safe place, hopefully amongst other girls like me. Fast forward to the middle of my freshman year, as I have been acclimated and have made friends with the other gay girls, but still, no one knew for sure back at home.

Until one day, what started as a typical day, I woke up, got dressed, went to school, came home, and hung out with my friends outside. When I came back inside that evening, one of my parents had gone through my texts and saw that I was talking to other girls, but not in a way you'd text best friends. I was not much of a vocal kid, so the look on my face said it all. I felt violated because I was not ready to share that piece of my identity. I began to get interrogated;why are you talking to another girl like that? Did you turn gay because you go to an all-girls school? Did someone touch you? Who made you like girls? You do know that God does not allow gay people in heaven, right?  

It was an extremely long night. I was outed entirely to anyone in the family that would listen and verbally bullied by some. Hearing words like "dyke," "homo," "faggot," or being told that my lifestyle is perverted, along with forced to come out, was traumatic. I got prayed over numerous times –– the blood of Jesus did not take the gay away, thankfully. I did not feel loved, supported, nor cared for by my parents over the next few years. I hid my relationships, and I did not feel comfortable bringing new friends around my family because they'd treat them rudely. I tried to avoid altogether anything that had to do with my queerness. I even went to both proms alone because I knew I would not have been allowed to take a woman, and I refused to take a male.

My sexuality came up again two years later when I was 16. I started to resent my parents and let them know that I was not okay with feeling like they hated me because I'm gay. One parent said they did not have an issue with it. While that did not seem true, I guess they had time to think about it. The other said, "I will always love you, but I will not support homosexuality. You have to take that up with God." In 2021, my relationship with my parents has grown tremendously. I recently started opening up my relationship life, and it has been a journey for them to learn to respect myself and my partner. Including my partner in family affairs and simply not being afraid to say her name around my parents is liberating. It has taken many serious conversations, heated discussions, space, time, and patience to reach this point. 

The year 2014 was an emotional, transformative year for me. Being forced out of the closet started my journey of self-acceptance and self-compassion. It was a difficult struggle to confront homophobic attitudes and degrading practices. Not feeling the love from my family took a toll on my mental health, but I had to challenge and overcome negative stereotypes and thoughts taught growing up to feel good about who I am. My queerness has been a vital part of my identity, and it has allowed me to grow into a resilient individual. I encourage us all to learn to love every aspect of ourselves.