On my phone notes app, I have a running list of ideas for blog posts. I got a bunch more ideas from the results of the Survey I recently did, and whenever I'm feeling stumped, I'll scroll through it and decide what to write about next. The idea for this post was most definitely not on the list--and it's not one that I really wanted to write, for reasons I'll explain here. Today I'm going to write about being gay.
Over the past few months I've noticed kind of a trend. I can see what people search for on my blog (it's anonymous, but I can just see the search terms through my analytics page), and pretty frequently people search gay/lesbian/lgbt or some variation on that. They might be surprised when nothing whatsoever comes up, other than a post on making a picnic for pride. That post could easily have been written by a straight girl who just likes rainbows. So far, on my blog, on Instagram, or anywhere else, I don't talk openly about being gay. And in my Survey results, several people asked if I would post some LGBT content. I read that and in my mind was like . . . nope! Not in my comfort zone. But it got me thinking that a lot of people coming to my blog might be gay and/or interested about the life Grace and I live from that perspective. We are so lucky to live in one of the most gay-friendly places on earth (West Hollywood, I love you forever), and I think it's even fascinating to people that we live our lives as a couple so openly. That said, I'm really not open at all through blogging or social media on this topic.
But I'm engaged to Grace, so it's not a secret. I just don't mention my identity in relation to that . . . I act like it's a foregone conclusion because of who I'm marrying (which, it basically is). Grace talks plenty about being gay, on TYT, on her Youtube channel, on Instagram, Twitter, everything. It's super normal for her and I think that's a big reason why people connect with her, because she lives so openly, can joke about it, and makes it so much fun. And it's not that I don't live openly; again, I'm totally public about the fact that I'm getting MARRIED to Grace. It doesn't get much gayer than that. But overall, I'm not really comfortable talking about "gay stuff." If someone I don't already know realizes that I'm gay, I'm instantly uncomfortable.
I honestly don't think some of my best friends know that I get uncomfortable in this way or would pick up on it. It's not as if I spend each day paranoid or that I'm ashamed of who I am, at all. But at the same time, I mostly would really just prefer to act like my identity as a gay person doesn't exist. If it comes up, I usually dismiss it with something like, "oh, that's the least interesting thing about me." I'm SO proud to be getting married to Grace. I've known I wanted to marry her since I was 21 years old. To me, she is perfect, and when we are out together or living our lives, any insecurities melt away. But it's when I'm alone, or here on my own corner of the internet, that I don't feel like I show much (or any) pride in my identity. I act like it doesn't exist.
And to be fair, I got some really sweet comments in my Survey about how refreshing it is to see a gay couple that does act like it's just normal, and "not a thing." That's exactly what I want--to be normal. And I think it's a huge part of why I've been pretty silent on this front on my blog. But I don't feel like that's right anymore, just to pretend I'm normal when obviously I'm different. To explain where I'm coming from, and where I'm hoping to move forward, I have to start wayyy back, at least 10 or 15 years ago.
I realized I was gay early in high school, when I was about 15 and had never been on a date or had a real kiss or anything like that. I went to an all girls school in the South. I have to preface what I'm about to write with this caveat: I have some of the BEST friends out of high school/growing up, but literally only about 4 of them that I've talked to in years.
But. Aside from a few shining examples of sweet friendships, I had a really bad high school experience. I was so depressed, and secretive, and fell into being "weird" when that's not me at all. Anyone who knows me now, knows that living a sweet, simple, fairly conventional life is what I'm happy doing. Being honest, being a good friend, loving my (soon to be) spouse and my dogs, and being close with my family are some of my most important core values. But you wouldn't have thought that had you known me in high school.
In my small school, I confided in a couple of people, and soon the rumor mill started churning. I was outed and gossiped about. I remember hearing that one girl in particular, who I didn't even really know but who was very "cool" at my school, was telling everyone that I was gay. I was so anxious and upset about it, and mulling over what to do, I decided to send her a message saying that I was uncomfortable with everyone knowing and asking her to stop. She flat out said no. Everyone is gossiped about in high school, so I don't expect anyone to have sympathy for me on that front alone. But it's hard to describe how isolating and horrible it felt to know that everyone was making judgments about me, based on something I didn't fully understand about myself, in a medium-conservative area of the country where I didn't know a single openly gay person. It's not even that I think girls at my school were saying to each other that I was going to hell, or that they didn't want to ever talk to me, or anything like that. People weren't, for the most part, outright mean. And some were even nice to me and not judgmental. But it was the instantaneous "different" label slapped on me from then on that really hurt me. Never to chat with my friends over lunch about who I had a crush on, like everyone else. Never to take a "real" date to prom or school dances (I usually took my gay guy friend who was an awesome dancer, bless him). Never to just be ordinary, unremarkable . . . always slightly scandalous. Which is the antithesis of what I wanted to be. Because I was secretive of my identity (even though everyone knew, it's not like I could openly talk about it), I became secretive about everything. I would lie about things I had no reason to lie about. I started dressing differently, in a way that wasn't my style at all. I got bad grades. People thought I was doing drugs or something. I was glad if they did, because it meant the focus was on something other than the fact that I was a big, fat, lesbian.
I want to point out that I have an extremely loving, amazing family, who are currently helping me plan the wedding of my dreams to my future WIFE. Pinch me, I'm so happy. But, sadly, during high school I wasn't open with them at all, either. I had no one to talk to, and everything I did felt shady. I have such a pit in my stomach remembering that time in my life. It's just so not me. I felt like I matured slower than my peers during this time, too. I couldn't experience the normal high school rituals of dating, staying out past curfew, "typical" high school drama, getting invited to dances or other functions, or anything like that. I'm embarrassed because I felt like I acted so immature during high school because of all of this, but I also just sometimes, even now, sit down and cry for that girl who never got to be normal or experience growing up and coming of age in a way that could be happy and carefree.
A lot of this isn't anyone's fault. And looking back, my high school life was actually charmed compared to so many people's. I wasn't kicked out of my house. I wasn't assaulted or killed because of a hate crime. I didn't try to kill myself. Those are good, and (sadly) lucky, things. But without comparing my story to anyone else's, I was just plain unhappy.
Things got a lot better when I went to college. I went through phases, grew up a lot, made incredible friends, and just became so much more of who I am. And then at the end of college I met Grace. Right around this time I decided to move to California for law school, and by coincidence, Grace was moving to California, too. We dated for the first few years I lived out here and I was happier than I'd ever been. California was my Promised Land. I don't hate North Carolina even a little bit. And I don't think I would be openly discriminated against there. But it was my desperation to be normal that drove me to California, where I could be around more people "like me."
Fast forward to the end of law school. I knew that Grace and I would probably be getting engaged within the next year or two. And we'd finally not be long-distance anymore (we were six hours apart for the first three years we dated). And right around that time, I had a major meltdown. I knew that I was meant to marry Grace. But I had this realization wash over me that I'd never known a married gay couple in my life. That my own wedding would be the first gay wedding I'd ever attend. That I didn't "know how to do it." That I had no role models. I remember in Spring of 2016, right before I graduated from Berkeley, visiting Grace in LA. We drove up to the Malibu mountains (coincidentally not at all far from where we're getting married in 6 months) to watch the sunrise. I'd written Grace a letter pouring my heart out on all of this . . . that I was so deeply sad that I had no mentors or role models in my life who "looked like me." That I felt unprepared to become a family. That I wanted it but didn't know how. And as Grace read the letter I cried my eyes out on that mountaintop. Grace listened, and heard me, and dried my eyes. I sobbed, "you know that quote, 'if you can't see it, you can't be it'?" It's a quote about needing role models and the importance of visibility and representation. It resonated so strongly with me. But Grace just said, "if we can't see it, then WE have to be it. For the next person."
Just to back up, I'm not trying to act like we're pioneers or something, or that we're the first gay people to get married. We're SO lucky that others have pioneered before us. But what I'm getting at, and what was troubling me, is just visibility within our own circles. As much as I might know that plenty of gay couples get married and start families all the time in theory, I personally don't know any (at least very well). I couldn't really think of a single family in my life that looked like what my future family might look like. So it's not about us going where no one had gone before, but just about meaningful mentorship and role models within our own personal lives. I'm not sure if others can relate, but that was just a big sticking point for me.
Well, you know how the rest of the story goes. Grace and I did get engaged, and even though yes, our wedding will be the first gay wedding either of us has been to, we're feeling good about making it a celebration with nods to tradition but that's also uniquely "us." I still sometimes get teary-eyed about the years I lost being sad, feeling different, and not loving myself well. And I think after being outed, I've for years wanted to kind of reclaim my privacy. Of course, I post pictures with Grace all the time, so I'm not being secretive. But I am generally private about my identity or even about calling myself gay, especially online. I don't know if I'll start talking about myself differently after writing all of this out, or if anything will change other than this post being out there on the internet. I don't think it really needs to. It's also not as if the pain I felt for years is instantly healed. I am still working through forgiveness and letting go of the past. I don't think I could ever bring myself to attend a high school reunion, but I'm not sure why I would ever want to anyway. Part of healing is realizing that while some parts of my life were dark, there is so much LIGHT in my life now--why turn back toward the shadows? But I did think it was worth explaining all of this, for anyone who might be wondering about my story or why, until now, a search of the word "gay" on my blog would have returned no results. I'm proud of who I am and more than anything, of the little family I'm starting with Grace. I cry tears of happiness all the time just driving home from work or having a good conversation with Grace over dinner. My cup runneth over. But I know for almost every gay person out there, there's always the "back story." For anyone who's still in the thick of it (I'm definitely not immune to feeling different, by the way), hang in there. If you want to talk, you can always Contact me through my blog inquiries page.