I don't have a definitive moment when I realized just how very gay I am. I've just always known. The first time I remember being sexually excited, I was 4 years old. I was playing with my (female) doll and damn... she was fine. Looking at her and touching her turned me on more than any Ken ever would. A few months later I received the ever-anticipated sex talk due to my mom's third pregnancy. Naturally, gay sex was not covered so I was left feeling that I would be sexually dissatisfied for life. That's right, at 4.
When I was 8 years old and in the 3rd grade I cut off my hair and made everyone call me Sam. It seems embarrassing now, but at the time I thought it would be more acceptable for me to like girls if everyone thought I was a boy. And they did. School was not a problem for me since in 3rd grade I was home schooled and, outside of play dates, barely saw any of my friends. I tested this new found identity during "Floor Hockey Day Camp" that summer. I was the only girl in the class, but everyone assumed I was a boy. One hot day we took off to the pool for a swim. I kept my T-shirt on for the first 20 minutes before I whipped it off, expecting to be thrown in jail for indecent exposure. Obviously, since I was not an exceptionally well-developed 8 year old, no one even noticed. For that day, I felt free.
By the 4th grade, when I returned to the public school system, I also returned to my given name, my flare jeans and my shoulder length hair. Femininity is what felt and still feels natural to me. I spent hours on the phone gossiping about crushes on boys with my girlfriends and tried to hide my gayness from myself and my family.
My father is a very religious, conservative man. At some point in middle school during a dinner discussion revolving around politics, I asked him what he would think if one of his children turned out to be gay. He told me, in these exact words, "I'd try to get you help. I would love you all the same, but gayness is unacceptable in Heaven." I almost peed my pants. Since then my dad has made it very clear that he doesn't support gay marriage, he thinks being gay is a choice and me being gay would be worse than me being preggo with a neo-nazi's baby. His feelings are based off of his interpretation of the Bible. My siblings and I have all been raised in the Lutheran church and although I barely attend anymore, I still consider myself to be faithful and spiritual. I disagree with my Dad that gayness is unacceptable to God. I don't see how love could ever be unacceptable to Him.
On Memorial Day this year, I drove to my friend's grave site. She died when we were 15 with more courage and strength than I've been able to find in myself to this day. I felt inadequate sitting by her grave; still unable to own up to who I am after years of struggling. When I got back in the car, I prayed. I prayed harder than I'd prayed in years. I came out to God. Afterwards I shoved the car into drive and flipped on the radio. The song "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross started playing at that exact moment. I took it as a big high five from God. With tears streaming down my face, I had to pull over. A lesbian couple on a motorcycle drove by and gave me a strange look as a cried, sang along and blasted the radio at what I'm pretty sure was a volume worthy of disturbing the peace.
Today, I took another step forward. I called to register for a "coming out" lesbian and bisexual support group in my city. I had to leave a message since the office was closed, but even so, my hands were shaking by the time I hung up the phone. Coming out to my family means risking everything. It means gambling with my father's love and support for me in the future. It means throwing another divide in my parent's fragile marriage. It means my happiness. I don't know how long this journey will take me. It could be weeks, months, or even years before I find the words to tell my parents who I am. It's going to be a wild ride.