When the summer of grade nine hit, I knew I was different from others and my feelings were getting the best of me. This scared me to death because I was thinking how I could be having all these feelings when I was brought up being told they were wrong. Being brought up in a strong religious family that went to church every Sunday, sang in the choir, being baptized and confirmed in the church as well no one could have seen what came next. This not only put a strain between the relationship with my church but also with my friends and family. It was almost like my life was a lie. I had to hide who I was and that killed me inside. After months of keeping my secret I couldn’t hold it any longer and started to tell my friends one by one. Not only was I beyond scared to lose my friends but I was terrified at what they would say to me. Nothing scared me more than finally coming out to my parents for the first time. I had heard plenty of stories about people coming out and how they reacted but everyone’s different so I prepared for the worst. At first when I told them I thought they had taken it well for the most part. They said they said they still loved me and I was still their daughter. They did say I couldn’t act upon my feelings, and this was a hard realization for me to accept. It was like they were telling me that yes we acknowledge that you feel this way but you must hide it and not show anyone how you feel. This put a great strain on our relationship because at that time I had a girlfriend and they were unaware of this. After I told them we didn’t talk much about it until I went to a retreat called COR. Sometime before we had gotten there our parents had been asked to write a letter to us without our knowledge and during the retreat we would receive the letters. As soon as I open the first from my dad I broke down. He talked about the first time my grandmother saw me and how she cried and wondered what the world had in store for me. She has now passed on and every day I think about her. He also talked about what he loved about me and how much he cared for me which meant a lot. My mother’s letter is always hurtful to read and always brings tears to my eyes. A few things she said are, “You are right, I don’t just like you but I love you with all my heart. And recently you are just pulling it out of my chest and stomping on it. RUN, RUN, RUN, don’t walk towards the Lord, get down on your knees, pray and ask him for help with the turmoil you feel in your heart and head. We, as people feel many, many things, but we don’t have to act them out. Remember, actions speak louder than words stop, walking the other way from the Lord into the arms of the devil.” I was a mess for hours and couldn’t calm down after I read this letter. My friend who had convinced me to come wasn’t supposed to be allowed to talk to me because she oversaw things in the background. They made an exception and let me go talk to her because they felt terrible and didn’t know how to help. It was hurtful to realize how my parents felt about my sexual orientation. I had told them exactly how I felt and my mom still wanted me to hide it. I couldn’t help how I felt but it was still seen as wrong. Just imagine your parents telling you it’s not right for you to be with your husband or wife and that you shouldn’t show your feelings for them. This crushed me. They said you had to write a letter back at the retreat. I couldn’t. I couldn’t put my thoughts together and write with a clear head. This turned out to be a harder task than I thought I was in internal turmoil with myself. My leader saw how upset I was and tried to help me organize my thought together. I decided this was the time to tell them about my girlfriend. When I got home that night they came into my room and said I couldn’t be with her and had to break up with her. She wasn’t allowed to come over and I wasn’t allowed to go over. I couldn’t speak or talk to her at school at all. We had been dating for about five months and at the time what they were asking of me was impossible for me to do. My parents and I became very distant at this point. I isolated myself from my family and rebelled. Between the end of April and my birthday May 12 my life was a living hell. I was constantly trying to just try and get out of the house because I felt like I was so alone. My parents would follow my every move and would only allow me to leave if it was for school or for baseball. Everyday my parents would bring up that I was a Christian girl that shouldn’t be having these feelings and that the devil was taking over my life. On May 12, 2012, I had finally had enough so I decided to leave. Early in the morning my dad came banging at the door and demanded I come out but after no response he gave up. I left the house because I didn’t want them to come again. Later that day my girlfriend’s parent’s number came up but it was my mom pleading with me to come home but I refused to tell her where I was because I wasn’t going back. After I had hung up the phone and my girlfriend’s parents had said they left we went back to the house. Sometime around dinner my parents came to the house and asked me to come out to talk. I thought we could work things out but they only made it worse. Once they realized I wasn’t leaving they grabbed me by my arms and tried to force me to get into the van. I hit the ground because I didn’t know what else to do. They didn’t give up until my girlfriend’s parents came out because they heard screaming and threatened to call the police. I was left emotionally scarred by that day. For the longest time, I couldn’t talk about what had happened or even think about it without crying or being upset. For a while I just pretended that it had never happened or it was all just a dream. I understand now that it wasn’t the best way to go about the situation but all I wanted was to feel accepted and not so much of a disappointment to them. Being put down every time you talk about what you want to do later in life or how you’re doing in school can wear down on a person. Having that constant feeling of knowing that they will never be pleased with your decisions and they will always be judging you for the ones you’ve already made. I understand that you aren’t supposed to be worried about what other people think but your parents. You will always have that desire to make them proud of you. That is what hurt me. It is now 2017, I will be turning 22 in May. 5 years later and I know it is cliché but it does get better. I moved away from my home town and decided to go to a university seven hours away. I will be graduating this upcoming year with a Bachelors of Arts with a specialty in Sociology. I had to grow up fast and start looking out what was best for me. It hasn’t been an easy journey. I can’t emphasize enough that no one can tell you when the right time to come out is. It will be your decision when you want to or when you are ready. I know now that the way I went about leaving was not the best. At that time, I was young and naïve. I was being impulsive and wasn’t thinking about the whole picture. I was 16 going on 17 and I thought that my life was already figured out. I know now that I still had a lot of growing up to do and should have thought out my decisions better. My parents and I have had our ups and downs but I will always love them. They have taught me so many life lessons that I wouldn’t want to ever forget. It takes time for acceptance to happen for some I’ve learned that. Coming out is a continuous process that you must go through. As you do it more and more you’ll become more comfortable with the idea. Understand that it is a part of who you are comes with a lot of self reflection and soul searching. Accepting it for yourself may be the hardest thing that you need to go through. My professor once said coming out shouldn’t just be accepted it should be celebrated. When you or someone you know comes out we must acknowledge the fact about how much courage for that exact moment to happen. When someone is pouring out their soul to you and in most cases fear of losing it all, they are just looking for acceptance. They want to be heard and understood. Being apart of the LGBTQ+ community and seeing how it continues to grow reminds me that we must continue to stand together and lift each other up. Just because a group gains legal rights doesn’t mean that years of oppression wash away, especially since homophobia is still alive and flourishing despite vast gains. Being allowed to marry doesn’t immediately bring with it the ability to see oneself as worthy of accepting anyone’s love, even their own. We must focus not on falling in love with others, but on learning to love ourselves as we become more equal.

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