I hated that club. I hated it for the soul reason that it forced me to confront my worst fear. I hated it because I wasn’t used to the idea of being a part of such a club. I hated it because I was scared of it. I hated that club, I realized, because going to it and being a part of it meant one thing and one thing only; that I was gay and there was nothing I could do to change that. However going to that club gave me more than just a good hard look at myself. As the weeks drew on I found myself looking towards that club for guidance, reassurance, and a sense of belonging. And when my parents found out about me, that club gave me people I could look to in a time of need and a place where I could be who I was without a fear of being judged or made to feel like I was less than anybody else simply because of my sexual orientation.
My parents are strong valued people who worked hard in life to get to where they are now, successful and happy. I was raised in an “it’s either right or it’s wrong and there is no in between” household. Being gay was never on the right end of the spectrum, and my parents, and the rest of my family, made that abundantly clear. I hated hiding it right from the start. I was the type of girl who strived to do everything right in order to get her parents approval. It killed me going home for breaks and listening to my parent’s spew out their anti-gay remarks, unaware of the damage they were secretly doing to their own daughter on the inside. I was struggling with confusion. I was struggling with a dark feeling of depression because I couldn’t tell the people who really loved me who it was they were really saying I love you to everyday. And even deeper down, I was struggling with feelings of rejection and terror over the outcome of what would happen when my family did find out the truth. Then I was introduced to LGBTA.
“I think you should join LGBTA. I think it could really help you.”
I looked at the Facebook conversation as someone I had only recently started talking to told me about the club. I knew she was gay identified and I trusted her enough to know that what I told her was safe in her hands. I also desperately needed her help.
“That club terrifies me. I don’t like it,” I quickly typed back and I sighed thinking about that stupid club. A friend of mine had dragged me to it the semester prior, a mere two weeks after I came out of the closet for the first time. I hadn’t been ready then. I was still a little uneasy about it now.
“It’s a great way to meet people you can relate to, people who understand what you’re going through.”
I laughed to myself. Wouldn’t that be a dream, I thought sadly to myself.
“I’ll think about it,” I typed back to Elizabeth, hoping the answer would satisfy her.
She dropped the subject soon after. I looked back at that conversation a hundred times after it occurred. No, I still wasn’t ready, I deemed.
However, after a summer of struggling with hiding my sexuality, my girlfriend breaking up with me because I hid my sexuality, and my own feelings of despair over the entire situation, I reluctantly agreed to once again give the club a try. I joined in the fall of 2011, after a bit of pushing from Elizabeth and Liam, another Facebook friend involved with the club. Within just two meetings I found myself becoming a completely different person. I started feeling more confident in whom I came out to. During the second meeting we played an ice breaker my RA the previous year had once played with us. I found another member of the club to be kind of cute and learned that she was bisexual and single. I found myself, for the first time, unafraid of saying or suggesting to people that I liked girls. For the first time in a very long time, I began to feel like there was actually a place in this world where I could belong to.
Elizabeth showed up towards the end of the meeting and I quickly scurried to her side. Later that night, after the meeting ended, the two of us went out for ice cream and I began to discuss an incident at home the previous weekend in which my mother had once again mentioned the “wrongness” of homosexuality.
“I just don’t understand why it is they feel this way,” I began to carefully explain. “When I tell them, it’s over, and I can’t handle that. I can’t handle them not knowing the truth and knowing that when they find out the truth, everything will change between us.”
“Darling, I get it. I understand. Believe me, I do,” she whispered softly, her words comforting me as they had done so many times before.
“I thought family was supposed to love you regardless of who you were? Why is it that mine only carries that statement with them until you stray from the path of right and wrong…and then they just drop you?”
Elizabeth and I talked for a while that night, and once again I found myself realizing just how much I needed that club, and the friends I was making within it, in my life. However five days later I was once again thrust into another situation with my family, a situation in which without Elizabeth, Liam, or LGBTA, I never would have survived.
On September 19th, 2011, I received a frantic text message from an old high school classmate. She explained to me in several text messages that she had been unaware of my not being out to my family, and that she had accidently mentioned my involvement in LGBTA and my sexuality in a run-in with my mother at my mom’s place of employment. My stomach dropped. My heart stopped. When I looked at my phone again I had four missed calls and several left messages from home. My confidence and happiness slowly began to fade. My mother was, to say the least, not as enthused as I was about my sexuality. Words of anger and hate spewed from the messages as tears filled my eyes and panic began to arise. It had only been a couple of weeks since I’d begun attending LGBTA, but I found myself clinging most to the two people who had gotten me involved with the club. It was them and others who listened to me and gave me that sense of security when the only other place I had ever belonged began to reject me simply for being me. It was during those days when I began to see exactly why Elizabeth and Liam had wanted me to join that club so badly.
During the third meeting, a mere twenty four hours after my parent’s found out, I found myself sitting between two other girls writing down things we had in common for a team building exercise. One of them, the president of LGBTA, innocently thought aloud as she tried to come up with more ideas.
“Well, we all like girls, right?”
The other one, the treasurer of the club, glanced over at her. “Don’t assume,” she lightly scolded and the president looked over at me apologetically.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to label.”
I thought for a moment, thinking of the silence that had become my relationship with my mother who had yet to return a single phone call since leaving the voicemails. This place was safe, I thought. I didn’t need to hide here.
“Yeah, I like girls,” I whispered and she smiled.
“They’re so much better than guys,” mentioned the treasurer and I smiled. It was probably the first time I had in twenty four hours.
That moment showed me something. That moment in the club showed me that it didn’t matter what my mother, or the rest of my family for that matter, thought about my sexuality. It didn’t matter that I had spent the last twenty four hours wondering what would become of my life. It was probably going to change. My relationship with my family was most definitely going to change. However I couldn’t change who I was, and I didn’t want to. Listening to those two girls, and listening to Elizabeth who spent her nights constantly reassuring me that there was nothing wrong with me liking girls, that I was still the same great person regardless of my sexuality, and more importantly, that so long as I was happy and healthy, then what my parent’s thought of who I loved didn’t matter.
“You have people who love and accept you. As much as it hurts, if your family can’t, then you don’t need them in your life,” stated Elizabeth.
I thought about the comment for a bit and then began to cry. How could this possibly be happening? I thought to myself.
I wish that every struggle in life could end with a happy outcome. However life isn’t always a fairytale. I wish I could say that after the initial shock of the discovery my mother realized that I was still the same daughter she had raised and loved for twenty one years, but unfortunately that reality is still playing out. My relationship with my mother or the rest of my family may never be as strong as I was once believed it was. However my strength and confidence in myself has gotten stronger. I’ve grown as a person because of the situation at hand. I’ve also had some help in coming to terms with the situation. LGBTA may just be another club on campus to some, but to me, it’s a community filled with friends who have since become just as much family as my blood relatives ever were.