Trigger Warnings: mentions rape, victim blaming, bisexual erasure, suicide, school violence
I knew I liked girls in the 8th grade. There was this girl named Lauren and she made the day brighter with her smile. She was sweet and she made me feel good about myself. I’ve always liked boys though, so it made everything extremely confusing, especially growing up in a conservative Southern home. Not knowing what I felt and not trusting what I did feel, I spiraled into a deep depression. It all culminated in the 9th grade when I was so torn over my feelings for Lauren, who by that point had stopped talking to me because I was so depressed and “ruining her fun high school career,” that I started considering suicide. After a particularly rough night where I’d lied about trying to kill myself with a knife from the kitchen where my dog had kept me from plunging it into my chest and talked about how the judgmental stares from my fellow high schoolers about liking girls and boys made me want to blow up the cafeteria, my parents were given an ultimatum from the school guidance counselors: put her in counseling or find her another school to attend. It wasn’t healthy for me to love Lauren, they said.
Between the depression, the suicidal thoughts and my sexual confusion, it wasn’t a hard decision for my parents to make. I was taken to an Army therapist and my years of therapy began. I vividly remember the first meeting with the first therapist. I walked into the woman’s office in a daze, barely noticing the dim lighting and the red walls. My black Blow-pops purse, with the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Shake attached to a keyring, was clutched in my hands. They were alternating between shaking and sweating and I’d hardly slept the night before, dreading this meeting.
You would assume that meeting with a therapist would be more about the fact that I’d threatened suicide, lied about trying to take my own life with a knife, and expressed my secret desire to get rid of the stares and whispers that I was a freak who liked boys and girls by exploding a portion of the school, that’s what the therapist would talk about. You would assume I’d have sat down in the office and she’d have smiled at me and brought up “Why do you want to kill yourself? Why do you want to make the stares stop so badly you talked about blowing up the school?” but that wasn’t what happened. I sat down in the winged chair across the desk from the therapist, she smiled at me and said in a patronizing voice, “So you think you like girls? Why?” She then proceeded to ask me if it was one specific girl or if it was all girls. I hadn’t really thought about it that much, I just knew that Lauren made the sun shine brighter and made me feel less like a freak, even when she wasn’t talking to me. When I admitted that it was Lauren that made me feel so happy inside (as happy as I could be deep in the throes of teenage angst and an identity crisis), the therapist then proceeded to tell me that I didn’t know what I was talking about and chances were I was latching onto Lauren because she helped the depression go away. There was no REAL chance that I liked girls, it was all just a big misunderstanding.
This was in 2002.
I spent the next seven years blatantly ignoring other girls, I made a point to be friends with only boys and if I admitted it to myself, the girls I did allow myself to be friends with were not “my type.” At that point, they were not Lauren. I finished high school and moved onto college. I joined a sorority because of a friend and I was relieved to find that none of my sorority sisters were “my type” either. It made my confusion easier. I was still mortally afraid of telling anyone that I was bisexual because I knew the girls who were supposed to be my sisters would shun me. That ended up happening anyways after a party where I was brutally raped. They told me that the rape was my fault because I’d led the man on.
The rape on top of being bisexual made me terrified of telling anyone anything personal about me. I left my first university not long after being shunned by everyone I’d considered to be family. It took two years to be comfortable enough to leave home and go back to school. I had originally been an education major but when I returned to school, I decided to go for a major that I felt would make a difference in the lives of confused young teenagers like I had been.
I chose social work.
I quickly fit in with the other social work majors, learning the things that I wish had been told to me. Bisexuality was not something that was demonized– my whole life everyone always said you either like girls or you like boys, you can’t like both. It was so confusing to me that it was acceptable that you could be straight or you could be gay but if you were somewhere in the middle, you were the worst kind of person around. Truthfully, it made me feel like I was on a level with a child molester. And that wasn’t the case.
I’ve graduated with a degree in social work now, and I’m a big advocate of the LGBTQ+ community. Working with teenagers, I’ve been able to tell them that it’s okay to not be one or the other, it’s okay to be somewhere in the middle. It’s okay to be yourself. I didn’t have that growing up, but thanks to my own personal trials and tribulations, my desire to make a difference, I feel like I can and that I have provided that to those who need it.