I've got a
good life. I have great parents, a cool brother, awesome friends, I have it
But my life isn't easy, and I guess there's a lot of reasons for that.
A big one is the fact that I'm gay. It isn't something I hide, either. I talk about my love life with my friends, I hold my girlfriend's hand and kiss her in public, and I'm open with my family about who I'm dating and who I'm interested in. I talk about the relationship problems I have as if they were the same as heterosexual relationship problems (because they are). To me, it's normal. It's just how I've always been.
But I've learned along the way that it is most certainly not normal to everyone. It's something you don't understand if you aren't a part of it. The choices I make as a teenage lesbian affect everyone around me, and that's a weird thing to have to constantly pay attention to.
It used to bother me a lot, too. I actually used to be offended by the fact that my family had an opinion on it. My dad always used to tell me, "Kenzie, you have the biggest role in this, but you don't have the only role." For example, I have a t-shirt that says 'Can't Even Think Straight' and I'm not allowed to wear it to school because it bothers my brother, MJ. I always thought that was asinine, that I couldn't wear what I wanted because he took issue with it.
My dad tells me that MJ didn't choose to have a gay sister. To which the obvious reply is, "I didn't choose to be gay."
Also, there's certain people that I'm not allowed to tell. My grandparents and my great grandma, for example. There's people I'm advised not to tell, too, like teachers and coaches. and the people at my church. It makes sense, mostly. Telling these people would create more trouble than it's worth. And I know my parents are just looking out for me, because they could have potentially bad reactions and it can be really devastating to come out and have people not be okay with it. It's like a whole part of your personality is just being denied.
But there's a more irrational side of me that's thinking "they don't understand how hard it is to have to hide who you are. They don't get it because they're straight, they don't know what it's like to be stared at and made fun of just for who you love. They don't get how important it is to me to be myself."
That side of me isn't wrong per se. But that side of me needs to remember that even if I don't like it, at this point in my life, being gay and more specifically being out is a give and take. In the end, I'm just lucky I have such progressive parents who are so good to me and love me regardless of my sexuality. I should tell you that MJ is a good guy, too. He talks to me about girls like I'm just 'one of the guys' and even asks me about which girls I think are the hottest.
I've got a good gig with my family.
But of course, my family aren't the only ones that my being a lesbian apparently affects.
It's my friends, my coaches, my teachers, strangers. Everyone thinks they get a say in how I live my life. Not to mention, they all seem to think that I can be persuaded to 'turn straight' with enough nagging. It's insane.
Imagine everyone just deciding, out of nowhere, that an integral part of your personality was invalid because they didn't like it. Imagine someone saying you weren't really smart, or funny, or athletic, or compassionate, or even that you couldn't love dogs, or baseball, or anything, just because they weren't okay with it.
"Strangers, girlfriends, hell, even my own parents. All asking me to be something that I'm not. Do you have any idea what that feels like? Like your whole f*cking existence is being denied? Like 'woah, you'd be better off if you were invisible?' Yeah. I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for mom, not for anybody."
- Big Boo (Orange Is The New Black)
It's really frustrating. You can try to imagine it, but you don't really understand unless you've lived it. To have people constantly tell you that you're too young to know what you really want, that you just haven't found the right man yet, that you're just experimenting. Strangers attacking you on the Internet, religious nuts telling you you'll go to hell, friends not hanging out with you anymore because their parents think you're a bad influence. It hurts.
It's just as irritating when it happens to other people I know. My girlfriend has, to put it nicely, not the most accepting parents in the world, and they're very religious. So she's constantly worried that someone from her church will see us together and out her to the church and get her in heaps of trouble. We can't even hang out at her house anymore because her parents are so uppity about it. It shouldn't have to be like that.
Then there's always the negative attention in the other direction. Lesbians can't just be lesbians without everyone sexualizing it. My girlfriend and I just went to a football game, and we were hanging out under the bleachers and kissing, and guys kept walking past and harassing us.
Dear guys my age: if you see two girls kissing, it's not cool to whistle at them and tease them. We don't think you're cute, it doesn't make us want to abandon our girlfriends in favor of dating you instead, just stop it. We don't care if you think lesbians are hot. Just stop. Keep walking.
Even when I was trying to find a cover photo for this article, searching "lesbians kissing" on Google Images turns up nothing but porn. It's so annoying. It's like lesbians exist only for the pleasure of men.
Being gay is simultaneously the best and worst thing that's ever happened to me. On the downside, I was born into all this prejudice and hate that I can't control. I was born facing this uphill battle that I didn't choose for myself. I was born having to fight for my right to exist.
On the upside, I've learned from an early age how to stand up for myself. Being a teenage lesbian in a society that is just now learning to accept gay people has taught me about self-love and confidence. It's taught me that sometimes I'm going to be the only one who believes in me. It's taught me that I have to hang tough and be strong to survive.
Possibly most importantly, it's taught me that it's never wrong to be who you truly are. That you don't have to try to fit in with societal norms. That no matter what anyone says, you can't change who you are. You have to own up to it and be proud of it.
Growing up gay has made me who I am. I wear that badge with pride. I love who I am, even if everyone else in the world hates it, and I wouldn't trade that for anything.