Never the Right Fit

I’ve been mulling over what my next topic should be for a blog post, wondering if I should do a book update, a new life subject, or get a bit more personal with more odd bits about myself so my readers can get to know the person behind the books a bit more.

But I’m still a bit hung up on the last blog post – Resist the Cookie Cutter where I talk about society’s relationship with our individual differences. The contemplation has turned inward and I’ve been analyzing my own relationship with differences and how it has impacted my individual development and my life journey. So, I guess I’m going to be on same life topic and giving you a bit more background on me.

The more I kept thinking about this subject, the deeper I kept looking into my life and my psyche, and I figured out that the real crux of everything lies in the relationship with differences. My emotions, responses to happenstance, decisions, etc. – everything is directly and indirectly twisted up with how I and others around me view and handle our differences.

One of my earliest memories of this actually revolves around my sexuality – my love and attraction for woman and not men. The first time I remember being gaga over a woman was one of my teachers, I believe in first grade. So, I was about six or seven-years-old. I don’t remember much from that age, but I remember this teacher vividly, as if I just saw her yesterday. She was beautiful with long red hair, freckles on her face and chest, and the kindest smile and eyes. I remember getting butterflies in my stomach when I was around her because I just thought she was the most beautiful woman alive. A couple of times, I remember going to her desk to either hand in an assignment or ask a question about it and she was bent over in a way that put her chest at eye-level and I was able to see down her dress and I saw her breasts and how they were speckled with freckles like her face. I knew I shouldn’t look, so I tried to divert my eyes, but if she spoke to redirect my attention to her, I was face to face with her breasts again. It was one of those situations that I felt rude either for looking at her or away from her and I felt it was safest just to look at her. My eyes would dart from her face to her breasts without my permission and it basically made me feel very awkward – I felt like I must look like I fool or have an attention problem because my eyes just didn’t know where to land. On one of these occasions, I think she finally realized what was happening, and from that day forward, anytime she had to bend over her desk to write or hand out papers, whether with me or any other student, she got into the habit of placing a hand on her dress or blouse to keep herself modest (a term and practice I didn’t understand till much later in life).

I’ve always noticed women and girls and never so much with the boys. Supposedly, in my earlier years, however, my family recalls me having a “boyfriend” that I absolutely adored, though I have no memory of this because I was only a toddler.

I am the third of four girls in my family and all three of my sisters are straight and as far as I know, they always knew they are. I remember growing up with this attraction to girls that was similar to their attraction to boys, but no matter how hard I looked at a boy, I just couldn’t muster up the attraction. I really thought something was wrong with me and I never talked about it. I never talked about how pretty I thought a girl was. Instead, I would try to fit in with my sisters and friends and just talk about how cute a boy was or even have “boyfriends”. I watched what my sisters and friends did and just tried to mimic them so no one would know how different I was. I would have the occasional boyfriends that I’d hold hands with, share awkward kisses, and write silly love letters to. It was exhausting and made me feel gross, but at least no one knew I wasn’t normal. Much of this ridiculous need to fit in actually resulted in some pretty embarrassing memories - ugh, those stupid “love letters” dictated by my sisters or friends making me look lovesick for boys I literally had zero interest in even just sitting next to.

When I was about ten-years-old, I found out that what I was feeling was normal and that other girls/women experience the same thing. I remember the day as clearly as if it was yesterday. The younger sister of my oldest sister’s friend took me for a walk into the woods one day. I’m pretty sure she was a year or more older than me and we weren’t really friends, so I thought it was pretty cool she wanted to hang out with me. But she didn’t want to hang out with me. What ended up happening instead changed my life. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking – but seriously, get your head out of the gutter! We just talked. She called me out on my attraction to girls and I was so shocked and scared that I couldn’t speak at first. She noticed a “vibe” about me and how I would look at a particular friend of my second to oldest sister’s. She was a very pretty Korean girl, and as would happen anytime I was around a pretty girl/woman, I was all butterflies, nervousness, totally awkward, and googly eyed.

This girl basically told me what I was feeling was normal but that people would tell me it’s not. She told me that I’m a lesbian. It was the first time I had ever heard the word, so she had to explain it to me and that there were gay men in the world too. I seriously felt like someone had just released a tight band from around my lungs and I could properly breathe for the first time. For the first time in my young life, I had validation and an explanation for why I was so different from my sisters and our friends. I had these labels that I could explain some of our differences - straight, gay, lesbian, and bisexual (which in years to come would grow to include even more labels because humans are obsessed with labels – seriously, why do you think those handy little label makers exist?).

She gave me some warnings that I can’t just tell anyone because most people don’t like gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. She told me it’s dangerous to tell people and that I need to really trust someone. Trust wasn’t really something I understood at that time. I hadn’t learned how to trust anyone at that point. So, even though I had a better understanding of myself, I had to keep it hidden. I couldn’t tell anyone.

The conversation took an embarrassing resolution though when she suggested I tell the pretty Korean girl that I like her and ask if she likes me too and if she wants to be my girlfriend. I still didn’t really understand those terms – girlfriend and boyfriend and I sure as hell didn’t yet understand that a girl could have a girlfriend. But I decided to trust this girl - she was obviously wiser than me about these matters after all. Ah, the embarrassing mishaps of the ignorant youth. I didn’t have the guts to do it, so she did it and reported back to me that she is not into girls. I have no idea if that embarrassing episode ever made it back to my sister and if they had a good laugh about it, but hey, look, it’s out here now! My first failed attempt to snag me a lady is now public knowledge.

Even with the knowledge of these new labels I had never heard of, and knowing what I was, I couldn’t come out of hiding, or the “closet” – a term I learned later on in life. As time went on as it does, I started to hear more about these labels in school and church. In school, they made gays/lesbians sound like misguided and confused individuals and that if you had sex with someone of the same gender that you would get HIV and AIDS. In church, they preached that having feelings/attraction for someone of the same gender was evil and anyone who acted on those feelings would go to hell.

I grew up in a very Christian family – Mormon to be exact, which was a whole whirlwind of differences for me – I disagreed with so much of their doctrine that I never felt like I fit in and I was constantly at odds with my teachers and church leaders. I attempted to play the part and would participate in church activities and discussions when required and write nice talks when it was required of me. But it was just so grating on my individual growth. It made me feel imprisoned and like people were trying to brainwash me. At one moment, I would feel like I belonged because I was doing everything “right”. I was doing what I was told and I was receiving the approval of my parents and teachers. But when I was alone with my thoughts, I would feel this bitter emptiness from it all and I just didn’t feel like a real human being. I felt like a robot.

I got to a point in my life that I literally started questioning everything. I mean everything!!! And the church leaders hated it. I stirred up quite a bit of trouble in classes asking questions they couldn’t answer and challenging archaic ways of thinking that just didn’t sit well with me (mainly their belief in the woman’s role in this world – but we’re not going to get into that). It infuriated them and they could tell I was disrupting the indoctrination of the other children. My questions were causing cracks in the framework they were trying build up in everyone’s minds and making their jobs so much harder. It’s really no wonder that my coming out at sixteen turned into a very humiliating experience with the church leaders trying to shame me into thinking I’m mentally ill and needed help. The experience ended with me in a sobbing mess storming out of the church and refusing to ever to return. And I never did, not to that church/religion. Not even when they attempted to force the matter.

My coming out at sixteen was a pivotal moment for me. It wasn’t just about me finally admitting to myself and everyone that I am different. It was about me finally admitting that there is no shame in being different. But even more than that, it was about me finally understanding that it’s ok to question everything and to find my own truth in everything, no matter what others try to convince me of.

I had spent years afraid of being different and just trying to fit in, knowing I never would. I didn’t fit in. I was different. I am different. The struggles I’ve had with my differences, having to hide who I am, having to deal with the shame people tried to throw on me for my differences – all of it helped form who I am today. All of my strengths and weakness are a result of how I and everyone else have dealt with my differences. All of my relationships have been affected by my differences. People form their own opinions and prejudices about me after learning I’m a lesbian and then the relationship alters. More times than not, people either get weird about things or they drift away. I’ve lost many, many friends and family over the years because I am gay. I have had many people, whether in school or at work who viewed me as a confidant and would come to me for advice on a regular basis. But as soon as they learned I’m gay, they stopped coming around and barely acknowledge my existence. And seriously, I am not “in your face gay”. I just don’t really talk about it because it has always been a piece of me that no one really wants. So, it’s not like these people can argue that I’m “throwing it in their face”. They are just writing me off because they don’t like a private detail about my life.

It really is a sad world we live in when a person can go from being your friend and having absolute trust in you to deciding you’re scum just because you love another woman. Love is the purest of emotions, yet so many people in the world try to tarnish it with their ignorance and hatred. It’s very sad.

There are so many things that I could dissect from myself as differences from other people and how each of them has impacted my life. My curly hair. My religious upbringing. My lack of interest in makeup. My hermit like tendencies (a result of my life experiences). My interests in cooking, karate, art, writing, and on and on the list could go. You could fill many cinder-block thick novels listing out the things about me that I’ve been picked on for or singled out as being different, as you could for every single person. But when I look at just a single difference, like the fact that I’m a lesbian, it’s absolutely insane to realize the unfathomable impact this single difference has had on my life just because other people can’t accept it. I am totally happy being a lesbian. Yes, it’s hard as hell, but I know who I am and I accept who I am, and that is a really fucking fantastic feeling. Knowing who you are is so much more valuable to your mental well-being than having someone’s approval to exist.

It took me a long time to figure this out, but I’d rather be alone in this world knowing who I am than be surrounded by people sculpting me into something I don’t even like or recognize.

I’ve never been the right fit for anyone else, but I’m the right fit for me and that’s what matters.