Hi. My name is Ann. I grew up gay in Texas in the 1980’s. It wasn’t easy but I made it through. And I’m here to tell you that it gets better.
I always knew I was different. I was absolutely wired this way. My first crush was on a girl named Dena when I was in kindergarten. I still have her class photo that I stole out of our teacher’s desk. I knew if I wanted it I had to steal it because what I was feeling was something I needed to hide. When I was in junior high, I realized I was “gay”, and just experiencing unrequited love alone was pretty devastating. I started to get scared. No one I knew was gay, and there weren’t any gay figures I knew of in the media that I was aware of. Billie Jean and Martina hadn’t even come out, let alone or Ellen or the Indigo Girls. I was really alone.
In the first few months of high school, I told my best friend I was gay. It was a dramatic situation and we didn’t talk for a few months which was really hard. Eventually we created our own social group. I found the Rocky Horror Picture Show and a local lesbian folk band called 2 Nice Girls and the communities around them saved my life. I felt more comfortable expressing myself. But that’s when the rumors started. Looking back now it’s pretty obvious I was gay – I had spiked hair and a tail and wore a men’s suit jacket. I started getting harassed – people left me anonymous notes and carved “Dyke Territory” on my locker. Girls in the locker room at school told me I didn’t belong there. I was asked not to come back to my cherished girls summer camp. Boys drove by my house, papered it, and left things on my doorstep. People yelled things at me in the halls, but mostly they just whispered. I lost a lot of friends I’d had for years – they just seemed to drift away.
The school didn’t know what to do with me. In my sophomore year my girlfriend and I were called into the office and told by the principal to “discontinue our relationship because it was disruptive to the educational environment.” But by the time we graduated, we’d amassed a substantial enough group of gays that most people seemed to be used to us and some were even encouraged to come out themselves. I specifically picked a college with a large gay population and then I was free. After I graduated I moved to Seattle where I work as a designer at Microsoft in a very supportive environment. My life is way more awesome than I could have ever imagined it.
The thing about high school is that it’s when children break away from adults and try to form their own society. The problem is that it’s like beta software – full of bugs. Such a simple system may work for some users, like jocks and cheerleaders, but it’s not designed for advanced users. The problem is that it’s just too simple but everyone is forced to conform to it. It doesn’t matter why you’re different – small people who are succeeding in the system try to smash the outliers who threaten it. The thing is, small people have small lives and you will blow right by them when you can break out of that system. Freedom will happen. Think about how many people there are in the world vs. how many people there are in your high school. Don’t let that minority define your experience on earth. Go get great at something and show them up. Living well is the best revenge and as someone with such deep self-knowledge, a unique perspective and the drive to express it, you already have a head start.
Here’s what you can do:
Go find understanding people. You are not alone. Join drama, band, art, choir, journalism, or any creative organization where people are encouraged to express themselves. The people here may seem straight but they will be more accepting and many will come out as gay later. Use the internet to find people and groups. Try meetup.com or social networks or local blogs and newspapers to find things that are going on in your area that have nothing to do with school. Find a Unitarian Church. Hell, Rocky still plays doesn’t it?
So much has changed so quickly, I can’t even imagine how much better it will be 20 years from now.
Just look at Ellen DeGeneres. When she came out in 1997 it was kind of a big deal, but now it barely registers. She’s totally massive and mainstream. You have to love her – she doesn’t hide it but it isn’t the point. She wore ties on American Freaking Idol. There is no one that can deny her wife is smoking hot. I couldn’t imagine better poster lesbians.
You can ride this out. Take care of yourself and find some help and it won’t take long.
You can do it.