To those afraid to live their life authentically,
It’s not always easy to live your life as your true self, and for a long time, I lived a lie and felt the same way you may now – frightened to live your truth.
My story begins in a nondescript town in Northeast Ohio. Rural and conservative, it’s a small town on a big map. I grew up there on a large farm, and my entire childhood, I thought about leaving. A life of anonymity in a big city was much more appealing to me.
I didn’t fit in. I knew I was different. I knew who I truly was wouldn’t be accepted there. I’ve known since I was about five years old that I liked girls. My first crush was on a character named Joey on a show called “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.” I remember thinking, “She’s a sassy tomboy, like me. I want to kiss her.”
In school, I developed crushes on my teachers, and there was one teacher that I really liked. I used to bring her flowers, apples, and other little gifts. One day, she told me she appreciated the presents, but I needed to stop. I got the feeling that what I had done was wrong. I was just a silly grade school kid trying to figure things out. I was heartbroken and ashamed. The incident confirmed the need to keep quiet and hide my real feelings.
Years later, in junior high school, I hit the game-winning shot in basketball. Everyone was so excited, and I was feeling confident, connected, and emotional. Later, overcome by a sense of belonging, I felt the need to share. Surrounded by my close friends and teammates, I said, “I love you guys. You are my best friends, and I want to tell you something. ”
I had their undivided attention and told them, “I am gay.” They all froze and stared at me. You could feel the air literally being sucked out of the atmosphere. I thought they were going to throw me into traffic.
So, I immediately reacted and said, “Oh my Gosh, I’m just kidding. I am not gay.” The look of relief on their faces confirmed the need to, again, keep quiet and hide my real feelings.
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After I tried to come out to my friends, and it didn’t work out, I did what was expected. I dated a guy who had a crush on me, but it just never felt right.
After high school graduation, I finally got the chance to leave Ohio. I attended college in Georgia and lived in Atlanta. In a big city, I could experience gay and lesbian bars, and it was all that I had imagined. I met a woman, moved in with her, and we were incredibly happy. But it was short-lived.
In the ’90s, there was a lot of hate toward the LBGTQ plus community. My favorite lesbian bar was bombed, and several women had to go to the hospital. Media outlets mentioned them by name. They were outed, and some were fired from their jobs simply for being gay. It was a terrible time, and I was terrified to the point of no longer wanting to frequent the gay gathering spots I once loved and felt safe in. The violence and shame deterred me from living an authentic life.
Things fell apart, I met a man and ended up marrying him. Years passed and eventually, we had a baby girl. Being a mom is the best job ever, but it didn’t take away from the feeling of being unsettled. I knew deep inside; I was living a lie. I wasn’t being fair to my family, myself, or my queer community. My struggle took root in my body and began to show up physically. I gained weight and wasn’t healthy. It got to a point where I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. Eventually, I shut down completely. There was a lot of resentment and toxicity, and my marriage turned ugly. One day, I decided enough was enough, and I finally found the courage to get a divorce.
The healing process took time. Eventually, I felt strong enough to live my truth and began dating women again. I became more open about who I am and stopped denying I am queer.
In a few weeks, I’ll return to the small Ohio town I grew up in, and there may be looks and whispers. But honestly, it no longer matters.
The fear of living my authentic life put me on a different path, and sometimes I wonder, “What if?” It’s those moments that led to my writing “The Pink Divide,” a work of fiction loosely based on my life and experiences as a queer woman. It’s my hope that the book and story give you the confidence and courage to be free and love freely. While the story may not be unique, I believe it’s the sad commonality of the tale that binds many of us late-to-the-party queers.
I want you to know It’s ok to take baby steps, align with allies and seek safe spaces. It was tough for me to fully live my truth, and I am sure you will have your own challenges. Just know that even though it may be hard, living and loving authentically will always be worth it.
Good Luck! I support you.
To buy my book, click here