It sure felt like destiny that I started meeting queer people – especially Katy who introduced me to their genderqueer sibling and the loving and supportive LGBTQ+ community when I moved to the U.S. and away from my family’s influence.
But as COVID-19 swept through the world, I was forced to return to the place where I was born and raised, where they had me believe a family of a husband, his wife, and their children is the standard. The lockdown forced me to pick up the mirror, stare through the champagne glasses on my nose and the ocean eyes behind them into my soul, and for the first time, allow myself to see and explore myself truly. Reflecting on past (in-)experiences, listening to people’s stories, and researching labels and queer history, made me realize that I had never felt the same attraction my peers had toward men.
Whenever they asked me who I had a crush on in my class, I just picked a mildly attractive guy because first, I didn’t have a crush – they would never believe me – and second, that is what I thought a crush was supposed to be; someone good looking.
On one of those restless, late nights, a friend of mine posted a poll on her social media asking her viewers whether they lived a lie or the entire truth. Some inner force urged me to comment, “live a lie, but only in one aspect.” Thereupon, as expected, Tara wanted to know more. Thinking back, I was overcome with this amazing feeling of relief and peace of mind. It couldn’t have been a better first coming out. After all, it was October 11, International Coming Out Day.
As a white blanket of snow started to cover the trees, it was time to layer up. Sweaters on top of sweaters. Layers upon layers. My new comfort zone. While I gladly wore spandex for volleyball practice just a few months ago, I couldn’t anymore. I felt uncomfortable revealing my body as I had before and was quicker to reach for loose-fitting T-shirts and sweaters and hunched my back to look flatter-chested. I might have developed body dysphoria, which seemed to worsen every day, peaking right before my time of the month, leaving me most vulnerable to womanhood.
When I returned to Florida the day after Christmas, I didn’t know who I was apart from what I had achieved. In my distress, I confessed everything in a letter I left on the desk of my good friend Derionah for her to find. I explained that I had been struggling with my sexuality for over a year, and as I started to come to terms with it, I deep dove into a major gender crisis, feeling as though I wasn’t myself anymore. Her response a day later was heartwarming and made me feel safe.
Your words are always safe with me, Jo, always. I’m happy you shared that with me! I know it can be hard. Know I’ll always love you no matter what.
Through Katy, Derionah, Tara, and many others who supported me, I felt immensely encouraged and free to be whoever I might be. Even though sometimes I wish it would be easier. No gender crises. No angst about being attacked. No discrimination. No uncertainty of acceptance in my own family. I know that no matter what happens or what storms I must go through to become the rainbow I am supposed to be, I will always have people around me – my chosen family – who will accept, support, and celebrate me for who I am.