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blue haired lesbian in a denim jacket drawing

When I was growing up, there were certain words I was told to never say. Words that were like queer, gay (as in “that’s gay”), not to mention dyke. These words were scary to me, words to fear, words to be ashamed of. They were monstrous in nature to me. I’m sure you can imagine my fear when I realized I was that word. That I was, to some, a monster. So just like when someone is running away from that monster, I hid, and I kept that monster in a closet for 10 years with no air to breathe, as I thought it would make it go away.

In college, I listened to a song called “Creep” by Radiohead. It was at a time when being gay meant you were a freak, a monster. I knew what that felt like. In the year 2011, I was in Boy Scouts trying to be the “perfect” kid, the kid my parents would be proud of. At that time, boys were being kicked out of Scout troops for coming out as queer. I was terrified I was gay, too. Yet sometimes the things that haunt you, are the ones that end up bringing you back to life.

So, in college, I finally decided to let the queerness out of its cage. I welcomed it like an old friend. Yet, at the same time, my inner child was looking down on me still saying, you can’t do this, you can’t be this “bad” word, you are not allowed to say this. So I kept it hidden except to my close friends. Sometimes when you leave a creature in its cage for too long it has trouble breathing and needs to come out. That’s what happened to me. I was told my whole life to be the good kid, the Eagle Scout, and I was. Now I was a grown-up, and I wanted to be free, to be me. So I opened up my box, and let her go.

Now, with any discovery, or anytime a creature is coming into a new environment, there are gonna be some growing pains. It has to learn to walk, talk, and breathe. I had to tell myself mentally, it’s OK, you are gay, and there is nothing bad about it, now is your time to let your
feathers fly. I sure did. It’s funny, as a kid, I was terrified to look at women sexually. I was told a Scout, a gentleman, never does that. So, I didn’t. But once I realized I was a girl, I had to come to terms that what I was told may not be entirely my truth. Then I realized I am a dyke I tried it one day, and It felt strong and confident. It was everything I wanted to be in the world. I was tired of being scared of my identity as a trans woman, I wanted to be loud, to be powerful, and to me, dyke just felt that way for me. The women I saw who identified as dykes were strong and confident, and I wanted to be like them too. Being a dyke was being more than just a lesbian, but being my own superhero. I wanted to be a hero to those little trans girls who were told they were monsters for being themselves. I wanted to show them they could rise like a phoenix, spread their wings, and fly.

Last year, I started going to lesbian mixers in Philly. Let me tell you, that is where I found my people. For the first time, I was home with my community. Suddenly before I knew it, I was kissing girls and non-binary finery, and I thought “damn, I am a dyke, and a damn fine one at that.” Saying that felt like magic, and I just knew that the creature of mine is nothing to be feared, and she has finally found a home.



Joan Rittberg
Joan Rittberg
Joan Rittberg is a freelance writer and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Some publications she writes and has written for include Medium, The Pennsylvania Equality Project, and Queers for a Cause. She was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware. Some of her interests include theatre, cooking, and movies. Her writing is focused on the LGBTQ+ community and pop culture.