By: Abigail Foster
When I was six years old, I told my mother that I was gay. We were in our front yard on a crisp, fall afternoon raking leaves together, when I decided to pause and ask her a question that had been on my mind for a while. “Mommy, do all girls have to marry boys?” I asked her. I remember the heavy feeling in my chest as I waited for her answer. She laughed to herself, probably thinking that I was finally entering the early-elementary “boys are gross” phase. “No,” she said, not looking up from her yard work. “Not all girls have to marry a boy.” I breathed a sigh of relief. “Good,” I exclaimed defiantly. “Because when I grow up, I want to marry a girl.”
The first time a person realizes they are gay is hardly the first time that they come out to themselves. After I inadvertently told my mother that I was gay, I went through a phase of intense denial that lasted almost 12 years. After talking to friends in the the LGBTQIA+ community, and reflecting on my own story, it seems that this is a fairly common experience.
For all of middle school and high school, I was fighting an intense battle against my subconscious. I made every effort to fit in with my straight peers. When my friends obsessed over the latest boy band, so did I. When my friends gushed about the guys on the football team, so did I. When my friends all got into relationships with boys, so did I. I did everything I could to look and act like a straight teenage girl. Through all of this, my brain was screaming at me that something was wrong, but I ignored it. “It’s just a phase” is what I told myself for over a decade.
Then one day, in my senior year of high school, it all changed. I was home alone, scrolling through Netflix and trying to find something interesting to watch when I came across a movie about a girl, also in high school, who was coming to terms with her sexuality. I’m not sure why I pressed play, knowing how hard I had tried all those years to repress any thoughts that would make me come to terms with who I really was, but I played it anyway. Flash forward a few minutes into the movie, and the main character has come to the realization that she can’t repress her sexual orientation anymore and is sobbing alone in her room. Watching that moment unfold in front of me broke me. All the repressed thoughts and emotions that I had harbored for the last 12 years came to the surface through uncontrollable and unceasing tears. In that moment, I knew that I couldn’t hide who I was from myself anymore, and I didn’t try to.
After the movie ended, I sat in silence for a little while, contemplating what had just happened. I thought about 6-year-old me, unabashedly asserting who she was to her mother. I wondered if she was still in there, sitting inside of my subconscious, fighting back against all of my attempts to shove her down deeper.
That day, I decided to come out to myself, again. I was finally ready to accept who I was, and I was ready to change my life. I found myself in front of the vanity in my bathroom, staring back at the version of myself that had always been there. In a wavering voice, still tender from crying, I spoke aloud to myself, “When I grow up, I want to marry a girl.”