I can remember the day I knew, with certainty, that I was a lesbian. It was a sunny afternoon in 1996, and I was lying on my back surrounded by ratty stuffed animals won at fairs. Staring up at a poster of Aaliyah in signature tomboy style, I imagined what it would be like to press her face against mine. I daydreamed that I pulled her in by her baggy jeans and touched her petal-soft lips, kissing her like I saw girls do on softcore dramas I snuck to watch as my parents slept. I wanted to hold her hand, laugh at all her jokes, and sit next to her at the lunch table. And then I wanted to throw up.
My parents were as close to hippies as black folks from the suburbs could manage. Although a homophobic joke would slip into family game night here and there, they were mostly accepting as long as “gay people weren’t shoving it in their faces.” Maybe they were a little homophobic, but I didn’t pay attention or mind it too much growing up. Peace and love was substituted with hard work and good grades, and I grew up the golden child who could do little wrong. It made me proud to please my folks, and getting A’s on my report card was the easiest way to do it. I was allowed freedom that other kids could only dream about, like staying outside after the street lights came on and going to dark basement parties full of curious preteens. In spite of this, the level of self-loathing and disgust I felt after fantasizing about a woman confirmed my heterosexuality for years to come.
Every time I’d glance at a soft, round booty or bite my bottom lip as an attractive stud walked past, I’d curse myself.
When I think about my experiences from that moment in my tiny pink bedroom to the present, it honestly makes me sad. I denied who I am and have always been because I was homophobic. It took me a long time to swallow that revelation, but it’s true. The nausea I felt wasn’t because I was afraid, it was because I thought being attracted to a girl was gross. Our bodies weren’t built that way, right? How could we have babies? Get married? The only images I had of homosexuality back then were surrounded by shame or comedy — it just wasn’t what people did, and I’d never experienced any positive examples of same-sex couples outside of porn and rom-coms. There was no threat of harm or unacceptance by my parents or friends, I just didn’t want to because I thought there was something wrong with me.
For years the question plagued me, how could I be commended by teachers for being so intelligent, but couldn’t overcome this “affliction?” Every time I’d glance at a soft, round booty or bite my bottom lip as an attractive stud walked past, I’d curse myself. I wanted to be done with my attraction to girls, because in my opinion it wasn’t normal. It wasn’t what the world expected, and it wouldn’t please my family. My perfectionism balked at something I couldn’t perfect, and with relationship after failed hetero relationship, I slowly began to realize that my attraction, my longing to be embraced by another woman, was inevitable.
Although I was afraid, alone, and carrying the weight of becoming a single mom, I had to leave. I stayed faithful until the end, and felt absolutely defeated as I left because I tried really hard — harder than I’ve ever tried at anything — to be straight.
I dabbled with more bad heterosexual relationships in college, and fell in love with a guy at 23. I thought I was “cured.” Surely I couldn’t desire femininity when I was in a relationship with a man I just knew was the one for me, right? I could live out all of my hetero fantasies — getting married, having babies, and living happily ever after. Polyamory was not an option — I’m pretty much a one-woman gal, and felt that he’d fetishize any lesbian interaction I’d have including him. After getting pregnant and discovering that my attraction to women only grew stronger over the years, I knew that I had to make a change, to be free.
We tried at the family thing off-and-on for about six years, and during that time I felt a part of my soul hidden, trapped inside a box of heteronormality that I just couldn’t fit. He’d make the same sort of jokes my parents made growing up, but this time they were intolerable. Being someone I’m not was also intolerable — year after year it made me feel more disgusted with myself. I felt that my kids would be okay — they’d know a life where love in all forms was normal and acceptable, and would hopefully be open to discovering who they are as a result. After a conversation with my best friend, who had been bisexual since I’ve known her (and was an inspiration because she lived freely), I knew it was time. Although I was afraid, alone, and carrying the weight of becoming a single mom, I had to leave. I stayed faithful until the end, and felt absolutely defeated as I left because I tried really hard — harder than I’ve ever tried at anything — to be straight. I tried to make a family work, and to do the right thing in society’s eyes. I tried to get over it, but I couldn’t.
Coming out for me at 28 felt like the weight of a thousand bricks was lifted from my soul. It was honestly as if all the defeat I felt melted away, and I knew instantly that I’d made the right decision. I was eight months pregnant with a three-year-old in tow when I decided that I’d live life authentically. When I told my family, it was as if I relayed the day’s news — they accepted me wholeheartedly and without question. It was a tougher transition in the dating scene — many women simply refused to be involved with a new mom, while others deemed me as bisexual or “jumping the fence” because of an unhappy relationship. There’s totally nothing wrong with bisexuality, but I didn’t feel like the title was for me because I was a lesbian first, straight by choice. I didn’t put myself out there until I was ready and could decide which label to accept as my own (lesbian tomboy femme fits me best), and decided that the woman for me could accept and embrace my journey and look toward a future with me and my plus two.
While I’m still working on this every day, I can say that I’m closer to myself now than I’ve ever been. I’m happy to be free to love. I have pockets of time where I’ll feel a tinge of regret for not allowing myself to be okay with who I am. What would life look like if I came out at 12, when I knew? Regret would erase the beautiful children I created or a ton of other experiences I had over the years, so I try not to go to that place often. Instead, I try to raise my children to be open to love, differences, and change, so that they’ll feel free to explore their personalities when they’re older. I embrace who I was then and who I’ve become, and I work hard to appreciate my journey. I’ve forgiven myself, and have promised to be more kind to my inner voice. Because honestly, there’s no better critic.
Lyn Muldrow is a Web Developer who has written for numerous LGBT/PoC publications. She’s a bronze star mom of two nerdy kids, loves Doctor Who and Michael Jackson more than should be allowed, and finds jazz/pop mashups relaxing. Chat with her on Twitter @LynMuldrow, Instagram, or Facebook.