When I was in high school, I spent much of my time thinking. I was thinking about what college I wanted to go to, what career I wanted, and the next test I had to study for. I was also trying to have my own personal life, which I kept private. I thought of my own thoughts, came up with who I really was, and who I really wanted to be. And in the midst of figuring out who I was, I was asked to be someone’s girlfriend. To make the long story short, the relationship with my new boyfriend turned out to be very abusive, and he ended the relationship by raping me. I kept that a secret for years. None of my friends or family knew.
One of my final high school experiences was my senior year at band camp. It was late, we had finished practice for the day, and it was time for cabin bonding. Everyone in my bunk agreed to play Truth or Dare. When it was my turn, I chose dare, and they dared me to kiss my best friend. However, there was a new girl in marching band with the same name as me and we clicked very fast, so I chose to kiss her instead. She happened to be my first kiss with a girl. My best friend got jealous that I kissed her when I didn’t know her as long, so I ended up kissing her too. Then the rest of my bunk got jealous…so I kissed all of them. And I was okay with it.
After the relationship with my abusive boyfriend, I stayed single for the rest of my high school life and into college. I became really good friends with someone who is still one of my best friends to this day. We would kiss a lot, and I never minded. I liked kissing her. I was realizing how much I enjoyed kissing my friends who were girls, and it was becoming clear to me that I wasn’t entirely straight. I knew that I did still like guys but also liked girls, and I decided I didn’t need a label. I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone.
Once I got to college, I met a guy who quickly became my go-to person; my best friend. I did everything with him. It wasn’t until after our friendship ended that I realized our whole relationship was based on his manipulation of me. He also raped me. And after that friendship ended, it became easier to admit to myself that I should go to therapy and tell my parents that my high school boyfriend had raped me.
By my junior year of college, I had left all of the toxicity of that friend behind. I started to develop feelings for a girl. She would go on to become my girlfriend, and remains so to this day. Many of my friends and my Mom didn’t believe that I was really interested in girls. My friends would say, “you never brought up the fact that you liked girls before” and my mom would say, “are you sure it’s not just because you were raped and had a lot of bad guys in your life? Because not all men are bad.”
I knew and still know that not all men are bad. I also knew that I had never talked about my sexuality with anyone. I wasn’t scared of it, but I just felt like I didn’t need a label or need to explain myself to anyone. Many people were coming out and identifying as LGBTQ+ in one way or another, and everyone I knew was happy for them. Naturally I thought when my friends and family saw me dating a girl they would just say, “okay, cool! She’s happy.” And most of my friends and family did feel like that, but there was still the select few that made me feel like I had to explain myself even though I was happy. Those few could be happy for the whole world if they came out, but felt they had to question if it was really what I wanted.
I knew that I was happy, but since that select few included my Mom and some of my best friends, I felt the need to explain myself. Before I did, it felt like a wedge had been driven through some of my relationships…especially with my Mom. She was so insistent that I had just been hurt by too many guys and that I needed to meet the right guy. Now she knows how I really feel about my girlfriend. She knows that I’ve always liked girls and it’s not a choice.
Please know that if you’ve been sexually assaulted, the gender of the person who hurt you has nothing to do with your sexual orientation. You can love whoever you love. Your sexuality, your gender, and your pronouns should be authentic to you and you alone! They are not dictated by the gender or sexuality of the person who hurt you. You are who you are and that is okay. Who you are is perfect!