The three hardest words for me to tell myself were: “I’m a lesbian.”
I (along with the millions of other children around my age) was bombarded with the notion of a man and a woman, the prince and the princess. I didn’t even know what it meant to be gay until I was ten years old. That was in 2004.
Same-sex marriage had just been legalized in my home state of Massachusetts, and my aunt was preparing to marry to her life partner of fifteen years.
I had met my aunt’s partner, but I thought they were just roommates. My mom gave my sisters and me the “gay talk” before we went to the wedding. She said, “You see, dolly, when you get older, you might have some friends who don’t want to date boys but instead want to date girls. These girls are called lesbians, and that’s what your aunt is.”
As the young and naïvely bright girl I was, I was happy for them. I noticed at one point during the ceremony that my grandfather wasn’t there. A few days later, I asked my mum why.
“He… he couldn’t come,” my mum quickly said. “Okay. But do you know why he couldn’t? It would’ve been nice to see him,” I countered.
Then she finally spit the truth: “Your grandfather doesn’t like that Auntie Wish is married to your Auntie Ginny. He doesn’t think it’s right.”
That was the most confusing moment of my young life at that point.
“Why not? His daughter got married. Shouldn’t he be happy?”
“Your grandfather grew up very religious. A lot of people his age did. And since the Bible talks about gays in a bad way, a lot of people still believe that being gay is bad.”
“Oh…” I sunk in defeat. I never realized anyone could think love was a bad thing. “Do you think being gay is bad?”
“No, dolly. It’s perfectly okay.”
Those five words rang in the back of my head for some time. Over time, they were put on back burner as I focused more on school and friends when I got to seventh grade.
I also started to notice boys…and girls, in a way so different from how I had in the past.
By then, my family had stopped going to church. After nearly every Mass, my sister would have questions I can’t even answer now, at age nineteen. So, Christianity was not even in my mind.
I had had a few boyfriends in middle school, but I didn’t see why it was a big deal. To me, it was like being really close with a good guy friend and occasionally kissing, but something wasn’t right. I thought that maybe I wasn’t with the right guy. So by ninth grade, I ended up dating nearly all of my guy friends! But when things would end between a guy and I, I was hardly fazed.
At that point, I thought it was normal to think that another girl was cute. Everyone else seemed to do that. But no one acted on it. I wanted to act on it, but I didn’t want to be that weird girl.
One day in eighth grade, I mustered up my courage and told my friend that I thought she was really cute and that I liked her.
“Um, okay,” she said. “I like you too.”
“Really?” My face was aglow with joy, “We should go out some time!”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m not a dyke. I just like you as a friend.”
That was my first time getting rejected. And I suddenly became that weird girl. When we started high school in the fall, people in my grade started picking on me for allegedly being gay. I started saying things like “But I’m not a lesbian!” or “I’m straight! Straight as a board.”
My high school choir became one of few places where I could escape these accusations. I made two new friends, Danie and Brandon. We worked together on songs because we could harmonize well and had great chemistry. In January, I found out that they both were gay. I told them I was not but supported them if they were happy!
In March, I found myself thinking of another choir friend in a new light.
I wanted to be around her all the time. I finally had an epiphany: “Oh, crap. I have a HUGE crush on her!” Considering what had happened with my first crush, I did my absolute best to suppress these thoughts. The only person that knew how I felt was Danie. She told me that I have to just let myself be. It was perfectly okay.
And then it clicked. Those were the same three words my mum said when talking about gay people!
I came out as bisexual in April 2009, and my friends took it really well.
That same day, I came out to my mother and she asked: “When did you choose to be this?”
“I didn’t choose it. It chose me.”
By November of that same year, I realized I couldn’t honestly say I liked boys anymore. I started to identify as a lesbian.
The first person I came out to as a lesbian, other than myself, was my little sister. It was completely on accident—I said it in my sleep! She knew that I was bisexual, but she took my news well.
About a month later, I began dating my first girlfriend and planned to come out to my mum. At dinner, she asked me why I’d had a great day, and suddenly, I was coming out to my whole family.
My mother thought I was lying, and my dad thought I was just saying I was gay for attention. My girlfriend and I eventually stopped dating, and my relationship with my parents became somewhat strained.
It was in April of 2010 that God played a hand that, in retrospect, I find ironic but wonderful.
I met Brittany. She was so smart, funny, and sweet; she was everything I wanted in a potential partner. She and I quickly grew to like each other as more than friends, and by the summer of that year, I had fallen in love. Through this experience, I felt an urge to improve myself. I now think this was the Holy Spirit calling to me.
I had started to miss going to church, and I began to believe more firmly: “Yes, there is a God; yes, He is great; He is good.” On August 15, 2010, my mother and I set foot in the Catholic Church we hadn’t attended for over five years.
My return to church is ironic because the Catholic Church is supposedly against homosexuality and my girlfriend was an atheist. I was even hesitant about openly identifying as Catholic because I had heard what a lot of Catholics say about gay people.
I remembered my grandfather, and quivered with fear at the mere thought of what he might say if he knew one of his granddaughters was gay.
I avoided the “Catholic and gay” dilemma for some time, and I stayed content growing spiritually in the Word of the Lord and through my relationship.
I finally had to face the question of “how can I be Catholic and gay?” when I started telling some of my friends I was Catholic late in my junior year of high school. They already knew I was a lesbian in a relationship, so they were curious about what my God would say. I prayed long and hard, did a lot of research on the Bible, and consulted other Christians, LGBT or not, about what the Bible “really” says about homosexuality.
Sometimes I had gotten really confused and asked God: “Are you sure this is what you want me to believe? So many people in the Church are telling me otherwise!” And the answer He always gave me was, “Yes, Alyssa.”
Unfortunately, some of my alleged friends didn’t like that I was Catholic, and it set a deep rift between us.
By the end of my junior year of high school, I was appalled that I had been bullied more for being Christian than for being gay!
Nonetheless, through it all I remembered Philippians 4:13, which has become my favorite Bible passage: “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” He gave me the strength to forgive the people who had turned against me and to pray for them, even as they said terrible things about the God I had come to love so deeply, rather than cry my heart out in the guidance counselor’s office.
It wasn’t until May of 2012, when I was about to be confirmed in the Catholic Church that I had received affirmation that God certainly blesses all loving, committed relationships, regardless of the gender(s)of the people involved.
By the day of my confirmation, I had come out to several leaders in my parish. They assured me that God loves me, gay or not, because more than anything I am His child.
Throughout much of the past three years, I have grown more than I could ever have imagined at sixteen.
My relationship with my mother has grown so much. She and I are best friends now and not only go to Mass together, but bake, do triathlons, go shopping…you get the idea! Other members of my family are less supportive, but I’m giving them time. I’m only nineteen, and God has plenty in store for my family and me.
Photo via flickr user jikido