My story starts back when I was in 3rd grade. My sister, my cousin, and I used to have our own little “hobby clubs”, I guess you could call them, together. I was in charge of the “Cute Boys Club.” Starting out it felt normal, but eventually something did not seem right to me. When we had “meetings” we all thought of and wrote down a list of guys we liked, and of course me being me, I hid from the truth and randomly named some guys as a cover-up. It never felt right and I never wanted to talk about it with anyone either, so I went along with pretending that I liked guys.
Meanwhile, I had never heard of a girl liking girls or a boy liking boys. It was all new to me, like most people who question their sexual orientation. For a while I struggled and struggled with my feelings on the inside, while on the outside I tried to be my normal self and hide my confusion. It must have worked because I was treated the same and no one ever questioned me about anything.
Once 4th grade started I became more open to new experiences. I always thought about what it would be like to be with a girl compared to being with a guy, even though I have never been with a guy. From that point on I knew I did not like guys whatsoever, but I still was not sure who I fully was.
The summer before 6th grade my parents got divorced and my dad moved out. I went from seeing him all the time to not very often for a couple months. It was very hard, not only because he was my dad, but because I used to spend a lot of my time with him. We would build paper rocket ships and play catch, and sometimes I even helped him work on his Jeep. Those couple of months were pretty rough, and caused a downfall in my life. I hid the pain, being the strong and brave person I am, and still never communicated how I felt with my family.
A year or so later I finally opened up to my cousin, and later to my sister, and I really started accepting who I am. Also in those years, I became accustomed to crying, which made me more emotional than ever, which probably contributes to why I am such an emotional person.
Being a freshman was very difficult for me in my life at home and with coming out, but academically it was my greatest year yet. Freshman year gave me more than plenty of time to think about things and to try to understand myself. At the time, I was struggling with my body image along with my sexuality. I always had in the back of my mind that no one would love me because of my size. Now 40 lbs less later, I know that is not the case. During this time, I always went through a time when I was uncertain about a big part of who I possibly thought I was. Growing up I had always liked wearing boy’s clothes. Some people would just call me a tomboy, but back then I truthfully thought and felt like I was transgender. It was a very difficult time for me, but I eventually came to somewhat love my body. The concept of thinking that I was transgender only scared me in the matter that I knew my family would never accept or support me and would not help me at all. To this day I still struggle with not fully loving my body, and I am not sure that I will ever fully love it, but I do know that I am definitely not transgender.
One of the hardest times of my coming out experience happened during my freshman year when most of my school found out. I remember sitting in class one day after lunch and seeing that everyone was whispering. I found out they were talking about me for sure when I started getting called names. Obviously it hurt me, but eventually I got used to it and ignored it. That night the girls basketball team, which I managed for, had a home game and so did the boys team, and I knew that most of the school would be there. I remember going home and crying continuously for a long time. When my mom got home from work she asked what was wrong, but I refused to answer because I was afraid of what her reaction would be. Just a few days prior, my mom and dad had a very long conversation in the doorway of a restaurant without me, which I still remember to this day. She said that they had talked about me “thinking” I’m gay and that it’s “all because of that stupid Dani Shay.” She yelled it very loudly and I still feel some of the heartbreak that I felt at that moment to this day, and I also have flashbacks of that day, like many days of my coming out experience.
I never officially “came out,” it was just known that I am who I am. I am still not fully “out” to some of my family but I do not understand how by looking at me you cannot tell, but some people just do not see it. I really do not care what people think of me. I would love to feel accepted, but if it is not gonna happen then it is not worth my time to care what people think.
Next, I am going to share my story of how Layshia helped to save my life. I do not remember exactly when this happened, but I remember when I was in high school I heard about the effects on the LGBTQ+ community due to society. One thing that was said was about cutting. I had no idea what it was so I looked it up, which was a very bad decision. To me it was a way to feel pain, but not just any pain, rather it was pain that I could put myself through, rather than having the pain that society already gives many people. I attempted to cut, but thankfully I could not go through with it because of my fear of blood. I attempted many times though, trying to overcome my fear. I went so far into the process that I was actually holding a knife less than an inch away from my skin, I just could not bring myself to do it.
I eventually gave up on feeling pain in that form, so instead I wanted to feel the temporary pain and permanent relief of death. I tried several times to commit suicide, whether it was with a knife or a gun, or even simply by starving myself. This is where Layshia played a major role in saving my life. I remember one day when I had a terrible day and just wanted to be done and end my life right then and there, but before I was going to I was determined to find a reason to stay alive. I found that reason by going onto Twitter and reading one of Layshia’s tweets. I do not remember what it said but it changed everything, and I just cannot thank her enough. She helped me more than that, but in ways that cannot be explained. I am very thankful that I have some special people in my life who helped me cope and who actually cared about me.
A few people helped me throughout the process of figuring out who I am. I did end up telling my cousin almost everything. She knew me better than anyone did back then, and her and I will always share a special bond because of that. I love that she actually listened to me and gave me advice, even though she had no idea how to help me. I will never be able to thank her enough.
Another person who helped me out was a friend of mine. He asked me what I had been hiding from my parents and I responded that I was not hiding anything. Then he said something about what I post on Facebook, and that is just the thing, I am pretty much an open book, so if they wanted to know all they had to do was look on Facebook or ask me. I do not care what other people think, I am who I am, and if someone does not like it, they can just deal with it or get out of my life. I am not going to pretend to be someone that I am not. Anyways, this person helped me out a lot, which I am beyond grateful for.
The third person who has helped me was another family member, who was there for me all the time. We used to text a lot and she really helped me get through some rough times.
There are two very important people in my life other than those I referenced above who have helped me out tremendously. They will always have a special place in my heart, and that I cannot emphasize enough.
The first is Dani Shay, who I am sure if you know me at all you know who he is. He was at one time blamed for me being gay. He was on America’s Got Talent when I was going into 8th grade, and by that time I knew for sure who I was, so I don’t understand how he could have “turned” me gay. I looked up to him as a guide. His music inspired me so much and still continues to, but most of all it’s his personality that really intrigues me. He is a very caring person and goes above and beyond to do everything that he possibly can to be positive and to also make the world a better place. I was finally able to meet Dani back in 2017 and it was by far one of the best days of my life so far.
Layshia Clarendon is the second person, and she’s also one of the reasons I am still alive, which I will explain later. Layshia has taught me so much that I am not sure where to begin. I came across her in 2013 when she was drafted into the WNBA by the Indiana Fever. Right around that time I was going through a huge process of change and I am so thankful that I discovered her. She is a very fascinating woman, and even that is an understatement. She looks to put positivity into the world and into the minds of many. The summer of 2014 I was lucky enough to meet her. I cannot even begin to explain how happy it made me, and I remember everything that happened that night. We have since reconnected a couple times and those were some of the best days of my life.
My advice to anyone in the situation of wanting to come out is to wait until the time is right, but not to pass up on a perfect opportunity. Do not second guess the reactions of others either, or you will never be able to feel confident enough in yourself to come out; and you never know, the people you are coming out to may be accepting, or at least not against you. After you have come out, I promise you that you will feel so much happier and you can finally be yourself. A weight will be lifted from your shoulders. However, do not count on anything either. You may not feel happy immediately, but eventually you will and things will get better.
To close, I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to read my story. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments and to share my story.