From Embracing PDA to Choosing Happiness: 7 Love Letters to Pride
06.22.18

Toward the beginning of June, we asked you to share your personal stories about finding LGBQT+ pride, however meandering or direct your path.  Below are seven different experiences, from coming out accidentally, to fighting for space, to choosing happiness over anything else. 


Palm trees and droplets of water line my periphery. I am quiet, small, serene. The breeze comes lazily, hot air blowing bamboo wind chimes left and right and back again. They whisper to each other, the clusters of fine wood sharing secrets.

My father has a glassy-eyed, wine-induced stare fixed on my phone screen as I scroll through Instagram. He slurs through his stupor: “Are you okay?” I assure him casually that I’m okay, tossing my phone onto the couch as I head into a cabana for a mid-afternoon nap.

Drunk from the sun and the day I draw the curtains and drift off to sleep. I wake up startled — I fell asleep with the sun ablaze outside, but it’s gone now. There’s no discernible moonlight, and I know I have slept too long. I stumble out of bed and into the bathroom, splashing my face with water to wake myself up.

I walk through the sliding doors to the patio that leads to the kitchen, my throat begging for a sip of water, and my father grabs my arm with tears in his eyes. “I have to talk to you,” he says. I tell him to talk. “Not here. Not in front of everyone,” he replies.

Who died? is my first thought. Which grandparent? Is the dog okay? It’s not unusual for him to be emotional after a few glasses of rosé, but this feels different, somehow.

He tells me he spent the two hours I was resting sifting through his mistakenly gathered information, retracing each step of his parenting, beating himself up for not doing better.

Through his tears, he apologizes for trying to make me someone I wasn’t. He explains he saw a picture of a shirtless surfer on my Instagram feed over my shoulder earlier and thought I was on Tinder. He asks me if I am gay — I say yes, thinking he asked me if I was okay. He tells me he spent the two hours I was resting sifting through his mistakenly gathered information, retracing each step of his parenting, beating himself up for not doing better.

Flashbacks of pain from my childhood race through my brain like the slideshow of photos he made for me on my 18th birthday: the look on his face when I brought my Ariel doll to school with me, when I begged for Avril Lavigne tickets instead of rugby gear, when I dyed my hair red because I felt like I was fading away.

Then I remember the good stuff: pride beaming through a smile that reached his eyes when I graduated, the tears in his eyes when I performed my first headlining set at the Hard Rock Cafe. I realize: I am finally okay. This is okay. We are okay.

The secret that burned my psyche for 20 years is out there, by accident, in the lap of the person I thought I would never tell. My father looks me in the eyes and says, “I couldn’t be prouder of who you are. I wouldn’t change you for the world.”

Hello. My name is Allyson, and I am bisexual. Sounds more like a confessional you might hear at an AA meeting, right?

I hate having to define my sexuality; I feel that I need to define myself for others more so than for myself. I have one foot in the closet and one foot in the world of acceptance. The bisexual community is forever in the closet. We are looked at like a step sibling — not fully a member of the straight community, not fully a member of the gay community.

My close friends know I am dating a woman and support our relationship, but I am petrified for my (male) ex to find out or to tell my family. I am petrified to be vulnerable in the face of the family that has made derogatory comments about the LGBTQA+ community in the past. I am so comforted by the brave souls who have gone before me and come out. As a recovering Catholic, I am most saddened by keeping my partner from my family, feeling as though I am guilty of lying by omission. I have an inkling my parents know I am dating someone. My dad has asked me on multiple occasions who “4546” is that I am calling and texting during the week late into the night. 4546 are the last four digits of my partner, my love.

Our love story is one of those meet-cutes that Tinderites adopt when they don’t want to tell people they met their significant other online. I live in a tiny mountain town on the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in Southern Colorado. My partner lives in a tiny Mormon town nearly two hours south.

After our first date in her studio, I wrote some love notes on paint chips and stuck them underneath the windshield wipers of her Toyota 4Runner.

One crisp summer night in mid-August 2017, I decided to go to a poetry reading with a new group of friends. That same night, my partner decided to get out of her six-mile radius and go to the same poetry reading. When she performed her poems, I knew I had to talk to her. After acquiring the sort of courage you can only acquire at one of these poetry readings (if that guy sat up there for ten minutes talking about the beautiful color change of leaves in the fall, I think I can go up there and share my truth), I got up and read some of my own. At the end of the evening, my future partner came up to me and said, “That was really brave of you, thank you for sharing.”

Later, after some serious detective work, I found her (and her art) on Facebook. Her words were so comforting to me: “How are you going to change the world? Through language. If I provide the opportunity for change and one person receives it, I’ve done my job.” Lock and key, I have been loving her ever since, and together we have been scheming about how we will bring positive change to the communities we thrive in.

After our first date in her studio, I wrote some love notes on paint chips and stuck them underneath the windshield wipers of her Toyota 4Runner. She didn’t find the notes until the next morning, after turning on her wipers to clear the snow. I was in Albuquerque when she messaged me about hanging out on my way back through Colorado. Our first dates were bookends to the long weekend, and our second date revolved around watching Girl, Interrupted, a walk outside at sunset, a potluck with close friends and our first kiss, lying in bed in the dark with our eyes open.

Around this time a year ago, I had to take a $65 Uber ride from a burger place in Torrance to my apartment in Downtown Los Angeles after getting dumped by my first Love. I came home crying and into the arms of my mother, a Filipina immigrant. She asked why I was crying, and I told her that I got dumped by a girl. I’d finally had the pride to tell my mother I was gay. That night, she slept on the bottom half of my bed to watch me fall asleep as tears rolled down my cheeks.

I grew up in a typical Asian household in Southeast Asia. Coming out in a developing third-world country was not a “good option.” Nevertheless, my queerness was an open secret. I got a pixie cut when I went to college and was not proud to be regarded as the 6th lesbian in school, so I purposely dated boys to validate my heterosexuality to my peers. My mother was living in Los Angeles at the time, more than 7,000 miles away. She would call to tell me how much she missed me — and my long, black, shiny hair. Numerous times she warned me not to date guys out of fear that I’d get knocked up at a young age. In my head my eyes would roll, for it was an absurd warning.

We held hands after our fourth date. To hold her hand felt very uncomfortable, but also right.

During my sophomore year, I grew out my hair and moved to Los Angeles to be with her. The freedom to come out felt closer than ever, but it still took me a year, when I met Molly, to finally dress up in button-downs and bring back my pixie. Molly and I dated for three months. We held hands after our fourth date. To hold her hand felt very uncomfortable, but also right.

One chilly night, over dinner, she asked if she could kiss me. I pretended not to hear her and kept eating my burger. When we walked out of the restaurant, she told me that she needed to find someone who actually cared about her. I told her that I did care for her. She began to cry in the middle of the crowded plaza. When we sat down, she leaned in for a kiss and I shoved her face away as I looked around at the crowds. I was afraid to publicly display my affection for her because I cared more of what people would think. I knew that she felt hurt and unwanted, and it made me realize something as simple as PDA is a heterosexual privilege. I have publicly made out with boys before, but I never found the courage to kiss the girl I loved until I lost her.

And so, at 11 p.m., I spent $65 to get home, full of regret and shame. It was that night I realized that in order to express pride, I had to be able to express being “queer” without any fear of judgment — from finally buzzing my head to holding my significant other’s hand in public. It was also the night that, for the first time ever, I told my mother about my sexuality.

Now, a year later, I have proudly kissed five beautiful queer women in public and have only spent my money on metro rides.

I had been dating a man for seven years. We were likely to get married any day, I thought. But something felt unsettled. I often felt lonely. At the time, I worked as a hostess in a nice restaurant. I often worked back-to-back shifts; I wanted to leave but couldn’t find the steps out. My relationship began to feel the same way: unobserved and slowly chugging along. I had accepted that I would always feel this way. The feeling of loneliness was my closest relationship. It was on a crisp fall evening that all would shift.

On a whim, I went to an ’80s dance night with my friend and on the way, she asked, “Oh! do you remember Bee?”

I said yes.

“They’ll be there tonight and are very gay now!”

I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but I was intrigued to find out. Bee had gone to a different high school then me, but I remembered the name, and that they had been very popular.

When we walked in, my memory is that the crowd opened and there, in the middle of the dance floor, was Bee. Wearing a red backwards baseball cap and a white T-shirt with a wolf howling and a razor blade on it, Bee looked like a confident, incredibly handsome and mischievous boy. We said hello, eyes locking as though we had so much to tell each other, if only we could find the time to tell it.

Later, when my friend left after a bit of dancing, I stayed. Like magnets, Bee and I started talking. I felt so enlivened; Bee’s confidence and swagger filled me. Bee had just graduated from Columbia University and was telling me about all sorts of amazing projects they were involved in. How could I jump on board?! Is all I kept thinking.

Bee was passionate and mindful, confident but refrained, sweet and intuitive. I was completely enamored. Shortly after that night, I heard that Bee was moving to Los Angeles. I remember taking a shower and feeling heartbroken. I tried to comfort myself. We only met one time. The ache overtook though; I felt like I was meant to take Bee’s hand in a great adventure. I felt it so deeply I could almost see it.

I got word about a month later that Bee had gotten a job in our hometown and would be staying for the time being. I quickly gathered myself and went into action mode. I knew in my heart that we were meant to be together. When Bee and I finally went on our first date, it was the feeling of two peas finding their pod. I loved Bee’s presence. Their confidence and style was beyond sexy. And the wisdom that comes with going against what is put on you as a norm provided such a special insight. I would say it was love at first sight.

That day, I repeated to myself under my breath: ‘You have a right to be here.’

Bee and I got married on June 17th, 2011, in Washington D.C. so that our marriage would be legal. Looking back, I am so proud that we made such a strong political statement with only the strength of wanting something as personal as love.

We navigated wanting to be married legally, but not as a same-sex couple, because that’s not how we identify — Bee feels most comfortable with a more masculine identity, but when going to check off that binary box, neither feels entirely right. We let the officiant know our chosen pronouns. And we slowly fought for our space to be. That day, I repeated to myself under my breath: “You have a right to be here.” And when I looked in Bee’s eyes as we were wed, I saw that Bee saw me. I was finally being seen and loved.

On June 17th, we will celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary with our one-and-a-half-year-old son, Jack, and our dog, Harry. And I was right: it has been a grand, sweet and loving adventure.

I knew from the very beginning of puberty that there was something different about me. I was titillated by Francesca Lia Block’s fantastical world of bisexual fairies and scanned the backs of obscure VHS tapes for any indication of homosexual content. But I was also desperate to fit into the socially acceptable constructs of my Midwestern youth. I told myself that maybe I just felt ALL things really intensely and everyone had similar experiences.

In high school, I dated boys (and men, unfortunately), but harbored secret crushes and had my share of make-out sessions with “good friends.” I shelved any self-reflection and was careful to never label myself. Then, after a post-breakup study abroad program in college, I knew I could not forever question what it might be like to date a woman but never try it. I was always one to admire those who lived outside of socially acceptable norms, so why I was so afraid to join their ranks? Shortly after returning to the United States, I had my first serious girlfriend. The experience was eye-opening for me, because even though the person was ultimately not right, so much of the experience was.

Still, I couldn’t really accept myself. I kept quiet, afraid for people at college to know and terrified to tell my cousins or best friends. I wasn’t proud; I was afraid. I knew that this was me, but I didn’t see a reflection of myself — this super femme, fashion-obsessed bookworm — in the lesbians I knew or knew of. Life seemed more exciting, fast and tinged with possibility, but I felt so uncertain.

I learned so much from my mistakes; I don’t need to fit neatly into a label. It’s vastly more important that I honor love and live authentically.

Somewhere along the line, to complicate things, I fell in love with my best friend. She was one of my five college roommates and had also embraced her sexuality later in life. I was in love, but I was terrified. Was I gay? Would this ruin our friendship? Ruin her romantic prospects? Those few years in my early twenties, in which I desperately loved her but also denied my true self and, by turn, her true self, are some of the most shameful in my memory. I didn’t allow either of us to be proud. I kept our love secret and dismissed it, acted flakey and irresolute. I hurt her. I hurt myself. And she hurt me. It was only after things ended between us in a deeply painful way that I truly embraced who I was. Through that pain, I found my pride. I learned so much from my mistakes; I don’t need to fit neatly into a label. It’s vastly more important that I honor love and live authentically.

Luckily, not all was lost. Despite the hurt and tumult, we eventually got back together. Fought (and loved) our way through an open long-distance relationship to a monogamous one. Moved to Brooklyn, where she eventually proposed. I came out to all my family, colleagues, friends and any random person that inquired about my marital status. We had a big, fabulous wedding in Minneapolis months after gay marriage was legalized there and everyone cried buckets.

I couldn’t be prouder. Of her, of us, of the life we have carved out together or of the baby we worked hard to make and will welcome next month. This June, I honor the struggle for pride on a macro- and micro-level and the ways our society has eradicated labels and divisions and strives to allow everyone to love freely, no matter what that looks like or who sits in the White House. I’m proud to be a gay American, desperately in love and, very soon, a gay mom!

At the end of May, I celebrated one year as a woman. I sometimes struggle to wrap my head around the fact that I made it happen and that it went so well.

I know that there are many who never take that step. If you are considering it, I hesitate to urge you do so because every situation is different. You may not wish to risk your current life, be it family, job, etc. That is understandable. All I ask is you don’t close the door on the possibility.

For me, I kept my relationships, my job and so on. I lost nothing but the baggage — the years of anxiety and the years of worrying about being outed. Unfortunately, I may be in the small percentage of transgendered individuals who can say that. I hope I’m wrong in that assumption, but so much of what is reported in the media is the bad. But “bad” is not always the end result. You can come out the other side being who you were meant to be, bettering your life and, most importantly, being happy. Being happy is f-ing fabulous!

What follows is an abridged version of the coming out announcement I posted to Facebook on the morning my transition was announced at the office. It’s a short synopsis of my journey and where I was a little over a year ago. Take what you can from it and know that the journey is there for you if you choose to take the first step.

***

The time has come to address the cryptic posts of the last few months, to clear some New Year’s resolutions that have lingered way too long, to fulfill what I once thought was only a dream.

What has this all been about? It’s been about how I want to live my life. It’s about being happy and not settling for contentment. Screw being content. I want to be HAPPY. That’s something I never thought I would say.

Ten years ago, I reached a crossroads where I had two paths in front of me. One path was to stay as I was, battling my demons and hoping for the best. The other was a riskier path, but one that offered a chance to defeat my demons and live the life that I deserved.

I chose the latter.

I chose wisely.

I chose to become a woman.

There. I said it.

Ten years ago, I decided to figure out if becoming a woman would resolve the anxiety I’ve been dealing with off and on almost my entire life (the first inkling was in elementary school). There have been periods when I could suppress it and periods when I could not, but it was always there.

So I started experimenting — taking little steps and evaluating how each step made me feel. Each time it felt right, so I took another step. In late 2015, I decided to confirm everything that I thought, everything that I had read and every step I’d taken. I talked to a therapist. Turned out I was a textbook case of “gender identity disorder.”

If you’re not familiar with gender identity disorder, it’s not cross-dressing or being a drag queen (no offense intended). It is also independent of sexual partner preference. Gender and sexual preference are not related. Gender identity disorder is also genetic. It has ZERO to do with how you are raised, a point I repeatedly drive home with my parents. Someone on either side of my family (or both) was like me, whether they were aware of it or not.

I mean it. I’m happy. That’s what this journey has given me. Happiness.

I started hormones in 2016. The first few weeks were an utter panic because I was afraid of the unknown (and almost everyone knows I can’t deal with anything medical, i.e., I faint). The panic eventually subsided and I forgot about it. Then, at a point that I can’t pin down, I became happy. The shit in my head was gone. When someone asks how I am now, I say “fabulous,” “super” or “fantastic.” And I’m not saying that to just say it — I mean it. I’m happy. That’s what this journey has given me. Happiness.

My new name is Genevieve. It honors the original, but also gives me the opportunity to define the new me. Don’t fret if you happen to call me Gene, Geno, Andy (from younger days) or any pronoun such he, him, etc. I will still respond. This is a change for everyone, and I recognize it will take time.

I was planning to thank everyone that helped make this possible, but after ten years, the list is long and simply too much to include here. You know who you are. You had a hand in this journey, and I owe each one of you a debt of gratitude. You have always shown me nothing but encouragement and, most importantly, respect. I love all of you.

I also want to thank those I informed leading up to this announcement. You are my dear friends and co-workers who were unaware or unsure. Please don’t hold it against me that you were not “in the know,” but this was a journey I had to make in some seclusion. Your response, including the response from my company, has been overwhelming. I’m simply blown away by it and I love all of you as well.

My parents are still processing this, and it’s going to take a while. My initial discussion with them went much better than expected. There was no crying, yelling or screaming. Initial shock, yes, but we worked through it. People who love each other do that. By the end, I heard the words that I wanted to hear above and beyond anything else…they love me and will support me no matter what. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

I’m posting this to Facebook because I want you to be informed. Ignorance and misinformation could be hurtful for my friends, co-workers, parents and myself, and I’d rather avoid it. If you have a question, ask me. Ask me in the comments of this post, reach out by messenger or however you would like. I can’t promise you I have all the answers, but I’ll honestly tell you all I can.

If you can’t wrap your head around this, that’s fine. If you want to unfriend me, that’s fine too. You do what you feel is right, but what you do is not going to change how I choose to live my life. I’m choosing HAPPINESS.

A rainbow comes after a storm. For many LGBTQIA+ youth, there is that storm.

With multiple deaths by suicide in the national spotlight, it seems important to highlight how LGBTQIA+ youth are extremely at risk. According to the CDC, lesbian, gay and bisexual teens are almost five times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. So while it’s important to celebrate this Pride Month, it’s also important to be aware of these realities and to shower others/ourselves with “I see you” love and kindness. For queer youth and our allies: LGBTQIA+, people of color, folks with disabilities.

I can’t speak for the entire queer community, but I would personally love if Pride were a celebration for all the otherness people feel and experience. Let your freak flag fly! Tell your friends, family and chosen family that you love their freak flag!

You can bet I’ll be bopping to Hayley Kiyoko while wearing a rainbow caftan, screaming to my queer family and allies that they all matter and that they make this world more special.

As a self-identified queer, white cis-female, I have privileges. With those privileges, I can champion others around me. So, how am I celebrating Pride? You can bet I’ll be bopping to Hayley Kiyoko while wearing a rainbow caftan, screaming to my queer family and allies that they all matter and that they make this world more special.

To quote Lena Waithe, as everyone should: “The things that make us different, those are our superpowers — every day when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.”

Here are two quick things that might save a life or brighten someone’s day:

Donate to The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.

Send a gif or text/call a friend to tell them that you were thinking about them. Reach out — that’s what matters. And while you’re at it, might I suggest a “Happy Pride” to your queer fam? A rainbow flag flying behind a bald eagle gif recommended, but not required.

Feature photo by Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

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