She was not your typical woman. I had seen her around the club many times and knew she was a trainer. She had a rock hard body, a super confident attitude and walked the floor as if she owned the place. She approached me during my workout and told me she recognized me from soccer. I didn’t play soccer, I played baseball, so I knew it was simply a conversation starter.
She proceeded to tell me that her and her “girlfriend” were having a house party and I should come. Why she was inviting me was beyond my comprehension at the time. We barely knew one another.
But I went to that party. I was curious.
I walked into a house full of mostly female couples and a few other single folks. This rural small town girl was taken aback to say the least. It had not registered to me that when she said her ‘girlfriend’ and her were having a party that she actually meant her female lover.
Despite what I had felt for many years, I was still confused as to who I was. I didn’t know there were “options” when it came to sexual orientation, as this was the ‘90’s and it was not something my family or friends spoke about.
I hung out with this group of friends on several more occasions that spring. I still resisted accepting my sexuality and who I truly was out of fear, shame and confusion.
In June of 2000, two months after meeting my new friends, you would have found me standing on a patio sucking back Mike’s Hard Lemonade at the Toronto Pride Festival.
It was over the course of that night at pride in the corner of a crowded bar, the air filled with dry ice and the musk from hundreds of dancing bodies that my confident trainer friend pulled me aside to tell me: “Just an FYI, you are a lesbian.”
“What? No, I’m not,” I said, laughing it off, nervously.
“Yeah, you are,” she repeated. “Now go have some fun!”
I danced the night away in that steamy bar almost completely oblivious to the beautiful women that surrounded me. I was still taking in the sights, sounds and feelings racing through my intoxicated body.
Although in denial, more out of fear than anything else, I woke up the next morning with more than a nasty hangover. I woke up to the realization that she was right.
As intimidating as it all was, the clarity I got from that weekend at Pride was necessary and very much appreciated.
I found myself and my community on that dance floor and in that Pride parade.
This put me at a major crossroad. I had two choices: suppress my identity and not accept my truth, or embrace the person I was, despite my fear of rejection.
I had always felt and knew I was different but I didn’t know what it was that made me different. I didn’t have a name or a label for who I was and I was scared shittless at what exaclty my girl crushes had meant all those years.
Admitting for the first time that I was a lesbian took a lot of courage and strength but boy did it feel liberating. I had always been that friend everyone could come to with their deepest darkest secrets, as I was the keeper. Now it was my turn to express my true colours in all their brilliance.
I had no idea until my experience at Pride that who I was, was acceptable (in the right community) and that there were so many other queer people in the world, doing their thing and living their life. I could, for once in my life, walk through the world openly and honestly without fear of judgment.
From that day forth, I began dressing in a way that matched how I felt (tomboy all the way) and no longer hid behind a mask of who I thought I was supposed to be. I had far more confidence knowing I was being real. I was being me.
If there is anything I learned from coming out and that I would want others to know, it is:
1. Don’t hide your true self out of fear. It will eat away at you mentally and spiritually. Those people in your life that have unconditional love for you will come around in time. Do not give up.
2. Embrace your authentic style, your choice of clothes and whatever it means to be you. Don’t conform to the ideas others place on you. Authenticity is beautiful.
3. Love deeply and freely. Love is universal and should be both given and received unconditionally. Love whomever you want and know that to live, is to love.
4. Follow your passion and your dreams. Only we are in charge of our own lives and our destiny. Live your life to the fullest and never give up on what you truly want.
The truth is, when we accept who we are as individuals, those whom are meant to join us on our journey will show up. I believe the words of Lady Gaga’s song “Born This Way” explain it just right,
“I’m beautiful in my way, ‘Cause God makes no mistakes, I’m on the right track, baby I was born this way”.
Be you and nothing less. That is all we can be.