I didn’t know this had happened until the first day of 7th grade when Catherine and her friends interrogated me about my “bisexuality.” Lacking any sense of self-preservation and with the knowledge that the damage had already been done, I told Catherine I didn’t care about whom she shared this knowledge with. One day I had a group of nerdy, conventional friends. Another day they all avoided me. The words fag, dyke, bitch, slut and whore followed me from advisory to the long bus ride home. I had been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder in elementary school. This wave of hostility brought out the worst depression of my life.
I came out to my parents around the same time. I had come home from school crying. My dad went to my room and asked me question after question. He asked me if I had a boyfriend and then asked if I had a girlfriend. When I answered yes, he told me I was too young to know and left the room. I tried in vain for months to convince my parents that I wasn’t too young to know. My dad, concerned about my safety, forbid me from telling anyone about my sexuality. Unfortunately, the damage was already done.
My new friends were potheads and punks, though I was too emotionally detached to be more than their mute accomplice during school. I had been a tomboy from a young age but slowly morphed into a feminine creature. At first I was grotesque. I wore too much make-up and thrift store clothes. Now I am completely comfortable with my identity as a femme. In 7th grade I managed to still make excellent grades. I was isolated but not without hope. By 8th grade I was barely passing my classes. The “girlfriends” I had in middle school only wanted sex from me or told the most vicious bullies about my sexuality. Everyday I faked sick or begged my mom not to take me to school. I was convinced that I couldn’t stay in school and had no future. The summer between 7th and 8th grade I only ate cheerios and nearly fainted in the shower.
Though I constantly felt like I wanted to die, I didn’t have a plan for how to commit suicide. I faint at the sight of blood, had no idea how to get a gun (I hope no one’s surprised that my Texas house was sans gun) and didn’t have pills readily available. I spent most of my time listening to avant-jazz and making crude drawings. When my parents and I met with the school counselor I spent the whole time hysterically crying and yelling at her. I was convinced that all the other kids in school were stupid. Though I don’t like to draw now, I became quite good at anatomical drawings. This one picture particularly impressed me and I was fond of copying it:
My privilege saved me from suicide. My parents had enough money to send me to therapy and put me on anti-depressants and cared enough to let me leave therapists who I felt weren’t supportive. The transfer to private Catholic school saved me academically and wouldn’t have been possible without my parent’s economic status. Though I was marked as the “weird lesbian girl” at my Catholic high school and wasn’t socially active, I did well enough to get into Duke. I am privileged that my family now treats my sexuality as a non-issue. As a result I can completely commit to being out to everyone I meet at Duke and can act as a witness to all facets of Duke’s social climate. I am not afraid of how people will react to my sexuality because I’ve heard it all. I still don’t know what it’s like to live somewhere where race and sexuality are not hot-button topics. While I intend to have this experience soon I am also grateful for the perspective I gained from being out at a young age in San Antonio, Texas.
This is part of a poem I wrote from my “dark period.” I sometimes chant the stanza to myself when I’m feeling down:
If god hates fags
You think that I would burn and die
My outside rubbing with my inside
Like they teach you to rub two sticks together