Chicago, Illinois (1997)
The year was 1997. I was 12, and, like many of my peers, in the midst of a full-fledged Spice Girls obsession. This specific picture was taken on Halloween, after my mother had painstakingly drawn all of Sporty Spice's tattoos on my arms, and Superglued a rhinestone to my nose to make it look pierced (it's possible that my family might go a little too far when it comes to costumes...)
If I had to fit myself into a nice, neat little labeled box, I'd probably call myself a femme, because I like wearing pretty things, and I'm ridiculously girly in general.
But I may be different from others in that I didn't know early on that I was gay.
In the era of this picture, I didn't have much of an eye for anyone except Leo DiCaprio, so the fact that I might like girls wasn't even on my radar.
I didn't come out to myself (or start coming out to others) until age 20, when I was studying abroad in Europe, and experiencing what I thought was my first real-life girl crush (I'd begun admitting my celeb crushes to myself by then).
But the thing is, once I actually started coming out, it was like all of a sudden I was remembering things from my past with gay-tinted glasses.
That English teacher who I thought was so great my freshman year of high school? Totally crushing. The fact that out of all the Spice Girls to be my favorite, I picked the dykiest looking one? Gay. My favorite character when my parents had me watch "Law & Order" with them? A gorgeous brunette with a Texan drawl who ended up defining my "type" - and who I still love to watch in all her hot ladycop hotness today on "Rizzoli & Isles".
I've been quite lucky, I must say. I grew up in a liberal, accepting environment. My Father's business partner was a gay man, and at age 9, I sold the most Girl Scout cookies I ever sold to members of The Chicago Gay Men's Chorus. My mom has always had plenty of lesbian/lesbian-ish friends.
I live in Boston now. I realize how lucky I've been, how relatively easy being gay has been for me. Regardless of what we've all each been through on our journeys to discovering our real selves, and regardless of what people might say to us, or think of us - the only person who truly needs to be accepting of me - is me.