Tori, age 4
Columbus, Georgia (2002)
All I know is I didn't want to dance with that boy. I pouted the entire time, because no one would let me dance with my best friend Sydney. 14 years later, and I would still rather dance with a pretty girl. Gay as hell now, gay as hell then.
But, growing up I wasn't always so happy to accept that. I struggled with internalized hatred and disgust for a long time. And when I finally had found the self acceptance and love to come out to my family and my friends, they said:
"Why didn't you tell us sooner? Why did you lie to us?"
And, yes, I have extremely accepting and loving people in my life, and they deserved to know. But I was frustrated that no one could understand that I was not afraid of them, but of myself - and of all the people out there who do not share their open minds.
And above all, my coming out was not about them.
It was not something they had the right to feel angry with me for.
I think it is hard for family members to grasp what it is like to grow up knowing you are different in a way that many do not accept. And not in a "I like weird clothes or weird music and they make fun of me" kinda way, but in a "I love who I love and some people would kill me for that" kinda way. And they'll try, but they may never understand what it is that drives so many of us to hide who we are, and even pretend to be who we are not.
That doesn't make them any less loving or caring or accepting, it just makes them human. They have no way of knowing what it is like, they can't read our thoughts. They can't relive our experiences or feel our hearts sink every time something hateful is spit at us. They can't imagine what it is like to be afraid to hold the hand of the person they love while they walk on the sidewalk. But they are trying -- always, always trying to empathize and learn and change.
I am so grateful to have people who love me and are willing to try and to change. And to now be able to say that I love myself too.
I just want anyone out there that's having a hard time finding self-acceptance to know that so many others have felt that pain too. You are beautiful, and there is nothing wrong with you, nothing you should try to change or hide.
When you learn to love yourself, you get to be proud, and be a part of a community of amazing people. You get to laugh and smile and love wholeheartedly without feeling like you are wrong.
And I wouldn't trade such a colorful, diverse, and happy life for anything.
Let yourself in so you can let others in._____________________________________________________
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