Unsolicited Advice to Questioning Teenage Girls

When your friends go on about their crushes
do not feign interest in a boy just to blend in
tell them you would rather kiss girls even though that scares you
tell them you’re confused but
do not lie

When your uncle asks if you prefer Gail or Peta
explain to him that you like Katniss
that her female form strikes you more
than any teenage boy could

And when a girl comes up to you and offers to tell you a secret
listen to her
she will become the first love of your life

When a priest tells you that the way you feel is wrong
spit in his face
who you are is not a sin
and his cross is the biggest lie of all

When you start getting feelings for your best friend
do not ignore them
contemplate what it means to feel
and how friendship differs from love

When you can only imagine kissing her every time you see her
do not feel ashamed
your feelings are healthy and valid
and you deserve the same in return

And when you cry so much your eyes swell up
do not cry for her

What Part of “Secular” Do You Not Understand?

Selling flowers or wedding cakes to a same-sex couple, or even issuing marriages licenses is not the same as being a part of a same-sex wedding ceremony. Usually no one invites their florist to their wedding anyway. However, you cannot simply disagree to do your job because of whatever religious beliefs you have. If a Muslim person worked at a grocery store but refused to handle any pork products because of their faith, they would be fired. So it is a wonder how some Christians can still have so much privilege and power and continue to ask for more.

There is no war on religion. Around 80% of the U.S. population identifies as Christian. And regardless of whatever conspiracy theories are floating around, Obama is a Christian as well. Maintaining the right to freedom of religion and trying to enforce your beliefs on others without consequence from the law are two very different things.

And while Kim Davis may be in prison momentarily, there are an alarming amount of people who support her. But the fact of the matter is that your religion does not give you a free pass to do whatever you want. When it comes to the government, it should have no power whatsoever. Everyone has their own individual beliefs and that’s great, but this persistent urge to involve Christianity in a secular government is ridiculous, especially when it comes to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Why these alleged straight people of God have such a profound obsession with homosexuality, I know not. But I am tired of hearing the same rhetoric over and over again. We get it. You think everyone is a sinner and you still “love” gay people, you just hate the sin. How heartwarming. The thing is though, I don’t care. A lot of people don’t care. You don’t have to marry someone of the same sex, and no one has the right to force you to attend a same-sex wedding. And you also might believe same-sex marriage is illegitimate compared to “traditional” marriage, but a lot of people are gay, or LGBT, or they know someone who is. And the difference between your personal religious beliefs and the lives of these LGBT individuals is that their plight is evident and factual, and using your religion to strip people of their rights is anything but “Christian.”

My (Unofficial) Coming Out Story

I struggled with my sexuality all throughout high school and partially throughout middle school. The main part of my struggle was the inability to accept myself for who I was, who I am. Of course now I cannot fathom how I ever thought I was straight, but accepting myself and being open about my sexuality gave me a whole new perspective on the matter.

While I was in elementary school, I became overly attached to quite a few of my female friends. At the time I didn’t think anything of it, especially when girls are supposed to think boys are gross at that age. However, I was submersed in a heteronormative culture and I attended a very conservative Catholic school, so I evidently suppressed any thoughts and feelings that had anything to do with liking girls. It wasn’t until I was in sixth or seventh grade that I had my first lesbian awakening. I was watching the ever popular Desperate Housewives with my parents, and two of the female characters on the show kissed. At that moment, it was like something suddenly clicked inside of my brain. I liked girls. I liked the idea of two girls being together. It finally all made sense. But I still could not truly accept that about myself, so I again suppressed any feelings I had and attempted to be a nice heterosexual girl. While it surprisingly didn’t take that much effort, it also didn’t exactly work well for too long. I was still developing feelings for my female friends. They would tell me all about boys they liked, and I would get so jealous but just pretend I was disappointed because I wasn’t receiving any attention from boys.

During my freshman year of high school I kind of fell in love for the first time with my best friend. It was very confusing and very hard to differentiate feelings of close friendship and feelings of romance. I drove myself crazy over it. She began to date a guy who was much older than us, and I was once again disappointed. I was weary about the age difference because perverts are still unfortunately alive and well, but I also selfishly wanted her to myself. Of course, I didn’t say any of this. I didn’t actually voice my sexual confusion to anyone until sophomore year. There was this girl a year behind me that I really began to like. Let’s call her S. She would follow me around everywhere and hold my hand as we walked to class, even if her’s was in another building. I really thought that she liked me, but she would always mention this other girl she had dated so I quickly abandoned any hope. She had perviously told me that she was bisexual and I immediately blurted out that I thought I might be bisexual too. Not knowing what to make of this, I called my gay friend, and that was when I told someone for the first time that I liked a girl. It was so difficult for me to do at first, but I felt so relieved for finally having done it.

Throughout my first semester of sophomore year, I spent many nights crying and watching a mix of lesbian flicks and depressing suicidal films, all courtesy of Netflix. It was too difficult for me to come to terms with who I was, and I honestly had no idea why. I clearly did not have a problem with other gay or bisexual people, but I was afraid of being treated differently again. I was bullied nonstop from second to eighth grade, so when I finally got to high school it was my time to start over and actually make friends and not be called names. Because of this, I just stopped talking to and hanging out with S as much, but I thought about her. I thought about her all the time.

I wasn’t really all that vocal about my sexuality until the beginning of senior year. That was an interesting time in my life. So many of my friends had come out as gay or bisexual as well, so I just jumped on the bandwagon. At first, I came out as bisexual. This felt like the safest option to me at the time because I could like girls but still maintain some heterosexual privilege. But after a couple of weeks, I decided to finally be honest with myself. And for the first time, I told my friends and family that I was gay. It was probably one of the happiest and most relieving moments of my life. I was so lucky to be around so many people who accepted and supported me. At this point, I had resumed talking to S, who had now become M, and we started dating shortly after. And that’s pretty much it. No more struggle. No more shame. Just love and acceptance and a whole lot of gay.

Why Queer Representation is Actually Important

It comes as no surprise that the LGBTQ community is seldom portrayed in the media, and even when there is representation it is often negative or inaccurate. Heterosexuality is portrayed as the norm, the default. I can watch any show or movie and there are definitely heterosexual characters. In fact, they’re everywhere. But I have to look very hard to find a LGBT character, and such a character is often a flamboyant, white gay man who is treated as more of a source of amusement than as a prominent, meaningful character. If I want to watch a movie with any gay people in it, I often have to sift through the “Gay and Lesbian” category on Netflix, as if these movies can only be identified by the sexuality of the characters and not the more common genres of comedy, drama, and action.

I grew up immersed in this culture, just as many other LGBT youth have, which makes coming to terms with one’s sexual orientation very difficult. I grew up thinking that boys like girls, and girls like boys, and that’s just the way it is. Every love song I listened to or romantic comedy I watched was exclusively heteronormative. It is the constant reenforcement of this male/female dynamic that is damaging for LGBT youth and the like. Growing up, I knew of gay people, but only of the stereotypes and celebrities who had come out. There was no form of media to inform me of any relationship other than a heterosexual one. So of course, I didn’t question my sexuality throughout my childhood, even though there were obvious signs. Culture heavily influences and impacts societal ideals and norms, behaviors, attitudes, and discrimination. And from what I had absorbed from my culture and the media, homosexuality was not a good thing. And while I was completely okay with other people being gay, I couldn’t accept it for myself.

I didn’t spend seventeen years of my life as a heterosexual kid, and then one day I decided to be gay. I thought I was supposed to like boys. I didn’t even know what being gay was until I entered middle school. There was no “agenda” preached at me like many fundamentalists love to believe. It was quite the opposite. I went to Catholic school for seven years, where I was taught that being a homo is a no-no. An abomination. An unnatural, devilish choice. Of course I never bought into it. I accepted anyone who wasn’t the living definition of a bigot. The priest who taught my religion class was as gay as the night is dark, yet he still condemned such a “lifestyle”. And whoever came up with the idea that being gay is a lifestyle? Being an avid skier is a lifestyle. Sexuality is not a lifestyle, it just is. And it is so sad that we have to somehow justify that in order to be respected and treated equally. Humans are born with their sexual orientation and gender identity regardless of what that may be. But, even if it was a choice, what gives someone else the right to tell you what to do with your life? Why? Because God says so? I have to prove my homosexuality is innate yet there is no empirical evidence that God even exists, let alone the ever evolving, rewritten bible that also claims we should stone adulterers. If you don’t have to justify or prove your religion, I certainly don’t have to justify my sexuality.

The Fight Against Gays

       Religious liberty is attempting to make a most unflattering comeback in the United States. Mike Pence, Republican Governor of Indiana, recently signed a Religious Liberty Bill modeled on the former Religious Restoration Act. The bill will legally allow business owners and the like to refuse goods and services to LGBT individuals on the basis of religious freedom. While Pence later went on to “fix” the bill, the fix does not directly apply to religious groups and LGBT individuals are still unprotected by Indiana law. The fix was simply a way to make the bill more palatable to those opposed to it. Arkansas, Louisiana, and Georgia are also in the process of enacting their own Religious Liberty bills, further enhancing the threat to LGBT Americans. The bill in question goes way beyond upholding religious liberty. It allows for discrimination on the grounds of faith. Many religious people argue that they should not be forced to participate in a same-sex wedding or serve same-sex couples and individuals because they believe it is sinful and unnatural. And of course these same people go on to implement the ever popular “it’s say so in the Bible” excuse. Anti-LGBT christians do not want to knowingly aid those of that “lifestyle”. But in what way is discrimination supposedly Christian? Of course no one who supports this bill is willing to admit to what it actually does, that it legally allows someone to discriminate against another person. Of course they deny it. Read the news articles and watch the videos. They cannot outwardly admit to it.

        Interestingly enough, no one is preventing Christians from practicing their faith, going to church, praying, wearing whatever religious garments and accessories they choose to. Yet many still claim that is in fact the Christians who are being discriminated against. However, the Christians are not the ones being denied service, and that is the very important difference of the matter. One cannot infringe upon someone else’s rights, call it religious liberty, and then act as if they are the real victim in question. It is completely unethical. It is also uneconomical. Businesses will only end up losing profit by turning away paying customers on the sole basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Big businesses like Apple will take a stance against states in which the bill is enacted, which will certainly not be a loss for the billion dollar corporation, but rather for the various local Christian-run eateries and flower shops. Hopefully, it is this argument that will turn some heads because apparently money is much more greatly valued than the rights of other people. Needless to say, there are many Christians who strongly disagree with using religion as an excuse for homophobia. However, it is the Anti-LGBT Christians whose voices overpower the non-discriminatory ones.

First Degree

This emptiness
this agonizing ache
I cannot manage
to rid myself of
keeps it hand
firmly planted on
my shoulder
always there to
remind me of
every knife you twisted
deeper and deeper into
my spine
turning my mind
into a slab of paralyzed matter,
where it is cold and numb
and dead
and the worms have
already begun to make
their homes.
And I still cannot
fathom why I
needed to be stabbed
at all.