As soon as I stepped through the doors of my high school, I got a boyfriend. He wasn’t just any boyfriend; he was a hot, popular football player. We immediately became the “it” couple. We walked through the hallways holding hands, and everyone knew who we were. Even teachers knew about us. I felt the new eyes of a majority of the student body trying to figure out who I was and why I was so special. After we broke up almost two years later, I was referred to as “#77’s ex-girlfriend.”
It wasn’t until college that people knew me for who I was. I did stand-up comedy on and around my campus, and a majority of my jokes were centered around my woes about dating men-—which, of course, were wildly unsuccessful tales. Soon, I had an audience that expected these jokes out of me. Drunk girls would come up to me in the bathrooms of bars and quote my jokes back to me. One group even asked to take a picture with me. This was literally everything I ever wanted. For random people to love me and what I had to say, even if it was just on the small scale of my college campus.
This ended up getting me a job as a writer at one of the most popular blogs for college women at the time. My followers on Twitter and Instagram became proportionately more people who knew me from the internet than people who knew me in real life. This was during the height of Facebook article sharing, so my words were plastered on walls across America (and even some parts of Canada).
I became a voice for the Frustrated Single Straight Girl. I was known for dating guys above other side projects like having passions, opinions, and a personality. As far as everyone in my life knew, I was a big fat goose egg on the Kinsey Scale. As it turns out, though, that wasn’t true.
Then I did what every frustrated straight girl should do: I kissed a girl. And I liked it. I really liked it. Like, felt-like-I-was-alive-for-the-first-time liked it. I felt relieved to have found the answer for my constant unhappiness but simultaneously felt as if everything I had built up was about to crumble around me. I knew my friends and family would be there for me, but I had a platform that I was about to take a sledgehammer to. I felt like I had, in a small way, become the voice for a group of women whom I didn’t want to let down.
When I decided to come out online, I did it in a strategically low-key way. I started with pseudo-gay retweets that gently hinted that I relate to them instead of just support them. Then, my own vague tweets that followed my dating journey, without being quite specific about who it was that I was so excited about. I wasn’t just gay; I had a girlfriend! A girlfriend I wanted to show off to the world because I never felt a prouder feeling than being able to stand next to her and call her mine. I was dying to have everyone know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was a lesbian with a lesbian girlfriend.
Everyone just assumed I had a new gal pal. (Some still do.) If someone followed the lesbian breadcrumbs I was leaving for months, they might have been able to figure it out. Maybe they would have wondered why I was spending so much time with this new girl and why we stood so close to each other in pictures. Maybe they would have noticed that I was no longer complaining about men. Maybe they would have considered something I never had, which was that I was actually flaming.
One day I got brave and posted a picture of us kissing in front of a mural that says, “I love you so much.” That pretty much sealed the deal.
I was so excited to finally reveal myself, but again, I was terrified. I anxiously spiraled about the possibility of my photo being screenshot. Whether or not it was happening, I could feel it being sent in group chats and picked apart. I could feel my head spinning and heart racing and world changing. I could feel my every word being questioned by others, and by myself. What was true and what wasn’t?
I was not faced with the inundation of questions that I was expecting. I wasn’t even burned at the stake. But this was worse. I wanted people to ask—after all, I had built a writing career on others caring about my love life. Instead, they were left wondering, and so was I. Had I just ruined everything for myself? It’s as if the new identity that I was presenting was either not worth addressing, or they were so uncomfortable that they didn’t want to address it.
Suddenly, I felt not relatable anymore. I craved that validation and attention I got from being a funny frustrated straight girl. By this time, I was in grad school. I would make gay jokes to my friends who already knew, and I could see ears perk up around the room at this new and foreign culture. I tried to add to conversations about classmates’ boyfriends, but it wasn’t the same. Yes, I was in a relationship, but the dynamic was different enough that I felt a disconnect. I was the only lesbian in my program, the only lesbian in my current friend group, the only lesbian in my girlfriend’s friend group, aside from her. The only friends I had that were also queer lived hundreds of miles away from me. While it was nice to have them just a text away, being the token lez had isolated me from everyone I had become close with.
Not only could I not relate to conversations, I couldn’t relate to things as simple as memes. This whole “men making me miserable” internet trope that I used to literally make money off of was now an alien concept. I thought to myself: Why do these girls put themselves through that? Why did I put myself through that? I reminded myself that that was the life that made me miserable, yet it wasn’t enough to make me feel like I had destroyed everything I had worked for. I started writing articles without using any pronouns so they could appeal to any audience, but they still felt inauthentic to me. I sprinkled in details of my girlfriend, almost hoping that they would be skimmed over so as not to detract from the entire piece. I even wrote a column about the frustration of straight women assuming I had a crush on them, but looking back, reading the details I had added when I was identifying as bisexual reminded me how desperately I held on to any shred of normalcy. If I still liked men, then maybe I wasn’t a total alien. I wanted to be true to myself, but I had dedicated my life to an audience that I was afraid I was going to lose.
I may have felt like I was losing an audience, and maybe I had, but I was gaining a new one. I decided that I shouldn’t focus on trying to get people to like me by “toning down” a huge part of me. Instead, I should start trying to build a connection with the people who would celebrate and encourage who I am. It became a reciprocating relationship; the more openly lesbian content I posted, the more queer and questioning girls reached out to me to tell me how important it was to them to see representation on social media. And the more that girls reached out to me, the more I posted. Not only that, even straight girls reached out to me saying that seeing my relationship showed them what they were missing in theirs. I was no longer the voice of the Frustrated Single Straight Girl, that’s for certain, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t be a voice for anyone.
I want to find the balance between showing the unique beauty in lesbian relationships while also putting them in the same context of straight relationships. When I post a picture kissing my girlfriend in a field of sunflowers with the sun rays lighting our faces, I want it to be fawned over (obviously), but I don’t want it to be viscerally shocking. Just shocking how the world could bring together two incredible people, regardless of gender.
Being unapologetically myself and openly writing about things like my girlfriend felt natural yet freeing, and I am so grateful to be given a place in a new community that I was afraid wouldn’t accept me.
In my head, I was associating “unrelatable” with “alone.” But if I have learned one thing from all of this, it’s that there is always someone out there who has the same feelings as you. The same struggles. The same wishes. The same jokes that help them cope with reality. It seems so obvious to me now. Why was I still trying to relate to people that I didn’t feel like I could? I had miraculously broken out of the trance that had told me I needed to keep dating men, but I was still hypnotized by the notion that if I wanted to stay relevant, I had to keep the gay shit to myself. I was so accustomed to the Straight World that I’d been living in, I literally had no idea that there was such a tight-knit community of women like me who were even more fun, interesting and empathetic than anyone I had ever met.
I had adjusted my dating life, but I needed to adjust the rest of my life.
I’m proud of my old title. I’m proud of what I have written and what I have been and continue to be recognized for. But I am especially proud of who am now and what I will write—because it’s so authentically me.