Best Of: Coming Out Story
Yesterday was National Coming Out Day and we’ve been lucky enough to share a few coming out stories, include Cassie’s. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for reading. Thank you for telling us your stories.
Here I am, 27 years old and I was the absolute last person to find out I was gay.
These things are always hard to start off, so I’ll start with the memory of elementary school. I remember clearly having the resilience of a child, falling and scraping my knees. If we do it now it’s the WORST, but back then, the scrapes were just a part of growing up. Everything was just okay when we were swinging on the swing sets, playing basketball, soccer, or tag. No one really had a label in elementary school (at least none that I can remember). Thinking back, some of my best friends were boys. Mainly because I loved sports, not to mention literally every time a girl screamed because a basketball or soccer ball whizzed by their face, I just wanted to smack them. Things started to change when I got into 3rd or 4th grade. Girls in my school started talking about kissing boys, and that interested me. I wanted to try it out, so me and a few of my friends thought, “Why don’t we practice kissing on each other that way when the time comes to kiss a boy we will be prepared?” I remember one friend and I would kiss just to kiss when we were by ourselves. To me, this was innocent fun. I felt like I was on top of the world, and I honestly really enjoyed making out with my friends.
In 4th grade, I remember talking to a boy. We were kind of seeing each other at the time, mainly communicating through notes passed secretly during class time. One day, a note with “Do you like me, check yes or no” fell on to my desk. I got ballsy and sent a note back with, “will you kiss me and I’ll let you know…” written on it. I remember feeling super nervous and excited about this transaction. He said yes, and days were spent concocting a plan to meet on the field during recess. Teachers at the time were extremely watchful of guys and girls together on the playground, so we had to be extremely careful. I was so nervous, and had convinced myself that if kissing girls gave me a ton of butterflies in my stomach, that kissing boys was going to rock my world. The time finally came when we got our chance to kiss. We had our friends poised as lookouts for teachers or other kids that would mess up our fragile plan. He leaned in, and my lips touched his. Everything that I had built up in my head just shattered. I felt absolutely nothing. Actually, I felt cheated. It was nothing against him, he was a very sweet boy. It just did not even compare to the way it felt to kiss my friends.
During 5th grade, I remember talking to my mom about girls. I was very careful not to reveal my attraction to them (see as how I would be severely punished if she found out), but I would comment on how other girls were pretty. As soon as I said anything, my mother would tell me that it was okay to acknowledge the beauty of another woman but that was the line. She made it clear that OUR family will not have a homosexual in it, and I was told that I wasn’t allowed to live that lifestyle. Being gay and bringing someone of color home were equal acts of transgression in my parent’s household. My mother and father raised me in a very Southern Baptist household. The pastor of the church that we attended was my father’s best friend throughout high school. It’s funny looking back at that friendship because I had always heard about my father’s wild past deeds. I would try to get out of going to this church because I felt like the teachings were ancient, and if God loved everyone, why is it not okay for me to like who I wanted to like? My parents would tell me that being gay was wrong, that it was a horrible sin. I was told that I would go to hell if I even kissed the same sex or had feelings for the same sex. I was also told that one of two things would happen if I told him I like girls. 1: They would beat me until I realized that it was wrong, or 2: My dad would go to prison because he would kill me. Obviously, that instilled a sense of fear in me that has lasted many years. I cut ties with all of my friends and denied sleepover invitations. I tried to get away from it all. Being an only child put a lot of pressure on me to absolutely avoid anything that could make my parents disappointed in me.
6th grade began and all of my “best friends” from elementary school were now scattered around in different friend groups. What we used to do is kept a careful secret because we were in middle school now, and everybody was fearfully avoiding getting labeled. While in 6th grade, I remember meeting this one girl. We became best friends after hanging out all summer long. She had a pool, and would always invite a bunch of friends over to swim. After swimming in the pool, we would all end up stripping off our wet suits and shower the chlorine off together. One day, I leaned in and kissed her while we were hanging out. She was taken aback, but ended up kissing me back. The next week, she told me her parents were moving to Florida, and of course she was going with them. Her parents told her to exchange emails with me to keep in touch, but we never did. I felt like that was a sign for me, that God was punishing me. I couldn’t talk about this with my parents, however, because I feared how they would react. So instead of acting on this opportunity, I swept it under the rug and pretended like it never happened.
In 7th grade, I had my first ‘real’ boyfriend. My mom was a school bus driver and he was on her route. We lived deep in the country, and I would ride to and from school with her because no school buses went as far out as we lived. I remember holding hands in the back of the bus, meeting up behind the stage in the gym and making out during lunch. It was fun to pass the time, but I honestly felt nothing by it. I knew this is what he wanted, and I just liked the company. We were broken up by the end of the eighth grade.
High school was the worst, especially in a Podunk town where everyone seems to be aware of what you do even before you do. You cannot do anything without your parents getting a call from another adult so that, by the time you got home, a sufficient punishment was already laid out for you.
I think high school marked my worst era of depression. My hatred for myself and where I lived caused me to think about ending my life several times throughout the course of high school. I started cutting, only scratches at first. Then, I realized the pain was something I could control, and it went on that way. I met my best friend because of this, but still felt like I had to hide my past from her because I didn’t want her to think I was hitting on her. I just wanted and needed a friend. She was the exact opposite from me, preppy and popular, and exactly the type of girl I hated earlier in my life. However, if I hadn’t had her friendship, I don’t think I would have made it out of high school.
I think one of the hardest times I had was when I lost my grandfather (I call him Papa) on my mother’s side. I remember spending all of my time at his house on the weekends when I was growing up. I thought Papa and Nanny were the cutest. He was the hometown mechanic and she was a volunteer at the local hospital. She would always take me shopping, except unlike my parents, she would tell me to get whatever I felt comfortable in. Usually, this meant jeans and t-shirts instead of the frilly dresses that my mom and dad favored. Occasionally, my Nanny would buy me dresses for holidays to keep my parents happy. I definitely did not have a say when it came to what I wore for family photos.
One day, Papa took me out to buy an Easter dress to wear to the upcoming Easter service. Nanny was busy at the hospital that day, and my parents had to work. I found this awesome Adidas track suit in the department store that I fell in love with immediately. Papa bought it for me, along with some jeans and sneakers for me to wear. HE dropped me off at home later, no dress to show for the day of shopping we did. He was promptly chewed out by both of my parents. His response sticks with me to this day, “Let her wear what she wants to, if I had gotten her a dress she would have wore it for an hour and we’d never see it again.” This was very true, as over the years I came up with many creative ways to make my dress clothes magically disappear. This day will always be one of my favorite memories of him.
When I found out he had passed, I wanted to so very much go with him. He died outside while he was working on a car, from what seemed to be a heart attack. After it happened, Nanny couldn’t bring herself to stay at the house for a little while, so I was given the task of dropping by their house and grabbing whatever she needed. I would get there and lay down where they found him. I just wanted to know what happened. How did he feel before? Did he know he was dying? Was he in pain? Did he think about us? Why did God do this, why did he take him away? How high up in the sky is heaven? Is it even there? I would lay there, angry, thinking about how nothing else mattered. The one man who stood up for me is gone. If he were here today, I am sure he would have accepted me and loved me unconditionally. He may not have agreed with it, but I know he wouldn’t be punishing me for being myself.
Fast forward to my freshman year of college. I was finally getting a grip on the semester when I got a call that my Nanny was being rushed to the hospital. Within two days we found out that she had colon cancer, and they told us she had two months to live. Those two months ended up being two weeks, and that caused me to lose the last bit of me that I had a grip on. I lost hope within myself and trusted no one. One day, while laying where they found my Pops, I promised him that I would take care of her. I felt like I failed him even though I knew it wasn’t my fault. Nanny had grown more and more on me. After Pops died, I made sure her car was washed, lawn was cut and helped around the house. I felt like I was needed and appreciated. Now, nothing felt real to me anymore and the only thing that felt right was depression. I felt bad for my mother, who I vividly remember yelling “I’m an orphan” after Nanny passed. I was mad at the nurses, the doctors, I blamed everyone including myself for our loss, and I felt so very alone.
The rest of college was semi okay for my mental health. I moved out from my parent’s house and got an apartment near campus. I started working at this little seafood restaurant near my apartment. My father told me that he would pay for my apartment if I wanted to quit work and focus on school more. I didn’t want to, I wanted to focus on being self-sufficient, but school became too much for me, so I accepted his offer. After a year of still being under his thumb, I began to feel more and more repressed around my parents. The fact that I depended on them made me feel worse.
College really opened my eyes. Even though I was in a very small technical college, the professors were very liberal and very open about it. It was different to go from a high school where every teacher was a devout Republican and where every student knew you to a school full of people that did not get in your way or in your business. I think it was a kind of a mutual understanding that we were all there to do our time and get out into the “real world”. During college, I found an outlet in music, and I met a guy whom I ended up dating for over eight years. Looking back at it now, I laugh because I never really knew how gay I truly was. We started a band that traveled to SXSW and went on 3 successful month-long tours that traversed the United States. I grew a lot with him and a lot more without him. I regret nothing when it comes to being in that relationship because if I didn’t go through that, I wouldn’t be where I am today: happy and so, so healthy.
I started waiting tables at a local pizza joint to save up some money for tours and biIls. I’m not going to lie, I was depressed. I felt like I wasn’t me, like the skin I was in just wasn’t made out for me. I remember wanting to end it all. Every relationship I was in with friends, family and myself, felt fake. Everything felt like a movie that I was watching and not able to live out myself. Anxiety was bad because that was the time I felt the most in my skin and that alone is never healthy. I was self-sufficient, nice new car, was touring the country and playing music. But for some reason I was missing something, myself. Something changed though. I met her.
At the time, I was smoking cigarettes occasionally to just stop the stress. For some reason that took away the pain for me. It was a stressful Friday night at work (Fridays are our busiest days) and I needed to vent to someone, anyone. So, I took a smoke break and Maddy (who also only smoked occasionally) joined me. While we were chatting outside and sharing a cigarette, I felt something. She listened, she looked me in my eyes when I spoke and she had the best advice. I enjoyed talking with her. She gave me butterflies, and when she spoke it was the sweetest voice I’d ever heard.
At the time, the guy I was with had his own company that wasn’t self-sufficient and I was pretty much the cash cow. I remember bailing him out on a lot of our bills that should have been 50/50. The band ended up breaking up, that was what hurt the most. I couldn’t express myself and let go on stage anymore like I needed to. That was my release instead of self-harm. I didn’t want to believe I was being used but she saw it and brought it to light. We eventually cut it off and he moved out. I wish him nothing but good and I hope he finds happiness.
A few days later, she invited me to grab coffee at a small coffee shop. I was sweaty-palms, knee-shaking nervous. Just sitting at the table with our coffee I could feel the tension between us. I invited her back to my place to hang out, and she accepted. Back at my house we sat on the couch both on separate ends. I was dying to be close to her, every glance she flashed at me made my stomach tie in knots. After a more nervous hug goodbye, I watched her leave and went upstairs and sat in my closet (the irony, right). My closet was my safe space, the clothes inside made the room semi sound proof, in a way that made my head feel fuzzy and stopped my thoughts long enough for me to relax. One night I had a few drinks in me and decided to send her a Snapchat. I told her how she made me feel, I told her she was gorgeous and I really, really liked her. After pressing send, I turned my phone off and back on so many times. I talked myself into it being okay. Finally, I saw where she was responding back to me. I broke out in a cold sweat and I wanted to throw up. The message popped back up saying she felt the same about me. If ever there was a fire inside of me, it was now. I wanted nothing but to make her happy.
The following days we sent risky texts back and forth, learning more about each other as best as we could. I was so happy learning everything about her. She was the most beautiful creature and so unique, and the more I learned about her, the more I fell for her.
After several more house dates of watching TV, our pinkies touched and we intertwined them. Instantly, I was in a cold sweat again, my stomach erupting into millions of butterflies.
The first time she kissed me I kicked her out. I was such a fool. I had something so perfect in front of me and all I could think about was pleasing other people, instead of being happy. In my heart, she was the one I wanted but in my head my parent’s words resonated in my head. Then I thought about it, once I kicked her out she could have easily left and never spoken to me again. But, for some reason she understood me and what was going on in my head and she broke me down slowly. The next time she kissed me, I said “Gross”. I was mortified that I had said that. Of course, it didn’t phase her. The more she came over the more comfortable we got with each other. It went from casual downstairs pecks between scenes in movies to upstairs with the doors closed and music blasting. I can 100% tell you that when she kissed me there was no doubt in my mind anymore. I finally felt like I was in my own skin.
Once I asked her to be my girlfriend she didn’t answer me. She got quiet, and normally I would have just left because I don’t take rejection too well. But she was different, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to prove to her I could be everything that she wanted. I asked if she would like for me to leave, and she declined and then finally, FINALLY said she would be mine. The more we saw each other the more open we became. We both were some pretty toxic people at the beginning, but we worked on bettering ourselves every day for each other. She has a past and that really got to me and occasionally still does but we are both two entirely new people because we work on supporting each other and loving each other every day.
Dating a woman was all new to me. Everything seemed so easy, I never had to explain why I felt the way I did. She knew it was just a small obstacle I had to get over and she was there to help me if I fall. When the time of the month came around, she would show up and sit with me as I lay in the tub with the shower going till I felt better. If something was bothering me she would fight the demons with me till I was able to get my feet back on the ground.
I am happy. For once I felt like I was in my own skin. On top of it all, I couldn’t have a better group of friends to accept us so quickly. They didn’t skip a beat and they love us unconditionally. My parents were a different story.
Throughout all of this I really wanted my parents on board with my new relationship. It’s not going to come easy but I do have to say, it does get better. I really wanted to talk to my mother face to face but it would have been super hard to do that without my father being there. If I would have spoken to her over the phone, one of two things would have happened. I would have either chickened out or she would have hung up on me and would not let me speak. The best way I could have done it would be send her a message. Those were the longest 2 hours of my life. The first hour of her receiving it, the small typing bubbles popping up … then going away for the next hour. It needed to be done, though. It felt right, it felt good getting it off my chest.
“Mom, I’m gay.”
Mom hasn’t been the same since. Both of my parents were very supportive of me until I “betrayed” them with this lifestyle. As long as I was living “the way God intended”, I could do no wrong in their eyes. I haven’t spoken to my father for close to a year now. Every time I try to speak to my mother I hear him in the background saying “brainwashed” or calling me a “faggot”. They don’t seem to care that I am happy and healthy. To top this all off, I am the only child. This past year I was told that I wasn’t allowed to come to any holiday functions. I missed Thanksgiving with my family, and when Christmas came around, I received a call from my mother, her crying and saying that she wanted to see me. I told her that I could see her and would love to. She turned down my offer, saying she doesn’t want to see me “like this” and that once I change and “find God” she would welcome me back into her life.
Along with the phone calls from my mother saying I that I have “abandoned her” or that I am “killing her”, I’ve received a Bible, old photos, opened mail addressed to me and personal items from my childhood. All of this was mailed to me because she does not want to meet up or be near me. I’ve spent countless hours trying to reach out to her, but instead of an actual conversation, I get her crying over the phone that eventually turns to screams of her telling me how much I’ve betrayed her. Out of all of this, one line hurt me particularly bad: “I don’t want you to be like this. I don’t wish you were dead, I just wish you never were born. This isn’t you. I want my daughter back” It cut me deep, and if I were the person I was earlier, I probably would have killed myself. I’m glad I didn’t come out to them in high school, or I know I would have been kicked out of my house or worse.
Coming out at 26 has been the best year of my life. At times, I used to look in the mirror and not recognize who I was seeing. Sometimes I would repeat my name to myself because I would be so dissociated that I would think it was crazy that my name was Cassie.
I would say I have some of the best friends ever. I went from a severely unhappy relationship to the happiest I think I could ever be. When I came out to them, the reaction I received was either “Are you happy?” or “It’s about time!” (thanks for not letting me know guys). The best part is, they love Maddy to death. Friends can be your best family. If I have learned anything in this journey it’s this, life can and will fuck you over. Friends will come and go. Family can sometimes be your biggest support system or your worst enemy. But, if you can survive the battle of finding yourself and being truly happy with who you are, you will be unstoppable. Your true friends will always be by your side and support you unconditionally. Friends are Family and if you are going through this and you feel alone, I’ll be your friend. I’ll be your family. Things will get better, I promise.
If ever you’ve found your soulmate, you know. Everything stops in the world when you are with them. Nothing else matters other than the time you are with them. Everything that they do is just a work of art. This girl knows me inside and out. She knows exactly how to make me happy in every single aspect and she does it daily. As I sit here writing this blog, she’s in my bed taking small naps between her school work, and I realize how lucky I am. She supports me to the fullest, wants to see me succeed, but also takes no shit from me. She will tell me how it is in a heartbeat. I hope I can provide for her and give her the queen lifestyle she deserves. She is always front row when my band has a show. She is the first person I call when something good or bad happens. She makes me feel so good about myself. More importantly she makes me feel like dreams are a reality. She will not rest until I am happy. I don’t know where I would be if she didn’t come into my life, but I am so happy she did.
How can a love like this, someone who builds you up, picks you up when you fall and makes you the happiest and healthiest person you’ve ever been, be hated by the people who raised you? How can the people that said while you were in the womb “I don’t care what it is, as long as they are healthy” be so caught up with a line I will never stop hearing, “it’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”? I will have to admit that growing up under my parent’s law, really made me who I am today. I do not by any means want to call them out on all their wrong doings. It’s simply an old school generation thing with how they were brought up. Is it acceptable? No, and it’s not an excuse. I will have to say despite all that I have said about them in this blog, they used to be very supportive of me on the things that they deemed healthy for me. They gave me everything I needed growing up, they worked hard to keep food in my belly and the lights on in the house. For that I would like to thank them for working overtime for me to go on school trips, summer vacations, paying for school lunches, rent, car payments, etc. Thank you for providing for me when I was unable to provide for myself. They loved me and supported me to the fullest when they could live vicariously through me. That being said, taking care of a child’s immediate needs is only half the job. Loving them and caring for them unconditionally is the second half, and in my opinion, the most important half.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this novel. I hope it helps someone out there. Just know that you are perfect the way that you are. Love is love. If you find someone and that rocks your world, makes you the happiest you ever thought you could be, and brings out the best in you, that love is between you and them. You are the person that lives your life, no one else can live it for you.
Go out and be happy.