I like to remember myself as a cool teenager. Someone obsessed with pursuing her own individuality, intentionally pursuant of the unpopular choice, and undeterred by her peers.
But the reality was that I was an insecure kid like anyone else. I had my heart constantly broken, cared deeply about others’ perceptions of me, went through bouts of eating disorders and depression, and fought like hell to maintain my own sense of self despite being pummeled daily with religious tyranny, racist and homophobic slurs, self-segregation, and classism.
I vividly remember being told 2 months into arriving in 8th grade in my new, rural hometown, “You’re moving really fast. You’re already on the B list. Me and Crystal, we’re A list. You might be like us one day.”
This literally happened.
“That’s cool. I think I’m fine on the B list.”
I had frequent religious arguments with a crush on the bus; the first of many internal romantic struggles in wondering to my diary, “Why do I like this guy who’s so combative? There is literally nothing we share a belief on.” And that’s how I learned my first adult lesson in relationships. Also, years later, turns out he was gay.
I remember chatting with a new friend as she covertly whispered, “See that girl? She just had a baby by a black guy.”
I conspiratorially leaned against her ear to reply, “It must suck to have a baby at 16, but I don’t care what color it is.”
I used to journey to Atlanta with my friends to perform in Rocky Horror as Columbia on Friday nights. I learned swing dancing and recited the movie line for line, expression for expression. I somehow managed to convince a bunch of kids from the Baptist church that transvestites were cool.
And yet, I couldn’t convert a whole town. I couldn’t change a city’s way of thought. So as soon as I possibly could (about a year after the picture of me with pink hair next to Grandma was taken), I left it–and them. And I haven’t looked back.
Washington, I’ll never love you or remember you fondly. Sorry. But maybe we’ll both find some solace in the fact that opposites sometimes just aren’t meant to attract.
And as further comfort, maybe you were gay all along.