My Choice Not to Choose Then
“You and Tyra are more than friends, aren’t you?” My mother sat at the opposite end of the table.
I tried to make myself appear comfortable, scooting around in a white framed chair, cushioned with a teal seat. “Yes,” I said, looking up from the tabletop, only to find eyes occupied with disappointment and concern gazing back at me.
I knew this talk was coming. The night before was filled with companionship, discovery, revelations, and teenage secrets. It was all too good to be true. There she was, the girl I’d fallen in love with over the phone, in my room, behind closed doors. It wasn’t the idea of kissing or touching or sex that made me anxious but the idea of having this implanting experience forever in my HERstory. It was the makings of me. The beginning of my life started again in this moment. As if no one else was in the room, it was my confirmation to myself of who I was going to be, what I was going to be, and who I always was.
I was interested in everything about her. I wanted to match the voice I’d heard countless nights prior to the lips that shaped it. I wanted to see how her tongue precast when she said certain words like love, cute, baby, and (of course) my name. I needed to see her clear, bright eyes. I needed to see if all the secrets and refuge was real. If I was safe.
I craved the feeling of her hands. I needed to hold them. Squeeze them in mine. I wanted her to place her hand on my leg, while we playfully giggled. I wanted to pull her into me and throw my arms around her shoulders, while I pretended to watch tv.
So, I did.
I found my way next to her, sitting on the floor. She was reading through my collection of Michael Jackson magazines. I leaned in, pretending to show interest in whatever was on the page. She stopped reading for a moment to respond. As she spoke, I positioned my body near hers and wrapped my arm around her shoulders. The mood felt right, so I went in for the kiss. I pulled her into me. She responded as to say, “I know what’s up.” I closed my eyes and inhaled the moment of this union with her voice, her lips and her tongue. There I was kissing, my first lesson in love. It was surreal. It was sensual. It was electrifying. I felt my body awaken with tingles and heat with each soft brush of her body against mine. I ran my hands across her back. I felt her bra strap and slowly outlined it with my fingers. I wasn’t ready yet. But I enjoyed the idea of knowing where to go once I was.
A series of impatient knocks landed on my bedroom door. After realizing the door was already in motion, we froze. There I was on the floor, Tyra leaning against me, staring my mother in the face. This moment changed my life, again.
Here we were, my mother and me, discussing the science of being gay.
“Maybe it’s hormonal. I read somewhere online that doctors were researching to see if it has something to do with an increase in hormones or extra testosterone.” Damn right. Yes, I said that. My mother was a very logical person. I was a fourteen-year-old kid. But what I wasn’t, was a fourteen-year-old kid who believed every thought and idea presented by the adults around her.
Like, I mentioned, I knew this talk would come. I’d already decided I wouldn’t’ deny it or try to be someone else to please my family, not even my mother. Naturally, I’d even asked myself how or why or when. I asked Google too. Google provided the logical, scientific explanations that I could use to effectively position myself with my mom. The Bible provided the religious logic that my mom would use to effectively position herself with me.
She also employed the emotional approach. Perhaps this “struggle” of mine was a result of childhood trauma. Maybe. I’d considered that too. Being the victim of sexual abuse can cause all kinds of emotional turmoil with respect to gender identity, gender roles, and ascetic attraction. At a young age of seven, this was my experience. I enjoyed my babysitters’ company, I loved when my older brother’s girlfriends came to visit and fussed over me, I liked the women I watched on tv. I noticed my attraction to other girls very early in the game. When I was five, I’d visit with my best friend in anticipation of playing house on Sundays. We’d bring out her giant dollhouse, kid-sized kitchen, our cotton-stuffed children and even dress the part. I always played the husband. I couldn’t wait to walk through her bedroom door and be greeted with a kiss from my “pretend” wife. After a while, the kisses no longer landed on my cheek but were lip to lip. I displayed minimal interest in boys and that was only because I thought it was, just, what you had to do. It was what I’d seen on tv. It was what I’d seen within my own family. I didn’t understand the idea of being gay or lesbian. I just knew I felt what I felt for girls and it wasn’t going away. It cultivated in the middle of my stomach, reminding me of who I always was since the evolution of my childhood days.
“I’d like to see the research on that.” That seemed to be my mother’s biggest concern. We didn’t dwell on religion, which was to my surprise, being that I come from a very religious family. We didn’t dwell on the sexual abuse from the past.
A few days later, I’d mention something to my mom about spending the night at Ty’s. I was anticipating she’d drop me off at her house, per the usual weekend routine.
My mother answered me with a response that would change my life again, “I don’t think I want you hanging around Tyra.” She went on to tell me how she’d spoken with her mother and Ty’s mother explained how Tyra wasn’t to be trusted. She had a condition. She was a liar.
I don’t know what was more disturbing, the idea of my mother running and talking to Tyra’s mother about a situation so personal to us. A situation that was so personal to me. Or the fact that she wanted to convince me not to be around Tyra, since she was a pathological liar, instead of intrepidly confessing her disapproval of me being a lesbian.
A year passed with this growing tension between my mother and me. She’d removed the phone from my room in order to discourage me from, “Falling asleep at night with another woman in your ear.” I only saw Tyra during school-avoidance excursions or weekend visits to the movies, where I could use my high school classmates as decoys. My tomboyish clothing and athletic style also become an issue. No longer could I walk the department stores, searching for school clothes in the boy’s section. If my mother didn’t approve, she wasn’t buying it and I wasn’t changing my style for anyone. So, eventually, she stopped purchasing my clothes. A decision she made to solidify her disapproval of my lifestyle.
At fifteen, I had a job and my own money. I was a sophomore, starting a new year of high school.
“Oh my god!!!! She’s gay!”
Little asshole. My classmate, John, found a letter I’d written to Tyra. We attended different high schools, but I knew enough people from her school to still find ways to see her. In the meantime, we’d mail each other letters. He’d grabbed it and ran down the hallways, announcing my gayness to anyone who’d’ listen.
The ordeal was embarrassing. I caught a lot of side-eyes, and a lot of questions surfaced, but I had my best friends, the twins, by my side. Within a matter of days, John’s announcement became a whisper of the past. It was the adults, that was the problem.
Adults always have an opinion. They always feel like it’s their duty to convince you otherwise. They don’t, simply, educate. Adults manipulate. They’re quick to judge and condemn the situations they don’t understand. Instead of asking children about their feelings and internal beliefs, they’d rather explain their point of view and direct the child to behave differently. Adults want children to behave in a manner that makes the adult feel good. They want to be responsible for influencing positive change. They want to save the child from the rest of the world and shelter them from lessons crucial to their maturation process. In the quest to do this, adults often tend to step on the toes of the child. They nullify the child’s emotions, causing them to suppress ideas surrounding their own identity, relationships, and belief system.
I remember working my first job at TJ Maxx. I enjoyed the people. I enjoyed the responsibility and I didn’t mind the cute little paycheck I collected every week. I took pride in working with a diverse group of employees who were of multiple racial backgrounds, had unique work histories, and were male, female, older and younger. As a young person, it wasn’t difficult for me to socialize with the older crowd. I excelled in handling mature conversations. I preferred a discussion detailing life experiences over town gossip, any day. I admired the more seasoned employees. I was drawn to them.
One afternoon, an older coworker asked me to walk and talk with her. At the time, she was an acting supervisor, so the request sort of startled me. She was a tall dark-skinned lady, about four inches taller than me and twenty-five years my senior. She strode with this bad-ass confidence and had a way of saying exactly what she had to say. She could be intimidating but she also had a nurturing way about her.
We started walking down the center of the store. She placed a hand on the back of my shoulder and said, “I heard some people saying something about you. Something about you being gay?”
This was it. This was my opportunity to come out somewhere else, somewhere besides high school. This was a place where the adults respected me. Adults who couldn’t control my life but could only accept me for who I was. I had a feeling she was gay. She probably wanted to confess to me. Maybe she just wanted to offer her friendship to someone relatable.
“Yeah. I am,” I answered.
“Well, I don’t understand why? You’re such a pretty girl. You don’t need to do that.”
“Oh. Wow,” That’s all I could say. I was caught off guard like a blind person sucker-punched in the face. “You think I’m pretty?”
Obviously, she took that as a literal question.
That same year, I received a letter in the mail. It wasn’t from Tyra. It was from my older brother. He was in jail, a situation that’d become customary in our home. He’d been in and out of correctional facilities since he was about sixteen. Now, he was twenty-one. I opened the letter and studied the words on the paper. The first line read I’m sorry. There I said it. He went on explaining how Mom reached out to him. He was aware of “my struggle”. He wrote about his fallacies and assured me all men weren’t like him. He asked for forgiveness. He begged me to give boys a chance. He had dreams of being an uncle and seeing little versions of his baby sister running around.
But his words fell upon deaf ears, blurred vision, and a heavy heart. I’d already forgiven my brother, but I wasn’t going to behave the way everyone else wanted me to behave, in order to prove this. I didn’t have to write him letters on a consistent basis to prove my forgiveness. I didn’t have to visit him once a week to show acceptance of his apologies. I didn’t hold a grudge. I didn’t even condemn him for the four years of abuse that transformed and shaped my identity forever. I was beyond these emotions. I didn’t need anything from him. I didn’t need anything from my coworker. I didn’t need anything from my classmate. I didn’t need any pity or saving from anyone. I just needed mental freedom. I needed the freedom to believe what I wanted to believe and the faculty to stand up for those beliefs. I needed someone to stand up beside me. I needed someone to stand up with me. I needed someone to stand up for me. I needed someone to say, “It’s okay to believe what you feel.”
One week, my mother left on a business trip, leaving me at home. The phone rang. I glanced at the caller id and immediately recognized the number.
“Hello? This is your grandmother. Listen, Gran needs to talk to you. You think you can come to your grandmother’s house today?”
“Of course, Gran,” I responded. I hopped in the car and headed over.
I pondered the conversation ahead of me. By this time, everyone in the city had already heard the news. I knew she was going to ask. I knew she was going to fight. I knew she was going to quote scriptures and I knew it’d be tough. I also knew, there was no backing down. If I was going to stand up for my beliefs, Gran would be the toughest critic of them all. Standing up to Gran was like facing the entire Christian population. She was an ordained minister, heavy into the church, and swore by the bible. She blessed her grandchildren’s’ foreheads with oil and prayed for us nightly. She was never browbeaten when it came time to speak the gospel truth. It was her Christianly duties.
I didn’t rehearse in the car. I wanted my responses to flow and feel authentic. I was peacefully pensive. I was trying to muster up strength and confidence to speak my truth. I focused on freeing myself from others’ burdens. I pictured myself breaking free of ropes interwoven through my veins. I was minutes away from looking at the head of my family in the eyes and speaking my truth.
I arrived at my grandmother’s and met her in the bedroom. The bible was early. It’d already beat me to the bed. I sat, watching her pull a chair in front of me. She grabbed the bible off the bed and slid her thick-rimmed glasses on her face.
She sat in the chair, hunched towards me, embodying distraught, “Now, the word around town is that you’re some kind of… lesbian?”
This conversation changed my life, forever.
Time froze. The room grew still. I went inside my head and heard the words, “Just lie.” I could just lie and say it was a rumor. I could put an end to an uncomfortable situation. What if I did confess and she started making the entire family circle around and pray for me, every holiday? What if she started calling me out every time, I visited her church for Mother’s Day? Or Easter?
“Yes. I know.” Shit.
“And you, just, don’t care?” Her face now scrunched like a prune.
“I don’t care what people think of me, Gran.”
“Well, is it true?”
“Yes.” Shit. Just lie. Lie!
The rest is HERstory. My grandmother proceeded to read scriptures from the bible and asked my interpretations of them. She flipped through the pages of her worn, brown book to highlighted passages and yellow sticky notes. She stopped at Leviticus, Romans, and The New Testament. Every time I responded to the readings; she’d respond to me wearing a wide-eyed expression.
Finally, after the back and forth discussions, a few letters written by converted lesbians from her church, prayer, and standing in my truth, the conversation came to an end.
“I just don’t understand why God would put on my heart, so heavy, to call you over here.”
I looked her in the eyes, smiled, and confessed, “I don’t know, Gran. Maybe it was for you to learn something from me.”
It’s been over 20 years since I’ve come out. I’d stuck that period so far in my pocket, I lost sight of the positive progression that can stem from a negative regression. I forgot about the empowerment that hides in the sovereignty of making choices.
If I knew what I know now, I would’ve assured my mother that all is well. I am her child, but I am also a child of God, just as she. Her guidance and examples helped mold my being into a person of integrity, loyalty, and compassion. Fearing the world on my behalf isn’t conducive to our relationship. My actions have nothing to do with her and everything to do with a woman traveling her voyage to discovery. Beneath it all, I’m still her animal loving, tree climbing, hand lending, kool-aid grin wearing daughter.
If I knew what I know now, I would’ve told John that it was all good. Everything is temporary. The situation won’t last forever. He’s in an immature mental state and doesn’t realize how to handle adversity. It’s never too late to practice the art of silence.
If I knew what I know now, I would’ve written a letter to my brother acknowledging that he’s also a child of God. Together we formed a pack to support each other and help each other evolve in this physical state. Our family ties are of no mistake and our lessons in life can’t be ignored nor could they have been avoided. We made an agreement before coming into this earthly realm to push each other towards the light. To remind each other of the beauty that can unfold in each of us. Somehow you lost sight of that. You lost sight of me and the meaning behind our motherly-fatherly bond. You, too, have your own walk-in life to journey. I hope to be a proactive means of inspiration and not a reactive shade over your bright light. Time heals all.
And if I knew then what I know now, I would’ve asked my grandmother why she holds on so tightly to the unknown? Why does she allow her constricted grip on religion to trigger rope burns across her small, gentle palms? I’d post my own sticky notes throughout her bible. I’d highlight my favorite passages and rearrange them until I created my own story. Just like my creator created me. From disarrayed pieces of a story. One big puzzle. I just happen to be one of the odd pieces, but, never the less, I still fit. I’m a vital part of the puzzle to mankind. I’m still an energetic connection necessary for the expansion of human consciousness. I’m living, breathing, walking evidence that life comes in many colors, shapes, and sizes. I’m a spiritual concept in the making.
For my coworker; I did choose to be this way. Before I came into this physical existence, I made an agreement with myself to allow tangible experiences that cultivated seeds of enrichment. I said I wanted to be compassionate, creative, an empath, loving, eager, but I also wanted to be a part of a collective expansion of the universe. I wanted to be someone different. Someone who broke barriers and contradicted right and wrong. I wanted to become someone who’d be recognized as an example of speaking the truth. I wanted to represent my generation as a community who encourages the celebration of diversity. I said I wanted to be a student of the light and a student of the dark. I wanted to understand the concept of contrast in order to attract what I really want in my life. I agreed to these things, still clinging to the notion that I didn’t know what would happen, once I came into existence. I’m not the little girl who doesn’t like dresses. I’m not the victim of sexual abuse. I’m not the grandchild that’s forgotten her way. I’m not the coworker who doesn’t recognize her beauty. I am a spiritual being on a physical journey.
I didn’t know my journey would include being female, identifying as a lesbian, being a survivor, or even sharing my experience with others. But I do know I had a choice. I could choose to live a life mediocrely. I could’ve chosen a life that was shallow, lacking experiences that would help me appreciate the struggles of mankind. Or, I could live a life that challenges me and forces me to make decisions that result in a better quality of living, not only for me but for my peers. This is why I chose not to choose, way back then.
My Choice Not to Choose Back Then is an essay I’ve written based on my forthcoming book, My Choice Not to Choose. My hope with this piece of work is to inspire the reader to journey beyond their limited perceptions of who they are, who they were, and who they will continue to become throughout their lives. I believe whole-heartedly in the idea of holistic healing and I understand that the first step in this process starts from within. From mental to emotional and even physical, every aspect of our health is detrimental to the lodging of our presence within the universe. Without a clear and healthy mental, one can barely scratch the surface of their place in the vastness of human existence. I hope my story will encourage readers to find their spiritual sanity through the chiseling of mental walls built from painful blocks of the past.
Originally from Mt.Clemens, Michigan, I’ve completed studies in Communication and hold a degree in Digital Recording Arts. Now residing in the sunshine state of Florida, I enjoy holistic living and all things natural. I’ve served as a Diverse Worlds Grant Juror for The Speculative Literature Foundation. I’ve self-published a collection of poems titled Poems from a Teen in Her 20s and a handful of self-help books including “Holding Hands with Happy”,” ‘Scuse Me, I Found Your ID”, and “Just in Case… Shit Happens” under the Little Books, Big Results series. My favorite writing partner is my Jack Russel-Pit mix, Lily Vanilly aka Lilian Vanilla.
I’m an empowering empath. I care about others as much as I care about myself. I see God through all eyes. I’m compassionate, forgiving, light-hearted, curious, patient, open-minded, resourceful, and quick-witted. My purpose is to remind the people on my path, that they are of value. Treat everyone like a child of God. I am to remind them of the light that shines from deep within and the immeasurable ways of removing that light’s shade. When all is dim, I share a flashlight with those in my space and a circuit of energy with those afar. I see peace during times of war, find happiness in moments of despair, and express joy through the morning’s sorrow. I’m a healer, lover, creator,
Since I was a little girl, I’ve always imagined myself as a successful something. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a motivational speaker, WNBA star, or sing background vocals for a Journey tribute band. The one thing I did know (and always knew to be true) was that I was going to write. I enjoyed creating characters on a flat piece of paper and watching them come to life like 3D images, in my head. In school, I took pride in my essay building abilities and excelled in advanced English courses. But, the one thing I’ve always enjoyed the most is inspiring others through my words.
Writing is a form of art that can be expressed without interruptions. Without expectations. There are no rules and there are no demands of formality. It seduces the reader, glues their attention to the subject matter and unfolds in the moment.
Whether non-fiction or fictional, my writing serves a higher purpose. I offer my words as inspiration for lyrics to a new song. A song that the people of my generation will be proud to sing. A song that symbolizes the beauty, that’s created when we live together under One Love.
I interpret my writings like pieces of a mixed media project. I pour everything I love into my work; music, art, spirituality, nature, Pride, traveling, food, holistic living, social advocacy, family, and fashion. Similar to any sport; I leave it all on the paper.
Writing allows me to express my spiritual truths and remain grounded with my higher consciousness in order to overcome the obstacles that, too often, prevent members of the LGBTQ community, especially minorities, from living authentic lives. I don’t always know where I’m going or where this is headed, but I do know: I love this writing thing.