To the rest of the world, my life appeared practically perfect. There’s always that group of kids who are known to be well-liked and popular; smart, athletic, artistic, kind, and fun. After a while, I realized that I was part of that group. My friends and I did well in school, excelled in sports, and so on. We had an amazing friendship and enjoyed hanging out together. I was never the loudest kid, but I had a healthy social life, chatting with lots of people throughout my day. To the rest of the world, I lived the life that many others wished for. The “perfect” life.
Damn, I wish that was true.
Masked by a smile and a happy group of friends, I could hide my constant silent battles against myself. On the other hand, something I couldn’t hide was something about myself that I noticed in 7th grade. It was the first time someone came to our school and openly stated: “I’m gay. I like girls and there’s nothing wrong with that.” Her name was Zoe, and she would prove to make a big impact on my life.
Throughout that year, I started noticing the way despite my immediate discomfort with being touched, Zoe’s affectionate nature made me feel safe, and being in her arms made me feel like in that moment nobody could hurt me. Slowly piecing together fractions of suspicions, it finally hit me: I’m not straight. And not gay, either. I’m bisexual. The thought terrified me enough to put up a barrier between the people in my life and me. What if people found out? Will I get judged? Will my friends ditch me? A piece of me wanted to tell Zoe but the thought formed a language I didn’t understand and silence was the only mother tongue I spoke anymore. My mind raced nonstop for months on end until 7th grade finally came to an end.
Over the summer at camp, my hallmates and I were getting to know each other one night through fun little activities. One of them was to find a partner and just get to know them. Looking across the room, I made eye contact with a girl who walked over. She introduced herself as Claire and began talking to me. Something about her made me feel something, and I just couldn’t place it. Her honey-like voice, caring eyes, and amusing laugh all made my insides melt. Laying in my dark, cold dorm that night, my stomach hurt from doing a hundred somersaults of fear, the same voice echoing in my head. You like a girl. You’re one of those LGBT people now. How can you do that to yourself? But I learned soon enough, it wasn’t a choice. I thought that as long as I kept my mouth shut about it, it wouldn’t be real. Just another thought in my head.
8th grade was creeping up, and I didn’t know what to do, conflicted between wanting to be proud of who I was but not wanted to be judged by others. Finally, after working myself up for about an hour, I texted Zoe. Already out gay and the most kind-hearted person I knew, she was the only one I felt safe coming out to. When I told her, I felt as if a huge weight was lifted off my chest. Instead, a whole new one was placed right back on. Now, it’s real. Now, I can’t turn back. Now, it’s a fact, not a thought: I’m bi. Soon enough, I was able to tell some of my best friends and eventually my whole friend group. The reactions were scattered. Some of them assured me of their support, while I painfully watched others turn their back on me and seemingly erase me from their memory. I was planning on taking everything slowly, only coming out to my best friends at first, but a major factor prevented that. Zoe revealed that she had feelings for me, and I couldn’t deny the feelings I had back. Before I knew it, thinking we could keep it a secret, we started dating. Unfortunately, as I quickly learned, that was not how middle school worked.
It spread throughout the whole grade. To this day I don’t know whether it was Zoe or my friends who outed me — they both blamed each other. They revealed such a sensitive part of my identity I was still learning how to find my way through. It was hard enough knowing I was outed to the whole grade, even harder knowing that whoever did it was someone I trusted enough to tell in the first place. This brought on difficult friendship conflict, which was the one thing I couldn’t bear as the rest of the grade both silently and loudly judged me, seeing me as a whole new person. All of a sudden every person I thought I could trust to have my back through the darkest nights turned on me, and I found myself trapped, alone, and regretful. I lost everything and everyone because I fell in love with a girl.
I stopped being that “perfect” kid. All of a sudden, everything people saw me for disappeared, and the only thing I thought they saw of me was “the one dating a girl”. Every stare burned through my skin, and every whisper screamed in my head. I relied on the only person I had left — Zoe. Our relationship became complicated and being outed only added a burden to our fragile connection, but we held on to each other and didn’t let go. She saw me for who I always was, not who I became labeled to be. With the strength she helped me build, I was able to deal with everything else. No, I’m not the “perfect” kid anymore, but was I really ever? Nobody is perfect, and our flaws, differences, and invisible scars give us strength, only making us more unique and real. More human.