A really good friend of mine went shopping for her wedding dress a few days ago. With her mom. My really-good-friend is gay, and her mom has changed her views a LOT since she first came out to her, many years ago…she went *wedding dress shopping* with her. My heart has been so full, so fucking happy, for her. It also made me think about my own story, and about transformations, and about how people can change, and how ten years can make every difference.
When I came out to my mom, I was shaking. I remember that. I was seventeen, had kept my secret carefully, cautiously for years. Mum was a born again, and had Very Specific Views on gay people, and we were often at odds anyway. I still thought, though, when I told her the truth, that she’d still love me, no matter what.
How I thought it would go, and how it actually went were two very different things.
As my eighteenth birthday drew near, my life devolved to a living nightmare.
So, when I turned eighteen…I left.
In a matter of months, I was homeless. I was naive about the world. Actually, that’s an understatement: I had no fucking clue. I’d grown up with an invisible illness that had kept me from school. I’d never been to brick-and-mortar school a day in my life, I’d never spent a lot of time with people. I’d kept my nose in a book or in my own stories for so long, and how I thought the world worked was based on a hell of a lot of fantasy and science fiction novels, historical studies and an obsession of fairy tales.
Yeah. Spoiler alert: it’s not.
A lot of terrible things happened to me because I was vulnerable, and I believed in the inherent kindness of strangers, and I needed help, so I took people on their word. Sometimes, people are really fucking wonderful. Sometimes, they are not. I learned, deeply, the varied brilliance and hellishness that people are capable of. In a matter of months, I had grown up.
Despite the terrible things that happened, some really amazing things did, too. I was given food, when I had none, by a stranger who couldn’t speak my language, didn’t understand *anything* I was saying, gave me food when I *didn’t even ask for it,* even though they had no way of knowing how very, very much it could mean. In that moment, they did the kindest thing I’d ever experienced: they gave me hope. A stranger gave me a book, when I had no books and craved stories so desperately, I didn’t know what to do with that craving. There were little gifts, and small moments of salvation, still brilliant, ten years later. I will never forget them–they stand like gems in my memory, untarnished, precious.
Eight months after I left home, I got a phone call one day. It was my mother. She was crying. “I’m sorry,” she told me. “I love you. I’m so sorry. Let me make it up to you. I was wrong.”
I went home, a changed woman, went halfway across the country, home, my life reduced to a book bag and a train ticket. When my mother met me at the station, imagine the old movie reel playing, the dramatic music, because it *was* like that, this strange, terrible moment where we both didn’t know what to do with our arms, but we ended it crying, holding one another up.
After you’re homeless, things are different. You think about things in different ways. I’d always been stubborn, I became more stubborn. I’d always believed in the inherent good of people, and even though I’d experienced the worst shit imaginable, I found that I still believed in that good.
I’d never really cared what people thought of me, as a gay girl, now a gay woman. After I was homeless, my lack of caring turned into an absolute flat line. I loved girls, and anyone who had a problem with it wasn’t worth knowing. My angry stage had faded into something absolute and solid: I was who I was, and what anyone else thought of it was no consequence to me.
This evolved, directly, into what I wrote. People had told me, often, that if I chose to write lesbian stories, no one would publish my stories, no one would care, no one would want to read them. I stopped believing those people. I’d written them, I would continue to write them, and I was compelled to write them, and what anyone thought of them was of no consequence to me.
I became resilient, because I found it in the darkest of moments, that resilience. You know what resilience is? It’s crying a lot. It’s being weak, in moments where you absolutely fucking need to be weak. And it’s getting up again, even when everything you are tells you not to bother, don’t try, things can’t get better.
I was lucky. Many, many kids are not so lucky. The higher end of the statistic says that 40% of all homeless kids are LGBT, homeless *because* they are LGBT. As I was. As so many I know were. Some are kicked out of their homes, some are forced to live in the streets, some don’t get the chances or the kindness I was shown.
People ask me why I write the stories I do, stories about girls who are heroines, who are courageous, who face darkness with great hearts. It’s because I thought up these girls ten years ago, when I was not a heroine, when I was not courageous, when I faced darkness with a trembling, terrified heart. And I told myself these stories to get by. And they meant the world to me.
To every gay kid, queer kid, LGBT kid, I’m writing to you because at the end of my journey, my dark and terrible quest that I never got a choice on, I was transformed. You might or might not have terrible experiences, like I did–you might or might not be going through them right now. But, ten years later, I can point directly back to that harsh, hateful time and say: I’m who I am because of it.
To be told “it gets better” can sometimes be so devaluing. But I give you my story, all my stories, with a cautionary end of the tale: it got better for me. Every day, I hope and pray it gets better for you.
I don’t know you, but I believe in you, and as fucking ridiculous as it sounds, I love you. I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there.
Keep going. There’s another side.
Me and my wife, living our happily ever after. ❤