By: Estelle Mitchell, FellowPosted on June 22, 2020

Estelle and her partner walking down the streetIf you asked me a year ago whether I would be writing this blog, I would have laughed at you and quickly dismissed such an absurd idea. Talk about my sexuality? Publicly? Absolutely not. But mostly, a year ago, I was by all accounts, straight. I had only ever dated men and, in fact, was in a committed relationship with a man. My sexuality was not something I ever gave a second thought. Though I was raised in a self-proclaimed liberal, Democratic household, the topic of sexuality and who people should or should not love rarely came up. I didn’t have any openly LGBTQ family members. My family never sat me down and told me it’s okay to love whomever I want. Even though no one around me actively hated LGBTQ people or would want harm to come to them, I often heard folks make and laugh at, what they would call, “harmless” homophobic comments and jokes. Put simply, grew up in an environment, at home and at school, that subconsciously reinforced that being straight was the “normal” and “right” way to be. So, like the good, rule-following, people-pleasing, Southern gal I was, I suppressed my thoughts and went on trying to please everyone else around me and did not reflect on what would make me happy.  

Despite often feeling as though something was missing and a few “maybe I’m gay?” thoughts along the way, made it pretty far—26 years to be exact! Until I finally found myself in a different environment than where I grew upstarted questioning things I had rarely given a second thought. I was in a place where I felt like I could be whoever I wanted to be, free of judgment. I also happened to meet someone—a woman (gasp!)—who changed everything for me and helped me reckon with the feelings I had suppressed for so long. And though still tried to deny those feelings and told myself that it was just a phase, that I’m definitely straight, I eventually got to a place where I could not deny—and, most importantly, no longer wanted to deny—how I was feeling. 

So why am I sharing this now? Well, yes, it is Pride Month. But over the past nine months I’ve been doing some deep—and very uncharacteristicreflecting (shout out to my therapist!). I’ve found myself the happiest I’ve ever been, dating the woman who quite literally changed my life in the best way possible. I’ve also spent the last hour thinking that I definitely shouldn’t write this, that I’m not gay enough and that—other than being an ally—I haven’t considered myself a part of this community long enough to be able to write this. But that’s also precisely why I feel as though I should write and share this.  

Because when I think about what helped me through one of the scariest and most unsettling times of my life of coming out to my family and friends, it was reading and hearing other people’s stories of coming out later in life that gave me the strength and courage to feel like I could do the same. I’m still learning, and I’m still on this journey of trying to figure out exactly who I am. But that is the beauty of the LGTBQ community and the time in which we live. It’s okay to learn about yourself, to listen to yourself, and to be graceful with yourself. It’s never too late to find happiness, to be your true self, and to love whomever the hell you want. I’m really grateful for the people who were brave and outspoken in their stories before meAnd if sharing mine helps just one other person feel like they can share theirs, then it will be worth it.  

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