Learning to Fly (Coming Out In My Time) By Margaret Singley* Age 16

Julia Applebaum Age 12If you were able to go back in time and change one moment of your past, what would you choose? For many people, this question might seem a little silly, or it might stump them completely. “Only one moment?” Yes, only one moment. “How long is a moment?” However long seems reasonable.

For me, it is the space of three words: “I love you.”

When in second grade, you probably don’t want to be told these words. Especially not by your same-sex best friend. This is just a guess. You can probably predict the results – confusion, shock, maybe a brief flash of anger, and then a definitely-not-so-brief period of awkwardness. Maybe if I had been a little older I could have predicted the worst result – the whole rest of my class finding out, and all of them entering that same definitely-not-so-brief period of awkwardness and avoidance. Every day at recess I would run out to the far corner of the playground in order to get the swing on the end. I would sit and watch all of the other swings fill up, except for the one next to mine. Sometimes a brave, kind, or desperate-for-a-swing individual would take it, but most days, I was alone. I thought that if I pumped the swing high enough with my little legs, then maybe I would learn to fly. And every day at the end of recess, I would jump off, just to see if I really had learned to fly. The only thing I really learned, though, was that the farther you jump, the farther you have to fall.

I never really felt like I fit in after that point. I never had anything to contribute to conversations about boys or other people’s crushes or marriage or the number of kids I wanted. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and it really did hurt to know I only had a few friends, even though I acted as if it didn’t. In my small, isolated, extremely conservative town where even today I am not allowed to go to prom with a same-sex date, I didn’t even know that homosexuality was a possibility. I didn’t even know that there was such thing as a marriage that wasn’t between a man and a woman. I told everyone who asked that boys still had cooties, even when I was in fifth grade, and that when I grew up I was never going to get married and was going to be a crazy cat lady who lived in a tree house and baked cookies to give to all of the neighbors’ kids. People always just laughed and thought I was maybe a really strange kid, it was just a phase I’d grow out of, and maybe I should stop spending so much time with my single, independent cookie-baking mom. They didn’t understand that, at the time, that  actually seemed to me to be the happiest way to live out the rest of my life.

Obviously the above is not still my life goal, and I know now that gay marriage is a thing. This past year I have started coming out to my family and close friends, and it literally feels like I am knocking down a wall or bursting a set of large double doors wide open inside my chest. It’s not easy. There is still a lot of hate, from the internet to my peers at school, to even a few of my previously close friends (who have since stopped talking to me due to their disapproval). Sometimes I hate myself for it, and I just wish I were normal. Sometimes I think that my life would be so much easier if I could just be a different person: someone who is straight. But I know that’s not really true. I know that I have more people in my life who accept me than people who don’t, and those are the ones who matter. I’ve really learned to count my blessings instead of my problems. Everyone has his or her struggles – these are mine, and I definitely wouldn’t trade who I am for anyone else. And you know, maybe I wouldn’t change that particular three-word moment of my life, because, truthfully, I wouldn’t be who I am today without it.

 

 

*Name changed.

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