One thing I know for sure is that the stories we tell ourselves become our reality. We, humans, are creatures of story. The ways we talk about the situations around us: our jobs, our family, our friends, our partners, our challenges, our triumphs. All of that becomes real, or becomes as real as it can be, with the words in our heads that we wrap around those experiences. This is the reason a gratitude practice is so transformative. It’s also why I know there is not a force on the planet stronger than belief.
A few weeks ago I was talking with my friend’s mom about my gayness. We had just hiked to a lake below Mount Rainer in Washington state and were buzzing down the mountain slopes looking forward to dinner, and a fire, and sunset paddle boarding on the Puget Sound. She and I were talking specifically about the shifting narratives I have told myself about my sexuality and my romantic attractions. I thought I’d share the premise of that conversation here.
I realized I was gay in 7th grade. Since then, I’ve had the word. I kept the word unspoken. I didn’t tell anyone. But I had it. I held it in my hands.
I’ve learned that’s not always the case for everyone. I’ve heard the stories of my friends, particularly friends raised in communities of faith, who took much longer to find the word that they now identify with. Sometimes they were aware of attractions and feelings, but didn’t label them as “gay,” as “queer,” as “transgender.” I just spoke with a friend last week who for the majority of his life labeled those feelings as “evil,” as “the physical devil,” as “lies,” as “something outside of himself.” I’ve also heard from friends who were simply unaware of their queerness. They didn’t consciously suppress or mislabel their queer feelings. Those feelings lived somewhere else. They were suppressed subconsciously. The stories they told themselves were limited or distorted in the way they describe their sexuality or gender today.
Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, my stories were vastly limited and distorted as well.
I may have been honest with myself about my sexuality, but I wasn’t honest with the way it navigated my world. Chiefly, I wasn't honest about crushes I had. I wasn’t honest with myself that my best friend was really my strongest crush, the person whom I had most loved.
At the time, in late high school and the first part of university, I was pretty low-ranking in the social scene. I didn’t have tons of friends. And in the least, I thought of myself that way. I had zero confidence in myself. I’d look around at other people and studied their behaviors, their mannerisms, their words, so that I could become more like them. I wanted what they had. They way they just flowed through the world. The way they seemed unburdened by it. The way they didn’t stumble over words, or where to put their hands, or how much sway to sway when walking across a room.
During those years, I told myself that I wanted to spend time with certain friends so that I could become like them. When really, what I wanted was to be with them. I studied their mannerisms because I was enamored by every part of them. I was enveloped by the way he held is hands, the way he unfolded his words, the way his hips moved when he walked across the caf.
It is one thing to admit to oneself a sexual idenity that is contrary to one’s faith, one’s family, one’s community. That’s a big thing. But just one thing.
It’s a second thing to be honest with oneself about how that is engaged in one’s life. It’s a big jump of courage and honesty to admit feelings and attractions towards another person, even if one is admitting that only to oneself.
I think it was difficult because admitting attractions to specific friends broke my sexuality out beyond myself, to a place that I did not have control of and a place that I knew they were not safe to be in. I was closeted when I told myself these early stories. Because of these early versions, my sexuality stayed in a nice safe spot in the middle of my head. I was always honest with myself about it at a basic level. I knew to never date girls. I knew my family would never meet this supposed future female partner they talked about. I instead would imagine a future with some blurred male figure. But the figure was never clear. I could never see his face. His face never matched anyone in my outside world.
Only after coming out, did these stories become more honest, more colored. After coming out, I looked back and realized, “Oh. I wanted to travel with you on every travel break because I had a fat crush on you, not because I wanted to learn how to appropriately talk to people.” “Oh. I wanted to room with you because I still had that fat crush on you. And you turning me down felt like death because, though I didn’t tell myself any of these words at the time, there was no one I wanted to spend more of my time with than you.”
It’s important that we tell ourselves honest stories because our stories possess power. Our stories can hold us in a prison or they can set us free.
We must trek through the shit in our lives, and we must be honest about both the trek and the shit, because without it, our stories will not be true.
I had to trek through my sexuality to get to where I am today. I had to come out to myself, and to those around me, and then continually over and over to myself so that I can stay true.
Honesty is unfolding. Our lives are unfolding. We are unfolding.
Truth resides in our chests. We all know that place. I currently believe that that is where the Divine resides, what the Divine actually is.
That place, that thing is what carries me to all the places that I go. Most of those places are nonmaterial: the places in my mind, my beliefs, my thoughts. But many of them are physical as well. It’s that thing in my chest that sparks and that I follow to go to all the places I find myself. That spark has taken me to lots of corners of world and into conversations with lots of different people.
I know when I ignore that spark, that thing. And I know when I am aligned with it.
It’s a pretty fantastically magical and normal thing.