Coming Out Week Story
When you’re 11 years old, the idea of people being gay or straight doesn’t really make sense to you. How do you know what sexuality is when you’re still deciding whether or not someone has cooties? Simple times call for simpler thoughts. Not for this 11 year old.
In one year, my dad had moved out of the house and I nearly lost the aunt I was closest to in the terrorist attacks on 9/11, heavy things for any kid to go through. At the same time, my 8-year-old sister was making her First Holy Communion, so the Catholic Church was a huge part of my life.
No one in my life ever really talked about being gay or straight with me. Granted, I was savvy enough to somewhat grasp the concept. There were mentions of it here and there in a negative light. I grew up in a pretty conservative part of town. I knew my family was full of Republicans (thanks to the Bush election the previous year.) This girl at school said her pastor said it was a sin, and I wanted to be a good Catholic, so I figured it was a bad thing. I decided I didn’t want anything to do with anything gay.
Then, my aunt moved in with Raina.
I liked Raina. She bought me presents, she told me I was smart, she told funny jokes. My aunt still lived in New Jersey, so I got to see her a lot, which meant I got to see Raina a lot. It was cool.
One day, my mom asked me if Raina was my aunt’s girlfriend. I had the kind of freak out only an 11 year old girl could have. I screamed at her that my aunt was not gay and that was impossible. I got so worked up about it, I started crying. My mom decided that it was time to have “the talk.”
She explained to me that being gay meant that a man loved another man or a woman loved another woman. I told her it didn’t matter because my aunt wasn’t gay. She asked me why it mattered. I explained all the things I had ever heard about it. My mom thought carefully about her next words, words that have stuck with me every day of the rest of my life and will continue to.
“Regardless if she’s gay or not, does it change who she is and why you love her? Doesn’t Aunt Katie deserve someone to love?” Good point, Mom. It didn’t. I realized that my aunt was still my aunt. It didn’t make her a bad person. It didn’t change our relationship. It was simply something else that made my aunt who she is.
This is why I’m an ally. Being gay matters just as much as it does being straight in that it doesn’t. It’s about love, and in the type of world we live in, why are we going to punish people for loving other people just because it’s considered nontraditional?