“Now class, let’s talk about LGBT rights,” Mr. Brady announces. He opens a PowerPoint presentation with a photo of Ellen DeGeneres waving a pride flag on the first slide. Whispers and murmurs erupt from the back of the room. “Would you care to tell us what’s so amusing?” Mr. Brady glares at a group of boys huddled around a single desk. They turn towards him and shake their heads. “Okay then. Shall we continue?” The boys nod and remain silent.
Four years ago a story of mine featured in Queer Stories called, “Coming Out. Not As Simple As It Seems.” In that story I held some punches, tried to describe my journey up to that point, and overall wanted to depict how coming out is not always self-actualising. However, time stops for no one, and as you get older you grow, your reflections become clearer — even if your eyesight doesn’t! I’d like to take an opportunity to elaborate on my story, show some resolutions, and express some reflections that I have gained in the four years since.
I am a gay, cis woman. I have attended private, Catholic schools my entire student career. I know how lucky I am to have this opportunity- but as member of the LGBT community, sometimes I don’t feel so lucky. While having the funds to attend this schools and the privileges to be accepted, I am not truly accepted by the students, faculty, and staff because of how I love.
All my life, I have been pretty good at fitting in. Or at least, maintaining the appearance of fitting in. I lived with this idea in my head that I could become anyone I wanted to – anyone who’s better, who’s not weird, who’s somehow perfect. I grew up in Ukraine. A country now wrought with pain, trying to figure out its place in the world – somewhere between its communist, conservative past, and a bold, progressive future. I think it’s ironic how, in a lot of ways, my story overlaps with that of my country.
At 16 I liked the things a lot of boys did. I liked pretty girls, loud music, cheap beer, and dreaming about being a rock star. I’d formed a “band” with my best friend, there was only the two of us, and I wanted to be the lead singer, but couldn’t sing in tune, so settled for playing bass.
To start this tale, I guess we need to start at the beginning. So, you can see my upbringing and see why things ended up as they did. A little long, and a little dark, but bear with me.
My father is disabled, he has a rare form of MS that is extremely variable. From days he can walk 20 miles to days he cannot leave bed. He cannot work and hasn’t been able to since his late twenties. It took most of my life time of testing to even find out what was wrong with him. My mother gave up work to care for him, and then me when I was born. They lived in poverty, just trying to survive.
I had just completed my sophomore year of high school and was on my way to spend the summer touring the United States and performing with a Drum Corp. What is Drum Corps? Drum Corps is essentially professional marching band, or, what I like to call marching band on cocaine. Drum Corps is incredibly competitive and only the most talented of brass musicians, percussionists, and colorguard members are chosen to spend a summer away from home practicing and competing in large venues across the U.S. It is, indeed as lame as it sounds, but it was the most profound experience of my life for a myriad of reasons. Mostly, because it is where I met my first love.