Editor’s Note: The following submission is from Ashley Rose Lokken. Have an LGBTQ+ related experience or story to share? Having your article published on this site will automatically enrol you into a raffle to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card. Submit an article today via queerdeermedia.com.
Flashback to summer of 2010 (cue Bulletproof by La Roux)
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.
Pre Drum Corp
I was 15 — naive and guileless, the most beautiful of fools. I was “heterosexual” and had a boyfriend named Bradford. I met Bradford in my high school history class. He was everything you would expect from a boy named Bradford — a polite, wholesome little white boy with a Justin Bieber haircut and velvety baby skin. I really liked him to be quite honest; I was just not physically or sexually attracted to him. He was what I needed him to be — someone who spoon-fed my ego and someone who I could show off to my friends and family. I was always the girl who never had boyfriends and wanted so badly to prove to them I was capable of being wanted. I kept Bradford close but not close enough to touch. We held hands; I never let him kiss me. I wanted to want him, I just couldn’t.
I never really paused to ascertain the exact reasoning as to why I didn’t have feelings for Bradford, a boy that was so lovable and respectful to me. I never thought about why I wasn’t attracted to any boys, ever, for the matter. I absolutely lived in denial — there were so many signs even from a very young age. I would make my barbies have sex, (and I’m not talking Barbie and Ken), I’m talking some full throttle Barbie-on-Barbie action. I was always attracted to my female teachers in middle and high school and my ultimate heros were Ellen Degeneres and Jane Lynch. For some reason these feelings were always brushed off, until one day it clocked me upside the head and I met her.
Drum Corp Era
There I was, parent-free, and secluded from society for an entire summer. The only person that could serve as a buffer from my own authenticity would be myself. When I met her, it wasn’t an immediate attraction. She was on the colorguard with me and I was instantly impressed by her talent and her high school’s well-known legacy. She was a couple years older than me so I looked up to her and felt a sense of urgency to impress her with my skills. As the summer progressed we gravitated towards each other and became a part of the same friend group. The more I spent time with her the more I began to accumulate feelings for her that were different from friendly-lovins’. My best friend and I were seat partners on the bus at the beginning of the summer, but by the middle of the summer she had been replaced by new thing. We then started spending more and more time together separately from our other friends, having personal conversations, and sometimes falling asleep on each other at night.
I began to feel very protective of her and wanted her all to myself. There was a time when she went off with a boy she had a crush on in the drumline and I was absolutely infuriated with rage and jealousy. At the time, she had no idea about these feelings I was having and quite frankly, I still hadn’t even realized that what I felt for her was love.
Post Drum Corp
When the summer came to an end, I realized we would all have to go our separate ways and I wouldn’t be able to see her every single day like I did all summer. This reality broke my heart, but luckily she lived only an hour from where I did. After drum corp we would text almost every day. The texting conversations eventually became slightly sexual and led to me saying something along the lines of, “so if you were drunk and we played spin the bottle, would you kiss me?”
I remember when I read her response of “yes,” my heart practically jumped out of my chest. I was feeling the cliche “butterflies” in their rarest form. I loved every second of a feeling that was so foreign to me.
When it began
Our friends in Miami were having a party. There was drinking involved and things got a little wild (and for the record, I do not condone underage drinking). Believe it or not, everyone decided to play spin the bottle. When it was my turn the first time around the bottle landed on a boy who had a crush on me but I had no feelings for whatsoever.
Cut to awkward hetero face eating.
The second time it was my turn to spin the bottle, the impossible happened and it landed on her. We looked at each other bashfully, I crawled over to her scared silly and pale as a ghost and kissed her. I backed away and gazed into her drunken, crystal blue eyes and I just knew from that moment, I was so in love with her.
After that night I think we were both a little taken back by what had happened. I eventually found the strength to mention it in conversation and we both admitted to each other we had feelings for one another. She became my first — my first love, my first relationship, my first everything. Prior to me, she had not felt anything for a woman ever. These feelings were a little more familiar to me than they were to her, but still, neither one of us wanted to admit to ourselves we might be gay or bisexual. For a while, we were each other’s “exceptions.” “I like boys and you’re the only girl I like,” she would tell me. I convinced myself it was the same for me. We were both so incredibly terrified to be gay because of the picture society had painted of gay people.
We would see each other almost every weekend, telling our friends and family we were best friends. We hid our love behind the backs of the people who meant the most to us because of fear. It’s a shame — it’s a shame I had to hide someone who was so special to me. There is nothing more beautiful than young love, whether it is straight or gay love. We were in love for a very long time, but the secrecy eventually took a toll on us mentally and led to much pandemonium.
She broke up with me over text
I never really got an explanation. All I knew was she was tired of the constant fighting and didn’t want to be with me anymore. I felt like a part of me had died — there wasn’t a second in the day for 2 months that I didn’t think about crying. My eyes were swollen, I had no appetite, and suddenly all the things that always made me happy, didn’t.
My mom eventually noticed. One day she approached me and started talking about my younger brother and his sexuality.
“So, you think your brother is gay?” she asked.
“I don’t know (knowing he was) but who cares if he is?” I said.
“You’re right. So, what about you?” she asked. “Are you gay or bisexual?”
I nodded my head yes and said “mom I’ve been lying to you. I’ve actually been in a relationship with a woman for 4 years, but she just broke up with me so it’s over.” Tears began to pour from my eyes. It was the exact release I needed in that very moment. At first my mom was so great about it — she quickly hugged me and held me in her arms for hours that day. I could tell she was genuinely hurting for me — no (good) parent wants to see their child in pain. When I told my dad he just stared at me in silence — it was the most piercing stare I have ever experienced.
A few months later my parents told me what they were hurt the most by was the fact that I hid my relationship from them. I was having sleepovers under their roof and it was disrespectful. My brother came out immediately after I did, but it wasn’t as much of a shock to other people as it was when I came out. My brother had showed signs from a very young age — I was always very feminine and my persona was slightly enigmatic. My parents struggled with accepting the reality that both of their kids were gay for a very long time. I’ve witnessed my mother calling my brother a “fa****” to his face. She eventually apologized deeply for that. Now, in present day, I am so proud of how far my parents have come. They are now both advocates and I am very comfortable to talk to them about anything. I really think they have finally come to terms with both mine and my brother’s sexualities. I consider myself to be very lucky to have such supportive parents like them because I know some other LGBTQ folks who have been shunned by their own families.
I’ve come a long way
After the breakup with my ex and all the pain, I realized I was free to get more experience to solidify whether I was truly gay or not. Since then I’ve been around the block (once or twice), but it was exactly what I needed. I eventually came to the conclusion that I am, indeed, a stone cold lesbian.
I wasn’t always as strong and confident as I am today. Like I explained above, when I was younger I was very naive and confused. I didn’t know myself; I didn’t know what I wanted. Today I live my life boldly. I am unapologetic and make my sexuality known to almost everyone of relevance to me (sometimes even when it is unnecessary). I walk the streets with my head held high with an unperturbed stride. I am unfazed by any judgement made towards me and my sexuality — and the best part is, now that I have come out I now have the power to help individuals who are struggling in the same ways I did. To me, that is the best gift I could ever ask for.
My advice to you
If you are struggling in any way, shape, or form with you sexuality or personal identity don’t be afraid to take risks. If you like the girl, tell her. If you like the boy, tell him. Even if you end up feeling differently in the end, at least you know you gained more life experience. If you fall in love and it doesn’t work out, it’s okay because now you have learned much more about yourself than you did before and no one can take that away from you. If you’re scared of what your friends and family will think, they might surprise you. If they don’t surprise you and it’s as bad or even worse than you thought, just remember it DOES get better and we, as a community love you and know your worth. There are people out there like you and know exactly what you are going through.
As RuPaul says, “we as gay people get to choose our family.”