I stood outside in the two-acre backyard of my new home in Hesperia, California. The High Desert became the new place I would call home for the rest of my years up until college. But in that moment, at seven years old, I gazed up at the sky. It never looked so blue, and for the first time, I felt a sense of wonder. After years of moving around from different apartment to grandparents’ homes in the late 90s, finally, I felt like I had a secure home. I never thought I’d reflect so much while standing in a field of dirt.

Me at five years old.

As I continued to gaze at the sky, I heard my father call me by my nickname, “Chooch!” I turned around in my big white t-shirt, denim jeans, and sneakers. I slowly walked toward him as he opened the back door. My dad was my best friend as a child, and he was most of the time very calm with me. He asked in a serious tone, “Did you steal my Reese’s again?” He was so calm that I couldn’t lie to him. I pulled out the wrapper from my pocket. I wasn’t a very good talker as a child, mostly shy and quiet, but my dad always seemed to understand me anyway. He smiled and shook his head, telling me to ask next time. As he walked back inside, I could see my siblings playing together and fighting inside. They were the opposite of me, always talkative. I had a hard time fitting in with them growing up. I always had the crippling feeling of being different from them. I didn’t know why.

My family at Disneyland 2001. I’m in the blue shirt.

My older siblings, Justine and Adrian, had a different father from me. Justine was always tough and responsible, and Adrian, my brother, was a vocal leader. I grew up trailing quietly behind them. My mom’s first marriage was filled with abuse. She met my dad when her first husband started doing drugs. Through him, she found the courage to leave. They jumped into love and got married. Then, they had me.

My parents raised us as Christians. At six years old, I remember feeling lost when my teacher told me stories of God and Jesus. Even though, I was fascinated with stories of the whale that swallowed Jonah, and those of David and Goliath. I loved how the name of Jesus made everyone happy, even if I didn’t understand why.

One day, my teacher began to talk about marriage and how we were all going to have a husband or a wife someday. She explained, “one day, you will all unite in a marriage with God and someone, just like your parents.” I had no desire to do it. Somehow, I knew I wasn’t supposed to marry a man or maybe I was afraid to love someone. I just knew I was scared of it. Why would I have to do that? Church soon became something I didn’t like going to. It made me even more confused about why I felt the way I felt. I didn’t want to live anymore. I didn’t want to act or think the way I was anymore. I knew my thoughts were different from other girls.

I had a close friend as a child who was a tough girl and made me feel accepted. Our relationship took a strange turn one day after we played a game of house when I was about eight. I played the father role and she played the mother. How she knew to become so intimate with me, I would never know.

It became much worse when it was bedtime and we both slept in the same bed, innocently. She cuddled with me and caressed my little flower. I became afraid and turned the other way. I didn’t know how to understand or handle what was happening to me. Was she curious if I had the same parts as her? But, as a child, how would she know what to do? Why would she? Did she not know I was a girl? Why was that confusing for her to understand? My thoughts were more like feelings of insecurity, fear, and a loss for words and understanding of her and myself. I became more lost and insecure in that moment with my friend than of any other time in my life. I started to cry. She began to shush me and tell me it was okay. She consoled me as the friend I thought she was, and I fell asleep.

The next day she treated me like I did something wrong to her. I began to experience depression, and I felt shameful of who I was at eight years old. I didn’t know why. I never shared that story because I was afraid of what it meant. I began to wonder and became hateful of myself. Why would my friend do that to me? I didn’t even know this type of intimacy could happen between girls. I couldn’t understand it, and I was afraid to think about what it all meant.

I was so afraid to express this to my family at such a young age. I became very succumbed in my own deep thoughts. I resorted to hate. I began to write hateful thoughts about me and my family in a journal. I wrote bizarre things like saying that I wanted to roll over and die. My siblings found the journal in my room and confronted me, yelling at me in a bathroom. They were hurt, but so was I. I was hurting deep inside and I couldn’t even tell them why. I was afraid of what they would think. It all seemed so abnormal. I yelled it at the top of my lungs “leave me alone!” For once, I found the courage to speak up. It scared my little sister Marianna, three years younger than me, and I stopped. After the outburst, my siblings put forth more of an effort to involve me, and I began to realize that they cared for me a lot. That was comforting.

Meanwhile, I struggled with my own gender identity. I didn’t like wearing dresses or doing my hair, but I wasn’t very tough either. My dad would dress me up in his clothes because he never really cared what I wore as a little girl. However, my mother felt differently about it. She would do whatever she could to get me into a skirt or a dress. I didn’t mind wearing one if it was long, but I was way more comfortable being a tomboy. I fought to get my mom to accept me for who I was for a long time. Then suddenly, she unexpectedly changed her view. One day I asked her randomly if she would still love me “if I walked like a penguin.” She laughed and said, “I love you not matter what.” After that, when my siblings would pick on me for not dressing like a “girl”. My mom would defend me, and that made me feel better.

My grandparent’s house, 2005. Justine half-sister, Mom, Tia (Aunt) Sandra, Me, Marianna little sister.

I kept my real secret hidden deep inside for ten more years. By high school, I was still quiet with a few friends and pretended to be as girly as I possibly could to fit in. I couldn’t find my identity. I began dating boys because I wanted to be “normal.” Over time, I grew close to a female friend who helped me a lot. I began to care for her, which terrified me. I felt scared because she was giving me a sense of the love I longed for, but not completely. I was once again terrified of what my feelings truly meant. Eventually, my brother came out as a homosexual when I was 16 years old. I didn’t really know what being gay meant until my brother came out. Seeing his struggle made it even harder for me to come out.

Me goofing off in high school.

I started dating a boy to cover up what I truly felt. I pretended to love him because he said he loved me. He couldn’t give me the same tender care she did. I felt ashamed of it all because I knew it was different from what I was taught. When we broke up, he told his friends I slept with him. Every time I passed by them, they would make weird gestures toward me. “I hate myself” became a reoccurring thought in my head.

I constantly thought about my friend, and I didn’t want to admit my true feelings for her. I became so lost and fragile that I stopped eating. This went on for a year, and my little sister Marianna figured it out. She promised not to tell my parents if I began to eat again, which I agreed to.

The attention they gave me helped, especially my mother. She forced me to bring my grades up, taking away my bedroom door, phone, and music until I did. I was forced to face my problems. I had to actually talk to my teachers and ask them for help. I think this tough love helped me eventually come out in my college years.

My mom (middle) with all my siblings. I’m on the far right.

My parents’ marriage began to shatter by the time I got to college. I did my best to forget about how I felt toward my friend and I barely spoke to her when I went away to college. I didn’t do very well there. I didn’t have any scholarships or enough financial aid to keep me there, so I had to drop out. I came back to a broken home; my parents were separated, and my older brother and sister went to the Navy. I felt very lost and didn’t know who I was or what to do with my life. The more I denied who I truly was, the more I struggled. While it wasn’t the time to tell my parents, it was time. I told them I was homosexual. There was no use denying it anymore.

My family was very accepting of me because they had seen my deep struggles with my identity and were happy to see me finally accept myself, along with a lot of my insecurities. After years of being misunderstood, lost, scared, I decided to embrace that I was different, and it was okay. It boiled down to one truth: I had always cared more for girls, always. Once I held my secret up to the light, it was like I was able breathe for the first time since I was eight-years old.

Vegas, 2016. Left to right: father, mother, little sister Marianna, brother Adrian, sister Justine, and me.

I wish I could say that it has been easier since coming out, but truth is, it hasn’t. Being a homosexual female is tough in a world full of opinions. Having a relationship with someone you love makes it harder when some people see it as disgraceful. However, the support I have received from my family has given me the hope of possibilities, that maybe soon, I’ll soon understand who I am. My happy ending includes my girlfriend Jamie, of one and a half years, who has been my best friend and longest relationship. She continues to help me with my internal struggles and supports me to find my purpose in life. I just had to accept and love myself first. It took 20 years for me to find courage.

| Writer: Cerina Galvan | Editors: MJ; Kristen Petronio|

Life Log #112

This story first touched our hearts on May 29, 2018.

Read the story on our website: https://ourlifelogs.com/2018/07/25/all-i-ever-knew/

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