Bren’s note: Ladies and gentlebutches, I’m very happy to introduce our first guest post! This one’s from bad ass femme la.donna.pietra and continues the It Gets Better theme that started yesterday.
I grew up in a teeny little town in the mountains between California’s Central Valley and the Mojave Desert. Up until about six months ago, hardly anyone in GLBTQ circles had ever heard of Tehachapi; now, unfortunately, lots of people recognize the name in the wake of Seth Walsh’s suicide. I can confirm that it was not and is not a welcoming place for anyone who is even slightly left of “normal,” however one defines it. I didn’t meet the definition on a whole bunch of levels: I was hopelessly insecure, spent most of my time with my nose in a book, had zero social skills, was devoid of any discernible athletic skill, and was really damn liberal. I was also very confused, because I liked girls. I really liked girls. I had hopeless crushes on several of my friends, but I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to be them or be in love with them or do… something… with them. I couldn’t talk to them or anyone else about how I felt, because I didn’t even know what I was feeling. See, I liked guys too. I dated some of them and had crushes on them, so I couldn’t possibly be a lesbian, but what else was there? My Health class vaguely mentioned this thing called “homosexuality,” but it was mostly for men (as far as I could tell), and was also quite bad (as far as I could tell). This was in 1992, by the way. The handy book my mom had bought for me so that she wouldn’t need to talk to me about sex or menstruation said that there was a thing called lesbianism, and it was okay, but as there was one paragraph on the subject in a 300-page book, it couldn’t be THAT great or normal. Clearly, I was hopelessly messed up and fundamentally confused. I read a lot of Anne Rice around this point and concluded that life would be much simpler if I was a vampire.
About halfway through my senior year, my hormones finally took over and beat my confusion into cowering resistance. I started making out with a good friend of mine. I was convinced that we were madly in love and that whatever I was, it was okay if she liked me. I asked her if she wanted to go to the senior prom as my date. She said yes. I proudly bounced on up to the office to buy tickets the next day. My school, in an attempt to maximize any and all humiliation and/or social conflict, required that prom tickets be purchased in pairs. The person buying had to give the name of his/her date, and if the date was not a student at the school, then the person buying had to fill out a form to get permission for the presumably evil older lecherous date. My good friend had gotten her GED the year before, so she wasn’t a student. Point being: my high school processed all of this without batting an eyelash. It’s pretty bizarre to think about in this day and age of Constance McMillen and other GLBTQ prom rejectees, but I don’t think my high school realized that I, a girl, was taking my girlfriend, who was also a girl, to the senior prom, largely because I wanted to get into her black velvet strapless dress.
However. Custom also dictated that the names of all couples be written in glittery ink on a huge piece of butcher paper that was then strategically placed in the hallway so that everyone could ooh or ahh or sneer at who was going with whom for at least two weeks before prom. So everyone in the entire high school knew that la.donna.pietra was taking pietra.girlfriend to the prom. There was some buzzing at this, but I didn’t care, because DAMMIT SHE WAS GOING TO PROM WITH ME AND I WAS HAPPY!!! (My parents were delighted that I was going to the prom with someone who definitely wouldn’t get me pregnant. They were slightly unclear on the subject.)
We went to the prom. She had a migraine, so we decided to leave early. I also realized that marching into a room full of super-conservative high school students with a hot woman on one’s arm was not, in fact, the great blow to the establishment that it might have seemed, but was mostly a way to piss a lot of people off. This was confirmed when we went out into the parking lot and discovered that my tires had been slashed. My mom came and drove us home. Two weeks later, my girlfriend announced that she was engaged to my first boyfriend. Confusion levels reached an all-time high. School was terrible, but there were only three weeks left of it. It had been terrible before, too, so not much had changed.
I got back together with an ex-boyfriend that summer, got turkey-dumped after leaving for college at UC Santa Cruz (GO SLUGS!), and spent the rest of my freshman year miserable, lonely, depressed, and confused. On the plus side, if you’re going to be confused about your sexual identity, the Bay Area is just about the best place to be. Eventually, I started coming out of my shell (and my dorm room). I met some awesome people who made me realize that there was such a thing as bisexuality and it was just fine. I also realized that the only people I should avoid being attracted to were jerks, but it took a while for that to really stick.
And then! I started going to all kinds of social events geared towards LBTQ gals! I even managed to get sneered at by REAL LIVE HOT BUTCHES for still dating guys, but I didn’t care, because I was having lots of queer-centric arguments with hot womyn about things I hadn’t ever dreamed I would ever be able to talk to anyone about, much less hot womyn, and some of them stopped sneering at me and turned out to be totally awesome. I chopped off all my hair, discovered I had a ton of cowlicks, grew it back out again, got better at hitting on women, got better at hitting on men, discovered the Internets, met a whole ton of interesting people, and got a lot more comfortable with who I am. I came out to my mom. She pretended she hadn’t heard me and kept right on treating me the exact same way, which may or may not indicate progress. I got a degree, a job, a husband, a lot of caring friends, and a bank account that gives me the opportunity to donate money to the Make It Better Project on a regular basis. Life got better.