Sarah, Elkhorn City
I grew up in Elkhorn City, Kentucky. My childhood was spent playing in the mountains, riding ATVs and horses, and collecting Hot Wheels. I was always a tomboy and hated wearing the frilly dresses my grandmother made me wear to church every Sunday. That just wasn’t who I was, and I just never felt comfortable in feminine clothing. Despite that, I was expected to fit into a very traditional feminine mold and follow the status quo: grow up, meet a boy, marry him, and have a family.
I was fortunate to grow up with friends who had same-sex parents. Going to sleepovers at those houses taught me that two women CAN have a family and that their family was just as normal as mine. Despite having that experience, the cognitive dissonance during my adolescence was real. I had boyfriends and I felt attracted to them, but something was missing. My first crushes were the Pink Power Ranger, Laura Dern in Jurassic Park, Clarice Starling, Gwen Stefani, and Sporty Spice. All powerful women, yet the idea of dating a girl seemed so foreign, so taboo, so far out of my grasp.
I suppressed it. I dated men. I married one. Then I met a woman who made me realize what was missing all along, and everything came grinding to a halt. I realized that I’m the only one in control of my life and my identity. It was time to step out into the sunlight.
Coming out of the closet at 29 years old was not my plan, but I couldn’t stay contained in that little heteronormative box any longer. One day everything hit me: I couldn’t do this anymore. My mental health was at an all-time low and I felt hopeless. Helpless. I woke up wishing I was dead. I went to sleep hoping for another life. I have a master’s degree, I have a fulfilling career as a social worker, and I’m a homeowner. Why was I so damn miserable?
The answer was staring me in the face. I had to live my truth. I came out – and it felt exactly like the moment Dorothy steps into Oz for the first time. My life went from black and white to color.
I’ve lived in Louisville for the last few years and I have surrounded myself with a loving group of queer folk from all kinds of backgrounds. I can’t say how lucky I am to have this community. I have learned so much from these friends who are gay, bi, pan, lesbian, trans, non-binary, and HIV+ and I truly credit them with the courage it took to walk out of that closet with my head held high.
My only goal in life is to be the person I needed when I was younger, and I’m finally taking steps to do that. Embrace who you are and love yourself for it.