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June 28, 2019

Who you are & Who you Love is Not Wrong—but Not Everyone will be Okay With It. ~ Kate Austin

 

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*Warning! Some naughty language ahead.

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Watch the video of Kate’s story here

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I think I always knew I was different.

That’s how most of these stories start, right? It’s the truth. From an early age, I always cared more about my relationships with girls over boys. I was the jealous friend when one of my friends wouldn’t spend enough time with me or paid more attention to a boy. (So. Freaking. Gay.)

But I was raised in a religious household; my parents were active members in the church, and I was born and raised a perfect Christian. I barely knew what being gay was other than the fact that it was wrong.

Middle school came around and there was this girl who I was obsessed with. Like, I stalked her Myspace regularly. I remember thinking about how it felt different and I looked in my bedroom mirror and asked myself if I was gay. I shook it off and told myself I couldn’t be. I went to church twice a week and prayed every night, I couldn’t be gay. Right?

My freshman year of high school was when I really started to realize something was up. My friends and I would go to parties and they’d all have guys they planned on hooking up with. When they asked me who I was going to hook up with, the answer was always “nobody.” I had zeroooo interest in getting down and dirty with dudes. Especially in their parent’s basements.

This was the first year my friends had called me out for being gay. We were at a cheerleading carwash and I heard them all talking about it. I pulled my best friend aside and made her tell me what they were saying. Apparently, my entire friend group had thought I was gay because I “stare at girls too long” and had no interest in boys. I could have thrown up. I brushed it aside and made it seem like I was busy with other things and I just hadn’t met any guys I’d liked yet. (Ya girl was just gay as hell.)

Senior year rolled around, and I was cheerleading at a Friday night football game. I was on the field and we were cheering in front of the student section in the stands. Two girls who hated me started fake making out and calling me a lesbian. I was numb. Thank god this was right before halftime because I sprinted to the stands and started bawling. I remember telling my mom what happened, and she was like, “Well, are you gay?” and of course I denied it.

Part of me wishes I would have just came out then and there.

The summer after my senior year of high school, I went a little crazy. I was partying a lot and just wanted to connect with a guy. Any guy. I still had never hooked up with any or had a real boyfriend and wanted so badly to feel that connection with one of them. I tried talking to tons and tons of guys and nothing felt right. I was so tired of feeling nothing and so beyond frustrated. I thought something was wrong with me, like I was incapable of love.

I ended up getting a job at a family member’s hair salon as a receptionist part-time. One of the stylists had a picture-perfect brother and I was like, “Okay this is the one. Let’s freaking date and fall in love, I’m ready!”

He and I talked and then started dating. We didn’t have a single physical or emotional connection. We always had fun hanging out, but it always felt platonic for me. I was never excited, there were never butterflies. I kept telling myself that if I just stuck it out, I’d fall in love. He was great with my family, treated me amazingly well, he was so cute, and had his shit together…but it never happened. I was so frustrated.

Right around our year and a half mark, I went to Mexico with my best friend. She and I were laying out at the pool and met some new friends while drinking. There was one girl there that kept catching my eye (who happened to be a lesbian). As the drinks started hitting me, I could not stop flirting with her. Eventually, we made out. I remember being like holy fucking shit. It happened. I am gay. It literally flipped a switch inside of me and everything made sense.

I’m not kidding when I tell you that in that moment, I just knew. I felt more in that one kiss with a stranger than I ever did in my relationship with my boyfriend.

I knew that nothing would be the same for me ever again.

The next day, we left Mexico and I told myself that what happened there, stays there. I would go home and try and act like nothing ever happened. When I landed, my boyfriend was there to pick me up at the airport. He was so excited, but I didn’t even want to touch him. I felt horrible because he had no idea that my entire life got flipped upside down within the last 24 hours.

Over the course of the next week, he knew something was up. I was ditching him to FaceTime the girl I met on vacation, and I wouldn’t go near him when we were together. I felt like a completely different person.

Finally, he asked me what was going on and I knew I had to tell him. I told him what happened and how I was obviously confused and didn’t want to drag him along with me while I figured myself out. He was really hurt, really angry, and didn’t understand. He wanted to know what she had that he didn’t, and I didn’t have an answer other than the fact that she was a girl.

After we broke up, I thought maybe I was bisexual. I flipped my Tinder profile to boys and girls and planned on talking to anyone who peaked my interest. A few weeks of that and I ended up turning the boy option off and only talking to girls. I felt like a middle-schooler; I was so excited all of the time. Until I realized that I was hiding a huge secret from everyone. I told myself that I could never come out to my family and that I could live this separate life with my friends and that everything would be fine.

Aaaaand then, Sarah Katharine Sulsenti walked into my life. The second she messaged me, I knew it was game over. I fell hard and fast. About two months into us talking was my 21st birthday. I invited her and our mutual friend to come, but I told her that if she was coming, we could not act like a couple—my brothers would be there, and they had no idea that I was gay.

Fast-forward to my birthday and 10 shots later and I could not keep my hands off her. I was drunk as hell and didn’t care who saw us kissing or holding hands. Obviously, I should have at least warned my brothers before the trip. They were confused and shocked.

The next day after that, my mom told us that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. One of my brothers doesn’t handle stress well and had a panic attack. He told my dad that because of mom’s diagnosis and me being gay, he felt overwhelmed. Of course, my dad was like, “Wait a second, what?”

The snowball started to roll down the hill and my dad told my mom. My mom called me into her bedroom and asked if it was true—I was so caught off guard I obviously denied it. She then responded with things like, “I heard about what you were doing on your birthday, you’re not gay, and you’ve never shown signs of being gay. I don’t want to hear about this dyke stuff anymore.”

Once I heard her respond like this, I knew I couldn’t come out.

A few days later, she asked me again in a much calmer way and told me that I can always tell her anything. To me, it felt like she was giving me a safe space to tell her what she must have already known. After I left for work, I texted her, and told her that I had a girlfriend and I was gay. She responded and told me not to come home.

I was told that she would pack up all of my belongings and I could pick them up Monday when nobody was there. I was told I was disgusting, that she wished she had never had me, that I was perverted, that I was going to tear our family apart, that I was disgusting—the list goes on and on.

I felt so alone and angry and ashamed. I think I always knew my mom would react like that but actually hearing your parents say those things to you is a pain that never goes away.

My brother offered me his spare room, and I stayed there for almost two weeks. My mom finally reached out to me and said we could talk about everything. I went home and we tried talking it out. She said my “lifestyle” will never be allowed in the house and I need to keep it away from her. She also suggested that I was “sick” and needed to see a therapist. If I wanted to move back in, I’d have to start paying rent.

I didn’t have many other options at the time, so I did. I knew it’d be temporary so I lived at home for about a year and worked four jobs to save money so I could move in with Sarah.

That first year was really rough for me. I was in a bad place mentally and was in a pretty depressed state. I was angry with myself for being gay and I was angry at my mom for being so shitty about it. She said she loved me unconditionally but it felt the exact opposite. I tried to keep my mind on the fact that eventually, I’d be moving out on my own and would beat long-distance with Sarah. It was my light at the end of the tunnel that I just had to keep chasing.

Finally, I moved out. I barely spoke to my parents after the first year of leaving home. My mom would hang up on me if I mentioned Sarah’s name. I was so done with the negativity, I no longer wanted to make an effort of pleasing her. I didn’t go home for about a year and that hit my parents in a way that softened them a little bit.

My mom tries a lot harder now than ever has. She doesn’t make disgusted noises every time I bring up Sarah and she doesn’t hang up the phone. She definitely isn’t accepting and still tries to tell me this is a phase. Regardless of those things, she’s a lot nicer to me than she ever has been. She’s reading books about religion and homosexuality and how it shouldn’t be so hated and ostracized. It isn’t great but its better—and that’s all that I can ask for.

Aside from everyone else and how they feel about me being gay—I am the happiest I have ever been. Moving out and unapologetically being myself was the greatest gift I could have ever given myself. I am so happy and feel so much lighter than I used to. There is truly no greater gift than not hiding who you are.

If you are in the closet and terrified to come out, just know we have all been there before. Take the time you need to walk your path and know that when you’re ready to step out on the other side, there is an entire community of people waiting to greet you with open arms.

Coming out is the most terrifying thing in the world but living your truth is so liberating.

Things weren’t perfect for me right away, but every single day they got better and are still to this day continuing to get better.

Just remember, all things in time. You are perfect, just as you are. Never let anyone else decide who you are and if it’s right or wrong. Surround yourself with people you love and who love you for who you are.

Chosen family is the greatest gift.

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