Coming home for Spring Break my sophomore year of college was the time I chose to do it. Everyone around me offered their words of support. My best friend’s mom even offered to let me stay at their house for the rest of break if I wasn’t allowed to stay at home. No one knew how it would go or how things would be five years later.
My sheltered, religious upbringing was not particularly conducive to self-exploration, at least not outside the exploration of my role as God’s child. My parents were strict, though very loving. Nothing close to the ruler-to-the-knuckles, Miss Trunchbull type that many imagine hyper-religious parents to be. I had a very happy childhood. That being said, anything even remotely outside heterosexuality had very negative connotations in my mind, and was therefore not an option.
Shy whispers of homosexuality would come up around my 100-student K-8th private Christian school, but they were always followed by confusion, fierce disapproval, and a point at Genesis 19:24 from my classmates and faculty. I’m not sure I even fully comprehended what it meant to not be straight until embarrassingly late in life (probably mid-late high school) because of how little it was discussed.
Because of this blissful ignorance, I was able to successfully ignore and snub any romantic or sexual inclinations I had toward other women, all the way up through high school and early college. Despite daydreaming about girls in my twelfth grade class instead of my long-term boyfriend, being gay was not even a consideration. To say I was brainwashed would be a considerable understatement.
Like many queer youths, going away to a liberal arts college was like a spiritual awakening for me, although not quite that dramatic. After living in a small town and knowing so little about other cultures and anything outside the life experience of a middle class cis white person, college was jarring and refreshing. I didn’t go crazy drinking and partying and hooking up with strangers, like many thought I would (but also absolutely no shame if that’s what you did in college), but I was able to let my guard down and let people in. People I would have previously judged for no reason other than that I was taught all my life to judge them.