In the last decade, I graduated middle school, high school, and started college. I affirmed my career path and childhood dream of studying theatre and I took steps to be a part of projects and productions that have laid my artistic foundation. I became a teenager, I became a legal adult, and I got my driver’s license. I wrote the hell out of everything. I worked in many odd jobs and I got to serve in a mentor role to students and artists. I traveled to Europe twice, I got pretty proficient in Spanish, and I accidentally finally became vegetarian after several tries. This is also the decade in which I came out, to myself and to others.
Within ten years, I learned that being queer exists, and that I happened to be a part of the community of folks within that experience. From Day One, I always knew I liked girls — as my two installments of my Baby Gay series make very clear — but I had no clue that there was a “word” or an “explanation” for that. I was in between the beliefs of “everyone likes girls that way” and “eventually I will end up with a guy because I am a girl.” Queer identity was not modeled for me in any aspect of my life for the first 12 years of it. It’s just amazing to me that my queerness, a quality of mine that has been and will be a part of my life forever, became apparent to me at a time of my life in which most of my ideas about the world were pretty much established and cemented. Realizing my queerness allowed me to flip a lot of those ideas around in the best way.
When the decade was still young and I was finishing up middle school, I was one of those baby gays who was, at first, a very staunch ally for the community because they, admittedly, “felt a strong connection with the people they were fighting for.” (Turns out I was those people.) I wish I could point out to you an “a-ha” moment for me when I realized I was gay. I could give you an “a-ha” moment for when I crushed on someone I knew personally and connected the dots that my queerness was real. But that isn’t the same as seeing the words and definitions of queer identities and connecting that to myself for the first time, though. Everything was sort of a gradual slide into acknowledging for myself that this was true.
From the middle of the decade into the end of it, from high school to the start of college, I carried a lot of internal baggage with my identity due to harmful things I’d heard from growing up in the church. None of it was ever pointed to me individually, and while that sounds like that would make things easier, there’s challenge in that too. Again, I had not seen queer identity modeled in my formative years, so there was often a nagging in my brain — “Are you making it up? Is what you feel real?” I didn’t know if my tendencies for imagination or obsession were adding to any of this realization. I also had very little experiences with talking to girls — so I would also ask myself if I ever could be liked back or loved.
Entering the next decade, as someone who wears a charm of Sappho’s lyre on her neck on the daily, I can say with conviction that naming my queerness is the thing I am proudest of this entire decade. Even though five-year-old Alyssa did not know what queerness was, she still knew. I feel like I made a childhood dream come true this decade. Now, the upcoming decade is one in which I can continue living out those dreams, and the decade after that will unlock some wishes, too. Queerness is one of those things that continues to be a big part of me for the rest of forever.
I know my coming out dates very well, but having spent five years out, it feels like it should be more years than that. I understand why I feel that way, though. For me, coming out days can only mark so much accomplishment. What I really want to celebrate is 20 years full of being gay — of wearing fashion train wrecks and fashion victories, of having adventures with my queer friends, of living in the campus Feminist House, of openly ranting about all my crushes, and of having the great privilege of being Mama Gay of the students I get to welcome home to our school.
This upcoming decade is the one in which I finish my undergraduate degree, and perhaps begin my graduate and doctoral degree programs (because one of these days, I’m going to receive Christmas cards addressed to Dr. and Mrs. Sileo-FutureLastName, unless my wife is also a doctorate holder, which would be great, but this is all to say that I’m going to evolve into the lesbian professor I was born to be). Depending on school and how that timeline works out, I’ll begin being a full-time theatre artist. I also may find the person. We may move into the place. Those things aren’t certain but what is certain about my future is me getting a cat, watching more USWNT games, and writing the hell out of even more.
I know there’s even more to learn about me within the decade that I haven’t even uncovered yet. I’m so happy to take everything I’ve gotten from the last one into the next.
About the Author:
Alyssa Sileo’s Thespian identity comes first and foremost in anything she carries out. As a member of the Drew University Class of 2022, she studies theatre arts, women’s and gender studies, and Spanish. She’s a proud NJ Thespian Alumni and member of their state chapter board. She is the leader of the international performances network The Laramie Project Project, which unites worldwide productions and readings of the acclaimed Tectonic Theater Project play and encourages community-based LGBTQ+ advocacy. Alyssa is humbled to serve as the 2017 Spirit of Matthew Award winner and as a Youth Ambassador for Matthew Shepard Foundation. She believes there is an advocacy platform tucked into every piece of the theatre catalogue and intends to write outreach into the canon.