‘God says being gay is a sin.’ One girl threatened to tell my parents. I was terrified.’: Bisexual woman opens up on shame and bullying after coming out

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“The very first time I remember being bi was the summer between 5th and 6th grade. I didn’t know the word for it yet, that wouldn’t come for a few months, but I knew the feeling.

My First Kiss

I had a couple of girl friends I was hanging out with that summer. We had all had our first periods in the span of a few weeks, and we had bonded over that fact. There were two older girls, one a grade ahead and one two grades ahead. We’ll call them Katie and Laura, to protect their privacy. Laura was the one two grades ahead of me, but her younger sister, Hailey, was in my grade.

young jade taking selfie
Courtesy of Jade Embley

Hailey and I were best friends on and off again for many years. The summers were often spent at one another’s houses, trying to fight the boredom that always comes with small-town summers.

Katie was having surgery in a few days, so we were all hanging out in her backyard. It was the evening time, probably around 8:30 p.m. The stars were just starting to twinkle as the sun cast a hazy orange glow with its dying light. Katie and Laura were telling us that they were dating, I think as a joke. They were kissing and holding hands, and Hailey and I felt left out.

As the evening turned to nighttime, we were sitting around Katie’s old pool, all of us in our bras and underwear fighting the heat. I remember feeling excited; I was hanging out with the older girls and they were being nice to me. I felt self-conscious, too, being the heaviest girl there, in my training bra and Hello Kitty underwear.

We were laughing and joking with one another when Laura suggested we play Truth or Dare. When it came to Hailey’s turn, she chose Dare. The first of us to do so, she was making her claim as the ballsy one. Laura thought a moment, and then said, ‘I dare you to kiss Jade.’ I was expecting Hailey to back out, as we often did when dared to kiss boys. But Hailey said ‘Is that all?’

young jade
Courtesy of Jade Embley

She kissed me, quickly, on the lips. My first kiss was a dare, but that didn’t make my heart beat any slower. It felt like electricity, lighting up all my nerves. I remember being thankful it was dark because my cheeks were surely tomato red.

Coming Out

After that, we’d hold hands and quickly kiss one another, but we never talked about it.

That night was the last time I’d see Hailey that summer, but I thought about kissing her and holding her hand a lot.

Looking back, I can see that I was blossoming in my queerness, but in that moment, I was just excited to be growing up.

The school year started, and Hailey and I hung out again. We didn’t talk about kissing each other, nor did we hold hands often, but we were still best friends. We wrote notes to each other in study hall, we went to the movies together, and we talked for hours on the phone.

I learned the word ‘bisexual’ and what it meant that year. It was still warm out, probably mid-September, when we could feel fall coming but summer still clung to the days. I was a big reader in my childhood years, reading far ahead of my age group.

jade and her family
Courtesy of Jade Embley

I found the Pretty Little Liars series in my school’s library, and that’s when I read about a bisexual character.

Before then, I knew, at least subconsciously, what gay meant. It wasn’t talked about a lot then, but over the next few years, it became a big conversation in my tiny town.

When I read about the bisexual character, it clicked. I remembered the way it felt to kiss my best friend, the way butterflies flapped in my stomach. I realized that day in 6th grade that I was bisexual.

The next day at school, I gathered the girls in my class and told them all I was bisexual. I explained that it meant I liked boys and girls. I didn’t realize yet that any form of homosexuality was taboo, and so I was shocked when they weren’t all accepting.

One of the girls told me that ‘God says being gay is a sin.’ I wasn’t religious and neither was my family, so I hadn’t ever heard this before.

Another girl, who would later come out as bisexual herself, told me that she didn’t want to be friends with someone who may have a crush on her.

Hailey didn’t care. We still hung out at school and after school, we still passed notes to each other. I told her I had a crush on her, and I remember her only response was ‘I know.’ We didn’t talk about it after that, and eventually, we’d fall out. She’d make fun of me later for having a girlfriend.

Telling My Parents

Before I get to that though, there’s one more response that I distinctly remember. One girl, we’ll call her Allie, threatened to tell my parents. I was terrified.

Growing up, my parents always told me they didn’t care who I loved, as long as they made me happy and treated me right. So the fear to tell my parents wasn’t because they were homophobic, but because they just weren’t nice. I was screamed at quite often over silly things, and so when Allie threatened to tell my parents, I was afraid I’d be yelled at. Allie stole a journal where I had written about being bisexual and having a crush on Hailey, and she threatened to give it to my parents.

jade and her family
Courtesy of Jade Embley

That day, I told everyone I had been lying about being bisexual. ‘It was just a dumb phase,’ I told them. They let it go. I never got that journal back.

The summer between 6th and 7th grade, gay marriage was legalized. I had been staying the night with Katie, I spent most nights at her house. We’d play video games and talk, we’d play Truth or Dare and then dare each other to kiss the other. We didn’t talk about it, ever. But I didn’t have a crush on Katie.

I woke up from my spot on Katie’s floor and checked my phone. Facebook was full of people celebrating marriage equality, and my heart swelled. I went home that day, sat my parents down on the couch, and told them I liked boys and girls.

I spit it out quickly, afraid I’d lose my nerve. I don’t remember what my dad said, but it was probably along the lines of ‘I don’t care as long as you’re happy.’

My mom wasn’t angry, but she did say that she didn’t believe me. She didn’t think bisexuals were a real thing at the time. In her words, ‘You’ll have to pick one eventually.’

jade with short hair
Courtesy of Jade Embley

I got my first-ever real girlfriend that day. I was excited and relieved and still spinning from it all.

Embracing My Truth

The girls in my class found out I had a girlfriend, and even though I didn’t see them much that summer, they found ways to humiliate me.

There was a park in town, it was meant for children, but I often went there to steal wifi. One day, I sat down at the picnic table where I always sat and found someone had carved words into the table. The handwriting was unmistakable, I knew immediately who had written it. The girl who had told me that being gay was a sin. In her neat handwriting, she had carved ‘Jade is bi and has a girlfriend.’ I was embarrassed, I tried to scratch it away with my nails.

A little while later, I realized that what she had written wasn’t mean or untrue, and it wasn’t something I should be embarrassed about. I wrote back that yes, I was bi and I liked my girlfriend very much.

I cut my hair short that summer, it was the beginning of my Emo phase. When Hailey and the girl saw me at a baseball game, they made comments about me being a ‘D**e.’ I went home and cried.

But after that, I never hid my sexuality. I wore it proudly, not caring who I dated or who I made angry.

I wasn’t bothered much about my sexuality in high school, probably because for all four years I was dating a boy, which in my peers’ eyes made me straight.

jade with her high school boyfriend
Courtesy of Jade Embley

Since that summer between 6th and 7th grade, I never let anyone make me feel bad about my sexuality. I found that I had a community that would support me, and in the years after that many people around me became more open about their own queerness.

I’m extremely grateful that I was born in a time when queer people were more safe and accepted, and I know I was lucky, it could have been much worse. I heard the stories of kids whose parents kicked them out or the ones who were physically harmed for who they loved. My heart aches for them. My heart still aches for those who aren’t safe to be as out as I am.

Which is why I am sharing my story. I want to be an inspiration to other people in the LGBTQ+ community. I want those who are stuck in the closet to know that it does get better, that they’ll find their community.

To me, being bisexual is part of my identity, it’s a part of who I am today and who I will be tomorrow. And no one should be ashamed to be who they are.”

young woman smiling
Courtesy of Jade Embley

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jade M. Embley of Maitland, MO.  Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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