‘Being gay is my favorite thing about myself, yet it is the single hardest thing about my life.’: Gay woman shares powerful story of self-discovery

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As I sit here struggling to find words, struggling to actually pull the mess out of my head concerning myself, I can’t help but reflect on how easily they flowed from my fingers as I wrote about my partner. They so easily poured, typing so fast, my fingers couldn’t keep up with my brain. And how could they? I could spend a lifetime writing about her, the beauty of her, the mysteries of her, the mystery she is, the chasm this world will feel when she leaves it. I could paint her with words endlessly.


The mess that is me. Where do I even start? As I sit here still longing for words to flow, maybe that’s where I start. The struggle of finding words. Moreover, the struggle of emitting my emotions.

After reading my first journal entry, my then-partner looked at me wide-eyed. You need to blog. You need to write. This could be a thing. Me? Write? Who would care enough to read what I have to say?

There. That’s it.

Who would care? Who would care what I feel? That is the core of everything that is me.

Those who know me well, know I’m not a talker. Can I strike up a conversation with anyone and hold it? Yes. Can I convey confidence? Absolutely. Can I talk someone’s ear off? Yes. I’m a pro. What I mean by the fact that I’m not a talker is that I lack the ability to talk about myself. The continual resounding line I hear in my head is: Who cares what I feel? No one.

I was a shy child. Painfully shy. I was the angel-faced, bright blue-eyed, blonde-haired, pale-skinned, hide-behind-Mommy’s-skirt, type of kid. I never got in trouble. Decades later, my Mom still tells me constantly to this day, with complete astonishment in her voice. Kelly. Even as a young child, on the very rare occasion your father and I would ever have to tell you not to do something, we would only have to tell you once. One time. That’s it. And you would never do it again.

I was never grounded, never put in time-out. I was that ‘perfect’ child.

mom holding her daughter close
Courtesy of Kelly Leilani

I don’t like being seen. I was a gymnast, state champion actually. I was a pianist for 15 years of my life. Before performances, I would cry. I would beg my mother, please, please don’t make me. Please don’t make me. I don’t like being seen. I don’t like being seen. Those experiences scarred me and still make anxiety bubble to the surface of my adult skin.

But why?

In college, I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I knew upon deciding my fate, however, that I would one day have to complete and master the daunting task of student-teaching. That thought terrified me. I would have to perform, I would have to be seen. I knew I wanted better for myself as an adult. ‘I have to get over this…’ I would repeatedly tell myself.

Fast forward to today, and I am, I have to admit, an incredible teacher. I can talk publicly without batting a lash, without a drop of sweat, without a second thought. I transformed my fear into one of my biggest sources of pride.

The glory of teaching and public speaking, however, is I can be who I want to be. I’m me, but I’m the best part of me. I’m the confident, funny part of me. That shy, insecure human. That shy, insecure child, stays buried far beneath the surface.

Teaching and public speaking are different though. Sitting down with the person I love, sitting down across a table at brunch with a best friend, holding a conversation on the phone, small talking with coworkers during lunch. Ask anyone I know. What do I do? What do I always do? I listen. I’m the listener. Never the talker. Writing that brings tears to my eyes.

But, again, why?

I’ll tell you why. I’m gay.

woman looking into the camera for a picture
Courtesy of Kelly Leilani

To anyone reading this who isn’t gay or who doesn’t personally know or love someone who is gay, you may be confounded by that statement. Being gay is my favorite thing about myself, yet it is the single hardest thing about my life.

Being gay is the root of my being. I am gay. There is no me without it. For those in the gay community who say being gay doesn’t define who they are, they’re lying. Yes, I am more than a gay woman. So much more. I am an endless amount of things, roles, purposes, pieces. But, yet again, there is no me without my sexual orientation.

Sexual orientation. Ugh.

I hate those two words. I hate homosexuality. I hate heterosexuality. I hate that they’re things that exist. I hate them. Why can’t we just love who we love without needing to slap on definitions? I’ll ask again, why can’t we just love? Love is the most beautiful part of human existence. And even with our most prized treasure, we feel the need to separate it, dissect it, and put it into boxes. Why does it feel good to us, necessary to us, as humans to neatly place all things in organized boxes with labels? Everything has to have a definition. Without one it confuses. Why? Labels define, yes. But labels divide. I’m sick of being divided. I’m sick of feeling different. I’m sick of being looked at like my love is somehow different. I’m sick of justifying myself. I’m sick of defending myself. I’m sick of crying for my inner child who had to hide.

Intentional foreshadowing? Maybe.

Rant over. Back on track. Why you might ask? Why is there no me without my sexual orientation? Because it had to be the root of my being. There was no other choice, no other option. I’ll tell you why. Heterosexual people can develop and move through life seamlessly being who they are. They can just be children. They can just play. They can just be everything that they are. They can just have a significant other. They can just go on dates. They can just get a job. They can just meet new people. They can just walk down the street holding hands with the one they love, proudly and without a second thought. Their whole lives…they can just be.

For those in the gay community, I’m speaking for all of us here. I have never been able to just be. And that is the root of everything that is me. The roots that, when I pull on them, hurt. They pull on deep, dark dirt within me. They pull at the fabric that weaves my inner trauma. They pull at my hurt.

I look at pictures of myself as a child sometimes, and I cry. There is a picture in particular where my aunt is holding me at her wedding, in her wedding gown. I was months old. She was basking in the enjoyment of the happiest day of her life thus far, holding her first niece. You can see the love for me in her eyes. And me, with a huge smile, adorned on my face, looking right into the eye of the camera.

One of the first smiles of my life. What a beautiful photo. That photo makes me cry the hardest. Thinking about it, writing these words. The burn that starts deep in your chest and singes your throat. The burn that makes me clench my jaw because I’ve conditioned myself to be too tough to cry. I’ve had to be too strong. My entire life. That is why I cry when I look at that photo. I look into the eyes of the tiny human just beginning her life. She will have to endure so much. And it’s not fair. Pulling at those roots tear at my hurt. She will have to hide. And as she grows she will hide behind an iron curtain she fashions into something she inaccurately calls strength.

She will have to hide. And she will grow to believe that no one cares what she feels.”

aunt holding her niece close while smiling
Courtesy of Kelly Leilani

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kelly Leilani. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, and her website. Submit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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