Baton Rouge, LA

Paige: I went to a Catholic school and I dated guys. Until I was about 14, I thought only guys could be gay. It wasn't even portrayed in anything I'd seen. I became friends with this one girl and I thought she was really attractive. Something in me just told me that I felt the same way about her that I felt about guys before that.

All my life I was told not to be gay. That I should  like boys. All my life, I didn't hear anything about being gay unless it was about it being taboo. Even when I was six or seven years old my dad would be like, "Oh look at that flamer." Crap like that. At the time it already made me mad that he would say that, but I didn't fully understand. 

Then I played soccer. I had aspirations to play soccer for a college and my mom was like, "Only lesbians play soccer at college." It kind of just crushed my dreams of being a college soccer player. 

BW: When did you come out to your parents?

Paige: My mom saw something on Facebook that I "liked". Some lesbian page or something, and she emails me. She asked if I was gay. I didn't want to say no again, because this was the third time she'd asked me in my life. At work, I sat there typing the email, crying and trying to avoid everyone's eye contact. I wrote up this long email saying that I was sorry, but I'm gay... I told her, "I know you won't approve of it, but this is the way it is, so if you want to be in my life, you have to accept it, eventually."

She responded to me and was like, "Well, I don't like it at all. Is there any possible way that it could change? Will you ever  marry a guy?" She wants grandchildren and all. I was like, "It's not gonna change.  It's who I am." I didn't want to tell my dad. He's more conservative than she is.  She convinced me  to tell him, but I didn't tell him myself. I wrote him a letter and emailed it to my mom. She printed it out and had my dad read it. I couldn't be there. I didn't know how he was going to react. 

Surprisingly he reacted better than my mom, but he was shocked.  For a while I would go home and I just didn't want to be there and feel what they were thinking about me.  It was weird for that month before Mardi Gras, and then he had a heart attack and um... [tears]  I was terrified that he had the heart attack because of me.

After the  heart attack things kind of changed. They both appreciated me more. Tried to be more welcoming and open... a little bit. 

I've been dating my girlfriend Megan for two years. I didn't actually tell them about her until September even though we'd been dating since April. I brought her to the house as a friend and then whenever we left my mom texted me and asked if she was my girlfriend. I was  like, "Yes mom, she's my girlfriend." There was a photo that I posted on Facebook and it was her kissing my cheek from a night out and my mom asked me to take it down. She said, " I don't think dad would like to see it." I knew she didn't want to see it and was just blaming it on dad. 

BW: Did you take the picture down?

Paige: No, I just hid it from them in my privacy settings. I didn't think that I should not be myself. By then all my friends and family knew so why hide it anyway? 

Current data suggests that 20-25% of lesbian and gay people experience hate crimes within their lifetimes.

But yeah, Megan... she's changed my whole life for the better. When I first met her, I was still really iffy about being out in public. I didn't want anyone to know we were dating at first but after a couple of months went by I wanted everyone to know. She helped me open up way more about being gay in front of other people; just holding hands in public without being scared.

But I still am scared because of violence that happens towards some people in the LGBT community. There's Jesus freaks on campus sometimes, and they hangout in free speech ally, so I avoid that place as much as I possibly can, cause I know that they're gonna attack me with their words. 

Part of these collections: Coming Out

Tera Leigh

Tera Leigh