By Linda M. Crate
I grew up in a small, conservative town in rural Northwestern Pennsylvania. I went to church every Sunday with my parents and went to many youth group programs on Wednesday.
I realized I was queer when I was a teenager, but I saw them bully the one openly gay kid until he took his own life, so I kept this truth to myself. I wanted to live! I also didn’t want people to discriminate against me. I was afraid that somehow someone was going to know my secret despite my never telling anyone at church. I was terrified that I would be struck down by the heavens for being who I was.
I prayed for years for God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost to take the “gay” out of me. But that never happened.
I stared out of stained-glass windows, searching for an answer or a sign that I never received. I didn’t get anything either when I looked at the cross, begging to be anyone but me.
It was easy enough to hide most of my crushes on women, as a lot of them were fictional: Lydia Deetz, Morticia Addams, Mina from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (the book version—the movie version did her no justice), and Medusa, among others.
However, when I moved to my college campus I became friends with one of my roommates. She was unlike anyone else I had met before, and we also had a lot in common. I respected and adored her. She was “a character,” as my grandmother says, but I always had loads of fun on our adventures.
I fell in love with her. I don’t know if I can pinpoint an exact moment when, but I fell for her. I wasn’t sure how to react because my mother had told me not once but twice, “You better not be a lesbian.” I wasn’t, but I also wasn’t straight, so it stressed me out a bit.
I never plucked up the courage to tell my friend because I knew she probably didn’t feel the same way, and she always had some significant other when I thought about addressing it with her. It just made me feel awkward inside, and I ended up pushing her away.
I was still deep in my faith at that point in time. I was confused, afraid that I was going to be punished by the Holy Trinity for being who I was. I didn’t know how to tell anyone who I was. Not my parents, my sister, my other family, or my friends. It was something that I kept hiding because it felt safer that way.
But when I admitted that I was pan to my best friend, she accepted me for who I was straightaway. All that anxiety that she would’ve rejected me because of her faith in God dissipated immediately. She loved me for who I was. She didn’t yell at me or expect me to change. Nothing changed in our relationship.
It made me so euphoric to know that despite having a similar upbringing to mine and her continuing faith in said God, she accepted me for who I was. It was probably the most liberating moment in my life because, prior to telling her, only some of my friends online knew about my truth. It felt good to finally be who I truly was without fear of repercussions.
Her unconditional acceptance of me made me able to accept my authentic self. It made me realize no matter what I was taught, there was nothing wrong with me for being who I was born to be. Society is unkind to those of us who are different, but that doesn’t make them right and us wrong.
I’m not an abomination for something I cannot even control. For years I tried to fit into heteronormativity, but I’m tired of swallowing down my rainbow heart for fear it might offend someone.
Linda M. Crate (she/her) is a Pennsylvanian writer with 12 published chapbooks, the latest being: Searching Stained Glass Windows for An Answer (Alien Buddha Publishing, December 2022). She is also the author of the novella Mates (Alien Buddha Publishing, March 2022). Her debut book of photography, Songs of the Creek (Alien Buddha Publishing, April 2023) was recently published.