My Adventure in Queer Identity • The Tulane Hullabaloo

Coming out has been a lifelong process, full of beauty, loss and transformation. (Courtesy of Sandie Hall)

I am Hailie. I am a first year student. I am your friend, your family, your classmate and your supporter. I am also a lesbian. It’s an important part of my identity, but I’ve carefully hidden it most of my life. This, or at least my resistance to it, caused me immense grief and pain.

I tried to be heterosexual. To change this very human, very real aspect of myself. I spent nights crying on my knees, praying that part of me would change. In full consciousness, I realized a new perspective. I would like to tell you a bit about it.

I first “dated” on a phone call with my best friend, Jade. We both lived in rural Idaho, desperately trying to find friends in a clique environment. I walked into a secluded part of my house, ironically my closet, and carried my soul. She was great and said she loved women too. It was a fantastic moment which, although embarrassing, will remain etched in my memory forever.

Coming out has been a lifelong process, full of beauty, loss and transformation. Shortly after that phone call, I edited my anonymous Tumblr bio to include my sexuality. I was inundated with messages, ranging from outright support to weirdly specific death threats that kept me awake at night.

I did everything I knew how to do, with great intensity, to change my sexuality. This, of course, failed. After this turmoil, I prayed for hours and begged God to change me. Throughout all of these intense efforts, my life was dark. Depression and anxiety do not adequately describe the grief, shame and pain I felt. I contemplated suicide. I look at my journals and am alarmed at the poor state of my mental health at this time in my life.

Although I am in a different place now, it should be noted that despite my best efforts to change, or potentially because of them, I was in deep pain. When I was eight years old, I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Growing up in a religious and conservative Mormon family presented deeply conflicting messages about marriage, family, sexuality, and “womanhood.” I was pressured to find a cisgender, heterosexual man to marry and have children.

I felt that basically my existence as a lesbian could not be justified. As a result, I internalized guilt and despair. I received advice from church leaders and Mormon counselors, which led to additional angst. I felt like something was wrong with me. Now I am working to deconstruct these discouraging messages and reclaim my identity through self-acceptance and love.

Recently, I made a very public post about my sexuality, my coming out, and my amazing girlfriend, Juliette. I received an abundance of support and praise, but several Tulanians I thought were friends spewed rage and hatred into my inbox. A variety of slurs and insults — none of which were particularly creative — filled my DMs. Although I was encouraged by messages of support, I was again reminded that many of my peers still have bigotry and homophobia in their hearts. Some may say that embracing and revealing my homosexuality is a sin.

I hope it’s obvious that I’m looking for just the opposite. I want to pursue what is good for me. I want a family. I want to learn from them, grow with them, sacrifice myself for them and nurture love and respect. I want to teach them love and charity. Given my experience, please see that the single, all-encompassing, and complete object of my quest has been to find out how to do what is right.

I never wanted to be gay. I wanted to be able to choose the path with far less uncertainty, opposition, ambiguity, and the potential for malice. But I know there is love, light and inspiration at every turn. I can find peace and purpose with those who make me feel safe, supported and fulfilled. There is power in authenticity. Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start. I have lifted a burden off my shoulders and am beginning to reclaim the love, respect and compassion I deserve.

About Carl Schroeder

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