My Path to Me

I haven’t been good about posting anything, and one of my favorite ways to get back into the writing habit is to begin with a story. This time I have decided that the story would be a personal one, my coming out story. Normally, because of the multitude of times that a person comes out, it’s customary to pick one of significance to your identity. I have been figuring myself out for many years, however, so this is kind of my ultimate coming out story. Or better said, this is my coming out journey. Fair warning, it’s very long and very much a work in progress. Here we go:

I have been having problems. Problems in that I’m done hating myself. I’m done trying to bend without breaking. I am done with trying to make my mother happy. But part of making my mother happy is also in line with what I grew up with, what my beliefs are, what my thoughts are. So I’m basically going against everything that has essentially made me who I am for over twenty years of my life.

I cannot remember a time when I was not fascinated with
women. Even with the Bible teachings and my family reinforcing them, I was sure
God, my creator, was a woman. Too perfect for the He, the Father role, the male
neutral. Because my mother was my world, and in my eyes God’s very
representative on this Earth sent to show me the path I needed to be on. Women
were the backbone of my family, the feeders and caretakers. All my teachers up
to fifth grade had been mainly women. My favorite shows had women leads and
strong relationships with other women. It seemed the most normal thing in the
world, then, to believe that the crushes I had on other girls, on my role
models, on my favorite actresses were just an everyday thing. Until they
weren’t.

Subtly I learned to be silent about my crushes. I could be
a tomboy, I could be a feminist, but I was still expected to find my prince
charming. I couldn’t be the prince for another princess, I couldn’t be the hero
who got the girl. So I clung to the tomboy label. I laughed off the questions
of which boy at church did I like (they were all horrible examples of men
anyway, it’s not like it was hard to say, “none of them”). I learned that the
word for what I felt, for who I was, was “homosexual”. Homosexuals are
abominations, against nature, heathens, sinners, disgusting, demonic, against
God, Satan’s children, certainly not in this family. Yet this is what I was,
who I was, and it had no place in a Catholic based, Adventist filled household
of Dominican-Americans who struggled too hard to succeed in this country for me
to taint the family with my horrible phase. So maybe I was bisexual, and I
could still find a man and save my soul. High school years and a secret
girlfriend because neither of us want to be out to our super religious
families. Drama because I’m changing enough for my family and I don’t want to
change for her, plus she’s talking to other people on the side and I am tired
of being owned by everyone even if she claimed to belong to me, too. First
heartache from a first love and the only person I can share it with for the
longest while is a best friend who’s influence begins a journey that would
change my life for the better, not that I would know it then.

The one night that branded in my heart and mind as the day
I became my own prison: April 7, 2007. I felt God that day like a punch in the
gut. I felt the Spirit call out to me and I stood up during the already
scheduled baptism and told them they better have an extra robe because I was
getting baptized that day and nothing was going to stop me. It was the proudest
day of my life. My mother cried, my oldest uncle and aunt watched with pride,
my cousins and brother cheering me on a decision they all made years earlier. I
was the oldest of my generation to get baptized at 17 when everyone was
beginning to give up on me. It was the happiest day of my life. I may love
women, but I loved God more and She would always take precedence in my heart. I
told my dad in a panic afterwards that I got baptized but I like girls and did
he think I did the wrong thing? In his fashion, he let me know I was his baby
no matter what and we could talk more when I went to visit him that summer, but
the most important thing was that he loved me. Sure, he thought it was a phase,
but it was better than what I could have expected. I was back in my happy
place. And then after the Sabbath, my mother came into my room and shattered my
peace and joy because still she cried. But they weren’t tears of joy, they were
tears of utter sadness and grief. Her face twisted in outrage and disgust. Did
I only get baptized to try and cleanse my shame? Did I truly feel attracted to
women? Please don’t really be that way. Thoughts fed by nosy church goers that
kept her up for nights and had her so sick emotionally that they made her sick
physically. How could I do anything but tell her what she needed to hear? She
was my world. She was God in my eyes. So I lied to God, I lied to myself, and I
lied to my family. It wouldn’t stop the rumors, it wouldn’t stop my feelings,
but at least I was making things right with one person who meant more to me
than myself. There is still a dead weight in my heart from that night. Once she
left my room, relief on her face, I swore to the Creator that my body, heart
and soul was Hers to do with as she pleased. I would dedicate all that I was to
Her and never search for love elsewhere. If it found me, it would be divine
design and nothing of my own making. I also decided I had to leave my mother’s
house, for my own sake. Perhaps I would bury myself in the closet, but I
wouldn’t do it in a toxic environment where I could already feel myself
slipping into madness.

I had a plan. I’d leave the state, study Psychology, become
a therapist, maybe live as a hermit, avoid ever going back home, and who knows
what else. I would just run away from the lies, the hurt, the judgement. Then
my best friend said we should go to school together. That we could change all
the rules and live life how we wanted, just the two of us. She offered me love
and support when I felt I had none, so why not apply and see if we go to the
same university. I would be with a woman I loved who expected nothing from me
but companionship. Nothing but platonic love, myself a pledged virgin for life
to physically save my soul from the spiritual sin in my heart. I could have my
cake and eat a small piece of it, and it was the best solution. Seemed like a
miraculous solution. Thank you, God!

Except she doesn’t apply because she doesn’t want college
and nothing I say, or her mom, or anyone else matters. I end up in a new school
by myself because it’s the cheaper option and far enough from my family’s eye
to hopefully find some understanding of myself and peace of mind. I lose the
very girl I changed my plans for.

That first year was a twisted liberation. I was not a
homosexual abomination. I was not a hopefully straight-passing bisexual. I was
gay. I was lesbian. I was a woman who loved women. Honestly, I still wasn’t
okay with it. I doubted my faith. I doubted my salvation. I doubted myself as a
person because gay people were still monsters to my subconscious. They couldn’t
be trust. I questioned every deed, judged every action. Nothing I did went
without scrutiny. I spent nights working myself into a panic, imagining the
second coming and myself burning in hell. Dark moments picturing the look of
disappointment on my creator’s face from this sickness I could not purge from
my mind and heart. Mind and heart. Minute moments thankful for at least my
virginity, that one thing I kept for myself. Until somehow even with the
self-hatred, I was able to find some peace. Some understanding. I began to
accept that I wasn’t meant for heaven, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t try for
it.

By the end of summer break, my second year begins with
determination. I knew my self-hate was not God-given. I understood that I was
not alone in it, either. I may hate myself, but I won’t allow my peers to go
through the same torture. I partook in leadership roles, became a known face
among my fellow LGBTQA peers, and I found kindred spirits. Two of whom I had no
idea would become so significant that year and years after. I found my sister
in class. As a intern for the LGBT Student Development Program in an LGBT
Studies course, I wanted to be a friendly face on campus for first-time
students. I never thought someone would actually reach out and she did. And in
a panic (thanks to some very well meaning straight friends), met her in a very
public place so as to not let her think our meeting was a date. Which she
certainly didn’t think so, neither of us is the other’s type. We laugh about it
too much now, mostly at the expense of my naivety, which is fair. But we met in
a the hot spot for LGBT students on campus, watched a few movies and instantly
hit it off. It made little sense to each of us, I was an introverted wallflower
and she still is the epitome of a Type A personality. We made it work. We made
each other strong, and we became family.

I found my heart at a tabling session. The Queer Student
Union’s first tabling event of the semester, and I was excited enough at being
back on campus that I wasn’t afraid to talk to anyone. I was immediately taken
by her. I don’t think I could have stopped it if I tried, and really I didn’t
even know that I was falling and falling hard. What I did know was that this
fascinating girl found me interesting enough to talk to and I didn’t want to
stop staring at her eyes. She has gorgeous eyes. They still make me swoon. I
felt like a magnet pulled north, an inevitable draw that would stop for nothing
and no one. For weeks, it would be friendly flirtation before I finally
admitted to myself that I had the worst crush on her. The night we finally
kissed, during the fall biannual drag show, felt like a dream. An impossible
dream that definitely happened given the number of times I pinched myself
afterwards. Another two weeks before I actually got the courage to tell her the
kiss wasn’t just a momentary fluke and I really liked her. Seconds between
elation and dejection to find that the feelings weren’t one sided but nothing
could still come of it. Months of just friendship and small smiles before I got
to taste her lips again.

We didn’t date. Not properly. I wasn’t hers, and she wasn’t
mine. Oh, how I wanted her to be, but I’m so thankful she wasn’t. I hated
myself too much. I thought just the cuddling, the time spent with her, the
safety I felt was all I deserved. I wouldn’t have been able to stand more, I
didn’t think I was worth more. I wouldn’t have believed it could be more. She
could have offered me the sun, moon, and stars and I would have laughed. I
wasn’t worthy of love. I was still a monster in my eyes with judgement in my
heart.

Then graduation and she was gone. I thought I deserved
that, too. Momentary happiness, a fleeting understanding of what love could be
for me was my lot in life. I focused on my friends, focused on my schooling,
locked away what was left of my heart, and thanked the good Lord I at least
still had my virginity. How brainwashed was I, that I placed so much value on a
physical supposition. What is virginity? What is innocence? Questions that
haunted me at night since my heart was no longer innocent, my mind was not
either.

Two years later, my time at university at its end, the last
thing I wanted was to go back home. My sister, my best friend, offered me a
place to stay and I jumped at it. Jumped at the chance to avoid the oppressive
weight of familial obligation. Another year of freedom and growth. Five years
to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be from then on. Five years to
change from a wallflower who bent at the slightest breeze to a willow that
still bent but continued to grow in the shape I wanted. Five years before my
world, my first God cried out in helplessness and sadness and an underlying
jealousy I did not want acknowledge. So home I went, to the mother who hurt me,
judged me, and loved me so conditionally.

It was easy, the first year or so before it took a turn for
the worst. I had a dear friend, another sister, as a buffer. She was the
perfect daughter I could not be, and so she was my mother’s focus and she did
not mind the sacrifice. I had come home tempered as steel with a sharp tongue
that took time to dull, but it dulled and with it my spirit. I tried to hold
firm to whom I had been during my years of liberation, only to find that without
a safe space and with my second sister gone I became the same weak-willed
supplicant I had once been. Depression filled my lungs and clouded my mind. I
had no refuge, no hope for change. I was stuck, living at home to help a mother
that belittled my identity as a woman, judged my character due to my inevitable
attractions, and gave morsels of care with biting commentary that was her bittersweet
love.

Suddenly, I’m 25 and still so thankfully a virgin. Still
untouched. Why? I didn’t lack for opportunity or willing partners. Had she
asked it of me, I’d have given myself to the woman who stole my heart without a
second thought, and yet I never asked it of her either. I’ve loved women long
before I understood what love was, commitment, partnership. Was I broken? I
can’t be attracted to women and not be gay. It took years to work up to it, but
I could proudly identify as lesbian by then. Were those years wasted efforts?
Were the mocking jokes about my long lasting virginity, the snide “asexual”
accusations all true? Who was I?

Thank goodness for the new millennium and Google. Thank
goodness for the people who questioned themselves before me. The first openly
asexual person I met was my first year of college. They were certainly strange
in my book, but not because they were asexual. Still, I was teased about it
like it was something to be joked about. What was proper? There was an A in the
alphabet soup after all, shouldn’t they be accepted? Sure, as much as bisexuals
apparently, or pansexuals, or the trans community. I hadn’t marginalized myself
enough, it seems, being a lesbian, Christian, Afro-Latina with depression.
Lesbian, no, because sex wasn’t interesting and really just seemed very gross
altogether. Asexual, that makes all the sense. I love women, though, so what
does that mean? Homoromantic? That’s a thing?! Labels upon labels heaped upon
my head and shoulders, already heavy with “sinner” and “abomination” and more
from childhood.

It’s 2016, and oh, how I thought the word Asexual would
save me. Save me from looks, and judgement, and sin. Save me from the idea that
I needed a man to be happy, needed a man to make God happy, because She’ll never
be satisfied until I am and I won’t be without some dick telling me how to be
and live and how many children we’ll have together. Lesbian apparently makes
more sense to homophobic and supportive people alike because at least then I
want sex. I’m really a 26 year old virgin? I never gave it up to anyone? But I
went to a liberal college, I hung out with so many lesbians, my best friend has
big breasts and we just seem so close. Dear God, was sex all these people
thought about?! How did they get anything done? Drinking alcohol, smoking weed,
trying the occasional Black & Mild, and suddenly I’m expected to be the
most sexually experienced person in the room because I must do so many things
with my body. A few piercings and some additional jewelry, and I must know all
the girls in the Red Light District. I love a good orgasm as much as the next
person, but I also love bubble baths and good food, and those are all things I
can provide myself. Why would I need anyone else for them? Frustration,
depression, resentment, annoyance, and suddenly I have a better job with better
pay and maybe I’m not as stuck in my rut as I feared. Maybe there is light at
the end of this tunnel to hell. Maybe I can finally leave and find my own way,
my own happiness, and if God is blessing me so many times, maybe this sinner is
finally on the path she should be on.

I kept myself alive for God because suicide is a sin and
there is no way to repent for it. Therapy helped remind me that sabotaging my
life was another form of suicide and maybe I shouldn’t do that either. Don’t go
to grad school just to screw up, don’t join a new job and not put in the
effort, and maybe I am worth something but stop telling me to socialize because
I don’t want to deal with relationships with sexual people and where am I going
to find an asexual homoromantic woman who is woke to the struggles? I won’t. I
know it. My dream girl, that impossible woman that I saw in a golden haze can’t
exist and my heart never really came back from the last time, not that I’ll admit
to that ever even if my best friend tries to push me into it. She doesn’t like
when I bring her up anyway, always the overprotective older sister watching
over me. I love her for that. I love that she doesn’t allow it to hold me back.
I love that she helped me so that I do not allow it either, so that I try to
fight for myself. I try. I still fail most of the time.

Anyway, it couldn’t have been love then with the woman who
stole my heart, could it? Did we know each other long enough? What do I know
about love except the deep-seeded belief that I still do not deserve it. How
could I be worthy of love? I still barely love myself, no matter how many times
I try to say otherwise. I know the feel of my face when I lie, and when I look
in the mirror and say, “I love you” it always feels like a lie. But the thought
is in my head, and she’s back in my head even if she never really left. Never
really tried to make her leave, made her a permanent resident that would pop up
every now and again and urge me to check on her because I need to know she’s
happy and maybe she isn’t but it’s nice just to chat before I slip away from
her purview again and hope she forgets I exist, the idiot child who crushed on
her like a damn puppy. No, I certainly don’t love myself and I certainly don’t
feel worthy of love, and I most definitely doubt she could ever love me.

My therapist has me hoping impossible things and the
frustration couldn’t be more prevalent so let’s just focus on the determination
I now feel to move the fuck out of my mother’s home. The home she suddenly
decided had to be signed in my name. Why did I say yes? Everyone knows why I
said yes, still the faithful weak-willed priestess to my world, my God, and why
is it only now I recognize my true sin? My greatest sin. Thou shalt have no
other gods before Me. Oh. Oh, how I have failed. Oh, how my family has allowed
my failure, has allowed my sin, and don’t they notice? Don’t they see? Don’t be
a good girl like Erisel, don’t be a good daughter like her. Why would you? I
put my mother before God. I put my mother before my Creator, my Mother, My
Father, my Everything. What have I done? Screw determination, this is my sole
mission in life. My ultimate sin, committed for over twenty years of my life
was the love of a woman that overtook my love of the most high. My mission to
cleanse myself of this error would be to leave the den of iniquity that was her
home, my childhood home, my once refuge. I would not find peace without it. And
acknowledging this, accepting my truth, was the second greatest moment of my
life. I didn’t need to be baptized again, there definitely still is a chance
I’ll go to hell, but at least it will be with my conscience clear and my life
on the right path.

And despite the fact that I promised my sister I wouldn’t
reach out to the woman who stole my heart, my dreams tell me to do otherwise.
I’ve always listened to the dreams that spoke to me. They itch at me otherwise.
Just check on her again, just make sure she’s okay, remember not to nag,
everyone always says you nag too much. They don’t but my mother does and she’s
fucked my head up so much that even if my self-esteem wasn’t already in the
dumps, a few weeks with her would do it for me. I’m working on that. Being
there for someone else is always easier than having my own back, being my own
shoulder to cry on. She didn’t need a shoulder to cry on, but it was fun
talking to her anyway. Joking, chatting, friendly and it brought back good
memories and maybe I wanted to cling to that a little longer. So maybe I send her
messages more often and maybe we’re talking regularly, and definitely the big
sister does not have to know because I’m my own person and I don’t want to deal
with the look she’ll give me or the grumbling. Maybe one night I realize I
still have feelings and maybe I still don’t want to admit how deep they are but
then she says she loved me, cares for me, and what the ever loving fuck? How?
When? How? Have you met me? What is there to love? I don’t ask, I can’t admit
my shame, my hate of myself. I can tell her I’m crushing on her hard, I can
tell her I cared for her deeply, I can omit that I’m more than positive I loved
her, too because I don’t fucking deserve love so how dare you go against the
grain and love me anyway? I’m not angry with her, I’m angry with me, I’m angry
with God, but not God, I’m angry with my mother. The woman who meant the world
to me fucked me up so hard, the night the woman I loved told me she loved me I
had a panic attack and sat outside in 20 degree weather crying my eyes out
because I’m not supposed to know what love is. I am not supposed to experience
love. I could not because I am still a monster in my eyes and monsters do not
get to love. Demons do not have feelings. But God doesn’t create demons, and
She doesn’t make mistakes, and maybe I’ve forgotten the wisdom I have preached
to others all my life: no sin is greater than any other, and God loves all that
He creates because maybe God doesn’t have to be male or female and maybe I’ve
forgotten that, too.

She loves me. God, Meghan, my mother. She loves me. She
loves me without condition, with all conditions, without consequence, by her
word and perspective, without reason, either her way or no way, without knowing
who I am. But doesn’t she know me?

I love me. It is not perfect. It’s not without flaws, and
it’s still a work in progress. Nevertheless, I love me. I love me enough to
accept that I do not need my mother’s love to love myself. I do not need her
permission. I love me enough to love God the way I should have loved Them my
whole life. The way I want to love Them in this life and the next regardless of
where I end up. I love me enough to want Meghan to love me, to accept that she
can love me, to accept that I am worthy of it not by my own permission but
hers. I love her enough to know I do not “let” her love me, but that I can accept the love she gives and give her everything I have back. I love her.

My journey is not over, my mission is not done, but my path
is clear and my heart is light and I will do what God asked of me for so long:
I will love.

Author: Erisel Cruz

Erisel Cruz is a web/media manager and writer based in Maryland. She's an avid (more like addicted) reader, gaymer, Pokemon Master, Slytherin, and secret hedgehog. She is the proud mother of two spoiled Husky/Lab mixes, and hopes to one day own a cat named Minerva (tabby or otherwise). She is a proud member of For Colored Girls Who Lead & Teh Lunchbox Publications. Catch her on Twitter at @LatinxSlytherin.

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