Tuesday, January 3, 2017

How It Got Better

There's a series of videos online connected to the It Gets Better Project, interviewing celebrities about how their lives got better as a moment of hope for whoever needs it.  Ever since listening to these videos I felt inspired to write one of my own.  However with the elections ramping up and the ever present looming of Donald Trump on the horizon, my brain couldn't wrap around the concept of things being better, when I only saw them getting worse.

Now, with 2016 over and many people proclaiming it to be a dumpster fire of a year, a thought hit me. Now, the first Wednesday in 2017, was the perfect time to put out a message of hope.  Not just for a new and better year, but also for life as a whole.  And mostly, if not most importantly, to remind myself and others that while some things suck, there are things that have gotten better and if we keep trying many more things will follow.  So here's my How It Got Better story, and I encourage you to make one of your own.  And if things aren't better for you yet or you feel in a rut, I hope this gives you at least an outlook of hope for the future.

How It Got Better

I grew up in the Midwest, without many friends and was often picked on.  Not because I was gay, but because I was shy and a bookworm and really never felt like I fit in the world I was living in.  The adventures I'd read about always spoke to me more, about these people who stumbled into something amazing and just found themselves, complete with a new power to take on the world and be exactly who they were meant to be.  That fantasy in my books was what I wanted and never seemed to find in the real world.

My first real crush was a girl I knew - before I even knew what being gay or bi was - and I'm still friends with her.  I remember thinking she was amazingly beautiful and not knowing how to articulate it, even to myself.  I'd tried convincing myself I'd had crushes on boys before, but it never really felt right, instead it was more something that was 'expected' and if I didn't feel it then there must have been something wrong with me.  But she wouldn't get out of my head and I spent most of my time with her and our small group of friends, so that only made it worse, even if I never acted on those feelings, the friendship meant more to me then the strange feelings in my head.

When I first came out to my parents, I was expecting the worst.  You know, because parents aren't accepting and they yell and kick people out of the house and that's what I'd heard.  I was semi prepared for that - about as much as one could be - but instead my father simply said "No you're not."  What do you say to that?  I fumbled and didn't know what to do.  I was supposed to listen to my father so if he says I'm not... then maybe not? So I kept my mouth shut and I went out and got a boyfriend - which lasted a couple years. I kept my draw to women to myself and tried to be a good girlfriend, convinced that was what I was supposed to be.

It was in college, away from my parents, that I started to come into myself.  I broke up with my boyfriend; when circumstances drove it home that I was with him to fix him and that I really wasn't happy.  I owed myself more then that, so I ended it.  I started wearing skirts and capes and just trying a lot of things out, feeling out what felt right for me.  At the time a close friend of mine was dealing with her own sexuality and that gave me the courage to approach mine and I decided no more hiding, I liked girls damnit and that was just me. If the world could deal with my skirts and capes, they could deal with my sexuality too.

In college I was heavily into writing fanfiction, especially of the gay romance variety and through it I found a supportive group of fans who all loved the same thing and didn't give a damn about each other's actual sexual leanings.  We wrote good stories with fleshed out characters, different situations and everything you could think of.  It reminded me of those stories I'd read as a child, but this time I was creating them and these fans were giving me feedback and teaching me to write even better then I ever had before.  One of the women was a bit younger than me going to college in Iowa and we'd stay up all night chatting and talking about anything and everything.  Mostly it was her talking, because I was still quiet, but I'd chime in here and there.  I made the mistake of telling her I had a crush on a girl in my class and she stopped talking to me.  Radio silence.

It's hilarious now, because that radio silence didn't last long.  Instead, now, we've been together for 15 years and are planning a wedding.  She didn't talk to me for about a week, then I got this long email about how she got jealous and didn't understand it and finally had to admit that she liked me and girls as a whole.  Fast forward now and we're living together with our kittens and costumes and traveling the whole country being our unapologetically bisexual selves.  Our relationship isn't hidden anywhere and we even make it a point to write about characters all over the gender spectrum, to increase representation and give people that sense of belonging I was always yearning for in my novels.  On top of that I make dresses specifically because I love helping women feel lovely in their own bodies - something that I've struggled with a long time.  I distinctly remember that moment when I started looking in the mirror and loving myself, inside and out, and making those dresses and writing those stories gives me a chance to bring others to that moment in their lives.

The road with my parents is still bumpy and not perfect.  They've gone from denial, to not understanding, to denial and I think we've finally reached a place of mutual acceptance.  The biggest turning point was them helping my partner and I get our house and fix it up so that it was actually livable.  When your parents become your contractors for 6 months and fix your entire kitchen and move a few walls, there's understanding there that can't be talked out and finally doesn't really need to be.

Life isn't perfect with the current social climate and a lot of times I still wonder if it ever will be.  But change is a constant thing and I see it getting better all the time.  I remember being that lonely girl, crying in my room, because I didn't have a friend to the world and didn't understand myself and the book I was reading could never be real for me.  And now, today, I write those stories, to give people a place to feel safe and call home.  I make dresses so women can feel beautiful.  My partner and I travel the country showing people it's ok to be happy and proud to be yourself, no matter who you are and what you look like. We've had countless people come up to us and say that we've inspired them to think of themselves as beautiful, that we've given them a voice in our stories and that we've made their lives better just by being brave enough to be ourselves.  And I will continue to do that, no matter what.

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