Don’t Look Back

When I arrived at my old high school for the Career Fair I was extremely nervous to say the least. I hadn’t been back in many years, and I surely wasn’t out to anyone there. At this point, I really didn’t care if people know that I’m a lesbian, but something about coming in front of the whole student body, plus the nuns terrified me.
What if they made me leave? What if there was snickering? Every possible terrible scenario ran through my head. And then I started doubting myself.
What was the point of coming out to the panel? Was I just bringing up my queerness just to bring it up? Would it serve any purpose, or would it hurt my organization’s chances of working with the school?
After sitting through other people talk about their children and their husbands, I knew that I had every right to mention my supportive girlfriend. Mentioning her did not mean I was making some big political statement, I was acknowledging that I had someone in my life who supports me while I work within my non-profit.
When I mentioned her, the most amazing thing happened. Absolutely nothing. I kept talking, without murmurings or snickers, or no nuns chasing me off the stage. It just happened, without fanfare or consequence.
 I still don’t look back at my high school years with kindness. Even if I was out to myself at the time it would have been nearly impossible to be out and feel safe there. But at least now they can have an openly gay former student talk about their non-profit and the work that it does – showing queer kids that you’ll survive that school, and when you do, you can do amazing things.

Going Back to High School Scares the Sh*t Out of Me

Not an accurate picture of my high school

This past week I was invited back to my high school to speak at their Career Fair. Getting the chance to talk about my organization is a great opportunity and hopefully it will be a great chance to build a long-lasting and sustainable partnership.

should be excited but instead I’m filled with dread and experiencing flashbacks from my adolescence. Most of my stress dreams from the past several years involve me having to go back to high school to take classes and being completely lost.

Like a lot of people, high school was a difficult time for me. I wasn’t out to myself yet but I knew that there was something ‘different’ about me. This made me a target for teasing and general meanness. For an all-girls Catholic school there were some progressive teachers, but we still had groups come in to say that Gay people didn’t exist because God didn’t make mistakes. And I won’t even get into the terrible abstinence only sex education I got. There was a lot of stress at school and at home – ten years ago I was dealing with self-harm, ignoring my depression for several years, and living with a recovering addict in the family.

Going back in its self is scary. Going back and being out is terrifying. I’m not going to be waving rainbow flags as I go through the school, but I can’t honestly go back and talk about my non-profit experiences without putting it in a queer context.

How I operate in the United States and abroad is greatly influenced by my sexuality, but honestly just the thought of being completely open around a bunch of nuns is giving me massive anxiety.

However, I know how oppressive that school can be if you think you are the only strange or different person pressured to follow a set of rules that just doesn’t fit who you are. It’ll be worth it if there is just one queer girl who knows that someone before her survived, and then thrived after leaving high school behind.

There are so many queer narratives that are blatantly ignored in Catholic high schools (and schools in general). Hopefully my presence and my stories can at least spark the smallest of positive conversations.