Discrimi-Nation: LGBTQ

Shalisa Washington

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My mother is a devout Christian woman and my father is a former army man who served the armed forces in Iraq. Telling them I was a lesbian was an experience in and of itself.

I had known I liked women from the time I was 13 or 14 after my best friend became my girlfriend. So when I sat them down three days after my 17th birthday and told them that I was a lesbian, had a girlfriend they already knew and was not going to change my ways because I was happy and proud of who I was, I surprised when I was not immediately kicked out of my house. Instead, my mother and father asked me the one question that I’m still trying to figure out today: how did I know I was gay?

I was raised to be ladylike, and wore dresses, played with dolls, all the basic things little girls did. My mother and father raised me in a loving home and never tried to shield me from the world so I can only guess that I became a lesbian because it was meant to be. Yet, this is still a question my friends, peers and sometimes even professors ask me now. It wasn’t as if I suddenly woke up one morning and knew I was gay and would love women for the rest my life. It wasn’t a slow process either. I remember all the parties, parades and marches I attended to broaden my perception of the gay world which I had never known before, because I had never known anyone that was open and willing to admit to me or anyone else that they were gay.

I had no one person I could talk to about my feelings for women. I can’t remember ever having known anyone famous that I could look up to and for a long time I wondered if anyone besides me felt so alone.

After entering high school I met more gay and lesbian people like me, but it was high school and we were outnumbered by the bullies and homophobes. Being in high school gave me my first opportunity to actually be out in public with my girlfriend and going public as a gay person is a big deal.

I have been taunted by countless numbers of people. Guys shouting obscene things and some have even put their hands on me and the people I’m with. It has been very hard because being a proud gay person means you can’t hide what you are, so people around you see what you are and immediately judge you. I think that I have gotten some of the worse reactions from other girls.

Many women think all lesbians are out to make all straight girls switch teams, but we’re not. When I was in high school, a group of girls started a rumor that I would look at them while they were changing in the locker rooms. Everybody in my school started giving me looks and talking about me behind my back and when I told the principal, she told me that she knew about the rumor and asked me if it was true. I told her it was not, and she told me I was lying and that she had called my parents. In the end, my parents convinced the principal that I was innocent, but people still said things that were really hurtful to me.

After I graduated high school, my older cousin announced to the family that she too was a lesbian. Her mother cried for days and was deep in denial. Even our grandmother refuses to give us any more looks of love or kind words. Her experience of coming out and being rejected by her family is a story that many LGBTQ teens and adults today have to unfortunately go through. I feel that we shouldn’t need the permission or the acceptance of the people around us to love who we want to love.

Many people tell me they have no problem with my lifestyle, but in the same breath say that I should not legally be allowed to get married. It’s time people started realizing that what people do with their own personal and private lives are not open to public opinion.

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African descent Mexican descent European descent Armenian descent Jewish descent Asian descent Middle Eastern descent LGBTQ Central/South American descent Deaf Native American descent