Here we go again. “I know you want him Taylor, I see the way you look at him and he looks at you” my girlfriend of five months Jamie is snarling drunkenly into my ear at the bar. We’re out with my friends and like all the times before the night is turning into me defending myself against accusation after accusation. I’m not taking this anymore I finally yell back to her.
Years ago I didn’t just stick my toes in the ladypool to get a feel for the water, I instead dove right on in with no Wendy Peffercorn on duty to save me. I was 21 home from college in the middle of transferring schools and I fell for a girl. Hard. Ronda Rousey punch you in your gut hard. Even though all I wanted to do was wine her, dine her and R.L Stine her (give her goosebumps) we just fooled around in secret for a few months until the relationship fizzled because I wasn’t ready to be a card carrying lesbian and make it official.
Yet the change had happened. I felt finally what the whole point was of those cheesy rom-com movies us girls love and cry over. It was almost like I took off the old skin I had been wearing for 21 years and found a whole new shiny better me underneath. A real me. A few months of saying, “I am gay…I am gay,” out loud to my bathroom mirror like a high school girl saying her daily affirmations and I finally told my parents and friends. Hello, flannels and Kristen Stewart I’m ready!
But this article isn’t about my coming out story. Those stories are important and should definitely be shared, but turn on any show on TV actually featuring queer characters (sadly there aren’t many still) and you are almost sure to find the coming out story. There’s more to queer people than that. What happens after we come out? Even worse, what happens when our relationships go terribly wrong?
Jamie was my first “real” girlfriend. I live in Cumming, Georgia which isn’t exactly known for its rainbow painted sidewalks and gay pride parades (putting it mildly) so I did what any millennial does in this day in age, picked up my smartphone and opened my dating app. Our first date was at a popular Atlanta bar and it went amazing. She was beautiful, educated, we had shared interests in our love of writing and she was a charming conversationalist. Days together turned to months and we became exclusive.
That’s when things started to change. The little jealous comments she used to make started turning to jealous rages. The people she identified as a threat I was banned from seeing or speaking to at all. One night she got so drunk she called me over 30 times accusing me of trying to sleep with her roommate and rivaling Pulp Fiction in the number of profanities and vicious insults that slurred out of her mouth. Every incident followed the next day with an apology and promise to drink less and change, and I actually believed her.
“I’m not taking this anymore!” I finally yell back to her that night. Take what? she asks confused as she proceeds to put her hands down my pants sexually in the middle of a packed bar without my consent. As guys around us see this happen their whoops and hollers get met with her slapping me across the face multiple times to continue the show with me as the coerced star. Everyone actually thought this was funny.
We broke up weeks later. She decided we “were just different people.” I left and cried over her and friends comforted me with love and choruses that I’ll find someone better and it was her loss. You know what words never came out of anyone’s mouths? Abuse. Domestic Violence.
If a man put his hands drunkenly down his girlfriends pants and slapped her in the middle of a packed bar it wouldn’t get met with whoops and hollers from anyone. That is physical abuse. If a man left over 30 messages on his girl’s phone ridiculing her no girl would see that as caring or hot foreplay. That is emotional abuse. Yet because I am a feminine presenting female with another feminine presenting female no one, myself included thought anything was wrong.
Abuse in LGBTQ relationships is harder to recognize. It doesn’t usually fit the typical stereotype of domestic abuse of a strong masculine man and a small feminine female. Even though LGBTQ domestic abuse happens at the same or even higher rate than heterosexual relationships, a combination of factors can impede survivors from reaching out for help. A mixture of fewer civil rights, lack of access to shelters/resources and a fear of showing a lack of solidarity to the LGBTQ community can keep this deadly cocktail of silence as strong and deadly as those cups of Hunch Punch you drank at your first college frat party.
Pride month just ended a few days ago. These past 30 days were full of celebrations of love, dancing and tequila shots all over the world with members of the community and allies joining together to commemorate the historical strides towards equality we have made. I know none of us have any desire of jeopardizing that. But I’m standing here today to say let’s tell all of our stories. The brave coming outs mixed with the heart ripping heartbreaks too. A community where no one is afraid to ask for help because they know there is always someone one call, text, or Instagram DM away that is willing to listen.
My first relationship in my new queer life wasn’t full of rainbows and butterflies as I had hoped. Yet, I’d have rather gone through and grown from this showing the world my real out self then have decided to stay in the shadows.
My new skin still fits just fine.