by Katy Chatel
I came out before the summer my best friend and I vowed to lose our virginity. That vow was a weight that left me confused, vulnerable, and determined not to enter my senior year of high school a virgin. I only knew one type of sex that could alleviate my virgin status.
My attraction to women was much more than the desire and mechanics of sex. I wanted the intimacy of sitting touching arms. I wanted to stay up until sunrise listening to another woman play guitar and imagine what it would be like to travel when we got older. I wanted to find someone to share reciprocal attraction and feel what it was like to kiss.
I found my first girlfriend my senior year of high school. We were the only lesbian couple on campus. There were several gay couples and plenty of out students to make us feel accepted. That relationship helped lay a healthy and stable foundation.
I was fortunate to transition from an open minded high school to a college that created space for conversations about sexuality, gender, safer sex, and navigating relationships. Learning about my identity was as much a part of my college education as writing conference papers.
From my early years of coming out to now as a queer mother in Mt. Airy, Philadelphia I’ve been aware of how many others don’t have it as easy as I do. For the most part my appearance has allowed me access to move in and out of communities with little harassment. I’m out. I don’t try to hide this. At the same time I have let assumptions that have worked in my favor slide. In a place where I might not feel safe, I might be presumed as heterosexual. I don’t always correct this. Years ago I sometimes passed as a boy, not a trans person, but a bio boy which sometimes was safer than being seen as a dyke. I am out—at the same time I am able to take advantage of hiding within my presentation for my safety. Not all of us can slip like chameleons in and out of communities. Not all of us come from supportive schools or from families who faced their fears, disappointments, and concerns but didn’t disown us. I am grateful for the support I’ve had. My heart goes out to you other LGBT folks who’ve had it harder. I hope you have the courage to share your story.
Katy Chatel is a writer and queer, single-mother-by-choice living with her son in Philadelphia.