The only significant thing about today’s holiday is that 20 years ago at my first high school’s Valentine’s dance I had an epiphany.
To set the scene, I was supposed to be on crutches for my millionth sprained ankle and my hair was growing out awkwardly from having shaved it the year before. I was a wearing a long black satin skirt I had made that fit perfectly and accommodated my knee high black boots. My top was maroon, also made by me (and my mom) and not so well fitting.
I went with a group of friends, a few in relationships. Only a couple people I knew at that time identified as LGBTQ, but many more from my friend circles (or Venn diagrams?) came out within a few years. It was good having a bunch of friends together so it wasn’t just about having a boy/girl-friend. Our school was small, physically and student count wise, and it was for all grades.
There was one kid I didn’t really know who kept trying to dance with me and a few other girls. He wasn’t really part of our friend group and was at least a grade above me. He was persistently trying to cajole me to dance with him and I was getting ready uncomfortable.
My tactic to avoid him had been to always have a friend to dance with. Occasionally I would head with friends to the bathroom or take a break and lean against the wall with my crutches. At one point when I had been taking a break, he found me. My friend Ryan was in the bathroom and unable to save me this time!
I had no escape and headed out to dance with him. Of course that’s when a slower song came on and he tried to pull me in closer. As his hands moved down from the small of my back, I looked over his shoulder and saw two girls I knew (in that friend Venn diagram) slow dancing and then kiss.
It hit me… I like girls!
The next bit is less clear in my memory, but I escaped from the creepy guy and ran off to my friends to explain my realization. I definitely got emotional because somehow this was unexpected to me. Of course all the signs and internal dialogue was already there (this could be another long post altogether).
So every Valentine’s day I celebrate the anniversary of the beginning of my self realization. My friend group, lead by one of the girls who kissed, started the Gay Straight Whatever Alliance at our small school. Many more of us came out over the years and I gained greater understanding of myself. It hasn’t been an easy journey but it’s been meaningful. It’s cliche, but I can’t believe it’s been 20 years.