Closet Case: My Adventure in Queer Identity

Hailie Goldthorpe, Contributing Columnist

Coming out has been a lifelong process, full of beauty, loss and transformation. (Courtesy of Sandie Hall)

I am Hailie. I’m a freshman. I’m your friend, family, classmate and supporter. I’m also a lesbian. This is a significant part of my identity, but I’ve kept it carefully hidden most of my life. It, or at least my resistance to it, has caused me immense grief and pain. 

I’ve tried hard to be heterosexual. To alter this very human, very real aspect of myself. I’ve spent nights weeping on my knees, praying to have this part of me changed. Mindfully, I’ve realized a new perspective. I’d like to tell you a little about it.

I first “came out” on a phone call with my best friend, Jade. We both lived in a rural town in Idaho, desperately trying to find friends in a clique-ish environment. I went into a secluded part of my house, ironically my closet, and bore my soul. She was terrific and voiced that she, too, liked women. It was a fantastic moment that, while embarrassing, will stay in my memory forever.

Coming out has been a lifelong process, full of beauty, loss and transformation. Soon after that phone call, I altered my anonymous Tumblr bio to include my sexuality. I was flooded with messages, from adamant support to eerily-specific death threats that kept me up at night. 

I have done everything I’ve known how to do, with great intensity, to change my sexuality. That, obviously, failed. After that turmoil, I prayed for hours and pleaded that God would change me. Throughout all of these intense efforts, my life was dark. Depression and anxiety do not adequately describe the sorrow, shame and pain I experienced. I contemplated suicide. I look back at my journals, and I am alarmed to see the poor state of my mental health through that period of my life.  

Though I’m in a different place now, it is noteworthy that despite all of my efforts to change, or potentially because of them, I was deeply suffering. At age eight, I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Growing up in a religious and conservative Mormon household presented deeply conflicting messages about marriage, family, sexuality and “womanhood.” I was pressured to find a cisgender and heterosexual man to marry, and to bear children.

 I felt that, fundamentally, my existence as a lesbian couldn’t be justified. As a result, I internalized guilt and hopelessness. I was given counseling under ecclesiastical leaders and Mormon counselors, which led to further anguish. I felt like something was wrong with me. Now, I’m working to deconstruct those disheartening messages and reclaim my identity through self-acceptance and love.

Recently, I made a very public post about my sexuality, coming out and my amazing girlfriend, Juliette. I received an abundance of support and praise, but several Tulanians who I thought were friends spat rage and hatred into my inbox. A variety of slurs and insults — none of which were particularly creative — filled my DMs. While I was encouraged by messages of support, I was again reminded that many of my peers still hold bigotry and homophobia in their hearts. Some may say that embracing and disclosing my homosexuality is a sin.

 I hope that it is evident that I am seeking quite the opposite. I want to pursue what is right for me. I want a family. I want to learn from them, grow with them, sacrifice for them and nurture love and respect. I want to teach them about love and charity. Considering my experience, please see that the sole, all-encompassing and complete object of my quest has been figuring out how to do what is right. 

I never wanted to be gay. I wanted to be able to choose the path with much less uncertainty, opposition, ambiguity and potential for unkindness. But I know that there is love, light and inspiration at every turn. I can find peace and purpose with those who make me feel safe, supported and fulfilled. There is power in authenticity. Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start. I have lifted a burden from my shoulders, and I’m beginning to reclaim the love, respect and compassion that I deserve.

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