michael king

stack of stained pages, redacted love letters, spilling ink, pressing it into tomorrow

when i knew #31.

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“As a child, I always felt a little different. There were so many clues as to my orientation growing up, but I’d been so entrenched in religious doctrine by family and friends, the idea of being anything other than straight never seriously crossed my mind.

“My interests and hobbies never fully lined up with other boys my age. My cousins would eagerly volunteer to help my grandpa and uncles with their construction business, while I begrudgingly went along with them counting the moments until I could get home and help grandma bake.

“Around Christmas, my favorite pastime was helping my mom wrap gifts while making homemade bows for the gifts. We’d have music (Cher, Paula Abdul, or Shania Twain) or TV (Designing Women, Golden Girls, or Will and Grace) on in the background. To this day, I joke with my mother she did everything in her power to raise me to be gay. Despite these subtle hints, I didn’t know until much later in life.

“I had numerous crushes on classmates and friends throughout my childhood, but, at the time, I didn’t recognize the feelings for what they were. It wasn’t until I finally met an openly gay person that I seriously entertained the idea that I might myself be gay, but even then I pushed those thoughts aside for fear of spending an eternity in hell.

“It wasn’t until my first intimate experience with a man that I initially accepted my sexuality. I immediately began coming out to close family members (my mom and a few aunts) and a few close (or so I thought) friends. In retrospect, this wasn’t the wisest decision as I hadn’t fully figured out what being gay meant for me and how I would handle the pushback from society. Word quickly spread around my high school. Rumors flew and I was challenged as to how I was certain this wasn’t a phase and being an insecure young person, I began to once again question if I really was gay. I received notes from ‘friends’ warning me of the fiery depths of hell who kindly noted they would pray for my sin. I went into hiding for the first half of my senior year. Six months of depression and questioning who I was ensued.

“It wasn’t until early February when a distant friend reached out and encouraged me to be me and not focus on being a gay version or a straight version of myself. To this day, I look back on that moment as a turning point. Those words were more empowering than I can begin to explain. They let me be me.”

– D

when i knew #30.

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My childhood did not prepare me for this. I grew up in a restrictive, desperately religious home and, while I would like to say that it was mostly a good thing, if I’m being honest, it wasn’t. I’m still healing the scars clawed into me by religion years later. Because I was so deeply rooted in religious conservatism as a child and teen, the idea that I might not be straight didn’t even occur to me until I was 19 (and even then, only as a fleeting thought).

“I was in an abusive relationship with a man, which I ran from by moving three hours from home. In this newly chosen place, I fell in love with another man and lived my life as his girlfriend for another five years. Toward the end of our relationship, I started to realize that I didn’t feel the absence of attraction toward women as seemed socially ‘appropriate.’ I realized, slowly but surely, that I was definitely not straight.

“Being a progressive, confident (or so I thought), in-charge woman, I was immediately perfectly okay.

Kidding. I spent many hours crying to a few high school acquaintances over the phone who shared with me that they were openly gay, and I owe them a debt of gratitude I’ll never be able to repay.

“Ultimately, I came to terms with the fact that I am pansexual over a long period of time, and one day I simply knew that I had always know. That night, I told my long-term boyfriend, thinking he would be happy for me, that I had learned this thing about myself and that I was beginning to fully understand and accept who I was. Instead, he became very angry, leaving me at a table at a restaurant in tears wondering what I’d done wrong.

“He left me about two months later, and, while there were many issues with our relationship, I will always wonder if this may have played a role. Since the end of that relationship, I’ve learned much more about myself and truly come to terms with the fact that I can be attracted to any gender. I think there will still be days where it causes a twinge of shame because of my upbringing, but my experience motivates me to ensure that no one, especially my children, ever has to face that shame.”

– M

when i knew #29.

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“It’s hard to pinpoint a moment when, at the bottom of my heart, I always knew. Having learned the skill of self-reflection over the years, however, I’ve been able to trace back and remember the moment where I was like ‘YUP! THERE IT IS!’

“That moment was none other than watching the movie Labyrinth, starring David Bowie. In this movie, his characters stands up from his throne to sing ‘Magic Dance.’ (If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.) There, in that moment, I realized that men in tight pants would be part of my life for years to come.

– T