Thank you for taking the time to reply so thoroughly, I really appreciate every word that you wrote. I would truly love to hear from other people and look forward to this very much. I need to rewire my brain and allow myself to put into place a future that I have visualised for my whole life. A future that I have not seen modelled by anyone in my life, so would love to hear from others about.
I was clearly very predictable in my personality traits as I deeply appreciated the to do lists and will reply in accordance with them…
Number 1. Self- Love
I would like to start off my reply by saying that I am a bit worried that I came across as miserable in my first letter. I promise that I am a happy person, and fun (I hope!)
It upsets me that self love, or in fact the lack of it, was the over riding theme of my letter. I had not noticed the negative language that I use in my writing about this topic. I’ve gone back and read notebooks and lots of it was from the negative stand point that you identified. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.
I think that this was actually the most powerful thing that you wrote to me as it has already changed my writing.
I have no doubt that this will in turn adapt the way I think and speak about myself, in a more positive light.
You’re right, I’m not comfortable looking myself in the mirror and telling myself those things but I will work on this. Say it until you believe it! I do know that I have lots of good qualities and skills and have written them down as you suggested but that would be rather self indulgent to write those here so I’ll leave those in my journal!
(I take it back actually, your best piece of advice was to buy myself some lovely food, I greatly appreciated that one, as did my stomach!)
Number 2. Pride
That link you added made me laugh through the tears, thank you. It made me think up some wonderfully creative ways to do it, but very boringly I think I’ll have to stick to the original way.
“You and I both know, that’s not going to be you. You are bursting at the seams and you are ready.” This line changed something for me. You didn’t for one second question me and that felt amazing. It is so validating. I wasn’t expecting that. When I wrote to you those weeks ago I knew who I was. Goodness, I can’t even write it! I’ll try again. I knew and know that I am a lesbian. But I have always questioned myself. How could I be gay when I have openly flirted with men (if only out of show). Bizarrely, I spent a lot of time and thought worrying that I had made all of this up for no reason. Have I made myself gay through what I have exposed myself to? Ridiculous I know. And totally untrue. You saying these things helps with this and shows me that I can feel whatever I wish to and that is okay. I can trust myself because you think that I’m ready to (and too). Part two of validation is coming up later…
I know that I need to take a leap into this community. Recently I have been researching groups in the cities nearest to me. There are a couple and I could go. I will go. At some point, I will go. I’m done with putting time restraints on myself so I’m just going to tell myself that at some point, I will go. Your journey with your LGBT choir is one that spoke to me. I love to sing and I actually lead a children’s choir. I am hopeful that this might be a better option for me than groups (going on my own is not overly enticing). Talking to strangers is tricky but singing I can do. I will research this more. I’ve also downloaded OKCupid. Haven’t quite been brave enough to fill out the profile yet but I have ticked the Gay box. However, you are correct, friends are definitely what I need first.
I bought a bracelet that has a compass engraved on it. It’s beautiful and tiny and I haven’t taken it off. Every time I catch a glimpse of it I’m reminded to question myself, which direction am I going in and which direction I want to be going in. Now I just need a signal to everybody else. I am very straight passing, very feminine, so maybe I’ll have to up the anti with my pride symbols as I come out to more and more people to make it REALLY obvious! Of course that was a joke, I am actually looking forward to breaking a few stereotypes, I do not look like how my family for instance visualise a gay woman. Whatever that should look like.
You were correct in your estimation, I have been immersing myself in LGBT literature, poetry, music, podcasts, YouTube videos, films and more. They have been my saving grace. Literature and music are my greatest loves and have offered me such solace. Poetry (particularly slam actually) has been my version of your great Katy Perry suggestion. I listen and learn them and then speak and shout along to them. Feeling every word. (Shouting one of these or listening to music that will out me in my own house is a risk that I am now taking. I bought the house, I should be able to listen to what I like within it. I’ve even allowed myself to have the window open- shock horror!)
Numbers 3 and 4. Support and Prepare for Various Outcomes
Writing has always been a big passion of mine so I really appreciated your tasks that involved putting pen to paper. Words are powerful and healing. They are my creative expression.
One of the many videos that have been my saving grace is Hannah Harts sympathy for being in the closet. One of the lines hit me hard “The closet sucks. It’s not safe. It’s static”. I hadn’t thought of it this way before but I have been paused. Static for over ten years, for what? I will move forward now. I have already made big strides forward with these letters and with what I am about to tell you…
My sister asked me once, years ago, if I was a lesbian. How I long that I hadn’t lied through my teeth. I had the perfect opportunity this week when my sister came to stay with me in the UK. It would have been the perfect time to tell her but I just couldn’t. I visualised how she would be affected by it and how she would have to keep it from our parents as I am not ready to tell them yet and I just couldn’t do it to her. I can see that I have used negative language here (thanks to your guidance) but I am no longer feeling that I have missed my only opportunity. You made me see it is never too late. And anyway, I’m still reeling in success as I have made such a massive step forward.
Your letter was the final push that I needed. I was at breaking point and feeling very alone. The more I have immersed myself in this part of my life, the more I have distanced myself from everyone around me. I am so proud to tell you that I told my best friend last night.
We spoke for most of the night over video chat (she lives abroad also). I was so terrified. I have tried to tell her for many, many, times before. I wasn’t going to let myself down again. I pressed call and there was no turning back. I swore lots, shook lots and even had a sick bag at the ready. Anyway, I told her. And to my astonishment she said that she knew. Here’s the second point of validation.
I felt some relief but mostly just pure joy that she almost justified my feelings.
She knows me so well that she picked up on the language that I was using and on brief passing comments that I have made over the years. After this I went on to spill all of my thoughts, feelings and interests that I’ve been hiding for what feels like a lifetime. She listened, commented and asked questions. It was perfect. Although it did feel very bizarre hearing her talk about my future, imaginary girlfriend. Nice but weird. Then we spent the next few hours gossiping and chatting about the other aspects of our lives. This was the greatest thing that could have happened as it showed me that our relationship is the same as it was.
Nothing bad happened when I told someone. Life actually resumed as it had always been. Magic!
How do I feel now? That’s a question that she asked me and I found hard to answer. I didn’t feel the instant relief when I said the words but I woke up with a smile this morning. I adored just talking about the thoughts that I have been keeping in my head. I took her back years to different times when I had tried to tell her. I felt like I was being honest for the first time in a very, very long time. I have achieved something huge that I wasn’t sure that I could do and it feels great. And the world didn’t end. In fact, it became lighter.
I wrote out a table as you suggested and as you probably predicted there were many negative or merely stagnant outcomes on the ‘What Will Happen If I Never Come Out’ side. The hardest one for me being the prospect of not having children. Or not sharing the experience of raising a child with someone else. On the ‘What Will Happen If I Come Out’ side there were some negatives too, I wrote out worst case outcomes. However, mostly, they were positive and there were twice as many points than the other. When it came down to it I would still be safe even if the worst happened. And anything other than this wouldn’t matter in the long term. I could say the things that I have been thinking but editing out. I could be free. As I thought about my best friend I wrote “My best friend will love me anyway” and I was right. That has done wonders for my confidence for trying again.
So, there is something that I didn’t mention in my first letter but you wrote about in your response. Religion. Unlike your family, my family are not religious. However, my individual sense of faith has always been very strong. The way your father responded is kind of how I have been responding to myself for many years. And although I have now accepted myself and my sexuality I still feel a draw to Christianity. I went to Church, Sunday school and a Christian School. As a teenager my faith was at its strongest as I explored it further. But, of course, this was also when I started to explore my sexuality. (Ironically with the same girl with whom I was exploring my Religion with). This is where the conflict appeared. I am doing something that is wrong in the eyes of the faith that I feel drawn to and have been taught. Can I be a Christian when living this lifestyle? I suppose that is actually kind of my question. Can religion and homosexuality ever coexist or live alongside each other? How can something that is meant to instil peace actually place on me such fear? Obviously I know that you won’t have the answer to these questions but I would really like to hear other opinions on this matter. However, I also appreciate how personal it is so will understand if you cannot or would prefer not to respond. I also really hope I haven’t offended anyone, that is NOT what I aim to do. Let’s face it, I just don’t really know and am asking for knowledge.
Obviously I still have far to go, I have only told one person and am still no further with the ones that I feel will not be accepting. I sill struggle immensely with how to tell my family and my work colleagues who have seen my flirtations with men. I’m not putting pressure on myself to tell anyone else for now. I have support. I’m going to let it sink in that someone else knows and see where everything goes from there.
There is a long road ahead of me but I can see the light that you were describing. And it’s beautiful.
I would still love to hear from the other people if they are still interested in writing to me. I know that I am no longer sailing alone but we are still only in a two-man canoe and neither or us have ever sailed this sea before.
“You will take a little more power out of the shame each time you tell someone.” This gives me hope. A lot of it. As does the rest of your letter.
Number 5. Know That the Best is Yet to Come
I changed the last assignment slightly (instant Fail grade for me!) and took on the role of my future self and wrote to the present. It forced me to think about what I am doing at this time in my life and where I want to be which was actually really cathartic so thank you.
Dear 26-year-old Jane,
Well done, a big, great, massive well done. Firstly, well done for writing this letter. I know that you put it off, apprehensive as to what your future might actually be. Afraid to dream in case you were never brave enough to make the changes that you needed to. You gave yourself a second chance. You put the colour into your relationships, adding depth. You gave yourself your best life, so thank you.
You can breathe deeper now. You don’t have to hide or change pronouns or conversations. You are lighter and free to do, talk about and what you want to. Your thoughts are yours and back under your control. You don’t have to focus upon just this aspect of your character. There is more to you and it is shining now.
Also, I hate to tell you but actually no one cared about this as much as you did. If you could read this, I would tell you that this is all consuming for you because it is all about you. Other people first care about themselves. You were the news for a few weeks then people moved on, on to their lives. Your way of life did not affect them. It will blow over. The water will settle and you will come up for air in a place familiar but different. A place you knew before but only partially experienced.
You will still feel. You will feel more than you ever imagined possible. The all consuming thoughts and uneasy emotions will be replaced or resculpted into love. Love for yourself built on foundations of respect and bravery. You will be proud to let others see the light in you and in return you will shine the light on others. Be kind, be forgiving, be appreciative, be spontaneous. Keep fighting and you will move forward. Fumble along the tunnel and find your way out of the shadows.
Love, future Jane
Ruth, I hope I can do this. Here goes the rest of my life…
“You never know what could be coming in the future. There is so much music that you’ve yet to hear.” –Hannah Hart: Buffering.