Do you know what makes me sick?  That we live in a world that makes us feel like we have to hide ourselves.

Nope.  I need to back up.

Freshman year of college.

This was one of the messiest, most awful years of my life.  I don’t like to revisit it in memory and find myself bittersweet when returning to the places, even though I have amazing people back there.  I have remained friends with one person, and one person only, from that time because she is still a force for good in my life and was one of the most important people to my development to date.  Pookie was, perhaps, the only person who saw the woman beneath all the outward issues.

It was a terrible time of stress and fear and anger.  I had no idea how to function on my own as an adult.  I had a truly terrible roommate who was an emotional terrorist and two wonderful housemates who kept me sane until she left.  I was just beginning to notice women more, just starting to realize that women were attractive to me as men, but passing it off as an ability to see the beauty in others, rather than recognizing my sexuality.  I identified so well with the dysphoria expressed by so many members of the LGBTQIA community, but didn’t allow myself to admit the common denominator.  My Bi-Polar was flaring wildly and unpredictably.  I isolated myself in an attempt to never let anyone see how broken I was – broken through no fault of my own.  This meant I could not fix myself, because in order to convince others I was unbroken, I had to convince myself.  I never quite succeeded, but I sure dedicated a lot of time to acting like I believed the lie.

During that time, there was a young man who befriended me.  I called him Hubbard because, when we were introduced at a getting-to-know-you party, he was one of three men with the same first name in our congregation.  So, on that night only, those three men were referred to by their last names.  How was I to know that was a temporary fix?  By the time he pointed out I was the only person who called him Hubbard, he had come to love that fact and encouraged me to continue.  He is the only other person who may have seen me for who I was  – and even now I am not sure.

But, no matter how imperfect or perfect his insight, he did know I was repressing myself.  He did know I was bound by fear that people would not – could not – love me if I were to be my true self.  My true self is still flawed to this day, but then it was much more so than now, partially because I had yet to learn to accept my own self.  Hubbard knew that I was hiding.  He also knew that it was slowly killing me in a very physical sense.  Anyone who doubts this is welcome to look at my extensive medical records.  I was perpetually ill and there really was no good reason for it.  I’m sure a doctor or two considered the possibility of hypochondria, but soon tests or medicines or interviews would prove that I was, indeed, ill.

Hubbard saw this and diagnosed the matter in moments.  He gave me a song to listen to: Hide, by Joy Williams.  It was a nice song.  It gave some hope.  After all, I could identify with almost every one of the people on her “for anyone who” list.  But there was also a bit of dissonance, because the last verse of the song was about going to Christ – not hiding from my Savior.  Now, say what you will about the doctrinal accuracy of Christian Popular music or the benefits/lack thereof of this music, I realize that everyone has a different relationship with this sort of music.  I will say, it was not inappropriate for Hubbard to suggest I listen to this song.  However, the suggestion that I was hiding from my Savior rankled.  He was the only person I was open with, pouring out my heart in desperate prayer for friends or understanding or support through the painful isolation.  So, while I was encouraged by Hubbard, I was also discouraged.  Because somehow the message came across that being open with my Savior was akin to being open with the rest of the world.  What was I doing wrong, then?  The answer was unclear.

Transfer year of college.

This was my first year at the college I would eventually graduate from three years later.  I had spent the year in between my Freshman year and this year at home, slowly rebuilding my life.  It was horrible, mostly because my life broke down in spectacular fashion during that time.  But finally, I was put enough together to go back to school full time and begin living again.  It was a renaissance year.  After fighting it for almost three years, I recognized that my sexuality was fluid . . . I still refused to say it aloud, even going so far as to actively and publicly denying it, but I knew it for myself.  I took that re-built self, continued building, and once I was sure the foundations of areas were strong, I stopped hiding those parts.  Some parts of me were still locked up, others had limited private access, but I was slowly and surely drawing back the curtains. I learned I didn’t have to hide, though there was quite some time before I could believe it.  So I continued to hide the parts of myself I found least palatable – or, worse, that others found least palatable.  So, even though I had started revealing parts of myself, I also started concealing parts of myself that I had heretofore left open to the world.  As I said, a lot changed – but not all for the better.

To be continued . . .