It Gets Better

So, the It Gets Better project.  I love it.  I haven't made a video for a lot of reasons, the main ones being that I don't have a webcam and I'm not gay.  I don't see my bisexuality as being intrinsic to my identity, and I haven't really suffered for it, so I don't want to appropriate anything that isn't mine.  But I love the project.

I can talk about feeling like an outsider, though, and I'm far more articulate when I write than when I talk.

When I was a kid I moved a lot.  I started kindergarten in Phoenix, AZ, moved to Arlington, TX in the middle of first grade, and then moved to Dallas when I was seven, before I started second grade.  The two years I spent there were objectively among the worst of my life, although I don't remember them very clearly because I was so young and because I simply don't like to think about them.

Now, when I was a kid I was tiny.  I only grew up to be five feet and one inch tall, so I never was big, and I was a skinny, wispy little girl who had to have books taken out of my hands when I was outside because my mom saw me nearly walk into traffic so many times.  I was introverted but not shy, and I trusted people with no reservations.  I passionately loved school, and the ADHD that later nearly destroyed my high school years hadn't appeared yet.  I was prone to singing to myself, dancing around, and behaving like, well, the intelligent, fearless, happy, quirky, trusting little bitty thing that I was.

I paid for that very, very hard.  I don't remember when it started, or how.  I do remember, though, that it originated in a nickname: "The Jennifer Disease."  I got the living shit kicked out of me on the playground, kids wouldn't drink after me at the water fountain; I mean, I was a complete pariah.  I only had two friends that I remember, and one of them was a girl who used the fact that I trusted her to steal my lunch money out of my wallet every day.  I went for the better part of a school year eating nothing for lunch.  It was pretty hellish, and I'm glad that I don't remember it very well.

When I was eight years old, I think, I came home to my mother and told her that I wanted to kill myself.  I don't remember doing this, but, the way my mother tells it, it scared her pretty badly, and she went to the principal.  I remember them having the nurse come to my classroom and read my medical record to the kids so that they would stop it, but they didn't, and my teacher actually told my mother that this school was really terrible for me and that they needed to get me out in any way possible.  (The district tested for G&T kids and offered to send me to a magnet school, but it would have been forty minutes one-way bussing, and my mom wanted nothing to do with it.  I don't blame her.)

So, they did.  We moved to Lewisville, where I bullied people because, honestly, I was completely fucked in the head from the couple of years I spent being harassed nonstop.  I managed to get my head screwed back on right after spending half of fourth grade in the principal's office.  In the next couple of years living there (we moved away right before I started the seventh grade) I started playing the clarinet, started choir, and I met the man I'm married to today (we were very close friends in the sixth grade).

Shit got better and, whatever issues I had later on in school, little of it was due to how different I was because I found people who were like me.

Unfortunately, while it was better in that I had people who were like me around, the people who were like me were mostly passing their classes with flying colors, and I was failing classes like it was going out of style.  Undiagnosed issues combined with depression from all kinds of mess got me in a lot of academic trouble.  I didn't want to end up doing nothing with my life and I had to find something else to do when I graduated in order to make sure that didn't happen.

I think the time that how different I was hit me the hardest was when I was in the Marines.  I mean, I was very young, very dumb, and very conservative when I joined (although I never, for the record, outright supported the wars, and I did not enlist because of 9/11, although I enlisted right before graduating high school in 2002).  However, I was lucky enough to meet my future ex-husband and, even though the marriage was a complete disaster and I doubt we will ever be so much as friends again, I think he saw a lot of what is in me today and he nurtured that much at least.  I think he was the first guy I was ever with who valued me for my potential to be something different than what I had been taught was correct.

I'd never been entirely comfortable with the conservative Christian upbringing that I'd had (to the point where, my junior year, I declared myself agnostic, only to rescind that because my boyfriend my senior year was very Christian), and this guy helped me to dump the holy terror of Hell that I had and look in other areas.  I spent five pretty productive personal years as a pagan because he encouraged me to look into other options, and I don't know that I would have been open as quickly to becoming the atheist that I am today without that time.  (I would have gotten here eventually, but I'm glad I got here sooner than later.)

Then, we ended up splitting up for a whole crapload of very good reasons, some of which have blame to be assigned, and some of which are neutral.  (Don't get married and have kids at nineteen, folks.)  This would have been manageable, but he also got out of the Marines at that time.  Why?

He was gay.  (There are a lot of complications in labeling here, so I'm going with the simple explanation that he was discharged for homosexual admission.  He did not feel safe or welcome, and he talked about it and was discharged.)

So, I was suddenly very alone in a mostly conservative unit.  I had friends to whom I could talk about it, but by this point I was a very vocal pro-gay-rights soon-to-be-socialist, and I had been isolated from my coven by the separation (my ex continued with his training to be a priest, leaving me at home since I couldn't drive, and I had very, very little social life for a very long time).  I had no home to go to, no support system, no one who seemed to think like I did.  I'm not a social person, but let me tell you: I absolutely ached for someone who would understand what I was going through.  I didn't want my husband back.  I wanted my friend back, in a military that would accept him for who he was (because he was a good Marine).  I didn't want to be in a place where everyone was constantly playing "F-A-G" on their instruments like it was the most hilarious joke ever, where everyone said that everything was "gay," where people would whisper rumors about my ex and then stop when I walked into the room.  I was sick of being in high school for adults.  It was like constantly having a stick poked into an open wound.  I was very, very angry for him, very, very angry for myself, and very, very depressed.

During this time period I cut myself, thought about taking bottles of pills, thought about driving my car off of bridges over the ocean, and, even after my ex went to the unit to say that I was a suicide risk, was sent to the pistol range that week, and I thought about shooting myself in the head.  (AID LIFE, devil dogs.)  There was almost literally no support from within the chain of command (who sends a suicidal person to the fucking pistol range?!) or from without.  The only reason I didn't do anything, I think, was that I made a vow to the goddess Hecate that I would never again attempt or think about suicide or self-harm.  I don't believe in any sorts of deity anymore, but I still haven't looked back since then, and I am fiercely glad that I made that vow.  It made me able to get here.

Towards the end of my time in the Marines I saw Rent, most notably, this, and I remember nearly losing my shit every time they got to the line, "To being an us for once, instead of a them!"

I found some friends in the unit and it got a little bit better, but then I got out.  More shit went down, then I came here, and I found a home.  I found people like me (including the awesome dude I'm married to; we found each other on Facebook after years of no contact), I started speaking out (I had to limit myself while I was in the Marines because we don't rate the First Amendment rights we volunteered to defend with our lives), I went to school, and I found a place for myself.  My little girl has an awesome daddy, I have a large extended family now who understands, respects, and even supports my crazed liberalness, my parents grew to understand and to accept me (I remember a conversation in which my mom said, "You're doing what you think is right, and I'm proud of you," and I still tear up), and it got better.  I have a home, a family, an education, skills that are being nurtured, and the key is that I've found where I belong.

My point is, you are going to spend time in places where you don't belong, but grit your teeth and bear it, because, truly, once you find the place where you do belong, life is amazing.  After spending years completely depressed off of my ass, sometimes I feel like I must be dreaming, but there it is.  I'm really living the life that I want right now.

I am glad beyond all gladness that I never seriously hurt myself.  My problems weren't because I was gay, but a lot of them were because I was different, and I managed to find people who treasured that.  Anyone can.  It is worth living to find that.

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