I was happy as a child. My mom loves to tell me how much of a tomboy I was. How I used to run around playing with the boys, riding bicycles, building sheds where we kept our prisoners (when we played war). She talks about how she tried endlessly to get me in a dress, and how immune I was to her ruses. And she tells me how I used to love going to church, and listening to stories of the bible.
And then puberty hit. The boy friends I had stopped playing with me. I don’t know exactly how it happened. They must have suddenly realized that I was a girl. I don’t really know.
I remember that I was lonely for a long time. I started reading all day long. Comic books, novels, and the bible, anything I could get my hands on. I loved them. Books helped me run away.
My mom thought I was too lonely. She pushed me to make new friends. She wanted me to play with the girls in the neighborhood. And so I did.
I befriended the girl next door, and through her, I met other girls from the area. I remember that I thought they were very pretty girls, which made me feel inadequate, awkward, and ugly. That was when I started crying myself to sleep.
Through them, my family, school, and church, I learned how a young girl should be. And I felt deep down that I could never be that. This is when I got fixated on everything that was wrong with me. Suddenly, my eyes were too droopy, my nose was too big, my hair was too straight and oily, and my undeveloped eleven-year-old body was too fat and butch.
For the next few years, I experimented with femininity. Partly because I wanted to explore it, and partly because I was envious of my girlfriends, and how happy they seemed to be. So I copied them. It wasn’t all bad, I must admit. I learned what worked for me, and I kept the things that made me comfortable. It took me years, but I have developed a kind of “comfortable femininity” that works for me.
And then, came the boys. My girlfriends were gushing over them. They had crushes, they had boyfriends, and they had dramatic breakups. And I was the cheerleader and the shoulder to cry on.
Not that I haven’t had a couple of boys awkwardly declare their love for me. But none of them gave me butterflies in my stomach. And once again I felt that there was something wrong with me.
The summer of my fifteenth birthday came along. We spent that summer at a beach compound in Jbeil. It was there that I met her. She was interesting to talk to. She was beautiful. She gave me butterflies in my stomach every time I saw her! I thought about her all the time. And I was more confused that I had ever been in my life.
I never uttered a word all summer, and on the last week there before going back to Beirut, I kissed her — She never spoke to me again, and that was that.
It was the beginning of a new level of self-hatred.
She told the other kids what had happened. And they started calling me “lesbian” and “gay” when I walked by, and laughing. I had no idea what a lesbian was at the time. But I was sure I wasn’t one because, the way they said it, it sounded like something awful.
By the time I got to college, I had stopped going to church and praying. I was sure that God and I shared a mutual hatred for each other. He hated me for the unnatural feelings I was having. And I had spent the last two years, wrapped up in shame and guilt, praying for him to stop those feelings and thoughts in me, but he never responded. He was never there.
It wasn’t until my second year in college that I dared to like another girl. My first experience had left me scared and broken. And I had decided that I was going to be alone for the rest of my life. But, unexpected things happen. And this time, she kissed me.
We were together for three years. And through her I learned that being a “lesbian” is a part of who I am that I should embrace proudly.
I had other relationships with women after that. All of them beautiful in their own way. I learned a lot from each one, and I grew. I learned that I am beautiful, and that I deserve to be happy, loved and respected. I learned that I am smart and strong and that I can do anything I set my mind to. And I also learned that people who hate me are governed by fear and ignorance and need tolerance and education. Also, God and I are good friends again. I learned that he loves me the way I am, and that he doesn’t care who shares my bed.
Although it took me a while to undo all the negative feelings that I had about myself, I’m proud to say that I’m finally there. I have been in love quite a few times, and I’m going to write about them soon. But the first story I wanted to share was how I fell in love with myself, which is the most sacred kind of love.