I’ll never forget the first time I wore glasses and looked at the street outside my grandmother’s balcony. I discovered that street lights weren’t a blurred circle, I discovered what the neighbor from the facing building looked like and I could finally read billboards. Everything was clearer. I never knew before that I was supposed to be able to read the billboards, and I thought everyone else couldn’t. It was my first eye opening moment. (pun intended)
She had blue eyes. The kind of blue that gets brighter or darker depending on the colors she’s wearing. When our eyes met for the first time, I couldn’t look away. I know it’s very cliché, but they reminded me of those clear blue skies we are used to in Lebanon. There was something about her that captivated me: her way of moving, of talking, of shaking her head made my heart pound so hard as if it wanted to get out of my chest and be closer to her. She made my legs shiver, my brain freeze, my breathing short, so shallow I nearly fainted each time I saw her. For four years, she gave me the butterflies, a reason to wake up everyday and countless smiles. She made me crazy and I couldn’t imagine my life without her.
Did she feel something towards me? Did she know I felt this way? Can you feel physical and emotional sensations this strong for someone who doesn’t share the same feelings? For soo many reasons, I never told her how I felt. I’m sure it was better this way.
People called it friendship, admiration … I believe them. “You want to be like her, it’s normal at your age”. I convinced myself they were right. Maybe it was normal to feel this way towards people, maybe everybody feels this way. Maybe, no one can read the billboards.
I couldn’t take it anymore, confused, I googled my symptoms. I typed every word carefully, slowly. I read articles, testimonies and blogs. They were all pointing in the same direction. I also googled “friendship” and “admiration”, just to be sure.
She wasn’t the first, and definitely not the last girl to make me feel this way. But, like the glasses, it was eye-opening. Turns out people could read the billboards.
Deep down, I knew from the beginning I was attracted to girls, I was just hoping for another answer. I mean, what was I expecting? All my favourite characters in series and movies were lesbians, and they made me jealous. In all the romantic movies I watched, I imagined myself in the guy’s shoes. My dreams were about girls and women, every fantasy, every life I imagined for myself was with a girl. But no, it can’t be. There should be another explanation. Maybe some psychological issue? Lack of affection? Maybe people were right, it was just friendship and anyway I get attached easily to people. I convinced myself I loved boys even if not one of them made me feel the same way as she did. It’s a phase and it will pass. It was “immoral”, “unnatural”… There should be a solution, a logical explanation to what I felt.
I was angry with myself and the world. I felt guilty. I kept asking myself “why?” and “how?”. Why couldn’t I control my feelings? How do we “change” and live a more “ normal” life? I got angry at people who didn’t have any problem coming out to their friends and family, who found someone to love and were lucky enough to be loved back. Who could walk with their heads held high, without being judged, without paying attention to judgmental people. I wanted to be born in a more liberal country, where people minded their own business. I wondered if I could change.
One day, I’ll find my prince charming; we’ll get married, have kids and live happily every after. There’s always a way. If it’s a “psychological problem” I can get therapy, if it’s a “choice” I’ll choose differently. I’ll spend less time with people that make me feel this way. If it’s forbidden by religion, I’ll pray. I’ll try to drown myself with work. I’ll forget about it, about “her”.
It was not long before I understood that I can’t run way from myself. That we can’t choose who we are and who we fall in love with. That it wasn’t a disease, and that we cannot “pray away” the gay. That no matter how hard you repress it, it will always resurface.
“Gay” is supposed to mean happy. I wasn’t. It was so confusing. I was constantly sad. I would cry myself to sleep every night. I imagined stepping away from all my problems (not only sexual identity related). I started imagining the disappointment on my parent’s faces, their anger. I would cringe at every homophobic comment I heard from friends (and I hear a lot of them). I got very anxious, afraid someone will discover my secret. If she ever finds out, will my neighbor still tell me “ I hope my children will grow up to be just like you”? I wondered if I’ll ever be happy.
I write the words “Acceptance/hope” with a smile on my face. Even if I’m still faced with too many challenges and unanswered questions, I stopped running from myself.
If only people talked more about this, it would have been easier for so many people. If only people in this country tried to be more tolerant, and accepted to hear what you have to say. If only Lebanese media would stop depicting the LGBT community in an ignorant negative way. If only people would stop having preconceived ideas about others and started understanding that difference is not always unnatural and bad.
The closet is a very scary place. It’s dark and lonely. Maybe one day I’ll be able to come out, maybe not. Too many questions remain unanswered.
Meanwhile, I’m embracing it, waiting for the right person (my princess charming) to come and rescue me.
Because, lesbihonest, love is the best feeling in the world.