17 – Ayana Thomas

Bisexual (she/her)

On gender identity, sexuality and her coming out experience….

“I knew in first grade… when me and another girl would raise our hands, go sneak in the bathroom and mess around. I’m doing all this, we’re in the bathroom, and I thought something’s going on… it’s with another girl, too… it’s not even with a boy… maybe I like girls? When you’re planning as two little girls, whispering ‘Let’s go to the bathroom…’ So probably first grade…

I had two parts to coming out… I started dating girls seriously in high school. Everybody knew I dated girls, and I liked girls… so my friends and everyone at school knew, but I was trying to hide it from my parents. I don’t remember what it was… I think [my parents] always had suspicions, but they never had they proof. I think the proof that they got was when me and my girlfriend from high school broke up… I literally burned all the stuff she gave me, I ripped up all the cards… I was being really crazy… and my mom found all of that stuff in the trash, and she put a card back together… then she put 2 and 2 together, and was like, ‘Is this what’s going on?!’ I was trying to deny it, but it was evident.

When I officially sat down with my parents and told them, I said, ‘Candy’s my serious girlfriend… it’s not a phase like you thought in high school… This is real. We’ve been together for over a year, and I want to spend the rest of my life with her…’ That was about 2 years ago. I didn’t come out to all of my family… just my immediate family. I don’t owe anyone an explanation.

…The first time [I came out to my parents] in high school, it didn’t go well at all. They said, ‘It’s not right… I should think about things… it was just a phase…’ They were trying to convince me of it… then I started questioning myself… ‘Is it a phase?… Is it just right now? … Is this worth doing if I don’t have the acceptance of my family?’ I didn’t want to get shunned away from my family… I couldn’t fight it in high school. I really did like this girl in high school… I really do like girls, this isn’t a phase…

So, it wasn’t great initially, and it actually wasn’t that great 2 years ago either… 4th of July was coming up and I wanted to spend the holiday with my girlfriend, so I told [my parents], ‘You guys have to deal with this… I want all of us together… I want food and my girl.’ It was so awkward, and you could tell they were really uncomfortable… but after that… now they’re growing to it. My parents are really open with my girlfriend, they helped us move [to Colorado Springs]… they are really so much more accepting that they were when they initially found out in high school.”

Biggest fears or concern about coming out…

“I know when I was battling with my sexuality in high school, and I was trying to decide if I should tell my family or not… even though I was trying to hide it, there were times I just wanted to be open about it and have the talk…. It was just not being accepted… my family not accepting it… I didn’t worry about getting kicked out… I just worried that my family wouldn’t talk to me, they wouldn’t accept who I was with, or they wouldn’t communicate with me as much as if I were with a guy… so that, I think, was my biggest fear… with my family.

With society… I didn’t have any fears with friends and society… when I realized I wanted to date females, I was just open with my friends about it. I actually had a friend – I was friends with her for years – and I guess she couldn’t deal with me coming out… so she actually made up a dumb excuse about me talking behind her back, just to not be friends anymore. ‘We’ve been friends for years… why would I talk about you?’ So, I really didn’t care… it was just one of those things, either you’re my friend, or you’re not… you accept me, or you don’t. I knew that with friends… I had to learn that later on with my family…”

First celebrity crush?

“I don’t know… I’ve always thought women were pretty. I thought that was a normal thing… but there was [the movie] Love Don’t Cost A Thing with Christina Milian, and that was one movie where I was like, ‘Damn… she looks so good… she looked so beautiful in that movie..’ There were probably many more before that though…”

Favorite part about the community?

“Aside from being so positive and having great energy, I would say I love how much people who have come out, encourage other people who haven’t come out to come out… Just allowing you to be yourself, because being you is the best thing that you can do. Once you’re yourself, you just feel so great…”

Least favorite?

“It’s a little divided… ‘Each letter has to be with their letter, or no!’ …I think for me, what I personally deal with is the stereotype of the way you ‘have to look if you’re a lesbian’ …I get [comments] like ‘You’re too pretty to be gay… or be with a girl… Are you and Candy really gay? Do you really like each other? Are you really girlfriends, because you’re both girly so there’s no way…’ There’s this expectation to have that masculine stud, and then that femme/feminine woman… you can be however you wanna be, and you can be with whoever you wanna be with… If you’re femme be with femme… If you’re a stud, you can be with  stud… If you’re a femme you can be with a stud… People take looks and they think that if you look a certain way, you have to be with this… they have in their minds these set couples…”

What is something you would tell a younger you? Advice for anyone out there who feels like they can’t come out, or they don’t have a community to be a part of?

“To younger me… first grade me sneaking to go to the bathroom… yeah you’re gay! There’s no doubt about it, you like girls, it is a thing. To high school me… I remember some nights just crying because I felt like my family would never accept it, and there was no way I could live with my family not accepting me… but I would tell myself, if they don’t accept you now, they’ll never accept you. Love isn’t conditional. It should be unconditional. If anyone is ever giving you conditional love, it’s not real love… family, friends, peers, whoever…

Advice to others… come on out! Just come on out, the community is right here with open arms. All of the things you’re afraid of, just push them away and come on out… because being yourself is a beautiful thing. You have to come out to be yourself…”

What in your life are you most proud of?

“I’m going to have to say, aside from all the other skills… I’m going to have to say building up the courage to move away from my family. Me and Candy are both from the south… so just picking up everything and starting a new life. It’s kind of discouraging, and people fear [being away from family] sometimes… We wanted to move somewhere far, be adventurous, just do something different… I feel people put too much emphasis on having a family unit, and it being close by… you can have supportive family, and you can have family there for you, but you don’t always have to be right there. You gotta spread your wings and fly out, and know that you can do it on your own. With the support of your family, but it doesn’t always have to be convenient, or so close proximity wise…”

With the state of the nation and the world in its current state, what’s one thing you would change if you had the power?

“Racial injustice… that’s really big for me. I try not to pay too close attention to political news, because there’s just so much chaos and negativity… really a sh*t show… I think what we see, what we’re shown so much of, is racial injustice. And it’s not just for black people, it’s for all races… It goes down to the jails… the injustice for different races….”

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