“I came to college with the mentality that I’m going to be 100 percent me no matter what happens, no matter who says anything. That’s exactly what I’ve done.”

Kelsey 1

“I was raised in Kentucky so I didn’t know that there was something other than heterosexual until I moved to Indiana, which is when I was 16. And you know, like kind of dealing with being like I’m not normal, like something’s wrong with me being called names and slurs and just different things even though you didn’t know what they meant and you didn’t know what they were really saying was really difficult and I kind of realized it when I got to Indiana, even though that is still a very conservative state, it’s like, ‘oh my God’, like this is a thing. Like I can do this. I switched to a public school and I saw girls holding hands and guys kissing each other and I was like, ‘what is this whole like new world?’ And it just kind of really opened it up. And then senior year I was finally like able to be like, OK, this is something that I am comfortable coming out. And I came to college with the mentality that I’m going to be 100 percent me no matter what happens, no matter who says anything. That’s exactly what I’ve done.”

On first seeing a gay couple: “It wasn’t even shocking at first. It was just something I needed to see and it’s not like I’m sitting here saying it as like someone who was raised in a very conservative family, someone who’s raised in a Republican, Catholic household where it’s like anything that’s not normal is just wrong and it’s just kind of like I saw it and I was like, ‘oh my gosh’, this is what I needed to see. This is something that, it lifted a weight off of me and it made me kind of realize, OK, well what else is there other than, you know, lesbian and gay, and there’s bisexual, pansexual. And I started looking at all these things and I started meeting people and being friends with people and I was like, ‘oh my God’, this is like, something’s right. It’s like no longer is lesbian a name I’m being called, but it’s something that my friend is, and I like that, and it’s normal to me, and it was just, ‘this is awesome.’ I loved every moment of it and I haven’t stopped since just putting myself in the community and getting out there and just being vocal about who I was.”

On first arriving at ASU: “So at first, at our first floor meeting, I was like, ‘Hi, I’m Kelsey’. I said ‘I’m bisexual’ and let people know and I thought it was something that, if someone wants to reach out to me [they could]. I made a few friends that way, but I actually found a really great club on downtown campus called Confetti and they have been a huge outsource. It’s the downtown LGBTQ+ club and some of my best friends are in that club and some of the people there just really open your eyes and give you stories that make you realize things. And I also have a CA (Community Assistant) and he’s homosexual, so that’s been really helpful to have someone to lean on and reach out to you. When I was at my lowest point this year I was like, ‘Hey, can I talk to you? I’m having an identity crisis, I need your help.’ But he came into the room and we sat for an hour and we just talked and talked and talked and reaffirmed everything I needed to hear and was such a help. It was amazing and it’s just nice to have other people that understand you because while I have friends who were very understanding, it’s just nice to have someone who is in your position really understanding and looking at you and go, you’re OK, like this is OK, you’re fine, you’re doing well. Just keep going.”

“Being bisexual is really hard to kind of find that balance of, ‘you’re not a lesbian but you’re not straight’ and it’s hard for people to really see you as something that’s valid and on the spectrum and it’s normal and it’s right. And even like some people in the community are like ‘Bisexuals are just people transferring lesbians’. No, that’s not what it is. And I had been talking to the guys, I’d been talking to some girls and there was just a point where I was like starting to really think. And I almost got way too into my head and I was talking to a guy at the time and like we weren’t clicking and it was like maybe it’s not him, maybe it’s just me. And then I was like ‘maybe I am a lesbian.’ And that was a huge ordeal for me because that was always a word that was said to me in a negative way. And so I was like, ‘I don’t want to be that. That’s not what I want to be. It’s almost like I’m letting all the people who beat me down when I don’t want to do that. That’s not who I am.’ And then I talked to my one friend and she was like, ‘If you’re gay it’s OK, like you’re fine, you’re doing well.’ And my CA said, “This is the same thing I went through like, you’re doing well.’ And I had to sit down and talk and for a week I said, ‘I’m a lesbian.’ I had to tell myself that and that just never sounded right. And I said, “You know what? No, you’re fine. Everything’s OK. You’re bisexual. It’s valid. It’s real, it’s not wrong. You’re not transitioning from one thing to another. You’re not just saying it because you want to be cool, it’s valid.’ And then I finally got it all figured out and now I’m good, continuing on.”

On bisexuality: “I think it’s one of the harder spectrum identities to really pin down because you do have straight which is liking the opposite sex. You have lesbian and gay, which is you like the same sex. Then you have these ones that fall in between. Like non-binary is really hard to pin down and for people understand, and pansexual and bisexual can easily be confused. And for me it’s always just saying, ‘I like boys and I like girls.’ And pansexual, it’s ‘I like anyone and I’m more attracted to who you are as a person. It doesn’t matter.’ But for me it’s very black and white. I like boys. I like girls, never a hundred percent either. I fluctuate and go back and forth. Some weeks I really like girls and some weeks I really like boys. And then you finally settled down into like a relationship and you’re like, ‘This is what I’m doing for right now.’ Right now I’m in like a really strong relationship with a guy and it’s been for three months and that throws off a lot of people because they say, ‘But I thought you were bisexual.’ Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to go cheat on my partner. I’m not polyamorous, I’m bisexual. I like both and right now I’m in a happy relationship and that’s all that matters. And they say, ‘Well I don’t get it. You like girls too.’ And I say, ‘Do you want me to be in two relationships? I don’t know what you want.’ That’s where it gets hard that people say, ‘This isn’t right, so you’re straight,’ and you say, “No, no, still like girls but I’m with a guy.’ It’s the same thing as if you’re straight, you like people of the opposite sex but you’re with someone so you’re not going to go around with other people even though you like them.”

On being with her current partner: “I’m pretty upfront and I used to not be, but ever since realizing that it’s something that I have to accept for myself. It’s unfair to someone to look at it six months, a year into the relationship and being like, ‘Hey, I also like girls,’ because if that conflicts with what they believe, it’s almost like you’ve been lying and cheating on him. It’s unfair. And I found that out one way in a really difficult time. I told the guy and I said I thought I had told him before and he didn’t hear it or something and he was just ended our relationship. So [this time] I told this guy right up front, I was like, ‘Hey, I’m bisexual. It’s pretty obvious that I’m not straight.’ I have an undercut. It’s something a little bit out of the ordinary and usually seen as gay. So he was like, ‘OK, I get it,’ and he’s fine with it and he doesn’t really question it and he knows I’m super involved with the LGBTQ+ community and he’s completely OK with it and he likes to get involved too. It’s just really nice to have someone who is straight looking and be like, ‘You know what, I’m fine with being in a relationship with you even though you’re not the same, necessarily.’ He doesn’t really care at all. He’s says “As long as you’re not cheating on me, with anyone, I don’t care.’ He’s also been super open to listening to what I say about it and talking more deeper discussions. He’s in the military actually. So it’s nice to be able to [talk about] the whole Trans ban. Like, can we talk about that? Can we talk about what that means? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a while ago, do you really understand what that means? And I’ve been able to help him realize things aren’t black and white. There aren’t a lot of problems with people, even though you’d look normal, you’re still facing. You can be white, like a white male, and still have that identity of gay and have a lot of discrimination going towards you. The LGBTQ+ community doesn’t really get looked at as equal, so, even though they might look normal, they’re probably dealing with something that’s not the best and you got to understand it and be open to it, and he’s been super understanding and super willing to learn and educate himself and just be involved and just be 100 percent supportive.”

“I’d like to see myself graduating first of all, that’s always the goal. I’d like to be able to get to that point. But I’d also like to see myself just really kind of embodying what I’m saying. Right now I want to go into lobbying, I want to make a difference. I really want to commit to that and it’s something that if I don’t see myself doing that in four years, I’m going to have a problem with myself because that’s what I’ve been pushing for and that’s the only way I know I’ll be happy in the job is if I’m making change. And then I’d also like to see myself actually fully accepting who I am. I know I’m super out with my friends and it’s really hard with my family. Only told one person. I’m from very conservative Midwest, Catholic. We go to church every Saturday, only think this, we voted for trump type of situation, and I’ve only been able to tell my brother and that’s kind of hard. I was going to tell my parents when they came for Fall Break and I couldn’t do it. ‘This is not the time, this is not right. I can’t do it.’ And I know telling them is the first step, but then telling the rest of the family is another one and I’m not ready for that. So I’d like to be able to do that. Eventually that’s something that would be nice because I feel like it’s always a good moment, but we’re working on it.”

On going home for Christmas Break: “I definitely didn’t really want to be around my family. I got this taste of not just like, I mean it’s college freedom of course, and being out in Arizona state, it’s like, ‘This is amazing. Oh my God, there’s a freedom that you get and there’s sunshine and there’s this and that’, and I went home and it was immediately like I was depressed. I went back into the state of reclusiveness. It was dark always because it was snowy and it was just not happy. I didn’t want to see my family. I didn’t want to be around him. And this year was the first year that I actually looked at my mom was like, ‘I’m not going to Christmas church. I’m sorry I can’t do it. It’s not going to happen.’ She was like, ‘OK, you know what, you’ve been pushing for this for years, we’re going to accept it. You do what you want.’ She was pretty upset about it, but at the end of the day it didn’t really matter. We still had Christmas dinner. It wasn’t a big deal. It was just a small detail that she was like, ‘Well that’s weird. Why don’t you want to do that with us? Why don’t you want to be with me?’ And it wasn’t that. It was just, ‘I don’t feel comfortable going. I don’t want to be in that situation. I told you before, I don’t believe in God.’ It’s a whole thing and she just never understands it. That’s what I’m always worried about is, you’re (her mom) not going to understand this and coming out as a lesbian. I know they’d say, ‘We know, we understand that, you like girls, whatever, but coming out as bisexual is a whole other explanation and they’ll say, ‘You’re just doing this for attention and you’re just trying to be cool. College did this to you.’ I don’t want to freak them out. So Christmas break was a lot of biting my tongue, holding back, not saying much and kind of just sitting in the background for the first time in awhile because I’m very vocal and out there person as a journalism student, we’re all obnoxious, we’re the worst. That was the first year that I was quiet and everyone was like, ‘Are you OK? And I said, ‘Yeah, no, I’m fine. Just tired. The time zone change three weeks into this is still a lot. That whole two hours. Just throw me off grandma. I’m sorry.’”

On confronting homophobia: “First of all, you have to be open to the conversation and that’s something that I’m really big on is, I will be open to your conversations. I will listen to you. I will see what you say. I will even research. If you have anything you want me to look up, I will be 100% open. Just be 100% open with us and really understand that it’s not a choice. It’s just what happens. I’m the best example of that. I fought it for six, seven years. I said, ‘I don’t like girls. I don’t like girls. I don’t like girls,’ every other day. It’d just be something that would come up and I’d be like, ‘That’s not me. That’s not me.’ And I fought it for as long as I could and finally I had to look myself and be like, ‘It’s not a bad thing. You’re fine. You’re OK, you’re normal. It’s healthy. It’s natural.’ Anyone you talk to in the community will tell you: “It just wasn’t a choice. It just happened and you didn’t wake up one day….’ That was a struggle to get through. Most of the people I’ve talked to have said that, there’s very few who have had a very easy transition from being assumed to be straight to wherever their identity is and those were the kids who had the most supportive parents and communities and a lot of education at a young age and a lot of exposure. Just be open to listening, be willing to understand even if you don’t at first and be willing to really think about it and talk to more than just one person and don’t talk to someone who’s straight, that’s unfair. Can’t do that. You got to talk to everyone in the community and really understand it and take it one step at a time. If it’s overwhelming to take every single part of the spectrum in at once, start with the easy ones: gay, lesbian, and go a little harder and get further and further until you really are starting to understand that it changes and it’s not really what the media says. Look it up on your own. Think on your own and just be willing to form your own opinion and at the end of the day, if you still can’t really understand it or you don’t want to, that’s on you. Everyone else eventually will come around and if you’re still the only one, you still don’t believe it. There’s nothing you can really do.”

On coming out: “I think the best thing is to research everything and know what you’re getting into and know what you’re understanding. Because that was the one thing I never understood was, I knew there was a thing called being a lesbian, but I never knew there was something called bisexuality and that’s what really clicked with me. Really look into all of them. Really think about it. Really think about what you want and don’t just jump into it right away. Don’t after one day of viewing be like, “Oh, I found out what pansexuality is, I’m pansexual.’ Don’t do that. Try it on for size. What I did was I would stand in front of the mirror and say, ‘You’re bisexual.’ It sounds weird. Still keep going, work through it and if you know it’s not you know, it’s not you and you’re going to have a journey in front of you. That’s a lot of, ‘I’m doing well, I’m doing well.’ Something knocks you down. You got to get up and keep going and you got to surround yourself with people. Even if they’re straight or you know they’re allies or they are someone in the community, you gotta surround yourself. You’ve got to expose yourself. You’ve got to really just take time with it and don’t rush it. Don’t push it. You’ve got to keep going. And if something knocks you down, don’t give up. That’s the biggest thing, is just get up and keep going because there are people who are dealing with the same exact thing as you. Maybe the kid sitting next to in class or the kid who passed you in the hallway, but be willing to reach out and be willing to be open with it and start small. If you’re close with your parents, tell your parents, but if you’re not, maybe wait a little while. I told my best friend first and his reaction was literally like, ‘OK, what do you want to do later today?’ And that was the best reaction ever. I mean that’s also something that if you have a friend who was exploring, just be supportive, don’t say, ‘Well, do you think like this maybe? Or, are you sure you’re not just like…’ Just say, ‘OK, if that’s what you’re feeling, then that’s what you’re feeling. And if the next day, they look at you as say ‘I think I was just going crazy’, just let them have their time. You just gotta be patient.”

– Kelsey Atcheson, Female, Bisexual

@KelseyAtcheson

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