Her Name Was Sam (NSFW)
I have always known that I was attracted to women, but I never knew when I would ever have the strength to live in my truth.
Contrary to my accent, I was born and raised not only in the South, but more importantly in the Bible Belt. Yes, that seemingly mythical place where some counties are still dry on Sundays, and we can't drink until 12:30 PM for brunch (Senate Bill 17). The land where churches are more abundant than corner stores, and any hint of self-actualization was shunned as an act of defiance. I have a love/hate relationship with Georgia, but I knew in high school that if I were ever going to come out, it would have to be in Atlanta. Not San Francisco, nor Seattle... Atlanta. I had prayed that it would happen in high school because I foolishly thought public school kids would be more progressive about these things during that time.
You see, I grew up attending a Christian, predominantly white private school. I loved Griffin Christian Academy and my classmates, but I knew that their moral compasses would turn on me faster than I could utter, "I like girls". I had one friend (well technically two) that I suspected to also like girls. I never mentioned it and she subtly acted on it only at sleepovers. FYI these things happen at sleepovers more than parents realize, but you can't control everything.
Once I knew that I would be transitioning into public high school, I pleaded with the universe to finally open the door to me living my authentic truth. Unfortunately, the bullying of homosexuals was not something that I wanted to add to my endless list of reasons why I was already being bullied, so I shoved those feelings away to never think about my desires again.
Fast forward to my sophomore year in college. I was fresh out of a relationship whos ending I should have seen coming, dating emotionally unavailable boys masquerading as men, and promoting college nightlife for my friend Josh. I wanted a change in my dating habits and decided that I would finally have a go at finding women to date.
It was Halloween and the Distinguished Gentlemen, as they called themselves, had expanded to having a street team to help further their reach. That's when I first noticed Sam. She was a freshman and looked like a "pretty girl in boy's clothes". Back then I used to say that I would only date a "stud" if she fit that description, and gawd forbid she cuts her hair. I lied.
I was playing photographer for the night and took a picture of Sam and her friend dancing on stage. I lingered and took a few more photos, debating if I would actually talk to her, let alone dance with her. I love to entertain, but I'm not always the most sociable person in the room. I didn't shoot my shot and walked away to dance with some random man-boy.
If you were an avid Facebook user in 2007, you may remember being able to send private messages to people. The messages would appear in pink or blue to give the reader a hint as to who you may be. I waited a few days and mustered up the courage to send her a private message. I started the conversation with a shy, "Hi, I think that you're gorgeous, and you have a beautiful smile". She had the smile of a goddess with the ability to charm the pants off any man or woman. I waited with baited breath for her response.
We flirted for a few messages before I finally gave her an obvious hint as to who I was. From that point forward, we hung out several times a week, held up in her room. Over the course of the next few weeks, the Distinguished Gentlemen upgraded venues to a space that allowed them to serve food. Josh had asked for my culinary expertise, and several of us collaborated to make a trial dinner. Sam knew that I was going to be in Atlanta that night, and asked me to sleep over.
My friends had been suspecting that I was talking to someone new, but I would always refer to her as simply Sam. I learned that trick from a friend who referred to her girlfriend as Alex. I was rushing to leave the dinner because I didn't want them to know who I was seeing and insisted on walking back to the dorms at midnight instead of having them drop me off.
Georgia State University's new Commons dormitory was Fort Knox, so I had to wait out front for her to come down from the maze of buildings to let me inside. As luck would have it, just as she was approaching the turnstiles, Josh and the crew were buzzing themselves in. I could feel my heart in my throat because I was so afraid of their reaction. They gave me hell for sneaking around with "Sam" all that time but reassured me that they were happy and accepting of anyone I deemed worthy of my time.
Unfortunately, it wasn't as easy a pill to swallow for my friends from back home. One even asked me to remove photos of us from my Facebook account because she didn't want people to think she was gay too. I never took them down, but I inadvertently gave her the power to shun me into not sharing with anyone that I was decidedly lesbian (or so I thought for a few years). I was still denying my sexuality to family members despite being openly asked and experiencing my first same-sex relationship post-Sam. I thought they wouldn't understand because everyone thought I was boy crazy or had their own ideas of how my life should play out. Much like how people didn't comprehend how I could be a cheerleader for one season and play softball the following season.
It was important for me to explain to my ex-boyfriend Phillip that he wasn't the reason why I had "turned gay" before he transferred to Georgia State. It didn't shield me from obtaining the title as "Phillip's old girlfriend who's gay now", but I didn't want him to find out from someone else's perspective. He expanded my sexuality rather than thwarted it, and I never wanted him to feel less than adequate as a partner. It still took time for me to be open with my family, but it finally happened with my last relationship of four years. I am much happier now being an openly bisexual sapiosexual whose tribe fully accepts her for who she is. In celebration of Pride Month, I want to hear your coming out stories!
*Note: Sam is NOT Samira Wiley. Her photo was used for her likeness.
THANK YOU FOR READING! SHARING IS CARING.