Discovering Love in the Deep South

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Coming out as a lesbian in South Carolina

When I came out at the age of 17, I wasn’t met with love by my parents. I was met mainly by fear, and a little anger. After all, I was coming out in the deep south—South Carolina, to be exact.

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Love may hide its head, but it is always there

 

Love has always been a funny word to me. It has a wealth of meanings, each one individual to the person who utters the word. Romantic love? Unfortunately I haven’t had the best experience with that. I’m learning about romantic love, slowly but surely, but what comes to mind when I think of love is family. Family is the foundation of love, of an unconditional love that creates a bond so strong that it seems like nothing can break it. 

Well, except being gay, in my case. This is the story of how love surprised me.

You see, I underestimated love. When I came out at the age of 17, I wasn’t met with love by my parents. I was met mainly by fear, and a little anger. After all, I was coming out in the deep south—South Carolina, to be exact. I uttered the three words I had been trying to choke out for months, only to have them shoved back in my mouth.

“You’re just confused. You’re not gay,” my mother said coldly that night, unwilling to make eye contact. And in my mind, I asked myself, “What if I’m not gay? What if I’m just broken?”

I went through the rest of high school with this question looming in my mind. I thought I could suppress it, ignore it. My parents did a wonderful job with that; the subject was never mentioned after that horrible night. I dated girls and boys through college, on my neverending quest to make peace with my heart. I was so desperate to find someone who loved me that I stumbled upon a new type of love: desperate love. It’s not unconditional, and it is exhausting. But, ironically enough, it was desperate love that drove me to discover what real love really is. It took one horrible and mentally abusive relationship to make the phone call to my mom that night. All it took was the shaking in my voice for her to come to me. To spend weeks helping me pack and move and begin to piece together the ragged human being I had become. But it was then I realized what family meant.

It means love. My mother was choosing to get over her own beliefs in order to help her child. To make an effort to confront the uncomfortable things, and make peace with the scars of the past was the greatest act of love I’ve ever seen. And it got better after that. Many conversations have led to small acts of love that brought tears to my eyes.

My favorite was the night I called my dad, and asked what he was doing.

“Just reading an article about the Supreme Court and the overturning of DOMA,” he simply responded. Love doesn’t always present itself in grand gestures. Sometimes love just means reading a book.

It seemed that in this past year we have unearthed so many skeletons that were once buried deep, and I think it has brought us together as a family. For two people that were set in their ways, they opened their minds for me. To me, that is love.

And as I discovered, once the fire has been lit, it spreads quickly. More and more family members have sat down to tell me how they would like to learn more about marriage equality, and tell me how happy they are that I’ve met someone wonderful.

Looking at these reactions, I truly hope that other families do the same. I hope they too can find the love that has buried its head in the sand. As I’ve found, the familial bond can be tattered and stretch thin at times. But I don’t think it ever breaks. I think love holds it together. I think love in one way or another holds us all together.

So when I look back at the past year of my life, I feel so optimistic about the years that lay ahead. I’m 23 and have a lot of dreams to chase. I’m lucky to have someone that chases them with me, but I’m even luckier to have a family now to cheer me on. I’d be lying to you if I said I always believed in love, because I didn’t. In those dark years I was convinced it had gone away.

But it hadn’t. Love may hide its head, but it is always there.

celeste

Celeste Seymore is a 23-year-old recent graduate from College of Charleston, with a bachelor’s of arts in Spanish and Hispanic studies. While currently pursuing a master’s degree, she enjoys writing, traveling and following the journey toward marriage equality. You can find her on Twitter at @celesteseymore.

Photo: angel oak tree in South Carolina, courtesy of Acorns on Glen

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