Anonymous MiC Contributor
Content Disclaimer: Homophobia
Is there a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow?
Growing up, I always believed that there was one. I could only imagine the shimmering gold coins at the end of the trail of pastel colors that trekked miles through the misty air above. Every time I saw a rainbow while in the car, I would beg my parents to follow it. If I spotted one while playing outside with my friends, I would sprint as far as I was allowed to go to see if I could catch a glimpse of the alleged pot of gold. Even today, after it rains, I always catch myself sitting by the window staring into the void, hoping to see seven bright colors peeking out the dark grey clouds and wondering where they lead to. After all, I was my parents’ “rainbow baby,” a child born after a miscarriage — maybe that’s the reason I’m mesmerized with rainbows, I would joke to myself.
In fact, up until I was 16, I would be the girl wearing rainbow nail polish every day. While all of my friends painted French manicures on themselves, I painted each nail a different color of the rainbow. At the same age, I also started to feel out of place. I noticed I wasn’t like everyone else. Aside from the rainbow nails, it felt like people were judging my long, dark, braided hair, my blemished, scarred, tanned face and body and the thick, dark layer of hair on my arms and legs that I would attempt to conceal with pit-stained sweatshirts and full-length pants. I felt — for lack of better terminology — different, but I figured it was just a part of being a teenager.
It’s just a phase. It’ll pass soon. Except it didn’t. I felt as though every single thing I did was being judged by everyone, and I became extremely self-conscious.
Day after day, I would go to school with zero self-esteem. Every morning I heard my alarm go off, I would think of an excuse to tell my mom to call me out of school. I would sit in the cafeteria, unable to eat the food I packed without the feeling of nausea coursing through me. My head felt clogged. I couldn’t focus on anything: school, sports, clubs, nothing. I kept telling myself that it was a slump, and I’d get through it, but deep down I knew that wasn’t it. Night after night I would stay up sweating through my shirt and tossing and turning in bed, unable to turn off the thoughts racing through my head because I knew the real reason why I felt stuck.
I had a crush on a girl in my math class.
In elementary school, my crushes were boys. My friends and I would only talk about cute boys. My family would always talk about my future husband. So why did I develop feelings for a girl?
Of course, I went straight to Google and scrambled to type the ever so famous words: “am i bi quiz.” The truth was that I knew deep down that I was bisexual. I didn’t need an Internet quiz to tell me that. I was just too scared to admit that about myself due to the fear of not being accepted. But this was who I was. This is who I am.
I am bisexual.
For the rest of my high school career, I chose to be in denial. I already felt as if everyone was judging every aspect of me, and being bisexual would only prompt more probing questions. However, as high school came to an end and we all said our goodbyes to each other at commencement, the realization started settling in: I was never going to see these people again. I no longer needed to fear what they would think of my hair, my face or my sexuality because they were no longer going to be a prominent part of my life. With the fear of being judged pushed away and the self-confidence kicking in, the summer after my senior year of high school was when I finally embraced my sexuality along with the sunshine and warm summer breeze.
Curious to learn more, I asked my friends who were out about their experiences and how they learned to navigate their way through the world as part of the LGBTQ+ community. They shared with me resources — books, podcasts, people to talk to — on how to accept myself and how to find strength and confidence within myself. I was scared, to say the least, because I knew nothing. I wasn’t really sure how accepting this community was, or how intersectional it was or even how to go about learning about it. I just want to go back to being a kid again. Chasing rainbows and playing outside. While scrolling endlessly on the Internet one late night, I saw an Amazon advertisement. The description read: “Pride flag. $12.99.” The LGBTQ+ symbol is a rainbow? How could I not have known? A tear of happiness streamed down my cheek; the blue light from my laptop illuminated my face as I stared at the overpriced ROYGBIV colors. It felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I had been ridden with anxiety that I wouldn’t be accepted in this community or that being bisexual was something to be ashamed of. But seeing that the symbol was a rainbow, something that’s always brought me happiness, I knew that I was going to be okay.
However, the saying that claims that at the end of a rainbow is a pot of gold is a lie. Or, I must’ve found the wrong end of the rainbow because there’s no pot of gold here. Instead, I found a closet. A closet that I would continue to be trapped inside for five years and counting.
Of course, the thought of coming out crossed my mind. But unfortunately, people in my community are not yet open to the idea of homosexual relationships. I vividly remember my best friends in high school making comments like, “That’s so gay,” and, “Stand further away, people are gonna think we’re a couple.” I’ve had mentors in high school openly say, “I don’t support gay people or gay rights.”
While these comments really took a toll on my self-esteem, I was hopeful I’d be able to escape them after moving to Ann Arbor. For a while, that’s what happened. At college, I felt as if I was finally able to express myself as bisexual. Everyone surrounding me were either allies or also part of the LGBTQ+ community. I received nothing but love and support, and for that I was immensely grateful. In fact, there were days I felt strong enough to publicly come out. There were days I would sit in my residence hall room hovering my thumb over my mom’s phone number, ready to call her and tell her the truth. There were days I would create a draft on Instagram of a picture and a caption of me publicly coming out. I figured I had so much support and love from those I was surrounded by, I would be strong enough to confront any hate or “disappointment” from the homophobic people in my hometown. There was no longer a need to hide myself anymore like I did in high school. Ann Arbor, and the people of Ann Arbor, felt like the end of the rainbow with the pot of gold. However, that feeling was short-lived and this rainbow-sunshine state of mind was no longer.
One weekend night, my friends at the time and I were bored out of our minds, so after dinner, we decided to meet up at our go-to hangout spot, the theater in Baits II Residence Hall. Upon arriving, we all sat in our unassigned-assigned seats and started discussing what movie we wanted to watch, with “Hot Girl Bummer” by blackbear playing in the background. Our go-to genre was “cheesy horror movies,” so we decided to watch a movie called “Truth or Dare.” Fairly early in the film, a character played by Sophia Taylor Ali gets dared to kiss the main protagonist played by Lucy Hale. Everyone in the room at the time knew that I was bisexual, so I figured the scene of two girls kissing wouldn’t be an issue. I was aimlessly scrolling on my phone, listening to the poorly written dialogue and occasionally looking up at the screen to keep up with the main ideas of the plot, until I heard the sound of someone gagging. I looked to my left to see the girl sitting next to me gagging at the scene of two girls sharing a kiss. I watched her flail her arms and shield her eyes from the three-second scene (yes, the actual kiss lasted three seconds, I wish I was exaggerating) genuinely claiming she was going to throw up.
“Oh my god, oh my GOD! That’s SO disgusting! Why would they do that?” She exclaimed.
My jaw dropped wide open, but I couldn’t manage to say anything. The kiss had ended, but she still continued to talk over the movie.
“Oh my god, I can’t. I’m so done with this movie, oh my god. Guys, that’s so gross, change the movie. Oh my god, I can’t believe they did that. I can’t.”
Someone else in the room called out her name, nudging her in disapproval.
“I would do anything else than kiss my friend like that.”
They called her name again.
“Literally, that’s so disgusting, I can’t. Oh my god.”
Finally, someone sternly told her to shut up. But by that point, the damage had already been done.
My sunshine and rainbow-filled safe haven was slowly turning back into the end of the rainbow with the dark, lonely closet right in front of me. This person claimed to be an ally. She would proudly wear a T-shirt reading “Michigan Pride” written in the colors of the rainbow. She even took PSYCH 225, a class on the psychology of sexuality. Most importantly, I called her my friend. I needed Ann Arbor and the people of Ann Arbor to be my pot of gold.
I don’t remember what the others said to her during this incident. Nor do I even remember the rest of the movie. I don’t even remember moving or speaking the rest of that night. What I do recall, though, is the feeling of fear, which never left, and always has been lingering in the back of my mind ever since I was 16.
I am no longer safe. This city and these people are no longer my safe haven.
After the movie ended, I trudged back to my room, my body and brain completely numb from the events that had transpired. I sat down on my unmade bed and let out a soft sob. I cried myself to sleep that night, waking up to puffy cheeks and red eyes, not wanting to get out of bed.
How could someone who openly claimed to be an ally act and say something like that? Just at the scene of two girls kissing for literally three seconds? If SHE feels that way about homosexual relationships, how do the others feel? Is everyone just putting on a performative allyship but deep down find homosexual relationships revolting?
Currently, that girl is dating someone I call a friend (don’t ask me how I’m able to manage that, because I don’t even know), so she is someone I have to remain cordial with. I am not able to completely avoid her, which is why this incident cuts me so deep. Even thinking back to this story and putting it into words was difficult — it took me days to write that paragraph describing what had happened that night. A day or so after the events that transpired and after I had avoided her at all costs, she texted me an apology over Snapchat and promised that an incident like this would never occur again. However, after that night, I convinced myself that no one actually accepted me for who I am. I know this is untrue, but when someone I called a friend, who knew my truth and so outwardly claimed to be an ally, was able to spew such hateful words, how am I supposed to trust that people around me aren’t thinking those exact things? Thinking about this incident, and thinking about the other hateful rhetoric I’ve encountered in my hometown, I can’t help but go back to living in fear and shielding this part of myself. It feels too dangerous to seek the end of the rainbow where there’s a pot of gold. It’s safer to stay at the end with a closet. I no longer feel safe telling others that I am bisexual, even if they themselves are a part of the community, because I fear that somehow I’ll still receive hate from those I love. I can’t even put my name on this piece because of how scared I am that people won’t accept me just because of my sexuality.
The closet is dark. It’s lonely. I see people on my social media, especially with Pride Month in full force, posting about their coming out stories, attending Pride parades, posting their significant others and how they’re living their lives as part of the LGBTQ+ community out of the closet. They’re the reason I still believe that there is indeed a pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow. I want nothing more than to tell them how much confidence their stories give me, but the fear that manifests inside me always prevails. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be stuck at this end of the rainbow, in this closet, but seeing that there’s something waiting for me at the other end, I hope one day I’ll be able to venture out for it, just like I wanted to do when I was a kid. Once I do, I’ll be sure to come back and proudly slap my name on this article, to let you all know that I’ve made it to the other end and that I’ve found my pot of gold. And hopefully, if anyone reading this is stuck at the same end of the rainbow as I am, they too can find their pot of gold.