“My name is Jill, and I celebrate that being queer is fabulous.”
I knew I was gay by the time I was five years old. We did this thing in school where you imagined your future. The future I imagined very clearly had two women—I never doubted it, but I didn’t come out to anyone beside my twin sister until college.
There were no gay student associations, but there was dial-up AOL and floppy disks and the early thrills of online chat rooms and email. I went to a women’s college, and it did not occur to me that a women’s college might be a hub of lesbianism. (Fortunately for me, mine was.)
I remember walking by the RA’s office. A few women were hanging out in there, and they called out to me as I passed by. I popped in, and they were skimming the student directory. It had all the students and their room numbers. They had apparently just came across my name, and they were curious: Are you gay? I realized in that moment that I couldn’t come out to my college friends and not my family. I sat down that night and hand-wrote letters to my parents and my siblings.
My twin sister already knew, and my brother had a hunch because of my love for Thelma & Louise—as did my mom—but my dad is the one who really surprised me. He called me at school. I distinctly remember talking to him on my dorm phone (pre–cell phone days!). He said to me, “If your eyes were blue or brown, it wouldn’t matter to me. I love you. This doesn’t matter, and it never will.”
I was lucky. I didn’t have a lot of resources, but I did have a lot of support from my family and friends. And things have changed—for the better. I got to see Laverne Cox speak at the ACLU dinner. She is so amazing and smart and uplifting. Being able to see people who are thriving, who are leaders in the community, and who are doing great things on a national and international scale is incredibly inspiring.
It means we have access to things and roles and platforms we historically have not had access to, including safe spaces to be ourselves and explore our identities. Having that place to go, where you know that you’re not alone, is really important in helping people figure out who they are and how to talk about the space they occupy, be it queer, or trans, or intersex, or whatever feels most true and most comfortable.
I like all the labels—I’m a dyke, a lesbian, and a queer. But I'm also a feminist, an atheist, a twin, a daughter, and a variety of other things. Our labels are only a tiny little starting place to understand where we fit—and thrive—within a spectrum of identities.