The Legacies We Choose to Leave

This is an essay I used to get into college. I hope you all like it as much as I do.

In my junior year, just after coming out very publicly at a school assembly, I was asked by a friend in my Biology class if I was still a lesbian. I replied by sarcastically asking him if he was still straight. Six months later, four months after another boy’s in-class sex joke my teacher had done nothing to criticize and two months after his “communist callout letter” read out loud to resounding laughter, that same boy asked me if I would like to experiment with him. This time, he was not my friend. This time, I cried.

In my junior year, three months after coming out very publicly at a school assembly, I received an email from a closeted student at our school, telling me that he wasn’t sure how to come out and that he needed companionship. I talked to him anonymously via Snapchat for two months, unsure whether I was being catfished or not but nonetheless talking to him and giving him advice.

In my junior year, six months after coming out very publicly at a school assembly, I took my first serious girlfriend to prom. I looked around at a dance floor and I was surrounded by people and I felt so, so lonely. They looked at me and smiled sadly. We were the only couple there that didn’t contain a guy and a girl, each in gender-appropriate outfits.

In my junior year, after coming out very publicly at a school assembly, I deeply regretted coming out. That is not, perhaps, the narrative I wanted people to hear, or how I presented myself, but it was nevertheless a fundamental part of my existence. I became a vehicle for people’s idea of me. Every time a friend acted “off,” I had to decide whether to apologize or realize they weren’t “comfortable” around me anymore. I lost people, temporary or not. I made myself sick over going to biology because I was so scared to see him again.

On the first day of senior year, after my first breakup and my first time driving a friend and my first bank account and my first party and my first summer where I didn’t feel like I was drowning, almost a year after coming out very publicly at a school assembly, the student who I’d been talking to contacted me again and told me that he was at summer camp, and he had his first boyfriend, and he was out to all his friends. I had not been catfished – in fact, I had genuinely helped a student feel more normal, feel less isolated, feel at home, if only with me. “You’re the first out person I got to know,” he typed, in the midst of a conversation that wasn’t trying to be deep but felt significant anyway.

A week into my senior year, I met up with a friend in the freshman grade for coffee. She told me she’d dated a girl over the summer as if it weren’t a big deal, and we talked about questioning and stereotypes around bisexuality and laughed about it and there was no question of what one of us could say before the other judged. “You’re so at home with yourself, you know? That’s what I want to have,” she told me, sipping a latte. I didn’t tell her but I wrote that down in my planner, right near my name.

Two weeks into my senior year, I was with a new friend, a girl I had barely known until this year, blonde and very pretty and dating a popular senior, as we talked about our summers. “I think you’re so inspirational for being so open about that,” she said, almost absentmindedly, as if she meant it but she didn’t think it was anything dramatic to say. I doubt she ever thought about that sentence again. I do. If only to remind myself that my real friends don’t think I’m weird for caring, I remember that.

Three weeks into my senior year, almost a year after coming out very publicly at a school assembly, I walked into the first GSA meeting of the year to find fifteen new people, six of whom had come out over the summer, three of whom were new freshmen considering how to come out, two of whom later told me they came out to friends after they saw that assembly. And it didn’t hit me until the end of the period, but I looked around the room and I saw that I wasn’t alone, and I never had been, but it had taken me standing up in front of a school and saying “I refuse to be quiet” for all of these people to refuse to be quiet, too.

That is my legacy and I am proud of it. I have been a livewire. I have been a body for a projection of every stereotype I fit and don’t fit. I have been a well-intentioned joke, I have been the girl who laughs it off and cries later, and I am so much stronger for all of it.

In my senior year, on the one-year anniversary of coming out very publicly at a school assembly, I gave that same assembly talk, and I walked in believing that even if it felt like no one was listening, someone would be. And I refused to regret it.

Sooooo. On that note. What did you think? Let me know down in the comments! watercolor-2087454_960_720
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16 thoughts on “The Legacies We Choose to Leave

  1. This is… wow. This is really powerful! You’re such a talented writer! And also the subject hit me really hard and I just think I really needed to read this right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If I wasn’t reading this at work I would be crying, instead I am tearing up and fighting those tears so I don’t look like I’m having a public breakdown but Elise this was beautiful! I’m so glad you shared it with us. And I’m so glad you helped so many people in your school come out and accept themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was just also incredibly powerful and succinct, and I loved this so much! You’re such a fabulous and amazing writer, and I loved this oh so much. I just think that so many people needed to hear this right now, and this message is just incredibly important. You’re a legend, and I hope Bryn Mawr treats you well!

    Liked by 1 person

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