Out of the closet: a journey of self discovery

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Kirsti Medeiros

"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

On Oct. 28, 2013, Gov. Neil Abercrombie called the Hawaii state legislature into a special session on same-sex marriage. Swarms of citizens on either side of the issue gathered in front of the state Capitol to make their voices heard and fight for what they believed in. It was away from this political excitement, in the solitude of my dorm room, that I made my own voice heard with the phone call that changed my life.

In one phone call, I came out to my mother as a lesbian. I’ll never forget her initial reaction and her piercing words, “Why don’t you just kill me?” While her response was everything that I had expected it to be, nothing could have prepared me for that moment. With emotions running high on both ends, I spent close to an hour on the phone with my mom until she just couldn’t take it anymore and hung up on me.

Tears streamed down my face, my heart pounded angrily and my breathing was staggered as I sat in my room overwhelmed with loneliness. Filled with a mixture of anger and sadness, there was still a small part of me that felt relief. Coming out had been a grueling process, a marathon in which my mother was the finish line.

Born and raised in Laie, a tight-knit Mormon community, homosexuality had always been a taboo subject. Lesbianism, especially, was unheard of and as a result had never crossed my adolescent mind. I spent my high school days daydreaming about boys. As the oldest child and only daughter, I had my mind set on marriage in a Mormon temple, a pinnacle that my single mother constantly dreamed of.

In 2011, I left Laie to study at Chaminade. The decision to attend Chaminade was centered around my desire to open my mind to the world outside of “Mormon Town.” Chaminade, a private Marianist institution not too far from home, seemed like the perfect place to begin my mind-opening journey. By the end of my freshman year, I had opened my mind in ways that I never could have imagined.

Chaminade introduced a concept that was previously completely foreign to me: openly gay peers who were accepted as so. For the first time in my life, I met girls who identified as lesbians, and I quickly learned that they weren’t nearly as scary as my mother seemed to believe they were. As I accepted my peers for who they were, I began to focus on my own self discovery. For the first time in my life, I was thinking and living for myself rather than for my mother.

Before I could come out to anyone, I had to come out to myself. My inner struggle dragged on for months as I fought to understand and accept the fact that everything that I thought I wanted in life was a reflection of what my mother, my church and my community wanted for me. My journey to self discovery quickly turned into a task of creating myself.

Once I came out to myself, I learned that coming out is an ongoing process with no real end. From friends to family, classmates to co-workers, there will always be another person to come out to, some more significant than others.

To this day my mother refuses to accept me as a lesbian, but she does accept me as a person and, most importantly, as her daughter. We don’t always see eye to eye, but we continue to talk regularly and our phone calls always end with, “I love you.” Our relationship is far from perfect, but the fact that my mother has put our differences aside for the sake of staying in each other’s lives has reassured me of the validity of a Dr. Seuss quote that I’ve come to live by: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

That dreadful phone call with my mother was more than a year ago and since then, my mind-opening journey has brought me much further than I had anticipated. Every day I discover a new piece of myself, and it’s an endeavor that I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy. I am no longer afraid to be who I am as I have learned that there is indeed a difference between being selfish and loving yourself. Inner turmoil has been replaced with a growing inner peace as I embrace the self that I have created.