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Dear Caroline,

It’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I understand some of the things that led me here and even longer to talk to you about them. Some I just don’t even know how to tell you. Some we’ve discussed and talked about at great length. Some we’ve only barely touched. 

I thought it might be good to lay it all out here for you. To give you something to refer back to when I’m being difficult or you’re frustrated with me. To remind you how far you’ve helped me come and how much farther I have to go. 

My life has not been easy. Some of it was my fault. Some of it was not. 

I remember the first time I ever kissed a girl. How good it felt. How right. I also remember the first time I ever kissed a boy. How rough and sloppy it was. How awkward. 

I remember the first time I was ever intimate with a girl. How easy it was. How I understood everything about how it worked. I remember the first time I was ever with a boy. How I just could not wrap my head around why it was better and was supposed to be this way. 

I remember struggling with my 15 year old self, trying to make it make sense. Being upset to the point of vomiting because I knew what it meant. I didn’t want it to be true. It couldn’t be true. I wasn’t gay. I couldn’t be a lesbian.  Just those words, those labels made me uncomfortable. 

So I retaliated. I would prove to myself that I just hadn’t found the right guy. It was me. It was the sexual abuse I went through as a child that broke me and why I was uncomfortable with men. I wouldn’t deal with rape until much later.

Men were attracted to me. They fed me lines, they told me all kinds of things, and I wanted to be normal. I wanted, more than anything, to prove I wasn’t gay. 

So I tried them all. Skinny ones, large ones, short ones, tall ones. Clean cut ones, tattooed and pierced ones. Good guys, bad guys. Boys with experience and boys who had never done this before. Rumors spread. Sometimes I encouraged them. Especially when I had recently spent the night with their sisters, girlfriends, cousins. I hoped that if everyone was focused on which guy I slept with this week, they wouldn’t notice the girl who’s hand I was holding. The girl who’s ear I was whispering in. The girl I cried over at night because I was an experiment because she wasn’t gay. No matter how many times I tried to tell them that it was okay, I wasn’t either, it was never okay. 

I tried to tell my mother at 16. Things were very unsettled at home then. I was just young and experimenting. 

I tried to tell her at 21 after my first marriage dissolved after years of physical and mental abuse from the children’s biological father. I was just confused after my first divorce. 

I tried to marry my best friend. To keep my feelings bottled up. To do what I thought was best for the children in a tiny community. He was a great guy. Funny. He adopted the children as his own, both figuratively and legally. We tried everything to make it work. It didn’t. 

So many nights spent alone with a razor blade, trying to cut, trying to bleed it out. Trying to forget those nights lying next to a man and crying myself to sleep because it’s not what I wanted. Giving up my keys to the gun case voluntarily because I didn’t trust myself. Dealing with depression and anti-psychotic medications, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications. Being hospitalized for a time. Doing more than contemplating suicide. 

Trying to find answers. Why did men feel that I was obligated to do what they wanted? Why did they feel that they could say or do anything they wanted to me? Why couldn’t I be happy with that? Why couldn’t I be normal? Why did I have these feelings inside me? Why did no one understand? Was it me? 

Then I found you. Everything fell into place. Everything made sense. I explained to my mother for the third time at 31 that I was gay. That I’d found what I was looking for. That you were more than worth anything I’d have to deal with in this town, from family. You saved me from myself. From the dangerous downward spiral that I was inevitably heading for. 

You. 

You are my everything. I don’t know that I can ever thank you enough. For bringing me back from the brink. For helping me make sense of my life. For helping me be okay with who and what I am. 

For loving me even though you understand that I have been broken many, many times and then put back together with rude, uncaring hands. 

Thank you for being patient with me while I learn all about myself. While I learn that it is okay to tell you what I do and don’t like. For trusting me. For loving me when I don’t know how to love myself. 

I love you. 

Stacy

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