Dear Me: Letters To Our Younger Selves On National Coming Out Day

I spent a good portion of my late teens until my mid-20s so hyper focused on my career that it was very convenient to not deal with my sexuality. When I did start to take dating a bit more seriously, I did what any natural young woman would do: I went out with guys! And, after every date, I always wondered “Is this what this dating thing is all about? Eh!”

There were no bells. There were no whistles. There were no butterflies in my stomach.

By this time, my life was going well. I was on a television series; I was also doing an abundant amount of guest-star spots on television shows, and working on films. My life was amazing! Except, I didn’t have a love life. I couldn’t find a boyfriend! I couldn’t “fall in love.” HELL, I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT MEANT?!

I actually thought something was wrong with me.

I got very depressed as I saw one friend after another fall in love, date, and get into serious relationships. I started having panic attacks and inevitably had to go see a therapist to figure out what was wrong. No one told me to go, no one made me go, I just wanted some help.

That therapist never told me I could possibly be gay. She never told me that something was or wasn’t wrong with me. I honestly can’t remember what I got out of those sessions other than the fact that my therapist was beautiful, sensitive, and hoped she could make me feel better. I felt closer to her, opened up so easily with her, and it never occurred to me….

I think my higher power was kind enough to finally make it SO INCREDIBLY CLEAR to me that I might be “gay” (Gasp!) that he put me in a situation where I was asked out by an old managers sister! Something in me stirred. Something in me started to ‘wake up’ at just the notion of going on a date with this woman. I pushed myself to explore that feeling. I took a deep breath and plunged into the possibility that I might like women. That I might be a ‘lesbian’.

I felt all sorts of things: Shame, doubt, insecurity. After all, I am a Latin woman, with a very strong Catholic upbringing, and a very, very, STRAIGHT family.

However, as I look back on that time in my life, I think I knew, even back then, that I OWED IT TO MYSELF to explore the idea, this notion, of even the remote possibility that I could be gay. I JUST WANTED TO BE HAPPY. I JUST WANTED TO BE IN LOVE. I JUST wanted to feel like all the girls did when they fell in love. I just wanted to be NORMAL. I, too, had my perfect dress I wanted to wear at my wedding (Vera Wang, thank you very much), the shoes, the house, the white picket fence. However, I had to dare myself to ‘risk’ the stigma of what it is in this country to be ‘gay’. But, being HAPPY was more important to me.

Today, as I look back to my younger self, I would give her a big hug and say ‘You did it! I’m proud of you!’ I would smile, hug myself, and say “You see. Nothing was wrong with you: You are as normal as the next person who wants to love and be loved.”

Today, while no longer in that first relationship (that’s a completely different story! You’ll have to see Slip Away to get the gist of that disaster. LOL!), I AM IN A LOVING, HEALTHY, relationship….with a woman.

Today, I am happy. And, there is no other way I would have it.

I. Am. Proud. Of. Myself.

Michelle C. Bonilla

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