I knew from an early age that I was gay. But although I knew that I was a lesbian, I didn’t know what it meant exactly. All I knew was that I didn’t act like a “normal” child of my age.
Differences between others and myself began to show when I was very young and spent most of my afternoons at my grandmother’s old house in Amirabad, a Tehran neighborhood. I distinctly remember playing with my cousins for hours and insisting on tying up my long, curly hair behind my back and out of sight.
Unlike most girls, my cousin of equally the same age and I didn’t like playing with dolls or wearing colorful dresses, fancy hairclips and girlish shoes with bows. Our fun involved toy guns, bicycles, footballs and wearing jeans, joggings and belts that were fastened funnily.
It was these things that made those days so good. I have no bad memories. But we grew up and eventually nothing remained of the old house and I stopped seeing my cousin. It was then that I realized there was nobody around me that I could say was like me.
Then came middle school and it was then that I really noticed the stark differences between myself and other people of my own age. In fact it was on my very first day. As I stood awkwardly fidgeting while the principal and vice principal gave their customary welcome speeches and I struggled to adapt to my new environment, a voice called out “Hey Arezoo! What an ass you are.”
It was instantaneous. As my eyes met the eyes of the girl in front of me, my heart jumped into my throat. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. This was the first time that I had felt real affection for someone of the same sex.
During middle school, I hung around in a group of four and it was during this period that my interest in girls evolved into a combination of affection and curiosity. I was beginning to appreciate beauty.
I did whatever I could to be seen and liked by the girls and women that I fancied, including a young language teacher. At the same time I was working hard at writing love letters to my friends’ boyfriends, which I did by visualizing the girls I myself liked. This agitated me and made me look strange to others.
Then high school came around and my homosexual desires became stronger yet, although I still didn’t know what it meant. This was perplexing as I was now having sexual needs but couldn’t push myself to get close to a boy.
The Missing Piece of the Puzzle
It wasn’t long before I had my first sexual experience with a girl but I wanted something more. I realized that I wanted love when I came across a blog that discussed in detail the various aspects of a same-sex relationship; about being in love and having to hide it, about your family ostracizing you and about being afraid.
When I realized that I was gay, fear was an emotion I came to know well. For many days and nights, I was terrified that my mother and family would reject me so I tried to get close to a boy and fall in love with him.
It was luck alone that I came to know Mehrdad. I told him immediately that I liked women but he just replied, “There’s no harm in trying.” And that’s what we did. But the relationship failed to satisfy either of us. I felt numb during it, which was hurting us both. I realized that my feelings for Mehrdad had been nothing more than a need to talk to somebody who understood me and accept me the way that I was. To this day, he remains one of my closest friends.
It was during this ordeal that I fell in love for real for the first time. And this time it was not mere curiosity or sexual attraction. I was consumed with love. All I wanted was for Zinat to be in my life but she was straight. Falling in love with a heterosexual meant my first love was doomed from the word go.
My thoughts continued to be consumed with my sexual orientation and more specifically how my family would react when they found out. However, I finally got up the courage to tell them. I went online, pulled up a page about being gay called “My Own Sex Site” and called my mother over to read it. “This is me,” I simply said.
She smiled nervously and said, “Don’t be absurd.” Then she left the room. Over the few days, I repeated constantly that I was gay. Eventually, my father found out as well as my mother. We fought about her threats to take me to a doctor to “cure me.”
I had my first serious relationship with a girl just before going to college. This was a good relationship but Mahya, my girlfriend, was not really a lesbian. I recognized that I was just an experience for her and nothing more. My mother and I had another huge argument after I invited Mahya to our house for the first time and I closed my bedroom door. Although we were being perfectly innocent in my room, my mother was worried because she was finally beginning to see me for who I really was.
For a long time my mother struggled with my sexual orientation but then one day she came to accept me for who I really was. She finally realized that her daughter Reyhaneh had her own life and could decide and choose for herself. “Reyhaneh, your personal and sexual life is your own, just like everybody else’s,” she said.
Since then, there’s been good and bad times and I’ve gotten to know many other gay people. I’ve learnt that I’m not just part of a tiny minority but that there are a lot of homosexuals, all of whom accept me.
In the society I live in, I am one of the lucky few that enjoys and continues to enjoy the support of my friends and family. I no longer wear a mask. I know who I am, what I want and what my aspirations are. And, most importantly, I’ve learnt that I’m no different from everybody else.
This blog was originally published in August 2015
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