This story is previously published on Medium.

I write this piece a year after writing denial. In my piece, Denial, I talk about denying a very huge part of who I am. To this day, even after writing the very compelling piece, even after gaining praise, and reading inspiring words from others who share my story, and even after being accepted by a growing community of peers and allies, I can not accept who I am. It has been such a long journey already. It often feels like the acceptance I seek from and for myself will never happen. However, as I typed those words, the journey has only been roughly 3 years. Perhaps I have not given myself long enough.

In another piece called Lies, a thought piece to go with Denial, I write about how I am still lying to myself and others about who I really am.

Accepting yourself is hard, and you may accept the idea or the thought of your true self, but you may never accept the reality.

This is where I am, at the moment. These are my thoughts.

I came out recently, less than a couple of years ago, but not to everyone. The idea of saying I’m gay is still very foreign. I am still not comfortable. I still can’t accept it.

For a very long time, all of my life, in fact, I lived in a place of denial. This place was very comfortable. I never had to worry about what people would say. I never had to worry about not fitting in. I never had to worry about being shamed, mocked, bullied, or hated. I am cloaked by the constraints of society. I live in a place where others still hate. Where they roll their eyes. Where they will make you an outcast in an instance. So I hid.

For a while, I worked in a place of major acceptance. It was pretty easy for me to be who I am. I started to settle with my thoughts. I started to move away from my comfortable space of denial — into a space of better comfort — acceptance.

Then, I started a new job. I resorted back to my old ways. I unpacked my bags and started settling in — back into denial’s sweet arms — back into my faithful blanket of lies.

I hate myself for it. Hate. It makes me hate everything I am. It stabs my self-esteem. I make friends my normal way, but this time, I just keep silent. They ask when I will get a boyfriend. They try and set me up with men. They know I am divorced. They know I am single. They just don’t know who I am. And really, it isn’t any of their business, is it? Ahh… but it is.

It is their business. Why? It is their business so you can move forward. If I were honest with them, if I could truly be open and accept every ounce of my being, I wouldn’t have to deal with the questions, with the set-ups, with the jokes about me and why I don’t have a boyfriend. I wouldn’t have to smile and shrug when my dad asks when I’m getting a boyfriend so he can have grandkids. I could just live.

Acceptance is a tricky place to be. Denial is easy. Denial is a place of lies and lies are easier than the truth.

I often do not want to accept my truth.

So I pose the question: When will I ever be comfortable enough to walk into a room of strangers and be who I am, in case someone asks?

I suppose it takes time, but I am a little tired of fighting with these thoughts.

I am tired of living in my own lie.

I want others to accept me so I can accept myself.

When you don’t have to live in a constant state of denial about your sexuality, it is hard to place yourself into my world. You won’t understand. You can empathize, but you won’t get it. I type this because a lot of straight people ask what the big deal is. Just say it, they say. It’s 2019 for christ’s sake, they proclaim. No one cares anymore, they state.

I nod my head in a manner of assurance for the sake of their psychological well-being. I wouldn’t want to argue with an idiot because the truth is, it isn’t. Prejudice is alive and thriving.

I live in a small town in the mid-west. Being prejudice is normal, like picking up groceries. People sort of expect it. They look at you strangely when you don’t use racial slurs. They place you in a different category if you don’t laugh when they make a joke about the people they hate. It is sad and sickening.

That is why I don’t say anything, but it is all the reason why I should be screaming something — anything. I should laugh when I am screaming about who I am because through all their hate, they made friends with a lesbian and they didn’t know it. I’ll say, you think you’re so smart, don’t you? You think you can see through anyone.

Then, after I laugh at their ignorance, I’ll blame myself because my state of denial and unacceptance is so strong that I just blended right into their way of life.

I’m the one who should be ashamed. I could change a mind, change a heart, but I’m just an enabler. I’m just perpetuating a cycle. It’s disgusting and I am disgusted.

Sometimes, I feel I may never change because it is so hard to accept who I am and so much easier to blend in.

What needs to change is my courage — my strength. If I were more confident, if I didn’t give a shit about who I impress, then I could walk right into a conversation and let people know how vile they are.

So when you tell someone it isn’t a big deal, try for a second to put yourself where they are. Acceptance goes beyond who I am, it plays a part in every one.

For me, I need to force myself out of Denialville. I gotta move out and up. I need to stop others from making jokes and forcing myself to fit into groups that can’t accept me.

For them and myself, I find acceptance comes at a slow pace. We have to change ideas. We have to change thoughts. We have to change the way we are. People aren’t fond of change, especially when it comes to their character and what they believe.

Change is inevitable. It comes whether you want it to or not. It’s how you embrace the change that defines you.

A piece of advice I should heed. I can accept change. I can respect it. Now I must accept myself so I can learn to respect everything I am.

Let it out... we are all listening.

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