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BRIANA VANDENHEUVEL

She/Her/Hers

Wow coming out seems like so long ago to me! But, then again, it’s more of a story/past life that I spent years trying to forget. 

In high school, most would’ve described me as the always funny, SUPER sporty, and had a lot of friends of all different kinds. I seemed like I was this “super happy” kind of girl. Everyone knew me, or at least knew my name. I mean, with that long German last name, it’s pretty hard not to forget. I would date guys with the same personality as me, or at least make sure to go to a school dance with them. That was all until the year 2010, when my life took a big turn. 

I was a Sophomore, and she was a Senior. Wow just writing this I can tell she truly was the first love of my life. I still remember the first time I met her. I was on the basketball team and we were out of town for a game, yet she drove to attend that one random game. As I was sitting in the crowd watching two other teams finish playing, this girl suddenly appeared from behind me. I truly had never met nor seen her at school before. But I started talking with her and the conversation just came so naturally. All we did was laugh so hard together as if nothing else mattered. Forget playing with balls, I was talking to a girl.


As our time ended that night, I remember she asked for my number and said she would “take me to lunch sometime” since I didn’t have my driver’s license yet. This girl didn’t want my number for lunch... she barely even made it an hour until she texted me first 😏🙏

Since day one of meeting her, I knew I had such strong feelings that I had NEVER felt for anyone before. She made me feel so alive and truly happy all around. There literally wasn't a day when she wasn’t on my mind. I craved spending time with her. We could simply sit in her truck and laugh, and I was happy.


I wanted to tell my family about her. I wanted so badly to stop lying as to where I was going or who I was going to be with. I hated lying; it literally tore me up inside and made me depressed. But in my head – and the way society made it seem at the time – there was no way I could ever come out and tell anyone. It came to the point where the demons inside my head had won. I could care less about school, my friendships, my family, my overall future. I couldn’t grasp how I felt so freaking happy with someone, yet I couldn’t be happy about it.


Hiding daily caused so much anxiety that I was losing sleep over it. My head would race a million miles a minute wondering if somehow my mom and dad found out. Or if my brother knew since he knew a lot of people at the high school.


I’d think, “Did someone tell him?” Or, “What will everyone think?”


The racing thoughts and anxiety got so bad, I couldn’t focus on basketball. During a game, I’d see my parents sitting in the stands, then from across the bleachers I'd see the love of my life, and I’d get a damn panic attack because they were all in the same damn room together. Time would count down on the scoreboard and, instead of focusing on my basketball drills, I’d have to concentrate on my breathing. Needless to say, there went my focus for the game. Better luck next game, right?


Basketball was my life. it’s what did to keep me interested in school. Yet, I couldn’t stop the anxiety to show my true talent.

But everything came to a halt. I mentioned she was a Senior and I was a Freshman, right? So that meant she got accepted into her dream California – 12+ hours away – college, and I was still just a little high schooler. 

Picture this: Your first love is about to move. So, you are holding her so tight and don’t want to let go. And your mom just happens to get off work early and walks in on two teenagers thinking they were alone and had the house to themselves.


Yeah...


Can you picture it? 

I’ve never seen my mom look at me with so much disgust until that moment she was standing in my bedroom doorway. And I had been suspended from school many times, but nothing compared to that expression on her face. She didn’t even speak.


She ran. Drove off. Wouldn’t even answer my calls or texts.


Finally, she answered one of my calls, and I heard, “You better get her the fuck out of my house, Briana” and hung up. That night, she made me personally tell my dad who also happened to be speechless. 

As days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, neither of my parents could even look at me. They barely talked to me.


I remember one day my dad finally spoke to me and said, “We might get a divorce because of you”.


I was grounded and unable to leave the house. Then I was sent to a counselor. And when that wasn’t working, I was sent to a Priest.


Everyone kept telling me, “This isn’t you”. Or “This is just a phase”. Then the Priest would say, “God won’t love you.”


I’m sorry, but what the fuck does that even mean? What they all didn’t know was saying those words, and treating me like I had committed a murder, made me not want to live anymore. It made me feel like every day I was such a failure. I was only a burden. I was such a disgrace all around. 

During this time, I had no one. I couldn’t tell my friends. My mom told me NOT to tell other family members until she was ready to tell them. My “sister” – a.k.a. cousin – didn’t even know. The first love of my life was out living her best life in college. My brother, who I was super close with growing up, was also 12+ hours away in California as well. And I couldn’t tell my extended family. I felt alone. 


I was alone.

I went through hell and back, as I know a lot of other gay people have. But our stories only make us stronger though. When I started really finding my self-worth again, after all the hell, I was only 17. My brother took me to get my first tattoo. 20 years later and it still means just as much to me today as it meant getting it.


“Believe”


Such a simple word. My Grandmother thought it said “Briana” for many years (smh), but it reminds me every single day that it won’t always be like it was. I will always find my silver lining in life. 

Anyone that is scared to come out, maybe in the middle of the process or after finding their silver lining, I am here to tell you, YOU are stronger than you think. And being nothing but your true self is the best gift you can ever give yourself! 

 

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