With the infinite possibilities of gender identity and expression, when did you know….
“I thought I was straight for a long time… mostly because I had never been around lesbians. I feel like I was kind of sheltered, and I didn't know that you could be a lesbian… I knew there were gay men, and I knew that you were straight, but it never occurred to me that a woman could love another woman. It was never anything that I understood as a possibility. Then I started working at Michael’s Arts and Crafts and there was a girl there, named Heather, that I worked with, and she identified as a lesbian. There's a lot of history involved with her. But I was reading that book, Crank, and in the book the main character sister’s is named Heather and she's a lesbian. I started talking to Heather from work, and then I realized, I might be bi curious. Then it just progressed from there. I started dating Heather, and I was like I totally into chicks. I loved it.
I mean I always felt kind of weird when I was younger. I was attracted to women, but I didn't understand it. I didn't know that it was a thing. I just didn't understand it. Everyone else knew I was gay before I knew I was gay. But then, once I realized it and I was like, ‘Oh… no I'm for sure gay… this is what's been missing!’ I used to be really angry. Then I came out, it was like almost like a weight was lifted.
Growing up I was a straight-A student. I excelled in school. I was the good kid… I didn't make mistakes. I had plans. I was gonna get married at 25 after college, then go to law school, then get married, and have kids at 30. Straight up planned the whole thing out.”
On her coming out experience...
“I was 21 when I came out… I was dating Heather at the time. My parents thought she was my best friend, she'd come over and hang out at the house. I was living with my parents. She came over, and my little brother woke up from a nap and he saw us making out. He told my parents, and he didn't know what he saw… if it was real or if it was a dream… he was very confused. He told my parents and my dad confronted me and said, ‘I know your gay, just tell me…’ and so I told him, ‘You know what, Dad? You're right, I am gay…’ and he flipped out. My dad's Iranian. That's not allowed. You can't be Iranian, and gay. No. My dad's very, I wouldn't say a devout Muslim, but he grew up in Iran, he is a Muslim. His mother practices... you know very, very devout.
I remember when I was a kid, I'd be like, ‘No, Dad, I'm Christian.’ He's like, ‘No, you're a Muslim!’ My dad is a non-practicing Muslim, but he will use that sh*t. He will claim that all day. He couldn't even look at me for 3 months. No words… wouldn't speak to me, wouldn't look at me. Called my mom immediately and my mom told him, ‘It’s just a phase… Just let it go. She'll grow out of it.’ My mom was very chill about, I think my dad took it the hardest. My middle brother swore that I was gay, because growing up he called me gay… and I like to aggravate him with that. I'm like, ‘You don't have that much power, bud.’.
Then I remember years later, my dad's cousin's wife, who's also Iranian… grew up in Iran… She's amazing. My Aunt Shanaz, love her to death. She chewed my dad's ass one day, and was like, ‘That's still your kid! You can't do that!’ And even before that, me and my baby brother - he’s six years younger than me - we were starting to get close about the time I came out… hanging out… he was like 15. We were hanging out and we came home for family dinner one night, and I'm telling my parents how we're getting close & hanging out… and my dad's response to that was, ‘Well just don't make him gay like you…’ and I left. I left the kitchen, I went up to my room and of course, I was upset. Then I hear my baby brother yelling at him, and he's like, ‘Dude, that's your kid… you can't say that!’
Years later [my dad] finally got real drunk one night, and he was like, ‘I'm not gonna keep missing out on your life because I don't agree with it…’ That was the total breaking point. From that point on, everything changed. I was a daddy's girl growing up… He and I would have daddy daughter shopping dates… So, I think it broke his heart a little. I love my dad. We’re very close, and me and my mom are like best friends.”
Frustrations within our community?
“I don't know… I mean… different mentalities… some lesbians are really judgmental. You know what I mean? Like if you're not gay enough… it's like you have to fit this cookie cutter thing, and it's not like that. I understand for some people that's great for you, and that's how you identify, because you happen to fit [the mold]. I, on the other hand, I'm not like that.”
Favorite part about our community?
“I don't spend a lot of time in the community anymore… but, you know, the friends that I have, you feel the love.”
What is something you would tell a younger you? Advice for anyone out there who feels like they can’t come out, or they don’t have a community to be a part of?
“To younger me… I would for sure tell myself that, ‘Dude, lesbians are a thing!’ It's okay to like women… I know you don't know it's real, but it exists, and it's cool! I would have loved to be that comfortable and confident in myself and to say, ‘Hey, it's OK… It's OK to be you. You don’t have to feel shy - I used to be very shy, quiet, awkward… Now, obviously I would’ve loved to just have been able to come into my personality a lot quicker, and know that it's okay.
To other kids… it gets better. It's scary, but if your parents don't love you, somebody else out there will… There's a sh*t ton of us that have been through what you went through… and we're here.”
What in your life are you most proud of?
“I think my ability to stay true to myself… It's taken a long time for me to get there, and the fact that I feel confident and comfortable in who I am, is pretty damn cool. I’m unapologetically me. It's taken a long time to get there, but now I don't give a shit. Love me or hate me, I'm still here. Regardless, I don't care. And, I think the fact that I've been through some pretty messed up stuff, and I haven't changed. I have the biggest heart.”
With the state of the nation and the world in its current state, what’s one thing you would change if you had the power?
“Bring Obama back… maybe Joe Biden… That guy is awesome! But really, I don't think that I would change anything, because I feel like we learn from our experiences. So, I have to go through all this shit… like people being comfortable hating me to my face, and that teaches me really valuable lessons in life. I think everything that we go through in life helps us become the person that we are.
And, I guess kids getting bullied… like that sucks. I wish that would stop. If we could just make it so it's not a thing. It doesn't exist anymore. I mean no one… 100% no more hate. I think would be great, because I think people should get along… People are people, man. Why can't we all just love? You know what I mean?”