Friday, June 29, 2018

Scholastic Spotlight: Courtney Vondal

The Rainbow Demon

Silver Key

Author: Courtney Vondal
8th Grade
Educator: Diane Kreuger
Grand Forks

I’ll always remember the time I was first introduced to homosexuality. It was a peculiar subject at the time for a child. The thought of a man romantically and sexually attracted to another man… intrigued me, made me question what else was out there just waiting to be discovered. I wondered why I had never heard of this subject before. Why didn’t my parents inform me about this? Why was it such a touchy subject?
Me being the curious child I was, I looked it up. I later found out it could also describe a woman attracted to a woman as well, which was still confusing. Someone being attracted to the same sex was a thought that had never crossed my mind before. Aren’t a man and woman supposed to be together? Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? It doesn’t make any sense!
And to think that this all started with a single Youtuber, just casually bringing it up in an ordinary conversation, saying he went out on a date with his boyfriend. And that man is Charlie Short, better known as Pinkstylist, widely known for makeup tutorials and scaring people.
If we go back again to before I discovered the LGBT community, which was in the early stages of Kindergarten, it is there that my journey began. I’ve always known I was different. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. I didn’t like girly things, such as makeup and pop music. I was all about just being yourself not not putting on a mask for others around you. If people didn’t accept me… So what? I didn’t need their approval. I’d rather be hated for who I am, rather than be loved for something I’m not.
It was something at the back of my mind, buried underneath all of the unnecessary facts and knowledge of random things a child would be interested in. But what I didn’t realize, is that information would change my life and the way I see the world forever. From there on I would look at the world in a completely new perspective.
Skipping to late in the fifth grade, I was just beginning to explore the LGBT community once again, curious on what else the community had to give me.
The LGBT world was really fascinating to explore. The amount of knowledge I was receiving was incredible for a child my age! I was learning of people that would share their experiences online, talking about their coming out stories and hilarious events that happened with their queer friends. The way they smiled and talked about their lives brought me joy. I loved seeing people that standed out of society’s norms, and I loved seeing them being prideful of who they are.
In sixth grade, I had someone to talk to about the LGBT community. She was a very close friend of a mutual friend, and it all started with me sitting at her lunch table. She had said very bluntly that she was gay, and that she was out and proud of herself. I have never seen anyone that young be just so… Queer, and I mean that in a good way. She was nice, even though she could be a bit vulgar from time to time.
After that, I looked up to her for that reason. I remember one time during class she openly said she had a girlfriend to the entire class. We had good times. As my friend and I became closer, she helped me discover my true self. I “came out” as gay to her. I didn’t make a big deal about it, it was just a casual conversation, and I told her I was gay.
At the time I was in the closet, and I couldn’t tell my parents after just discovering my true self. It would be a complete disaster. I didn’t know a whole lot, so if were to tell them I would basically be a clueless stuttering mess. I didn’t know that it would get a whole lot worse from there on…
Skipping to four months later, I was out of the closet at school. Mostly everybody knew I was gay. It didn’t change the way anyone thought of me, and they didn't act any differently. I didn't care what others thought of me, and it was not going change who I am.
During that time, I learned that homosexuality isn’t a choice; you’re either born with it, or you’re not. It's as simple as that. You can’t control your feelings of attraction. You can’t choose to be gay or straight. Sure, you can pretend to be one or the other, but that only leads to depression and negative thoughts about yourself.
I knew that my parents always supported me in whatever I did, they said that they would always be proud of me, and they will always love me. I was being paranoid and extremely cautious, so I didn’t believe them. I had watched countless coming out videos, videos that resulted either positively or negatively.
Watching others gather the courage to bring themselves to tell their loved ones that they’re gay, or bisexual or any contribution to the LGBTQ+ community, made me smile. Watching the bad reactions shocked me. What if that would happened to me? What if they suddenly started screaming nonsense at me?
One individual by the name of Miles McKenna has really helped me over the years by giving me virtual support, and making me laugh whenever he would post a new video. He posts the most random little skits, and things that normal people would shake their head at. On the other hand, he also posts serious videos about legitimate topics and the seriousness of self-hate. Miles is a huge idol in my life, I look up to him, he’s like a friend I haven’t met.
Miles’ phrase is simple. “Don't come out to others if you haven't came out to yourself.” Its meaning is to accept yourself before you expect others to accept you. Miles gave me confidence. It’s amazing what an online individual can do for thousands and thousands of struggling people.
At the time I felt semi-confident in myself, I was open and proud. Just not around my parents. And, I was experiencing attraction to the opposite sex. Whoa, a gay person attracted to the opposite sex? How strange. I later found myself not really caring about gender. The correct term is pansexual, “pan” meaning “all.” So, I’m pansexual, which is great, it’s just something I'll have to explain to my parents. Pansexuality isn’t like being gay or a lesbian, most parents know what those terms mean. The queer community has all sorts of sexualities that people don’t know about. Like demisexuality, or asexuality.
I've kept my secret for a year. It’s a difficult task, putting on a fake persona to fool my parents that everything was fine, and that there wasn’t anything wrong. But in all that time, the time I was lying through my teeth every single day. I’ve been suffering on the inside, concealing my true self, so it takes a huge toll on my self-esteem. It’s… Hard to explain, but to put it simply, you always feel horrible, and you can’t be yourself. Normal people can’t understand the stress and guilt when you’re hiding something this massive. It feels like cement, slowly pouring into your body with a heavy consistency, and stays there.
But alas, the day has come for me to come out to my parents. Now, it wasn’t planned, it was basically forced. I was out shopping at my local Walmart with my parents, nothing big, but everything was about to change. Your entire world can change with a single question. It’s amazing what the human language can do to a person. The entire day beforehand, I had felt a weird feeling in my stomach. It’s a feeling you can’t really explain, you just know that something, whether it’s good or bad, it’s going to happen. The entire day I was uneasy. I didn’t want to be there anymore. All I had wanted was to just go home and crawl into my bed and listen to music. Music has always soothed my stresses, big or small. It was an escape that was always available at my hands.
At the store, I was uneasy, so I just laid back and walked behind my parents, not really talking except a few hums of acknowledgment. My mom noticed that I was shutting down. As any mother would, she became concerned, and began firing questions.
“Honey, are you alright? You seem kinda out of it.” She questions, rubbing my arm lightly with her hand, the concern clear in her voice. I snapped out of my daze, nodding slightly.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I responded, giving a small smile, hoping to cover up any lies that may have been suspected. She eyed me suspiciously, tracing the lie in my nervous tone. She took the time to observe my facial expression. My mom sighed at my lies, looking at me with slight disapproval. I swallowed hard, knowing I was going to get one of her motherly lectures.
“Sweetie…” She began, “tell me, what’s wrong.” She looked me dead in the eyes, her expression like a statue. I avoided her gaze, looking down at the dirty Walmart floor instead. I couldn’t bring myself to look into her pale blue eyes. It made me too uneasy. I felt guilty, guilty for who I was as a person.
I didn’t respond. There’s no way I’m going to say that I’m pansexual at the store, where other people could hear my bold statement. I wasn’t going to risk it. She continued to stare at me, trying to dig into my soul and force the answers out of me. But I wasn’t letting my guard down, there’s no way I’m going to spill my secret; one that could potentially ruin my entire life.
I felt my heart racing wildly, my blood sounding like a drum in my ears. Despite being absolutely terrified, I kept my expression neutral, or at least tried to. It took all of my strength to not break down crying on the floor. The rest of the store trip was full of silence. The tension in the air was thick, at certain moments it felt like I was unable to breathe.
“Do you want to tell me when we get home?” My mom asked, gently placing a hand on my shoulder and squeezing it lightly, attempting to give me reassurance. I looked away and nodded. It’s better to tell her later than right now, I don’t have the courage to do that, unlike some other brave souls out there. I wasn’t ready to do this, so this was probably one of the worst ways to come out. I’ve watched Miles’ videos on some of his viewers’ coming out experiences, mostly the bad ones. He explained later on that being forced to come out would impact them the most, whether it’s good or bad. Me being the pessimistic child I was, I expected the worst to go down. I thought I was going to be yelled at, or have slurs spat at me.
The ride home was dreadful. There was nothing but the ear-shattering silence and the soft hum of tires against asphalt. I just sat uncomfortably in the backseat while my parents sat in the front, trying to think of what would happen, made me so uncomfortable and broken down. I didn’t look up from my lap, I was too focused on what might happen. I kept on referring back to the bad situations, and what those parents said to their children.
I let out a short, quiet sigh and looked out the window, watching the many cars and streetlamps go by, nothing more than a blur of yellow light.
What are they going to think? Will they accept me? Or reject me? There’s no telling what they’ll say. I could get really lucky, or extremely unfortunate. If it goes south, I can't escape their judgement. I live with them, and I have no one else to fall back on. This has two outcomes, and I couldn't predict it. The rest of my family are actively religious, and if this does go wrong… I’m done for.
A sudden realization hits me like a punch to the face. We’re home. I feel guilt pound throughout my entire body like an electronic pulse, unending and only becoming stronger with each passing second. Fear settles into my mindset, tainting any hope or positive feelings that may have flickered and sparked. I can’t do this, I’m not ready.
I feel my heart skip a beat, my pulse quickening as I opened the car door, stepping out into the frigid atmosphere. My hot breath cast a slight cloud of fog, dissipating after a few seconds of clinging in the night sky.
The moon shone bright despite being a small crescent. I quickly walked up the deck stairs and waited silently at the door, avoiding all eye contact with my parents. Am I really going to do this? Well, it’s not like my mom is suddenly going to forget about this whole ordeal. No way she would let something as big as this slip by in just ten short minutes. I should at least get a few minutes of prep time to gather my thoughts and think of what exactly I’m going to say, she’ll give me that much.
As soon as the door unlocked, I headed straight inside, saying nothing, and grabbing my iPad. I gazed around my messy room and searched around for my headphones, placing them atop my head and adjusting to fit perfectly. I opened the iTunes app and pressed shuffle. It took a second, but a familiar song soothed my ears with the soft melodies and quiet vocals. I breathed in and out shakily, my heart somewhat calming itself. I walked back out and onto the battlefield, practically hearing the cannon shots and war cries.
Upon seeing the dark brown couch, I quickly sat down and covered myself with a blanket, hiding away from my mom’s gaze. After putting away the groceries with my dad, she sat down on the opposite side and just sat there, turning on the television and watching whatever was available.
Wait, why isn’t she attacking me with demanding questions? I would’ve thought that she would’ve been asking what I was hiding. Did she actually forget about this? No, it isn’t possible. Not with her motherly instincts. When she’s serious, she can remember every detail and every word spoken within her earshot.
I swallowed hard, trying to make the huge lump in my throat go away. It didn’t work. Time passed by like an arrow in the wind, unnoticeable and deadly quick. Five minutes seemed to go by like a single minute. Until she finally spoke up, she was clearly hesitant about asking me. I wasn’t the only nervous one.
“So… Are you going to tell me?” She asked, raising her eyebrows slightly. I looked up at her. Her expression was delicate, caring, worried. She was worried… There’s nothing I hate more than seeing my mom constantly worrying about me. I shouldn’t make her suffer through my problems, it isn’t right.
“Do you want to me to leave the room?” My dad spoke up from the other side of the loveseat. I cleared my throat and nodded, then realizing that he couldn’t physically see me.
He stood up, walking into the master bedroom and closing the door without another word. I stared at the spot where he disappeared out of sight. I inhaled through my nose and turned to my mom, unease settling in once again.
“Come here.” She motioned to the seat next to her, scooting over and patting the seat lightly. I gripped the blanket tightly, dragging it with me. I settled into the spot, covering my body and leaning into her shoulder, already feeling the tears scratching as the bases of my eyes.
“What is it?” My mom asked softly, looking into my glossy eyes and wrapping her arm around me. In her embrace I felt safe, protected, but there was still that uncertainty lingering around in my mind. What if she wasn’t accepting? What if she didn’t love me afterward? Would I no longer be her daughter she wanted? Or would I just be another one of those queers?
I tried to say it, I tried so hard, to say that I was pansexual, but the words were caught in my throat. I opened my mouth, attempting to speak the words I wanted to so badly. It came out nothing more than choked sounds, sounds from a scared teen afraid of the possible outcomes.
After another round of silence, my mom spoke up again.
“Do you want me to say what I think you’re going to say?” She asks, rubbing my shoulder. I nodded, unable to say anything at all. She waited a few seconds before asking.
“Are you gay?” Her question catches me off guard… How did she know? Was I dropping subtle hints this entire time? Crap.
“I-I’m pansexual.” I respond, processing the situation as much as I possibly could. Oh, she’s gonna hate me now. I felt my eyes sting at the sensation of tears welling up.
“What’s that?” She questions, furrowing her brow slightly. My tears fell and I cleared my throat out of nervousness and gain some confidence.
“It means that I’m not limited to strictly boys or girls, it doesn't really matter.” I explained carefully, my voice faltering to a whisper. I bring my hands up to my mouth and begin to sob as my mom brings me into her chest, hugging me tightly.
“Oh, honey. We’ll love you no matter what.” She soothed, rubbing my back and holding me close. Tears stained her soft shirt as I returned the loving gesture.
“I love you.”

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