Junior high was the first turning point of several that would end up with me doing a complete 180 in beliefs and lifestyle. It was in junior high that my mental illness became much harder to manage, that I became much more ashamed of my body, and that I really started having feelings for my friends.
Now, I'm going to let you in on a little secret, I didn't know queer people existed until I was about sixteen. I knew gay men existed, and that they were wrong and probably satanic, but I didn't know that lesbians, trans people, bi people, or asexual people existed until I was in my mid teens. Let that be a lesson in how sheltered my life was.
There's a reason that secret is important. You know how important names are in fairytales? To know the name of something or someone in folklore is to have power over it. Imagine, for a moment, that you lived in a world where your name gave you purpose and security. It gave you power. Then imagine you did not have a name. You were lost, adrift, nameless and unknowable. You existed, to be sure, but you had no name. You had no power, no power over yourself, and no power to push away the names other people tried to smother you in..
There were many names I needed to discover before I could begin to live, hard names like Depressed and Emotionally Abused, and easier names like Introverted, Passionate, and Queer. But I wasn't there yet. I had no names and no power, I was utterly adrift in the currents of fundamental evangelicalism and the conservative homeschooling community.
I had a small group of friends, three I can remember most vibrantly, all girls. I had crushes on all of them at one time or another, although my crushes were still as nameless as I was. As my depression grew, my ability to be a good friend shrank, and as I headed into highschool I was nearly friendless. I didn't understand why it hurt so bad to see my friends drift away. One friend in particular was the shining jewel of my daydreams. She was cute and tiny, bubbly and boundlessly energetic, quick and clever and a brilliant musician. I adored her.
I didn't understand the pain it caused when she began hanging out with other people instead of me. I was quiet and strange and hard to handle. I was infatuated and I didn't know it, and that made me a bad friend. It was a deep, throbbing sort of pain, the kind that kept me up at night and made me hide in empty classrooms and cry after homeschool co-op ended.
One day, in tears over this heartbreak I couldn't understand, I told my mother "I just love her. I love to hard and when she left it hurt me" I was nothing if not melodramatic. I knew I loved these girls--we were nearly women now--but I didn't understand what it meant, I had nothing to compare myself to, no name to give myself. Until I found a name I could not truly understand who I was.