By Ashley Cadwallader
In April it will be two years... Two years that I've been with my girlfriend. Two years of being "out." Two years of being queer after 23 years of fooling myself into thinking that I "couldn't really like girls." I had dated only men up until this point.
My name is Ashley and I'm queer.
I mean, you're around yourself more than anyone who knows "you" better than yourself, right? Wouldn't you know who you like? Sometimes it's not that easy.
I was baptized Catholic but raised in a Christian house. I spent a year in a foster home with very religious parents. Homosexuality was something that just wasn't talked about. It wasn't something that was discussed. I did not know what it was, just that it was a sin according to my parents, and I was going to hell if I didn't save myself for marriage and "find a nice boy." I prayed a lot. I prayed that God could cure me. I told him that I didn't want to go to hell and that I was sorry. I asked him to "please cure me." This was part of my nightly prayers before I went to bed.
I got stuck in a Republican conservative town with people who thought it was cool to throw you against a locker if you're a male wearing eyeshadow because "somethings not right with you." I was terrified of what people thought of me in school. I was terrified of what they might do to me. I was terrified of the judgement. I was terrified of being even more ostracized from my school than I already was. So I stayed quiet. Just because you were out at 12 and I was scared until I was 23 doesn't make you any more or less "gay" than me.
I have struggled with this all my life. I never really liked guys. I just dated them because that's what I was told I was supposed to do. I spent my teen years on anti depressants, and honestly, I was so messed up I couldn't feel at all. I dated boys but we never did anything. I told these boys I loved them but I didn't feel a thing. I didn't know what love felt like. I couldn't feel any pleasure. I just felt numb. My doctor told me I didn't have a sex drive, why I couldn't feel, was because of the anti depressants I was on. I thought it was just a long term side effect of being on anti depressants. This was something I just learned to accept. This was how I was supposed to feel. I was so lonely, so I just continued to date men and I would sleep with them but never liked it. I told them I loved them but I didn't. I didn't truly love them. I would feel the satisfaction in another human embrace, but then feel completely disgusted with myself afterwards.
Then I met my current girlfriend. It was like I was seven again and Lydia Deetz was at my job asking me if I liked the Germs. I couldn't pass up that feeling. I had passed it up so many times because I was scared of what people would think of me, but I had to find out for myself. What if she was my chance at happiness. What if I was hers. Some people weren't very understanding of it. They talked behind my back. "I wasn't really gay" because apparently if you're in a heterosexual relationship at any point you're just lying. My bandmates would constantly talk about it behind my back. The drummer of my band at the time was openly gay, and all of a sudden she was the authority on my sexuality just because she came out at twelve. When I told my bandmates I was out, the only thing I got from her was, "Are you sure it's not just a phase?" My feelings and my sexuality was suddenly her business. We would even get into arguments about it. "You're not even gay, Ashley. Just because you're experimenting with some girl doesn't make you gay." Of all people to say this, it had to be my band's LGBTQ+ drummer? Of all people, you would thin she would be accepting. You'd think she would be the one to lend a hand or a sympathetic ear, not the one judging me and slandering me. This is something that I see a lot from members within our community. People tearing each other apart. Trans people discrediting and shaming other trans and non binary people. Gays and lesbians shaming and slandering bisexuality and pansexuality. We have it so hard already. The last thing we need is to tear each other down. We should be supporting each other and uplifting each other.
I guess that's why I'm writing this - to share my story and to spread awareness. It's not a trend. It's not a fad to come out. We are not doing it just to be cool. We are finally comfortable enough to speak out. Please be supportive and understanding. Some of us are later than others.
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner are exclusively of the author or interviewee and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization. If you're a musician or an industry insider and would like to participate in our Artist Corner, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.