Tuesday, October 28, 2014

ITCHY's STORY

Name: Lauren aka Itchy
Years in Girl Scouting: 23 years
Roles in Girl Scouting: girl member, assistant troop leader, seasonal camp staff and camp director, current full-time council staff
Location: Ohio

I became a Girl Scout when I was 6 years old.  I joined as a Brownie and stayed in it all the way through high school.  Probably around 6th grade, my troop that once had fourteen girls became a troop of only 3 girls, which was a huge bummer.  We couldn’t do as much and I thought about quitting, but camp is what kept me in Girl Scouts.  I went to day camp starting in second grade and then I went to resident camp when I was in fourth grade.  I was really into camping.  I went every year.

As a gift, my mom (who was my troop leader) got all of us Lifetime memberships in Girl Scouts, so that was pretty cool.  After high school, I had two months off and then immediately joined the Marine Corps.  I was stationed in Georgia and I got involved volunteering as an assistant troop leader for a Cadette troop.  I was a seasonal camp employee for a really long time at a few different councils and was kind of haphazardly thrown into being a camp director while I was still in college.  I then worked full-time as an Outdoor Program Specialist for thirteen months in Ohio before taking my current job as a Program Specialist.  Girl Scouts has pretty much been my whole life.

I would say that I self-identify as queer.  A few months ago, I would have said lesbian, but queer just seems to fit right now, so that’s what I’m using.  In terms of gender expression, I’m definitely on the androgynous scale – gender non-conforming.

I feel like a “first love” is probably what everyone always talks about, so I’m going to go with that.  I had leave – vacation time – from the Marine Corps.  I went to visit the camp where I grew up in the summer and became smitten with one of the staff…which is kind of interesting, because I was only there for, like, a day, maybe two.  I would drive from Georgia to Ohio, about 12 hours, and we probably would talk for at least 7 hours of that 12-hour drive.  It was a standard crush: your heart pounds in your mouth when they send you a text message, you get all giddy and silly when they call.  I had come out probably four or five months before that and that’s what really cemented it for me.  It made me think, “Oh, I’m not broken, I can have feelings for people.”  It didn’t work out with the two of us, but it was an important relationship.

I was twenty when I came out.  I was very, very, very, very anxious.  I came out two years into my four-year contract with the Marine Corps.  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” still existed at that point and I was terrified.  I was so anxious that it got to the point where I couldn’t eat or sleep.  It was bad.  I was trying to hide it but random people in my unit were coming up to me and asking, “Are you all right?  Because you look awful.”  I just had to say, “I’m going through something tough right now and no, I can’t talk about it.”  The Platoon Sergeant asked if I wanted to talk to the Band Master, our boss, about it.  I said, “Sure.”  The Band Master pulled me into his office and we sat down.  I said, “I’m having an epiphanous moment about myself and I’m trying to come to terms with it.”  He knew exactly what I was talking about.  He asked, “Are you afraid that people are going to treat you differently?”  I lost my shit and started bawling in front of him, which is really embarrassing.   I said, “Yeah, I am, actually.” He responded, “You know, if you’re worried about me doing anything because you told me this, I’m not going to.  You are a good Marine and you do your job.  Whatever you do on your own time…the Marine Corps doesn’t need to know.  If anyone treats you any differently, fuck ‘em.  You don’t need people like that in your life.”  That was amazing, because he could have said, “You’re going to get discharged.  We’re kicking you out.”  

After I came out to my boss, I was like, “Well, you should probably come out to your family….”  Normally I called my mom once a week to check-in but I hadn’t talked to her in five or six weeks.  She had called me multiple times so I called her back and I freaked out at her.  I basically had a panic attack over the phone at her for two and a half hours before I told her that I was gay.  She said, “…Ok, and?  We still love you.”  She and my family have been really cool about it.

When I think of “the magic of camp,” I think of resident camp.  I kind of grew up in a little microcosm – the town I grew up in wasn’t very big.  It was a rural, farming community in southern Ohio.  It was a bubble.  It was wonderful to go to camp and meet all these people who didn’t grow up in that bubble.   At camp, I had counselors that were queer-identified, and that was awesome.  Well, looking back on it I’m guessing that they were.  At the time, obviously nobody said anything about it.  I felt like camp was the one place where I could be my fullest self and everyone was ok with that.  Camp was this place where I didn’t have to perform, unlike school.  It was a safe place, a nurturing environment where people were so confident in who they were.  It definitely had a strong impact on me.

My fiancée wasn’t a Girl Scout and has actually said on multiple occasions that she feels she missed out on a part of her childhood.  It makes me sad!

I’m out at work.  There are a few other people at the council who are also out.  It’s wonderful.  I was not out at my previous council.  I make no effort to hide that my fiancée is a woman this time around.  I didn’t like it – it was way too stressful.  Being a camp director is stressful enough that you don’t need that added stress on top of it.  When I started my current job, I decided, “I’m just going to be out, and whatever happens, happens.”  Nobody was shocked, nobody acted surprised.

In a weird way, the Girl Scout Law kind of prepped me for the Marine Corps.  The Marine Corps preaches honesty, integrity, courage – just like the Girl Scout Law, but with slightly different wording.  I try every day to live up to that standard.  Some days I do better than others, but it’s a good philosophy.  (…But I might be a little biased, having been a Girl Scout for the last 23 years.) 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

FIN's STORY

Name: Fin
Years in Girl Scouting: 17 years
Roles in Girl Scouting: Unit Leader, CIT Director, World Center volunteer
Current Location: San Francisco, CA

“Are you gay?” one of my coworkers asked me. I flushed red with embarrassment and mumbled back an answer. I was shocked - I have always passed as straight without any questions. Though I currently live in San Francisco, the gay capital of the world, the question caught me off guard. “So...are you gay?”

I grew up in a suburb in Massachusetts with my two parents, older brother and two spunky cats. Though I grew up in a “normal” nuclear household, two of my aunts are married in my extended family, which always seemed normal to me as a child. I joined Girl Scouting when I was 6 years old and am still a member currently. My journey in Girl Scouting had its ups and downs. I almost quit as a Junior Girl Scout and I did not have a good time at Girl Scout day camp. The few times that I went to day camp, I was teased by the other girls and the counselors did nothing. I found my home at a YMCA day camp where I grew up and became a counselor for several years. Despite my negative experiences, I am glad that I stuck it out to Cadette Girl Scout and beyond. I developed leadership skills and had the opportunity to volunteer at Our Chalet in Switzerland. I went to residential Girl Scout camp for the first time when I was 21 as a Unit Leader. I tried to foster a positive, accepting environment for young girls and loved it so much that I returned to residential camp as the Counselor-in-Training Director.

“Are you gay?” Well, in elementary school I had a steady stream of crushes on different boys. I pined after a boy with short spiky hair named Antonio throughout most of elementary school….too bad he moved to Wisconsin. My life took a turn in middle school. My brother was in college 6 hours away and my parents channeled their energy into bailing him out of negative situations. I fell into a deep depression; I felt invisible to my parents and friends. I had two sets of friends in middle school – my goth friends and my elementary school friends. I connected more with my goth friends even though they were a negative influence on my life. One night I was wishing that I had never been born when I spotted a pair of scissors on my desk. I started cutting myself on a regular basis after that night to let the pain out because I was always bottling it up inside.

I started to realize that boys were not the only ones that I was attracted to. I fell in love with two girls in my goth friend group: Steph and Cassie. Cassie and Steph were both funny, independent and fun to hang out with. I know that the feelings I had for them were beyond friendship and admiration. I made it point to hang out with Steph often. We dreamed of starting a band and made nicknames for ourselves. I confided in one of my friends and worked up the courage to tell my dad that I was bisexual. When I told my dad, there was a pause before he asked, “Are you sure you don’t just admire their beauty?” I responded with “No” and there was another pause. That conversation has prevented me from bringing up my sexuality with my parents since.

I wanted a fresh start in high school; I repaired my relationship with my parents and spent more time with friends who had a positive influence on my life. My love life was pretty boring until my junior year. I started talking to a boy with long dark hair, olive skin and hazel eyes on the bus on my way home every day. His name was Grant; we had met our freshman year but didn’t talk much until the bus two years later. I never had a boyfriend before but I knew there was a special connection between us. We always talked with our legs touching on the bus and he visited me at lunch. One day on the bus, he asked me if I liked someone. I was too scared to admit I liked him so I replied, “Somebody” and when I asked him he gave me the same answer. The next day, I ran to catch the bus because I got out of English class late. I had butterflies all day waiting to talk to him and I asked him who he liked on the way home. When we realized we liked each other, I felt on top of the world. Though we lived a few streets away, we talked on the phone for 6 hours that night.

I knew that I was in love after less than a month. I couldn’t stop thinking about him and I always looked forward to our time together. My relationship with Grant was a rollercoaster of emotions. I tried to help him with his drug addiction and deal with his difficult home life. I also navigated having a romantic physical relationship with someone for the first time and I felt scared to get advice from my mom. Grant and I were on and off five times during my junior year. When we ended, I cried and cried – my heart felt broken and unfixable. Grant was my true and only love so far. Despite our difficulties, there are positive memories that will always stay with me like our first kiss and our Valentine’s Day date. Part of my heart will always love him but I have slowly let go of that relationship.

After Grant, I wanted to find true love again and have a healthier relationship. I had a few relationships in college that were mostly based on convenience and lust with men. Each relationship got shorter and shorter but I was left feeling let down. No relationship I have had so far has been anything like Grant and I. I spent the last two years of my undergrad career trying to change the hook up culture that normalizes sexual assault and rape.

Fast forward to the present: I am currently living in San Francisco. On a whim, I joined the online dating site OkCupid. So far, I have been on three dates. With the first guy I met, it was pretty clear what his expectations were. Since that date, I have struggled with navigating the grey zone between consent and rape. If someone buys me a drink or food, that is not a ticket to my pants but it seems to be that way in this OkCupid hook up culture. Recently, I went on a date with a transgender woman. She was open with me about her experiences and we talked for hours and hours. I felt that my needs and wants were listened to more closely.  It is the first time I have felt listened to and respected in a very long time by a romantic partner.

Honestly, reader, I procrastinated writing this blog for over a month. Why? I am scared to have this on the Internet. I have not told many people my true sexuality out of fear and the need to explore my sexuality more. It is easier to be assumed straight than to face the stereotypes of being bisexual/pansexual. By coming out, I expose myself to being told that I am "going through a phase" or that I am a "whore."  Sorry, this isn’t a phase, stop slut shaming, and no, I am not attracted to you… are you attracted to every single man (or woman) you see walking by? 


I came out to my two married aunts last week. I had dinner at their house and my aunt P. drove me back home. I mentioned to her that I had an OkCupid date and she talked about how it takes time to find “Mr. Right” and asked me what his name was. I replied, “Beth” and I could tell she was shocked because she asked me to repeat the name.  The next day, my aunt M. mentioned that she heard about my date with Beth and I talked about my sexuality with her. Since that conversation in middle school with my dad, I am not ready to navigate that conversation with my parents until I am in a serious relationship with a woman or with someone who identifies outside of the gender binary. I felt like I needed support from someone and my aunts felt like the best people to talk to (and of course they are!). I am exploring my sexuality here in the diverse city of San Francisco; this story only keeps unfolding. For now, I have another date with Beth tomorrow and I haven’t felt this butterfly feeling in a long time.

“So….are you gay?” Yes and no. I am not as straight as I look.