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What would happen if they found out?

By Chaziti Eaton

Natalie Rose Provancal was born on April 27, 1998, in Aurora Colorado. Natalie’s pronouns are she, her, and hers. She is a junior at the University of Northern Colorado and is studying nursing. I chose Natalie to be my person for the interview because she is very open about her sexuality here on campus. Most who come into contact with her know or believe that she likes women. She is also a close friend and I enjoy her and thought that having this conversation might allow us to grow as friends. Natalie has lived in Colorado her whole life and is planning on keeping it that way. She loves the mountains and everything Colorado has to offer her. She and her family are all Christian however she does choose to not practice their religion due to matters outside of her sexuality. Her family is Caucasian and celebrates all of the western holidays. She has one younger brother who is 17 and a mom and a dad. Her family means the world to her and would never do anything to jeopardize her relationship with them. Natalie identifies as a female lesbian. She was in high school when she made her discovery. She has since dated two girls and been intimate with a number of others. Her story contains a lot of family struggles and life expectations. In her words, you will get to learn her journey within her sexuality and the agency that she has shown. I am very appreciative of her allowing me a deeper look into some of her own personal hardships.

When I was younger in a way I understood the concept of sexuality but I didn’t know how to describe it. All my friends were into boys, and talking to boys and I just didn’t want anything to do with them. I would have rather just hung out with them on the playground, and not be in a relationship with them. It wasn’t really because I didn’t know what it was like to be a “girly girl” but more so because I thought I wasn’t mature enough to like them. As time progressed from elementary to middle school it became more apparent that I still didn’t like boys.

Then, it led to, “well, what do I like?”  At the start of high school, I thought maybe it was females but I was still young so I didn’t really know. As I pondered all of these things, I thought maybe I am into more mature people. I realized in college that people are, one, smarter, and I like that, and, two, in college I discovered my attraction to women. I think it started in college because my parents were really strict and here I live on my own. My parents are all the way in Aurora. I thought if I did anything here they wouldn’t know so I just fooled around a bit and was like wow I’m really into this and not really into the whole guy thing. I did once try men in bed, yes, but not sexually. It started to get sexual but I cut it off because I was too uncomfortable and that’s when I began to realize that maybe men aren’t for me and that’s really when I fully knew and moved to females.

Even though I have made the discovery of my sexuality my parents do now know yet. I choose not to tell them because I want to be with someone.  I just didn’t want to tell them out of the blue; I want to have a reason to tell them. I know when I tell them I will have to explain myself just because they are so strict. I am waiting to be in a relationship with someone I know it’s going to work with. If I tell them that I’m out and I’m with someone and that relationship fails I feel like it comes back on me, and I feel guilty. I just want it to be serious first. If my parents found out before a serious relationship, I feel like it would be awkward. They would be disappointed but overall accepting. This is why I think I’m scared because I do not know how they will react. They could be full blown accepting or they could be disappointed because they really wanted me to have a husband and have children and a stereotypical life. There are other ways for that but it is not the traditional way and they are very traditional. That’s why I think it really influences my life because of how strict they are.

The way that I view my sexuality has changed the way that I dress. My mom noticed when I started to dress more masculine in high school. People would always wear dresses and look nice for school photos and I just always dressed more casual. I went from having very feminine senior photos to dressing more casual overall. As senior year progressed I started to dress in jeans and t-shirts. This carried on into college and is even more prevalent now. Every now and again my parents will comment on how I look, mostly my mom. I do have to change the way I dress when I go home a little bit because what I am confident wearing here in school is not what I will be going home in. I will wear things they have seen me in before. I do feel more masculine, but that doesn’t mean that I am always this way. Like in bedroom roles I’m not always the one in control. People do sometimes mistake me for a male like once a police officer pulled me over and marked male but on my license and then saw that it says female. First glance I look like a little boy. My septum is also pierced and they will not know about it so I will flip it up to prevent them from knowing I have it done. I feel like must change so much because they are so traditional.

My parents freak out over little things, for instance, my first tattoo. They freaked out when they found out. I feel the need to keep changing because if they saw me how I am here I feel like I would be discriminated against there. I really overall want to make them happy so I just conform to them. Then when I’m not with them I wear whatever the fuck I want.

I don’t think this plays a big role in my self- confidence because although I don’t show who I am at home I do it in bits. Of course, I wouldn’t come home and have my family see me dressed defiantly but I might incorporate different parts of clothing into my wardrobe as they see me every week. I just do it slowly so they are more comfortable. I am very close to my family but it’s not hard to hide this from them even though I am close to them. This is because they don’t ask. It’s not something that we really talk about. They never ask if I am in a relationship or anything so I don’t tell. I think they don’t ask for privacy maybe? Or maybe they think I will be uncomfortable with the conversation. I am willing to have it I just don’t know when. It always seems so busy whenever they question it I guess.

I understand that family is a big part of a relationship but I don’t think it has affected my own relationships too much. I talk to my current girlfriend about it and they don't know. When they meet her I will ease into it so I’ll introduce her as a friend first and as time goes on I will come out and bring her into the equation with slowly. I will not just come home and say this is my girl, I’m gay. I feel like I have to have little segments, so that’s what I’m planning on doing. I do this to avoid any shock they might have; I take it slow. I don’t know how they will react. I want them to hear about it in slowly, and see what happens with every move.

I think my immediate family will be the most okay with it, but when you get to aunts and uncles that’s when politics come into play. My family is all very Republican and I don’t know how they will react, I think because it’s me of all people and they know me and they love me they will be more accepting of the fact that I’m gay. But I don’t know how they will react to all of it and that is really scary. I think that that is why I have hidden away from that because I do not want there to be problems.  I would hate to be not accepted by my own family. This is a fear of mine so don’t say anything. I have held back so much. I also think it is harder because my parents are older and they are more old fashioned. With my brother, on the other hand, I think that I would be more willing to tell him because there is more openness with younger generations. With older people, you have to sit them down and talk them through it because they might not understand or be okay as the current generations view of it. I feel more comfortable telling my friends because they seem more open to the ideas of it all. It's kind of like a pyramid; at the top is friends and at the bottom are distant cousins. My family also sometimes does say homophobic slurs.  Sometimes my parents will make nasty comments on social media about those on television who are presented as gay. I know that that is not me but I really just have to tell myself not to say anything. Sometimes my mom will tell me that I dress too much like a boy but she’s learned to accept but I do not think that she knows how this plays into my sexuality and how they are connected. It is interesting to me that she talks to me about these things because she doesn’t really play into the stereotype of being or dressing very feminine, she is her own person. Sometimes my aunts and uncles will also say things surrounding gay people that are cruel, and that makes me feel disappointed. I do not want that to be me, in my head I am always telling myself how disrespectful it is. I hold back from telling any of this to my family because again I don’t want to be discriminated against. If I do say something I feel like there is then room for discussion about who I love and I don’t want them to bring it up. This is hard for me, but I’ve learned to keep to myself and not say anything be privet. Hopefully when people come to terms or when things get more public like marriage, is when they will find out. I get confused on what do sometimes because, on the other hand, my family could get mad that I have kept this from them for such a long time. I guess I’ll see it’s just a matter of time.

Outside of just family, I also feel like I have to be private about my sexuality in the workforce. In the healthcare profession, there seems to be not a lot of people who are openly gay. It is really because of the types of patients you are treating. That’s why I think in this profession I will not tell everyone that I am gay. The traditional stereotype of caregiving is you don’t want to make someone feel not at ease. Also if a patient is very homophobic they could possibly not let you treat them so seems best to just not say anything at all. Some people are okay with it and some people are not. I would correct if it came down to it like if someone were to ask me if I had a boyfriend I would say no I have a girlfriend and if they didn’t like that I’d simply get them another nurse; I wouldn’t just go around to all saying I’m your nurse today and I’m gay. My coworkers will probably know because in this field it is very team based. If they have a problem with it then they don’t deserve to be in my life.

You aren’t my friend if you can’t accept me, and I have no problem cutting you off. It will kind of depend on the friend also but usually, why do I need those who don’t accept me.  My family is different because I would never cut my family off for something like that just because I am so family oriented. I also do not have the courage to cut off my family. My parents would, I think, not allow me to cut them out of my life.

What I do for the community is not much because I am so private I don’t feel that need to do anything about it, it is not necessary for me. I think this is also because I have never really felt any discrimination from the community that I have come out to. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from people. I did have a friend who said that he would like to have sex with my girl, and the thought of us together was something that was a turn on for him. so my relationship has been sexualized before. Overall I keep to myself because I don’t want to feel discriminated against. I don’t feel like this really hinders me from anything though because it's not really anyone’s business to know what my sexuality is. It’s my choice on if u tell them and if I want to tell them.

As an anthropology student, I have learned a lot. I have learned what it means to take what you know to be true out of the story. I did not know that Natalie was hiding something like this from her family, because she is so open with her friend about her situation. It just goes to show that not everything can be read from an outside perspective. It took me asking deep questions about her life to open that part of her life to me. I learned that the social boundaries that her family falls into are greater than her own want and need for acceptance. She is scared of the outcome because she knows how they feel about her status. I also learned that this has made her very open about her sexuality here because she cannot express everything at home she does here and she makes no apologies for who she is to the friends she has opened up too. It was cool to be able to sit down and listen instead of talk because I feel like often we are not given this opportunity enough. I learned that I am very uneducated about the matter. I will never know exactly how it feels to be so scared of telling my family something because you think that they will discriminate against you. I also learned that as a woman I could have it way worse. The sexualization of women is bad but to be sexualized by those who are your friends just because you are attracted to the same gender seems painfully ill. It is interesting to me also how some people can make large to some situations and others not so much and in Natalie’s parents' cases, this was based on where they live and how they were raised. Overall it was a good experience and also very interesting.

Disclaimer: The opinion expressed in each article is the opinion of its author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the PUGS editors, Gender Studies program, or UNC. Therefore, PUGS e-zine carries no responsibility for the opinion expressed thereon.