SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2014       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Alyssa Land

Love is Love

                  When I was younger I always had crushes on boys. I’m pretty sure my first kiss was in kindergarten with a boy I later “dated” in the 5th grade, when we shared a few more kisses. Who knew what dating was in the 5th grade anyway? It was also in 5th and 6th grade when I had a really good girl friend, a family friend named Cara. We would do typical things of young girls to do when they hang out, have sleep overs and fashion shows and tea parties and of course, talk about the boys we were going to marry.

                  The room at my aunt’s house in Tucson is where Cara and I crossed an unknown border for the first time. It was late in the night; the room was quiet and getting colder as the time went on because we had the fan on with the door closed. The lights were off and Cara and I were each on our sides of the bed with room to still spread out if we wanted. When I woke up in the middle of the night Cara was so close it sparked my curiosity. I wasn’t sure if she was awake during that moment but my 5th grade mind started to race with questions. Why are we lying so close? Is she awake? Is her hand in my hand? How did it get like that? I didn’t dare move because I wasn’t sure what would happen.  Cara and I kissed and suddenly the bed felt as if there wasn’t enough space for both of us to lie in it; she was too close for comfort. I lay there next to Cara in the darkness with my confused thoughts.

                  The first time Cara and I kissed we both must have “known” and thought it was wrong because neither of us talked about it. Cara and I have yet to talk about it to this day. I was unaware in elementary school that many years before Alfred Kinsey had brought to light the fact that homosexuality was far more widespread than the nation believed, or that before 1973 homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. I had never even heard the word homosexuality until I was in high school.

                  After what seemed like an eternity I got up and went to the bathroom to brush my teeth and use half a bottle of mouthwash. I figured the more I used the more it would wash away the memory. When I was done brushing my teeth I didn’t go lay back down in the bedroom, I went to sleep on the couch. The next morning Cara and I both pretended as if nothing had happened and went about our day as usual. When the next sleep over came around it happened again, and again I left the room to try to brush away whatever it was that was happening. This happened about two more times with the same result each time until Cara and I stopped having sleep overs.

                  The years passed and I had no more experiences like that with Cara or anybody else. Before long I was a freshman in high school who was more boy crazy than ever. When I entered high school it was as if I could be whoever I wanted to be. I was meeting new friends, new people who were going to get to know the Alyssa I created. It was daring and exciting to break out of the shell of elementary school mindset and start to live life as high school student. My high school was big; the campus was filled with many two story buildings filled with classrooms to hold thousands of students in the Avondale, Phoenix, Glendale and Goodyear area. I had a ton of friends and had just made the basketball team.

                  The basketball teams, freshman and JV and varsity, all had practice at the same time. There was a girl on the varsity team that stood out to me because she always wore her hair pulled back and dressed “like a boy.” I found out Suki was a lesbian, which I only then learned meant she liked to date girls. I got to know her just like everybody else but quickly started to receive the type of attention one gets when they have a crush. I was oddly trying to justify why I thought Suki was attractive and I still hadn’t connected this with what happened with Cara and I many years ago.

                  I saw her at the first basketball tryout and was impressed by how easily she seemed to make friends. I, being on the varsity team, don’t usually interact with freshman but Alyssa seemed really cool and I swear as tryouts went on I would catch her staring at me. I would see Alyssa around school flirting with guy after guy but couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe she liked me. One of my friends said, “Suki don’t be crazy, she is a freshman and probably just isn’t used to seeing, well, ya know.” I agreed thinking yes that is all it was, she isn’t used to seeing girls who like other girls living out in the open.

                  The gym became a safe haven for Suki and me. It was so open and always so bright with the circular lights covering the ceiling from corner to corner. It was never quiet in the gym but often crowded and full of life. The gym is where I was comfortable to be openly attractive to Suki; but then it became a place where judgment was passed by my cousin, and I was afraid.

                  One thing I started to pick up on was that Alyssa was more flirtatious when we were at practice and closed off to the outside world. It seemed as if the idea of her actually liking me was only okay in the gym with our teammates who couldn’t care less. The reality set in at our first pep rally of the year. I was sitting with Alyssa in the bleachers, I had my arms around her and surprisingly she was letting me hold her hand. Well, her cousin came to sit near us and did a double take as he looked at the way Alyssa and I were sitting with each other. I felt Alyssa tense and she said, “Suki, I’ll be back I’m going to the bathroom.” I watched her get up and walk out of the gym only to come back in and sit with her teammates away from me.

                  Meeting Suki in high school challenged my understanding of the way relationships worked and my own personal identity. I was still oblivious to knowledge that throughout the years people were fighting, having marches and starting organizations to advocate for equal rights for all of those who loved another who was of the same sex. When Suki gave me a rainbow flag ribbon to wrap around one of the straps of my backpack I didn’t know what I was publically supporting or that Gilbert Baker had created the rainbow flag in 1978 as a symbol of gay pride. I, for the first time, got a small understanding of what it meant to be disparaged for being attracted to the same sex when my cousin scrutinized me with his eyes while I was sitting with and holding Suki’s hand at the pep rally.

                  I was sitting with Suki, she was sitting in a bleacher seat behind me and I was leaning back in between her legs. All the other basketball players soon joined and filled up the seats around us, boys and girls alike. My cousin, who played on the guys’ team turned around to see Suki with her arms wrapped around me and her hand in my hand. It felt like the slowest look over in my life. He went from looking at my eyes to her arms around me then down at our hands holding and back to my eyes before he turned around. I came up with an excuse telling Suki I needed to go to the bathroom before I got up and walked away. When I came back instead of going to sit with Suki I went to join the rest of my team. I didn’t even look in her direction for the rest of the rally. I started to look for somebody to blame. I blamed Cara for kissing me when I was younger and making me think I am attracted to girls, then I blamed Suki for making me a lesbian. 

                  I remember saying in my head “Suki that is what you get for liking a freshman, a freshman who had no idea what she was getting herself into.” I was hurt to see that she was so easily influenced by what somebody else thought but then I was mad at myself for maybe pushing her so fast and thinking she could live out as a lesbian like me.

                  I was embarrassed at the look my cousin gave me and unsure how to act. I soon after learned that through my association with Suki others considered me a lesbian too. I begin to take a look at myself and realize that if someone makes me happy, cares about me and enjoys my company their sex shouldn’t matter. I found myself looking up the next Pride Festival in Arizona in hopes to go with Suki and other members of my team. I wore that rainbow flag ribbon on my backpack strap and I wore it proudly for myself and all those who loved another of the same sex.

                  When I was younger I subconsciously had a heteronormative view of the world and relationships. I had never been told that a man couldn’t be with a man or a woman couldn’t be with a woman; but from the movies, TV shows and the relationships I witnessed from my own family it was apparent that love and romantic couples were made up of a man and a woman.  I have grown into a woman who is a strong believer in love. Universal love, same love, equal love, powerful love, messy love, crazy love and my story is the foundation of that belief.

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