Testimonio: A narrative or story shared by someone about a significant experience, typically who has undergone a form of oppression and has lacked agency or the space to make their voice heard. This is a form of expression (typically written by those from the Latiné community) that aims to share a story that holds importance and can resonate with others who have undergone similar situations.
Over the past year of my life, I have given a lot of thought into what I would write in my very own testimonio; who would be in it, which life changing experiences I would include. Yet, anytime I think about writing about myself and my own story, I always return to the same few memories.
It was winter when I met her for the first time. Elementary school, to be precise; we were released for recess right after lunch. I walked over to the hill covered in snow to sit and fantasize about when it would be summer again. I know, dramatic for a third grader. But then, she walked into my life. We started talking like we had known each other for centuries, eventually steering the conversation to our shared summer birthdays. As our love of the summer was exposed, she had an idea. Why not build sand castles together? Except…with the snow since, you know, it was the middle of winter in Michigan. She immediately became my best friend. If soulmates really exist, I believe she would be mine. As time passed, we became even closer if that were possible. I didn’t realize I was falling in love at the time, as it was unheard of in our small town. Yet, I fell anyway.
So...I fell in love with my best friend. That was okay, right? Or at least…not uncommon. I mean, the ‘childhood best friends who eventually fall in love with each other’ trope is popular for a reason. So what if she was a girl and I wasn’t supposed to look at her like that? So what if the two of us held hands in the hallways before class on occasion? So what if I pretended the world was just the two of us when we were together? That all didn’t mean something was wrong with me, did it? I mean…what about my crush on the boy from history class? That didn’t mean anything anymore? I looked at him the same way I looked at her now. Especially now that we were closer and we were older, it was a little hard to ignore. And yet… I didn’t say a thing.
I spent the next few years of my life in serious denial. I wasn’t bisexual or anything, I was just confused. I’m either straight, or not normal; there’s no in between here, I thought. Our town was less than accepting. And I couldn’t be anything other than normal. Anything other than perfect. This feeling was only validated by classmates and extended family throughout high school. I had to be one thing, or the other, there were no choices. So… I rejected how I felt. I ignored my crushes on girls, I ignored the jealousy I felt at couples who could simply exist in public with no harassment. I ignored my own identity.
In doing so, I became incredibly lonely incredibly fast, isolating myself from everything and anything that would have made me happy. I lost a part of myself trying to make those around me comfortable. Similar to a majority of coming out stories, I tried so hard to be something I wasn’t before I physically couldn’t do it anymore.
I officially hit rock bottom my senior year of high school, specifically during a conversation related to Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” My brain just wouldn’t stop spiraling. Thoughts about wishing life could go back to how it was when I was a kid, when I was carefree and everything was simple. Just the two of us on the hill and not a care in the world. But, I wasn’t on the hill anymore, I was in a cold classroom surrounded by peers who could never understand the pain and self hatred that years of homophobia and racism caused. These feelings escalated as the conversation continued, with dismissal of Conrad's racism in the novel being my breaking point. She was the only one who ever made me feel normal. When I was with her, I could just exist and feel accepted. Yet as I sat in that classroom, I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t form words to argue my case or speak out. I remained silent and I broke inside. The minutes seemed to drag on as I attempted to hold my panic attack at bay.
I was almost successful in holding my tears back until the end of class, when I could run away to cry alone. But, my English teacher stopped me. As the bell rang, he looked over at me and said “Hey, you have good things to say, you should say them.” Before he could finish his sentence, I immediately started crying. He pulled me aside, and I opened up for the first time in years. I talked with him after class every week until graduation, crying about how I felt disconnected from everyone else, about how I missed out. About how I was a fraud. Though I never said this to him out loud, it was obvious I was so damn tired of fighting to fit into an idealized version of myself I created after years of high expectations and judgements. I was so tired, that if he hadn’t noticed something was wrong, I wouldn’t be around to write this.
Yet…as I continued to talk, I began to feel a little better. When I was able to talk with him, I was able to tell my story the way I wanted to, with support and understanding instead of the judgement and disappointment I was used to. I began to feel hope again. I don’t think I would have the courage to write this if it weren’t for my teacher and my best friend giving me the confidence I had been lacking for years. The strength I gained by finally sharing my voice has allowed me to be unapologetically myself, allowing me to reclaim a piece of my identity I had deprived myself of for far too long. That being said. . .
I am bisexual. I can finally admit this out loud, without being worried about what other people might think of me. I am not straight, I am not gay, and I am not anything other than normal. I am bisexual and there is nothing wrong with that. I am enough just as I am, and I don’t have to make a choice or fit perfectly into one side or the other. I am perfectly content living in this “in between” space I now call home.