I met her the year they told me my love wasn’t real

In Grade 12 I wish I knew that it was nothing new to like girls

My eyes are closed and I try to make my face expressionless. The classroom is silent.

“There is a desk with a projector on it,” I say in a drab tone. “The projector sits on top of a textbook.”

I was instructed by my Grade 12 creative writing teacher to close my eyes and describe anything in the classroom. I try to remember that I’m only doing this because there’s a point to be made about the accuracy of memory and how it’s related to writing.

Outside, the chilly autumn weather kisses the windows of the third floor classroom. Heat rushes to my face, and I fear that my overly nonchalant attitude is revealing more about me than I let on.

I could’ve described anything. What was on my desk. Who was sitting behind me. What was written on the chalkboard. Instead, I described the spot where my crush was sitting and went the extra mile to recount what they were sitting in front of: a projector placed upon a textbook. I should’ve just described the projector on a textbook. My heart and my brain are pounding in unison, both for entirely different reasons.

“Every movement she made caused me to shift accordingly: longing to be beside her, knowing that I couldn’t.”

When I finish my description, I open my eyes and pretend to scan the area I recalled for inaccuracies. My eyes stray a few desks to my left, where a girl with chestnut hair and a slightly pointed nose sits. If her giggles and my ears were mixed martial arts fighters, I would lose as many as five matches due to technical knockouts per class. Our eyes briefly meet, and I don’t know if anyone can see my tenderness.

Every movement she made caused me to shift accordingly: longing to be beside her, knowing that I couldn’t. She was the moon, and the blood that ran through me surged like tides trying to reach a heavenly body.

I guess describing where she sat was my way of showing that, out of everyone in our Toronto all-girls Catholic school, I was only paying attention to her.

In Grade 12 I wish I knew that it was nothing new to like girls.

Three years later, I sit in the passenger side of a parked car, listening to muffled seagull cries. The aroma of donuts and roasted coffee lifts from my white dress shirt and fills the vehicle, the only evidence that I finished a shift at a local coffee shop.


The sun is setting on Bluffer’s Park as I try my best to look at my significant other. I’m sitting still but something swirls and solidifies within me.

“Sometimes . . . I find girls . . . attractive.”

It was the first time I told anyone I liked girls. It was the first time I revealed I was bisexual.

We hold each other and talk about our futures while the seagulls cry.

This moment of honesty four years ago could have ended dangerously: I worried that my partner wouldn’t understand, that he would out me to my friends and family. I was afraid that upon telling him that I also liked girls, he would react violently. I didn’t know what to expect.

My discussion with my significant other happened before the 2015 update of the sex education curriculum in Ontario. The update meant that students had the opportunity to learn about sexuality, consent, LGBT equality, gender identity and online safety.

In sex ed we discussed contraceptives, masturbation, and safe heteronormative sex. The only information that I gathered about the LGBT community was that being gay or lesbian was “unnatural.” This bisexual- and trans-exclusionary, anti-LGBT teaching would be echoed in my religion classes. Beyond this, we never talked about sexuality and gender.

It took me a while to process what I felt for the girl a few desks down. The information was out there about my sexuality, but I had to sift through fact and fiction in order to find it.

At that time, what I knew of the LGBT community came from posts on Tumblr, conversations with friends, and the occasional stereotypical gay best friend character in films and television shows. I never heard of anyone like me beyond Tumblr’s dashboard and no one I knew was part of the LGBT community.

“My feelings, much like the content I read online, felt like dreams.”

If the curriculum was updated when I was in high school, maybe I would’ve been able to make the connection between my feelings and sexuality sooner than later. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to confront my feelings in that parked car because I would have already known that I was bisexual. Maybe my story would’ve been different.

Last month the Progressive Conservative government announced that it would be turning back the clock on the updated sex-ed curriculum, which would mean that information about the LGBT community and gender identity will be scrapped come the 2018–2019 school year. This decision would block LGBT youth from learning about themselves and their communities, but also means they would have to rely on online information to learn about themselves.

Through what I learned outside the classroom, I understood that sexuality wasn’t a choice. Still, it took time for me to understand my feelings for the girl with chestnut hair and slightly pointed nose.

My feelings, much like the content I read online, felt like dreams.

I’m giving a presentation on morality in my Grade 12 religion class, and my attention, yet again, is directed at the girl with chestnut coloured hair and slightly pointed nose.

My project partner and I trade rehearsed lines. We’re the last presentation of the day, and we’re determined to leave as soon as possible. The lush summer greenery calls to us beyond the brick walls of our high school. The eyes of our classmates are glazed with indifference and the only engaged soul is our teacher. I try to steady my voice and my heart.

Jokingly, I end the presentation with the Catholic school phrase: What would Jesus do?

As I say these four words, I give my crush my full attention. I’m lost in her eyes, and everything melts. I won’t have words for these feelings for another two years.

The bell rings.

Allyson Aritcheta is a Toronto-based journalist. She has been published in This Magazine, From the Root, and On the Danforth.

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