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Finding Where I Belong as a Queer Woman With Multiple Sclerosis

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If you’ve ever watched the TV show “Sesame Street,” you might remember this song they often sang:

“One of these things is not like the others. One of these things doesn’t belong. Can you tell me which thing is not like the others, before I finish this song?”

At the age of 6, I felt like one of four siblings that didn’t belong:

a. I struggled with reading. They all read well, even my younger brother.
b. I was left-handed. They were right.
c. I was a redhead. They were blonde.

By my first year at college, these differences were no longer in the forefront of my mind. I noticed others who had red hair or who were left-handed. As for my dyslexia, I accepted it as part of who I was.

At the age of 20, I worked at a drugstore as a trained pharmacy technician. I noticed I had a crush on one of the young women who worked the same shifts as me. We became friends. I was surprised and disappointed to discover she had a boyfriend and they lived together.

I didn’t know it was a crush back then. When I moved to another drugstore with better pay, our friendship drifted apart.

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The following year, I was accepted into a business college. My identification with my sexuality started to blossom when one of my classmates pursued a friendship with me. She didn’t mention she was a lesbian until we got to know one another.

One night, she invited me out to a fashion show at one of the local gay bars. I was curious, nervous and excited.

During the fashion show, I met a woman who took me for a motorcycle ride after the event ended. When she kissed me, I skyrocketed to the moon and back. My entire body and being radiated with joy.

This kiss changed my life forever. I felt at home in myself in a way that I never had before. I experienced an affirmation of my being.

Many years and relationships later, just as I was reaching the peak of my career, my life changed again — dramatically. In 2010, when I was 44, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Again, I found myself back at the place of “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things doesn’t belong.” At first, the fatigue was so bad, I could barely get out of bed. My dishes were almost stacked up to the ceiling. I felt alone and isolated. I was terrified I’d never be able to work again.

I was in crisis and needed support.

I turned to friends in the LGBTQ+ community. Each person I reached out to had experienced their own health crisis prior to my own. These friends were able to listen, support me and share their wisdom.

Once I was able to manage my energy better and stabilize my health, I chose gently to ease back into doing some of my favorite activities. I started with securing my VIP pass to the annual Queer Film Festival. I loved being surrounded by thousands of people in the LGBTQ+ community while we laughed, cried and cheered on the characters we loved the most.

In my heart, I felt that as a queer woman living with MS, the LGBTQ+ community continued to be an accepting place for me to belong.

In 2013, I met the love of my life at a lesbian outdoor club event. It was a full moon snowshoe. What an unexpected and romantic way to meet my sweetie. On the hike down the mountain, we discovered how much we had in common. This included — of all things — our mutual allergy to cats. If there was ever a stereotype within the lesbian community, it’s how all lesbians have at least one cat!

You can imagine how happy we were to find one another.

This year, we celebrated our seventh anniversary. With the social distancing measures in place right now, I’m not sure what we will do to celebrate Pride this year. One thing I continue to celebrate for sure is how I’ve changed the soundtrack that started when I was a little girl.

It now goes like this: “One of us is connected to the others. We all belong. Can you celebrate the LGBTQ+ community with me, before we finish this song?”

Getty image by Arvitayla.

Originally published: June 16, 2020
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