Megan B. McKinney (Berea, KY)

Being a closeted gay woman in Appalachia is a scary experience. When I went off to college, I was still lying to myself and trying to convince my brain that I was straight, all the while knowing that was wrong. Once I began accepting my sexuality, I knew that coming out would be the next step. I knew it, but I wasn’t ready to take that step. I would practice saying, “I’m gay” in front of a mirror, over and over again. It became easier, so I decided that my best friend on campus deserved to know. She and I were sitting outside of our campus café one night, talking about things going on in our lives. She began to talk about a few of the guys on campus and their sexuality, so I saw my opportunity. I asked what she thought of being queer, and she said that she was fine if a guy was, but she thought it was weird for a girl to be gay. I became silent, and she knew that I was thinking. She kept asking what the matter was, and after a painful inner argument, I finally blurted out, “I’m gay, dammit!” There was silence as she began to process it. After what seemed like an hour, she exclaimed, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry about what I said about lesbians! I’m such an idiot! I didn’t mean it, and I still love you!” After that, we were able to have an open discussion about sexuality and she asked honest questions while encouraging me to be open with others.