My name is Kimberly. I’m from Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
When I was 10, I started at an all girls boarding school there. I remember getting there and I was pretty overwhelmed. I saw all these girls, hundreds of girls, and I just wandered really aimlessly just trying to figure out what I was about to do here because growing up, I’d had always lived with my grandmother.
I was there for five years, I believe, and the year I turned 13, I remember meeting this girl and we became inseparable. I remember we even studied together, took our breaks together and everything. There were times when we were allowed to go home at least once a month. And instead of going home, I remember we would stay back just so we could spend time alone together. I think that was the first time I fell in love.
I wanted to share this happiness with one of my other very good friends. And I told her about it. I’m like, I met someone and this is who it is and this is what it feels like. This is the experience for me. And she asked me a lot of questions and she was my friends, so I confided in her. I told her anything she wanted to know.
So I just remember being in my bed one night and I heard banging on the doors. Then it flew open and a couple of girls, they were like two or three grades ahead of me. They came and they kind of just dragged me out of bed. I literally went downstairs, no shoes on my feet, just my PJs. And when I got downstairs, I remember seeing the entire school gathered downstairs, and I remember there was just a circle and I was kind of tossed in the middle of the circle. I remember someone asking me, “Is it true? Are you a lesbian?”
I don’t quite remember exactly if I said yes, but I know I alluded to the fact that I am a lesbian. And I just remember people started charging at me. I do remember that some girls tried to shield me and tried to protect me. “You can’t do this to her here.” And I remember they took me back upstairs to my dormitory.
I alluded to the fact that I am a lesbian. And I just remember people started charging at me.
I didn’t sleep that entire night because I was just thinking, like, What’s about to happen tomorrow morning when I had to face the entire school? The morning I woke up and I went to class and I felt very ostracized because you could tell that everyone knew what happened the night before. I went to the principal’s office because I was asked to come to the principal’s office and she too asked me if I was a lesbian.
I told her, “Yes, I am a lesbian. I have known for many, many years.”
And I just remember her saying to me, “Well, what would your grandmother think if she knew you were a lesbian?” And I just remember crying because my grandmother, who was a devout Christian, I couldn’t very well tell her that, “Hey grandma, I’m a lesbian.” Nonetheless, it was a fort weekend and typically I would not go home. I would stay with my best friend. But this fort weekend I decided, you know what? I’m going to go home.
So I remember going home to my grandmother and she was asking me what’s wrong, because I was still visibly in distress. I told her everything is fine. And I told her that my dad… you know, I’m going to migrate to the United States by the end of the year. But I was thinking it’d be a good idea to leave maybe in two weeks. And she didn’t question it. I did feel like my life was in danger. So for my own safety, I decided to speed the process up and migrate to the United States.
My first day of high school here, I wore a skirt and it was very uncomfortable, but I’m like, You know what? I’m playing this part and no one is going to know about my past, so this is what I’m going to do. And I did that for maybe a week. It became very uncomfortable and I stopped and resorted to dressing like a tomboy because that’s the way I was most comfortable.
During high school, I met this guy and we started talking on the phone and I was living with my dad and his wife at a time and she picked up the phone and heard me talking to this boy. And I don’t know if it was malicious or she was concerned, but she told my dad. He was just like, “Your stepmother told me that you were on the phone with the boys, so we just need to have a conversation about this. I think you’re too young to have a boyfriend.”
And I just came from Jamaica. He’s questioned me about this and I was just like, “Daddy, I’m gay. You don’t have to worry about anything.”
He was like, “Well, at least you won’t get pregnant. Let’s go to breakfast.”
And I thought, Okay, that’s it? You’re not going to penalize me or anything? You’re not going to tell me to pray it away, pray the gay away or anything? We went to breakfast, we talked, we laughed, and he kind of just asked me, “When did you know?” And I’m telling him that I’ve known as early as I could remember. He’s never judged me, he’s always supported me. We’re like best friends to this day.
Ever since I moved to the United States, I’ve never felt – personally, I’ve never felt ostracized. I’ve never felt ridiculed of. I’ve never felt judged. It just feels like a safe space that I’m in.
I graduated high school. I graduated college. I’m going to take my national counseling exam by the end of this month to help people like me, help people that went through the same thing that I went through. I’ll be a licensed professional counselor. My target community will be the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a good feeling that I can be a support system for people that are going through the same thing that I went through back then when I was growing up.
And interestingly enough, I guess things come full circle. The person that I confided in when I was in high school, she actually reached out to me two days ago on the 11th to apologize. I embraced her. I wasn’t upset. I didn’t brush her off. In fact, I gave her my phone number, “If you ever need to talk about anything, you can reach out to me. I’ll be there for you, and I forgive you.” Even after all these years, she still reached out to me, embraced me, validated what I was feeling back then. So I was thankful, grateful even, that she reached out to me.
I mean in my case, I had my dad who supported me, but even if you don’t have a family that supports you, you’ll be surprised how many like-minded people there are out there that will support you. There are many people that are going through something similar that you are, but you’ll never know. There’s a lot of connectedness among people that you meet every day. Even even though you don’t have a support system like a family support system, there are people that will support you.