With Pride Month now in full swing, The Oshawa Express’ Chris Jones sat down with members of the LGBTQ community, one representing each letter, to discuss their lives and their stories.
While no two people have the same story, the hope from these individuals was to shed a light on the struggles those in the LGBTQ community face, as well as to show there is more to them than their sexuality.
For those who are reading ahead, there is at times the use of strong language, as well as details of their lives which were difficult to share.
Each individual who took part was given the option to use an alias.
This is part one of three in a series detailing the life and struggles of these members of the LGBTQ community.
Kayla Rhodes-Truppe is a young woman who is a part of the LGBTQ community who identifies herself as a lesbian.
Rhodes-Truppe grew up with an older brother, Nathan, who had previously come out as gay to their parents a couple of years before she did.
“I wasn’t knowledgeable about anything, so I would have been 11 when he came out, and we laugh about it now, but the first time I ever saw him interact with another guy, I had a panic attack because I wasn’t used to it,” she says.
She says when she had this moment, she needed to start getting involved in the LGBTQ community because he is her brother, and she loves him either way and doesn’t care who he’s with.
“So, I had my question about myself around then too, because I was looking at girls and wondering ‘Why do they look attractive to me?’” she explains. “So, I would say Nathan was kind of like, my eye opener, because I don’t know if I would have gone and found everything out by myself.”
Rhodes-Truppe says other than that her childhood was normal, as she lived with her family and had family trips and everything she believes is a normal part of childhood.
“So nothing really stood out for me until I was 11, 12, 13, which is when I was figuring myself out,” she says.
Rhodes-Truppe considers herself very lucky because she was able to see her brother come out and tell their parents he was gay, so she already knew they would respond positively.
“I’ve heard coming out stories where people freak out and everything, and I didn’t have that anxiety because I watched my brother go through it,” explains Rhodes-Truppe.
She says when she was around 13-years-old, she went to a camp run by PFLAG with her brother Nathan and a close friend, an organization dedicated to helping people in the LGBTQ community, and while she was there she labeled herself as bisexual.
“Going there, I was like ‘Okay, this is somewhere I can be comfortable,’” she explains. “So, I said, because I knew at that point that I still wasn’t sure where I was, but I knew that I had attraction to females at least.”
She says at this point while she was still figuring herself out, she came out to her parents and told them about her sexuality.
“I literally just went home, sat on the bed with my Mom and was like, ‘Mom, I like girls,’ and she was like, ‘Oh, okay,’” explains Rhodes-Truppe. “I walked out of her room, and my dad was coming down the hall towards us, and I stopped him in the hallway and was like, ‘Dad, I’m just putting it out there, I like girls,’ and he was like, ‘Alright.’”
She says she didn’t know what the easiest way for her to come out was because she just wanted to be herself, and she didn’t want to be scared anymore. She notes she knew she would get backlash either way, and she didn’t want to have to go around and come out to everyone individually, so with a laugh she says she went to social media.
“I went on Facebook and I made a status that was along the lines of something like, ‘So, just so everyone knows, this is me coming out, I’m bisexual, if you have any issues with that just delete me now and don’t bother coming into my life anymore,’” Rhodes-Truppe explains.
She says she didn’t have her first girlfriend until she was 16, which was a couple of years later.
However, she notes at that point she was still identifying as bisexual, and had even had a long relationship with a guy until 2017.
“So, in 2017, I started realizing something’s not right, like I wasn’t feeling this anymore. Things just felt very uncomfortable and very weird for me, and this guy, he was one of my best friends, and I still feel bad for what I did to him,” she says, noting she feels as though she might cry, and wipes a tear from her eye.
She says the guy doesn’t speak to her anymore because of what happened after.
“I basically said to him, you know, I want to be with you, but I’d like to go explore my sexuality first, before I say this is it,” she explains.
She says the two of them decided on an open-relationship, which allowed her to explore her sexuality while they remained together.
However, she says this lasted a month-and-a-half before it suddenly hit her, she was falling in love with another woman, and no longer felt that way for him.
Still with a tear in her eye, Rhodes-Truppes says, “I had to tell him that. He kind of caught me in it because I was spending all of my time with this girl, he was very rarely seeing me and if he was, I was very standoffish, and I remember that day so clearly, him just being like, ‘You’re falling for her, aren’t you?’”
After telling him yes, she says she admitted to herself it doesn’t feel right with guys at all, and shortly after that she came out as a lesbian.
She says to this day, she is still with the same girl, although there have been some bumps in the road.
“That was a rough time for me because her and I went through so much that at one point I did go back on it, and I questioned myself again and asked myself if I’m bi,” says Rhodes-Truppe. “I tried again, it wasn’t my thing, and I was like, ‘No, I’m a lesbian,’ and ever since then that’s how I identify.”
Rhodes-Truppe says she wouldn’t want her current relationship to be any other way, despite the fact they have been on again, off again.
“We’ve been on and off for two years, so we’ve gone and been with other people, and we’re like ‘No, no, no it’s you,” she says.
With a laugh, Rhodes-Truppe says it’s embarrassing how “head-over-heels” she is for her partner, even joking about how she talks about her to anyone who will listen.
“She’s kind of gotten me to where I am today,” she says. “I went through a lot of mental health issues – none of that really came from who I am, that was more so an issue I had with someone else before I ever came out.”
She says she lucky as she can only remember one specific time where she experienced bullying due to her sexual orientation.
“I mean, obviously my partner and I will be walking around holding hands and we still have that fear that, like, someone’s going to say something, or older people who don’t necessarily understand because they were born in a different generation, and they’re kind of looking at us like, ‘What are you doing?’”
She says her one specific time was in high school, and it was with someone she was only seeing for about a week, and they were holding hands in the hallway and a girl in her grade called her a homophobic slur.
“I didn’t hear it, but the person I was with at the time said that that’s what was said,” she explains.
Rhodes-Truppe also says these people can think what they want because she’s happy, and she says since she saw what her brother went through as a gay man, she believes the bullying he experienced was a lot harder.
She thinks the main part of her bullying was due to her questioning whether she was bisexual or a lesbian.
“There was a lot of ‘well make up your mind,’” she explains. “From my standpoint, I’ve done a lot of classes on it and stuff like that in college. I did sexual diversity at George Brown, and right now I’m taking gender and sexuality [at Durham College]. Sexuality is fluid, it can be anywhere on the spectrum at anytime.”
She says her relationship with her parents is still mostly good, noting she does clash with her Mom here and there.
“I don’t live with her anymore, I live with my brother now, but they’re (my parents) divorced now,” Rhodes-Truppe explains.
Nowadays her Mom lives an hour away, and her Dad lives with his new girlfriend, and that was when her relationships with them began to be a little strained, as she didn’t like seeing them with other people.
“I was 16 when they split up, so I was very aware of everything that was going on,” she explains. “I think I was 18 or 19 when they got the divorce finalized, and I remember sitting in class and my Mom texted me ‘It’s finalized’ and I cried because that’s when things got really bad.”
She notes her Dad now has another son, and his focus is on him when he sees him.
“My big one with my Mom is that she doesn’t like who I’m with,” she says. “I’ve had a lot of issues, a lot of things that have come up that my Mom has known about and has had to deal with, and she doesn’t like her.”
Rhodes-Truppe says she and her partner recently got back together again, and have only been seeing each other again for a couple of months, so she was afraid to tell her.
“I was like, if I tell her, she’s going to get angry at me, she might disown me, that kind of stuff, because she didn’t really want me with her, so that’s where our relationship has gotten a little rocky,” she says.
However, she credits her brother as the reason her mother knows now and is okay with it because he is the one who told her.
However, Rhodes-Truppe says the only anger she’s had towards her father was when he left, and other than that he has been a huge support system for her.
Rhodes-Truppe says when she was 15 her mental health started to become an issue and she began lashing out at everyone.
She has a tattoo on her wrist of a semi-colon, which is a common tattoo for those who had suffered from mental health and for those who have been impacted by suicide.
“I’ve been through a lot of mental health issues, and this is on my wrist, that was my primary one that I would hurt myself on, and it’s kind of there to remind me that I’m okay, I don’t have to do this,” she says.
Rhodes-Truppe says she has another semi-colon on her ankle, as well as a tattoo of a butterfly for the Butterfly Project, a project which aims to aid people who want to self-harm with resisting the urges.
Today, Rhodes-Truppe lives with her brother, has a good relationship with her family and is very happy in her relationship. While she still has her ups and downs, she continues to live her day-to-day life at school, work, and with her partner.