The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Not Just One Thing
Different attractions bring out different parts of me
Alexus Colbert

When I was 8, I lived in a shelter with my mom and younger sister. I was friendly with our neighbor Ashley, who was 11; our mothers smoked weed together. On the days that my little sister went to daycare, I would go over to Ashley’s room while our moms went off to smoke.

One day after school, a girl named Bianca joined us. I was on the other side of the room eating when I noticed the two girls getting really close to each other. I was confused when Bianca sat on Ashley’s lap. I was also jealous. I wanted to be the one close to Ashley. After all, I was the one who liked her. I got frustrated when they leaned in and kissed. Until Ashley put her hand out to invite me to kiss her, too.

“Do you want to play?”

“This is a game?” I asked.

I knew my mother wouldn’t like me playing that game because I was only 8. I wanted to kiss Ashley but I didn’t know if it was wrong: Ashley was older than me and she was a girl. But I did kiss Ashley, and it didn’t feel wrong, so I kept doing it.

Bad associations with homosexuality came from all over. In my neighborhood, gay men sometimes got jumped. In school, bullies called other boys “gay” or “fag” just to be mean. At home, some of the people in my family were against LGBTQ people while others, like my mom, showed support. I was ashamed to tell my grandmother, cousins, and some of my aunts that I liked girls because I’d heard them criticize homosexuality.

When I was 9, I made friends with Brianna, who was my age. Our mothers would let us have sleepovers at my aunt’s house. When everyone was asleep, we played the game, kissing and cuddling. I was always the boy. I pretended to be rapper Lil’ Bow Wow, while she was his girlfriend Ciara. By then I knew that I liked girls, but I made sure that I was never seen kissing one.

But I was also attracted to boys. I had a crush on a boy at school named Chris, but I was too shy to go up to him. I wrote a note about how much I liked him. I couldn’t gather the courage to give it to him, so after I wrote it I kept the note in my pocket. My grandmother found it.

“So who’s this Chris?”

“Just a boy in my class.”

“Is there anyone else you like?”

I wanted to say Brianna but instead I answered no. Girls are supposed to only like boys, I told myself. What’s wrong with me?

What’s Wrong With Options?

I think my mother knew. I was always bad at hiding things from her, but she may not have minded. When I was 9, she started dating a woman named Penny. Later I found out that Penny wasn’t the first woman my mother dated, but she was the first woman my mother brought around me and my sister.

I knew Penny was a woman but I didn’t know if she knew she was a woman! She dressed like a guy and wore her hair slicked back into a ponytail with a fitted hat. Mommy referred to Penny as “she,” yet she kissed Penny like she was a “he.”

Even though I knew my mother was in a relationship with a woman, I never asked her about any of this. I thought if I ignored my feelings, then eventually they would go away. It was bad enough that my family was judging my mom for dating a woman. I didn’t want to create more of a problem. I was scared to admit I liked girls because I didn’t want to be judged.

When I was 11, I was placed in my first foster home. There were two other girls there and we played the kissing game together when our foster mother wasn’t home. Sometimes I would dress like Penny used to, and the girls liked that. My foster mother caught me dressed up as a guy once when she came home early.

“What the hell are you doing?”

I didn’t know how to answer her.

“Pull your pants up and take that stupid thing off your head.”

I had tied a shirt on my head since I couldn’t find a hat to hide my hair. I did as I was told.

“And leave this damn door open!”

Was it so wrong to dress like a boy when sometimes I wanted to be one? I get tired of being a girl sometimes, worrying about dressing nice, periods, bra sizes and doing my hair before I go outside.

Being a boy would make my life more carefree. No need to waste time picking my clothes out when I could just throw on any old sweatshirt and jeans. And instead of doing my hair, I could just get it cut or wear a hat.

image by YC-Art Dept

But after my foster mother’s words I started to think that I wasn’t normal, so I never dressed up as a boy after that. However, my feelings of wanting to be a boy and my attraction to girls didn’t go away.

Outing Patrick Star

When I was 14 I moved in with my maternal aunt. By that time I knew I was bisexual, but my aunt sent mixed signals about her feelings towards LGBTQ people. Sometimes she would laugh and say, “You go girl!” when a trans woman would strut by. But other times she would sigh when we saw a flamboyant man: “He’s doing too much.”

When we saw trans teenagers she would say, “How can someone so young decide that she wants to be a boy? Where are her parents?” She said similar things about young gay boys and lesbians.

At home I wasn’t allowed to watch SpongeBob because my aunt had decided some of the characters were gay. “Who knows where Patrick Star (SpongeBob’s best friend) is really sticking his head,” she would joke.

Her comments made me feel bad. I never came out to her and she never asked. I let her assume that I was only into guys. I never spoke much about my sexuality to anyone until I was 16.

At that point, I was spending a lot of time at my best friend Tyrone’s house. We sat in his room for hours sharing secrets and talking about everything.

One day he said to me, “Yo, I think I’m gay.” I told him that I didn’t care and that I was bisexual. We laughed at the fact that we hadn’t told each other sooner. Though it felt good to tell Tyrone, I was still ashamed of myself, and he was ashamed of himself too. We saw a lot of people bash the gay community.

In school, all the other kids assumed that Tyrone and I were a couple because we spent so much time together. We denied the rumors, but even our close friends and our familes thought we had something secret going on. We didn’t care because it was the perfect cover-up!

I started smoking, drinking, and AWOLing, and my aunt got fed up with me. By the time I was 18, I was placed in another foster home. I continued using drugs to block out everything that was bothering me, including my sexuality.

My boyfriend at the time had no idea that I was bisexual. When we broke up I started talking to other guys and girls. When I was 20 I dated some guys, but then I developed a crush on a girl from another foster home, Autumn.

I had never been in a serious relationship with a girl and wasn’t sure how it worked. Autumn and I got to know each other, and I liked her a lot. As the summer approached, Autumn and I spent more and more time with each other, smoking and drinking and sharing secrets. Whenever I saw her I got happier on the inside.

“I like you,” I told her one day. She told me she liked me too. Our relationship didn’t change much except that we started kissing, something we weren’t doing before.
Role Confusion
Autumn dressed like a guy once, and I didn’t like that. I’m attracted to girly girls. I like the pretty ones who wear dresses and lip gloss, which is how Autumn usually dressed.

Whenever we made out, she would play the dominant role. I wanted to be the dominant one, but I didn’t know how to express that to her. I didn’t want to mess anything up between us by doing or saying the wrong thing. I was insecure at the time and found it hard to tell her what I wanted, because I wanted her to like me.

Even though I liked her and was attracted to her, I slowly stopped spending time with her. Sexuality aside, Autumn and I were opposites in some ways. She was free-spirited while I can be hesitant. I felt like she was better off without me, which isn’t something I’ve ever felt about a boy.

Different Desires

I went back to dating guys. When I’m with guys, I don’t have the desire to be dominant. But, with girls I want to explore my masculine side. I can’t fit a beautiful female into the category of being dominant.

On the other hand, when I date guys I enjoy being extra girly because I want them to be the masculine ones. That leads me to be submissive in the relationship. Even though I have an attraction to girls, the submissive role feels like more of what I want. I can date a girl, but I find it hard to pursue a serious relationship with one: I don’t know why.

Besides this tug of war of sexuality in my head, I was going through other problems. Struggling with depression, I returned to Christianity. I had prayed with my mother as a child and when I entered the foster care system I lost touch with my faith and stopped believing in God. I sat in my room one day last year and thought back to all of my days of helplessness and looked at where I was now. I was thankful.

Now I pray often, and I have a relationship with God. I don’t think He cares about people’s sexual orientation. He made all of us, didn’t He?

I am friends with both guys and girls and like different things about both. Girls are easier to talk to, but with my guy friends I feel more free and adventurous. Overall I feel more comfortable around groups of girls. When I walk past a group of guys it’s like they’re trying to see through my clothes. I only feel comfortable being looked at that way by a boyfriend.

Girls make me feel at ease but guys make my heart beat faster. I feel more comfortable falling asleep in the arms of a guy. Their masculinity gives me a sense of protection.

Both my biological sisters also identify as bisexual. Because our mother is bi, I wonder if homosexuality might be hereditary. I’ve also heard that homosexuality is a “learned behavior.” But I didn’t see my mother with Penny before my attraction to Ashley. I’m not sure I believe either of those things; I think your attraction just is.

Now, at age 21, I accept the fact that I like both genders. I’ve stopped caring so much about what other people might think, partly because the world has grown more accepting. With the legalization of gay marriage and trans people winning rights, I think eventually homophobia will cease to exist. Where I was once ashamed, I am now proud to be who I am.

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