A Note from 2017 Me

Graphic stars are arranged in the Aries constellation. Below this, the image states, Dear Jess.

In 2017, I wrote letters for myself in 2019 for each period of the zodiac signs. I read this late, but in Aries, I talked about meeting my friend, Liz, and bonding over our gayness. Plus some words of wisdom from my past self that I needed at this time.

march 21 to April 19. dear jess,

So this chunk of time is the busiest I have ever been I’ve been so busy that I’m actually writing this on May 4. A lot of my time has been going to the documentary I’m working on, Filling in the Gaps. I’m not sure how much I’ve told you about it before in the past letters, but I’m sure you remember it. I have never put so much work, effort, hours, and feeling into one project in my life. (I wonder if you have outdone this by now.) Learning about refugees and trying to tell us an important story has become my life for the past month. And Liz has become such a good friend to me.

A while ago Liz told me as she was applying for the Dirk Koning film scholarship, which is one that I was awarded last year, so I said that I would send my personal essay and statement to her. Something in my statement mentioned my sexuality and the effects of growing up in a small town. After that, I hold her the story about John in the car and how he asked if I was sending signals that meant I was interested in him, and that it was even particularly funny because “I’m not even interested in boys.” She was kind of quiet after that, and I sort of felt like, in that moment, I knew she wasn’t straight.

Maybe a week passed before we were editing together, and she told me about a girl in her class that she had a crush on. I told her about Jas. It felt so natural, and beautiful; it felt like what friendship was supposed to feel like, this thing we been missing out on in middle school and high school. Our friends would tell us about their crushes and we would fake interest, fake agreement, fake ourselves into believing we weren’t faking it.

But nothing about this was fake. I felt like I was having my first conversation about what it’s like to have a crush on a girl and how natural it can feel. But we didn’t have to think about that, we could just talk about what it was: exhilarating, jittery, embarrassing, livening.

A week or so later we were editing again, and in a pause, she asked me “Jesse, was it hard to come out to your family?”

It was hard, I told her. It was so hard that I waited until I was halfway across the world, after I had been staying with Jas for a month, in a very long email. She almost chuckled, and so did I. How dumb we are for how hard this is.

She hasn’t told her family; only her twin sister. Her sister is supportive but sometimes makes her feel discouraged somehow. I knew that somehow. They never talk about it, you both agree.

A while ago we came to a point in our lives where the typical lines re: queerness made for the straights were not enough for you. “Being gay is not who I am.” “Gay is just one of the things to make me who I am.” “My sexuality is not the most interesting thing about me.”

But here is the truth: I am who I am because I am queer. And maybe this is something Liz feels too. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to tell people because they think I am someone that I am not. Because everything I am might be is because of this, and we are the only ones who know it. The Pride is such an incredible part of our soul now that we are happy.

I told them the day after the Pulse shooting. That night Liz was in Texas with a friend named Juan in a place called the Gayborhood. “That could’ve been me.” I think that’s what we were all thinking. Are all thinking. The targets.

I know this wasn’t recent, the shooting and the telling mom and dad. I’m not talking about this now because I want you to remember the fear, the defeat, the lying. I’m telling you about remembering this with Liz because there are things you will always be going through, hardships you always carry with you, these things that are at the core of who you are. And whatever it is that you are going through today as you read this, you have someone. Liz and I weren’t friends before she asked if telling my parents was hard. Don’t be too afraid or too prideful to ask for guidance or understanding. Reach out, be strong, make friends. You can do this because you’ve done it all before.

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