Brande White

Written by Canmore Museum

Growing up in the early 80’s in rural Tennessee was hard. The examples I had for anyone in the queer community were either hidden or they were the brunt of jokes or slurs. I always felt different. I was shy and a tomboy and so confused. I wanted to dress like boys and I idolized some of the boys in my classes which I thought meant I was crushing on them. Turns out it was my budding gender confusion.

When I asked my parents if I could wear boys’ clothes, they took me straight to a psychologist, and I can’t remember a thing about any sessions except what the room felt like and the doctor’s name. I do know that from the time I saw that doctor until the day I came out of the closet at 40, I never knew myself. I fought the person I was meant to be until I was so depressed and lonely that I couldn’t take it anymore. I had no reason to do this. I feel like a coward for allowing part of myself to stay hidden for so long. I had no idea I could be attracted to anyone until I kissed a girl in my 30’s. Any romance before this encounter was not real. I made myself fit molds and do things that disgusted me to appear “normal”. Normal was something I fabricated from a childhood of sitcoms and small town prejudices.

I love my family and they accept me now, but as a small child I heard jokes about my uncle and his live-in friend and I knew I didn’t want to be made fun of. The fear of being a joke and my want to fit in led me to hide who I truly am. I hate this. Hiding is one of the few regrets I have in life. I played by others’ rules and in the process buried who I was. I buried it so much I had no idea I was attracted to women until that kiss; once that happened my life forever changed. I didn’t understand what was happening but instead of fighting it I began to learn and accept myself. So many things started to make sense. My depression slowly lifted and my self confidence started to grow.

I often thought I was assexual in my teens and 20’s but as I began to accept myself, I started to realize just how hard I had fought to keep this part of myself hidden…even to me. As the secret relationship ended with my first woman, I began my transition away from my hidden life in Tennessee to my new home in Edmonton. I told my best friend that I was bisexual, packed my bags and moved 3000 miles away. After 8 years of learning and figuring out what I want in a relationship and out of life, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m gay. Super gay lol. I am still learning and growing and my relationship with my current partner is something that I want to share with the world : I can’t imagine hiding and hoping I don’t ruffle any feathers…what a cool feeling.

My move to Canmore has been the biggest blessing of my life.  In a time of huge transition I have found my home. I’ve met wonderful people that make me feel ok to lead a life that feels happy and open. I look towards a future of strong mental health, self awareness and a relationship with a woman I never dreamed possible. I have a family here!! I have been able to open a successful business with my best friend; this business embraces my queer vibe and celebrates it.  I have learned that there is no normal, there is just acceptance!!! I find comfort living how I want to live, and with all the bad in the world I want to share the good.  The move to Canmore, although not without fiscal challenges, has made me not only dream of a future here but I know that I can build one in this community.

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