I have known Morgan Kissane for years and, deep down, have always known the person that she was. Outwardly brash and jazzed for any adventure but also possessing the capacity to love so deeply that I find myself jealous of her warmth. I know Morgan as well as anyone. I can tell you every academic and athletic award that she’s ever won, but so can anyone with access to Google. When I’m in need of a distraction or someone to confide in, Morgan provides a shoulder to slap or cry on. She makes an active attempt to educate herself about issues that, quite frankly, do not affect her on any scale, and she has supported me in every choice that I’ve made. Morgan has been a humbling friend over the years, and it’s been amazing to witness her growth. But I realize that people, including myself, didn’t know that Morgan actively chose to become the person she is today. The person that sat before me got there through a series of trials that ultimately led to her deciding who she wanted to be.
In the beginning of her senior year, Morgan did something that I, a straight female, couldn’t even fathom. With the Westboro Baptist Church just 20 minutes away and clothed by the judgmental heteronormative society that we live in, Morgan came out as queer to a roomful of drunk teenagers on a fateful October night. Specifically, while poorly mixing drinks like a character on The Carrie Diaries, she informed everyone about who she really is. While I regularly tease her for having the outing of a bad fan fiction, the truth is that it took immense bravery for her to become the person that she has always been. As Morgan will be the first to remind anyone who asks, “My sexuality is an important part of who I am, but it is not everything. It’s part of me, like any other part of my personality. I’m just happy to be finally be able to show all of me, including this.”
So, after babysitting me and taking me to my first piercing, Morgan sat down with me at Classic Bean and I asked her questions that I thought I knew the answer to. I was inevitably wrong, as I am more often than I’d like to admit. Hearing Morgan talk firsthand about her experiences, fears, and achievements made me realize this: talk to your friends. Really talk to your friends, because you might not know them half as well as you’d like to think.
You seem so comfortable with your sexuality now. Was there ever a time when you were doubtful of yourself and what it meant to be a queer teen? When did you become aware of your attraction to women?
A couple years ago in 2013. I was in a very flourishing relationship with a boy and we were coming around about two years together when I realized that I had no real want or desire to be with him sexually. And it wasn’t even because he was such a devout Catholic. In the middle of our relationship, I had formed an affection for a female and through that, our friendship got gray and complicated. I realized that it was much more than just exploring. I had a total indifference for being with a man and a total interest in being with a woman. I started a Tumblr and followed blogs and YouTube channels for other queer teens and heard their own coming out stories.
I was terrified. I was so scared to think that I was this different person, especially where we live. I had always been able to think that I could fall in love with a man but I never thought I could fall in love with a woman. It took longer to accept myself than for other people to accept me. I was raised in a very loving family and I was very Christian and that was a huge worry for me that the people I love would no longer love me back. But it was something that I realized I couldn’t help and it was something that nearly killed me to keep inside.
To put it bluntly, we don’t live in the most accepting of communities. How has this affected your relationship with your friends and your peers?
Surprisingly, I feel like I have more friends now because people used to think I was the only gay person within a 50-mile radius. Because of this, I was able to meet new people and it’s really cool to connect with them and see that we really are just normal. I felt immensely closer to the people that I was already friends with because they weren’t mad or mean when I came out. It was either a very shocked “What?” or “Oh, okay.” My sexuality doesn’t define me but it’s a big part of my life and the fact that I can now talk to people without inhibition is freeing. People respect me for saying what I want and doing what I want and I’m blessed to have friends who love me unconditionally.
But not everyone has been accepting. Peer wise, there have people who voiced their distaste but that comes with anything. I had 10 people telling me what an inspiration I am to the one person telling me they don’t believe what I stand for. When I was coming out, I didn’t think I was even going to affect so many people. I just thought “Wow, I’m probably gonna get my ass kicked in the parking lot.” But the worst thing that happened was someone writing “fag” on my car. And that washed off, so whatever.
I know that you hold your family in high regards. How has this affected your relationship with them?
It was very trying for me and my mom. My parents are divorced and my dad lives three hours away, and I have lived with my mom my entire life. We’ve been completely close, like still sleeping with my mom at 16 and 17 years-old. She had a very perfect vision of what I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to turn out like. When I came out, it was kind of a smack in the face to the dreams that she had, but I will give her credit for this: it’s very hard to give up on a dream and even harder to move on from that dream. But she worked her butt off to look past it long enough to realize that she didn’t lose her dream and that I’m still going to be that adult that she wanted me to be. I might just be with someone that’s a little different from what she’s used to. I give her props for never giving up on me. She’s still supportive of me financially and emotionally. She still came to my games and this was something we had to fight through.
Normally, I would jump at the opportunity to talk about boys but for once, it’s not about me. How has this affected your relationship with your ex-boyfriends?
Bad and good. As previously mentioned, I first started realizing that I was gay when I was with a boy. A couple months later, after I came out to everyone, I called him and I said, “I love you and you love me,” and it was fine. There were no hard feelings when we broke up so I just told him, “I want you to know this before you hear this from someone else, but I just wanted to tell you that I’m gay. I still love you and this has nothing to do with you. I don’t regret our relationship at all.” He took a second and was like, “I heard some rumors but I’m really glad you told me. I’m really proud of you and I’m happy you found this part of yourself.”
On the other hand, I did have a different ex-boyfriend who didn’t necessarily take the news too well. He texted me trying to get back together and I politely told him, “It’s really good to hear from you but I’ve recently come out as gay and I’m super happy with myself and my life. I would love to keep talking to you but I wanted you to know.” That was soon followed by a very long text message about how I am an abomination and sin and I should try electroshock therapy. I was like, “Is this 1944?” It was kind of one of those things where it was so ridiculous that he was blatantly disregarding my happiness that I just didn’t give two shits about him.
How has this changed your opinion on religion? Do you still practice and were there ever moments when you stopped?
Trying to hide who I was made me turn away from Christianity because I started to think that I was a sinner and not worthy of God’s love. It wasn’t until I began to accept myself that I realized that the God I believe in and love is not a hateful God. The hateful God is the one the world thinks of but I’ve spent a lot of time in scripture and prayer and I know that God loves me and made me to be who I am. He brought me here for some purpose and I’m not a defect. The reason I love Christianity is because it is about your own personal journey with Christ and you get to read the verses you want and you learn and pray your own way. Your walk is your own. It’s your own narrative and when I pretended mine wasn’t being written, I ran from God. But then I fully accepted myself and the story I have, and now I’ve never felt closer to Christ in my life.
Is it weird living in a culture where people just automatically assume that you’re straight?
Yes. People will ask you the craziest things when they find out. I feel like a pregnant woman in a supermarket because people will just touch the belly of my homosexuality. I mean, just totally inappropriate questions that you should never ask anyone. I feel like a secret spy sometimes. I think it’s funny to have people realize that they’re not gay.
Was it strange to become a teen icon? Because I went to school with you and we were close friends so I saw that people treated you with this odd sort of reverence after you came out. You were everywhere.
I kind of became almost a legend at school. And I mean that in the myth form because people only knew me just from reputation. It was strange hearing it from other people because they’re all, “How crazy is it that a popular girl from school came out?” It was a huge struggle because people trivialized it after. They saw it as something fun and shiny because they wanted that newness and flavor of the month. After a while, people did calm down to realize that I am so much more than my sexual identity and that it was a small piece in the complicated puzzle that is Morgan Kissane. It was strange to have people whom I’d never spoken to come up to me and talk to me. I was worried because I didn’t know them but they knew so much about me.
It is very humbling when people come up and tell you how much of an effect you had on them. To me, it just felt like I was telling everyone who I really was. I still have trouble knowing that people actually want to be in my presence and enjoy my company and the fact that people even follow me on social media. One girl told me, “I really want to be friends with Morgan Kissane,” and that’s so strange to me because I don’t put much thought into those things. There were even a few people who were worried that I wouldn’t want to be friends with them and it’s like, I love everyone! It was very humbling and gracious that people could look at me and feel safe, and that the community they lived in was becoming more accepting.
Do you have any advice for closeted teens?
My biggest advice is take the time you need. Don’t let the world or your friends or the media or whatever you’re listening to tell you that you have to come out. When you’re ready to come out, you can. It’s your story and you get to write it. I don’t think being closeted is a bad thing. Me being in the closet was a hugely important time for me because I figured out who I was. You come out when you’re ready, plain and simple.
It’s funny when I come out to people—there’s this moment of recognition about what I’m saying. I’ve found that a lot of people are honored when you tell them, which is weird because it just feels like telling them you have hazel eyes or something. But you’re sharing a part of your life with them and that’s a big deal.
And lastly, know that it does get better. Being gay is no one’s business but your own and you can tell as few or many people as you want. It’s all your choice.
Writer’s note: Morgan has acknowledged that she was very blessed to have been supported by her family and community. Unfortunately, that is not a privilege that everyone shares. Queer youths make up for large portions of homeless and abused teens in the world, as well as being at high risk for suicide and self-harm. If you are or know someone who is in need of help, whether physically or emotionally, please check out the following resource. You can also dial the National Suicide Hotline at +1 (800) 273 8255. If you would like to get in contact with Morgan personally, you can reach her on Twitter at @.
Feature image courtesy of Morgan Kissane.