I think I always knew on some level that I was different – and understood that different was not good. I was a tomboy, and I spent much of my childhood with my cousin Russ, who is the same age as me.
His older brother taught me new words like "f*g" and "queerbait." I have a very vivid memory of Russ calling me gay. We were about 6-years old at the time.
I asked him what it meant and he said, "It means you're a girl that likes girls."
I took a moment to process that in my little brain and concluded, "Yeah, you’re right." We went back to playing in the yard, and I buried that realization deep in my subconscious, to be painfully hashed out later.
At 6-years old, we don't yet have all of the ugly social messages we receive later in life. Messages that make us feel bad about ourselves. Even when I had my first crush on a girl in the 3rd grade, I didn't really know what it meant to be a lesbian. I did know, however, that I shouldn't talk about it with grown-ups.
By age 8, I knew people would think it was weird and wrong. I knew that I really liked Jo on "The Facts of Life" and was fascinated by the character Lady Jaye on "GI Joe." Even though I didn’t understand yet why I liked them so much, I was still embarrassed by those feelings.
Now when I reflect on my childhood, I can see the progression from carefree tomboy fighting on the playground, to awkward pre-teen who invented crushes on boys, to angry teen running away from feelings that I tried to pray away.
When I finally came out to my mom at age 21, she hugged me, told me she loved me, and said, "This is something I've been concerned about since you were 2."
I guess that's why she didn't argue too much when I asked for a He-Man themed 3rd birthday party, as seen in my picture.
I hope when queer kids growing up today see people like me, who are now out and proud - and a Mom! - they know that being gay AND happy is possible.
Linday's first, famous-person same sex crush:
Nancy McKeon (Jo on "Facts Of Life")