#19: Dear Soha,

Dear Soha,

I adore you. I don’t know how else to describe it, but I simply adore you. I love your thirst to learn more about the United States as you settle into your new existence so far from your homeland. I envy you actually, because as hard as it is to adapt to a completely new culture, you are willing and ready to change in order to better acclimate. I’m not. I’ve struggled just going from New York to Iowa, and I admit that I have an air of snobbishness in dealing with the distinct changes a 1200 mile gap can make within a culture. You are from Egypt, and you seem to be transitioning better than I am…so I’m jealous.

But what I love most about our friendship are the conversations I find myself having with you, many times stemmed from trying to explain a nuance within the American culture. You and I hadn’t really delved into too many topics when we first met; you were more friends with Roomie than you were with me, so it was obvious the slight separation you and I experienced as we treaded water. But then, as I stood in my kitchen making pasta for supper, that first wall broke down…and it was I that accidentally destroyed it.

I say that with shock because as open as I am with the world in regards to my writing, in terms of actually speaking, you’d probably have an easier shot getting a flight to the moon. Ask my friend Susamaq, it took almost a year and a ton of alcohol before I dumped my entire life’s story on her. But there we were, you sitting at my table, as I slipped up about my sexuality with you. Honestly, it was probably the first time I ever felt a deep-seeded panic about revealing my sexual orientation to someone, because I had forgotten that I didn’t tell you about myself. I speak in gender-neutral terms because I’ve come to identify as pansexual, and it makes it a lot safer to feel people out in regards to my history with women. Also, it is quite difficult to explain pansexuality, because people tend to just identify you as either a lesbian, or a bisexual…and I am neither of those things.

But as you confirmed with me that I hadn’t told you about my sexuality, my heart dropped into my stomach. You are from another country; an area of the world where homosexuality sometimes means certain death for the person who dared to reveal him/herself. Then, my heart broke, because a look had crossed your face as I told you that I’ve only dated women in the past. It was a knee-jerk reaction for you, I know. You grew up never knowing a person like me, and had been told your entire life that people like me were vile, disgusting, and wrong. I knew you were having a serious debate with yourself. You had just learned something major about someone you considered a good friend, and I know you had to make the decision whether to keep our friendship, or end it.

Tell you what; it was the first time I’ve ever wanted to cry after coming out of the closet. I didn’t even want to cry when I told my mother…mostly because I was a teenager and filled with a hardy sense of rebelliousness. With you however, I’ll admit that I was terrified. I liked you; I wanted to be your friend. If you rejected me, you would have been the first person in my new life to do so, and that terrified me. So I stood there, slowly stirring my spaghetti sauce, as my heart pounded in anticipation. I almost cried when you told me to tell me more about who I was. What I was…

I don’t think anyone who identifies as being straight ever has to deal with being asked about what they are, what it means to be straight. Homosexuality has been demonized and bastardized for so long, that it seems perfectly acceptable to ask a person who identifies under the LGBT umbrella to explain what they are. I was shaking, because I knew exactly what you were asking me.

You were asking me to change your mind. To prove everything you’ve ever known, wrong. To prove to you why I was worth having in your life…

A few years ago I would have told you that I was who I was, and if you didn’t like it to get the hell out of my life. I would have kicked and screamed, and chastised you for daring to think I was lesser than. But I’ve changed in the last few years. You have to when you’ve gone through what I’ve been through. You learn how to better pick and choose your battles, and to pick the right weapons to fight with. So I sat there, shaking, realizing that this was a battle for something greater than a friendship. This is the battle that every person under the LGBT banner faces in this country every single day. They face it in their homes, on the streets, in the courtroom; the battle to change centuries of hatred and misunderstanding. As small an arena my kitchen was for this battle, the seriousness hit me hard. One mind…if you can change the thinking of one person, you can change this world. So I took a deep breath, and I told you my story.

Remember what I told you? I talked about love. I didn’t talk about sex, or biology. I didn’t talk semantics, or throw a crap ton of jargon at you. I talked about love. I talked about how love is different for everybody and everything. How it didn’t matter who the person was, or what they were, that love is that…love. I talked about how people are afraid of love, and how easy it is to hate in this world what can’t be understood, and love is barely understood. But it is there, and we all feel it, and we all deserve the chance to love another person, and have that person love us back. It didn’t matter what gender the person was, or what their sex was. It didn’t matter their skin color, their religion…none of it matters when love is in the game, because you just can’t stop that kind of power. I spoke about loving my ex-fiancé, and having my heart broken.

You spoke to me about your religion, and your beliefs. How you felt it was wrong; that you were always told that it was wrong, and you gave me my opening. Remember what I asked you? I asked you what you thought of me before you found out that I had been in relationships with other women. Before I asked you, you looked smug, because you thought that your religious arguments had strength. Most Christians do, but I was ready for it. It’s why I asked you what you thought of me before you knew. I threw you through a loop on that one, because you were forced to evaluate me as a whole person, and not on one insignificant aspect of my life. You thought I was a funny, fair, honest, caring person. Your thoughts of me before knowing about my sexuality were based solely upon my ethics as a person, and I needed you to see that before I took a swipe at your entire belief system.

Because Christians and Christianity are rarely on the same page, and it is a touchy subject for anyone to deal with when they are forced to really look at their own religion. I should know…mine was ripped away from me. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Be kind, and loving, towards your neighbor. But most importantly, allow yourself to see the true beauty that love creates in this world and how horrifying and damaging hatred can be. I remember taking a deep breath, looking you straight in the eye, and telling you that I was simply a person. One person, in this world, small and insignificant, and that I didn’t have a religion in my life that I followed. Instead, I chose to follow my heart, my own code of ethics; my own moral compass. I chose to allow myself to love, because my world had been filled with so much hatred. That all I wanted from this world was for someone to just love me. Me…not my sexuality, not my social status, not my gender…but for someone to simply love me….

I had the chance to experience, briefly, those moments of love with women. It is a preference, yes…my attraction towards women is not something I hide, but it isn’t something that I constantly seek out. I know that there is a strong possibility that I could fall in love with a man. I could fall in love with a transsexual, or a bisexual….because it isn’t the label I allow myself to love, but the person. That is important to understand, because as much interpretation there is in this world about the bible, the over-arching truth is, is that we as people should simply love.

I told you I felt this world had lost that perspective too long ago, the concept that it didn’t matter what a person was…it simply didn’t matter. I asked you if you loved me before you knew my sexuality…you said yes. I asked you if you still loved me…and after a brief moment you said yes. I knew you still had your traditions, your beliefs, but I knew…I knew that something changed in both of us that night as we spoke over spaghetti. I cried when you left. I felt like I went through an emotional minefield, and when you and Roomie left, I sat in my room and sobbed. Every fear, every hope and dream for this world, had flowed out of me as we spoke, and it was exhausting…and well I cry when I’m exhausted.

You hugged me tightly, and told me you loved me, and you left. You still get that huge smile on your face when you see me, and you tell me every time we meet up that you love me. You quiz me about every aspect of American culture, and tease me about my crazy American sayings. We haven’t spoken about my sexuality since then…I know you are still struggling to reconcile loving me, with something that so many people hate, something you were told to hate. I know the first time you ever see me with a woman, you will struggle some more, because then it will be more than words. It will be reality. It will be scary…until you realize that I am no different from anyone else on this planet in love. That the sex/gender of the person I am with has absolutely nothing to do with who I am as a person; that I am simply Faith…and that I am unafraid to love.  That I am still the girl who makes crass jokes, and pretends to slam her foot on the brake when you drive because you terrify her with your driving. That I am the same person who talks about her hopes and dreams for the future, and who cried with you while watching Titanic in the theater at 8 o-clock at night. One day you will wake up and reconcile your confusion because you will realize why I had welcomed you so easily into my life; because I didn’t see an immigrant, or a woman wholly confused by a strange culture, but instead I saw you as a person who loved life, and learning, and exploring the world around her. You will realize that you being married to a man didn’t impact my perception of you at all, and you will wonder why you allowed me loving a woman alter your own perception.

But I just wanted you to know, that no matter what, that I will always be here; that I will always love you, because you are my friend Soha. I love you, my sushi-eating, crazy driving, adventure-loving friend. Thank you for loving me back. It’s funny, I started this letter to talk to you about how you couldn’t understand why I never wanted to settle down, and instead I am talking about this. I guess it’s one in the same on the basic of levels…that my heart, although heavily guarded, is still open to this world. That some part of me has hope that one day I will find true happiness. It’s hard, when so many people hate you, but I just can’t bring myself to hate them back…

I could bring myself to smack them upside the head…but I can’t hate them….but that is a whole topic for another day. I love you, and I can’t wait to see you again my dear. Hope this world is loving you the way you deserve.



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