American family drama This Is Us just wrapped up for their winter break and delivered one of their best episodes yet to tide us over the holiday period. This Is Us never fails to make viewers laugh, cry and gasp from the ongoing twist and turns; but we love it nevertheless. The last episode of the year, episode 9 of Season 3, featured a new storyline which, upon reflection, resonates with me much more than I could have imagined.
Towards the end of this season, Tess, the eldest daughter of Randall and Beth, reveals to her aunt that she may want a girlfriend when she’s older. In all three seasons of the show, this is the first mention of young Tess’s sexuality. Viewers have only ever seen Tess as a young colourful smart girl but this moment allowed us to get a more complex look at what young Tess is really going through. In the next episode, brave Tess makes the decision to come out to her parents. Through tears and a shaky voice, Tess tells her parents that while her friends all want boyfriends, she doesn’t feel the same because she thinks she wants a girlfriend. To no one’s surprise, after quickly getting over the shock of their daughter’s revelation, parents Randall and Beth reassure their daughter that they love her no matter what and when she’s ready to talk about it further, they are there for her. Though I am no longer a pubescent tween, I can relate to how Tess must have been feeling and can acknowledge that I, a 23-year-old woman, am jealous of a fictional TV character.
I didn’t think about my sexuality much when I was younger so my bisexual epiphany only happened in my 20s. I was well aware of gay, lesbian and bisexual people existing when I was younger but, never grouped myself with them. I knew that I had the odd girl crush but nothing strong enough to suggest i wasn’t straight. I only ever pictured my future with a man, and like a lot of LGBT+ young people, I didn’t allow my mind to wander to other possibilities. From a young age on all platforms, we are shown that hetrosexual monogamous relationships are the norm and anything that deviates from the normal is ‘weird’ or ‘strange’ or worse, hated. Young people do not want a more challenging life than we already have, so we ignore our gut feelings or any attraction we may have for the same sex, all in the name of fitting in.
But what reaction would young Nabilla have gotten if she had come out at a younger age? I’m almost thankful it happened when it did, because I know my teens and beginning of my adulthood would have been shaped in a different way. I wouldn’t be as confident in my sexuaity or in myself. The experience would have affected me much more and would have changed the person I am today.
I have never felt it necessary to ‘come out’ because it’s no one’s business and is so 2002. A few years ago, when I realised I liked both men and women, I decided to open myself up to dating both. No big reveal, no big social media post, I just started living life how I wanted to and how I felt comfortable to. I never thought about what my family would say or how they would react, it didn’t cross my mind. However, in 2018 that all changed because I fell in love with a woman. Earlier this year I got into my first relationship and it was with a woman. Without being too soppy, she is one of the best things to ever happen to me but, I wouldn’t have been able to anticipate how falling in love would have such a big effect on my family dynamic.
Unlike Tess, I came out to my mum under duress. I won’t say I was ‘caught in the act’ but I was seen holding my current girlfriend’s hands in her car outside my house. I wasn’t trying to keep it a secret but I also wasn’t thinking about who could potentially see me. Because of this, I had no other choice but to come out. I am not a fan of lying to my mum and I wasn’t about to start now, especially not about someone who made me so happy. I wasn’t ready but she asked what was going on and so I answered; I said I dated both guys and girls. I was shaking inside but, fronted as if it wasn’t a big deal and nervously laughed throughout the 5-minute painful conversation. Unfortunately, I did not get the same reaction Tess did and for that I am so disappointed.
My mother and I are close, but she didn’t reassure me she loved me like Beth and Randall did, she didn’t come and rub my arms whilst I tried my best not to fall over from nerves; instead she was visibly irritated and walked away from me because she didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Watching tween Tess be brave enough to come out on her own terms and get the reaction she deserves from her parents, sparked a feeling of envy in me. Why wasn’t I able to have that conversation with my mum when I wanted to? Why wasn’t I given love and acceptance almost right away? Why do I still feel a disconnect even though it’s been some time later?
I hope that Tess’s story and how her parents barely flinched and showed her nothing but love almost instantly, gives hope to other young LGBT+ people that we will get the same reaction. I hope that this representation shows people, the black community especially, just how hard it is for us to come out and how the reassurance of love and making us feel comfortable is the reaction we all deserve.
Things are not as awkward in my home as they once were but the disappointed I feel is still present. I know that one day it will get better but as of right now, I am learning to manage what is in front of me. I am learning to revel in the unconditional love I am receiving from my partner and the strength she gives me. I also can’t wait to see more development of Tess’s character and how her parents will continue making her feel loved when the show returns in January 2019.
By Nabilla Doma