Young or old, lovers’ strength shines through judgment

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Ann Fitzmaurice

Art by Dzung Nguyen
On an unusually sunny day for January, sophomore Bailey Long took a walk from RBHS to Panera. Her journey took place after a long day of school spent anxiously waiting for the final bell to ring so she could finally meet with her date. She wore a yellow sweater, jeans and heeled boots. Her date, freshman Sam Fierke also wore a sweater, jeans and boots.
On their walk, they made small talk and when they arrived, they chatted for an hour or two and ultimately lost track of time. Their trip changed to be the start of Long and Fierke’s relationship, and the two fall in love deeper each day.
“I feel like [Fierke is] my other half, the one that keeps me going in life,” Long said. “Before her I feel like I haven’t been my true self. I fell for her before I even realized it.”
Complete happiness followed Fierke and Long’s relationship all throughout the two months they’ve been dating, Long said. Before they were official, however, Fierke and Long were just two girls crushing on each other. Their spark truly ignited when they began interacting over Instagram, a social media site.
“[Fierke] first asked [me on a date] but didn’t clarify anything,” Long said. “I saw her indirect on Instagram saying ‘there’s this girl I want to ask on a date and I kinda have but I never said it was a date so not really.’ I [direct messaged] her and we finally made the date.”
As a millennial relationship, not only did Long and Fierke establish their relationship on social media, but they also obtained a ship name from their mutual friends. Their ship name, a singular name combining both of theirs, is “BAM,” or Bailey and Sam.
“[Fierke and I] surround ourselves with people who don’t care who dates who no matter what,” Long said. “They are pretty cool people, but I bet we’ve gotten stares for kissing or cuddling.”
Nonetheless, Long hasn’t been afraid to reveal her sexuality. Her family, however, still doesn’t know about her relationship. Although she has a supportive home life and she’s grateful, Long said she just doesn’t want to tell her family quite yet because she isn’t allowed to date.
“It’s known by me and everyone that I am gay and I like girls,” Long said. “I was only afraid because I thought [Fierke] didn’t like me.”
Before she found love, however, Long believed she was heterosexual. It was only when she started questioning her sexuality around sixth grade and realized she often had crushes on girls that she concluded her preference. Discovering her sexual orientation was a process, Long said. First she believed she was bisexual, then pansexual, and finally homosexual.
“I was afraid of myself for a long time,” Long said. “I was afraid I wasn’t going to be liked anymore, but thankfully that wasn’t true. I am starting to love myself more and more each day, and having an amazing girlfriend really changes that for the better.”
Although Long found supportive friends and true happiness with her girlfriend at the young age of 15, others haven’t been so lucky. RBHS science teacher Stephanie Harman spent a substantial amount of life trying to understand her path and the love and pain it took her to get there. Harman met the love of her life at a fellowship group in 2003, but it took eight years before before destiny found them.
“We were the closest of friends – but that was it,” Harman said. “There was never anything else between us at that point in time, although nearly everyone in our lives thought differently. We were super comfortable with each other; very affectionate and connected.”
Unfortunately, Harman and her now wife Katie Chancey were both in times of turmoil in their lives when they met. Harman had recently suffered the loss of her sister in a car accident, and Chancey was dealing with trauma from her past that resurfaced. Life took the two in different directions with each of them moving away, dating men and acting like typical 20-year-olds, Harman said. She and Chancey, however, connected again five years later over Facebook, a social media site, when Harman added Chancey as a friend.
“I sent the request, terribly scared that she hated me for leaving our friendship in a time when she really needed someone there, and waited,” Harman said. “[Chancey] accepted it and then sent me a message basically saying she was scared of the same thing.”
Harman and Chancey met again over dinner when Harman decided to move back to Columbia. Harman decided prior to her move that for her own benefit, she would no longer  wallow in mourning over her late sister. Harman moved to Columbia to celebrate her sister’s life. Once the two established that they didn’t hate each other, their connection came back right where they left off, five years ago. The only thing keeping Harman and Chancey apart, however, were their genders. Even then, their friends and family picked up their intimate bond before they fully understood, and asked if Harman had ever thought about taking she and Chancey’s friendship a step further.
“We decided that if everything we were looking for was in each other except this one thing, that maybe the one thing wasn’t as big a deal as everyone thought,” Harman said. “This was quite a process of going back and forth [on] are we willing going to do this, what does life look like if we do, what if we don’t [and] can we still be friends. It was really Christmas of 2008 before we actually figured out that we were going to be together.”
As Harman and Chancey rekindled their love, a 2014 alumna, who asked The Rock to use Hannah Grace as her moniker, said she was seeing her parents’ love grow apart. When she was seven years old, Grace’s parents got divorced and when she was thirteen, her mother came out to her as homosexual.
“[When my mom came out to me] their divorce made much more sense,” Grace said. “My dad actually knew that my mom was gay, but they made an effort to stay together for my sister and I.”
When their marriage hit a brick wall, Grace’s parents sat her sister and her down and explained they were divorcing because they simply didn’t love each other anymore. Afterwards, Grace saw a counselor so she would have someone to talk to if need be.
“[My parents] made sure to emphasize that they still loved us and that they didn’t hate each other,” Grace said. “Obviously I was upset about my parents splitting up, but they handled the situation as well as they could.”
Before her mother came out to her, Grace’s mom came out to her father. Grace’s parents met when they worked together at a coffee shop. Her dad was in college and her mom with pregnant with her sister. They became friends first, and after that everything just fell into place, Grace said. Her father was even present at her sister’s birth, even though he wasn’t the biological father. Who the blood father was didn’t matter to Grace’s dad, however, because he loved her mom and her sister, Grace said, and the feeling was mutual for her mother.
“My mom might not have felt a heterosexual attraction to [my dad], but she loved him as a person,” Grace said. “With my mom being gay, [their marriage] wasn’t going to work out originally and I admire my parents for making it work as long as they did. They’ve shown me that two people can still be there for their kids and love them even if they don’t love each other.”
Now, Grace’s parents are each happily remarried. Grace shares a passion for writing with her new step mom, who married her birth mother. Grace also boasts that her step mother’s cooking is “to die for.” On Jun. 21, 2015 when gay marriage was legalized, the song “Same Love” by Macklemore came on the radio and to this day, Grace gets emotional when she hears it because of the love and happiness her family experienced.
“My dad is happy for my mom and her wife, and my mom is happy for my dad and his wife,” Grace said. “It sounds bad, but I’m glad my parents divorced. They’re both really happier because of it, and there isn’t bad blood between them. It worked out really well for us.”
Eventually, Grace’s parents found love and happiness again with their new wives. They lost a spark and found it again with women they truly love. Likewise, Long found a love she’s never had before and Harman rekindled her’s after five years of loss and conflict.
“The only reason to have stuck through all this [struggle] and for us to be here today is love,” Harman said. “Loving [Chancey] was never an option for me. I loved her the minute I saw her, I think, but choosing to keep showing the love through all the crap life throws at you, that’s the hard part.”
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