Amanda’s Story

Coming out as a lesbian was an hours-long ordeal for Amanda Brandino. At 15 years old, Brandino told her best friend she had a secret. After about three hours of sidestepping, that friend became the first person Brandino told she was gay. “She was sort of shocked. She almost didn’t believe me,” said Brandino, now 20. She was more relieved that I finally spit it out.” Amanda Brandino came out to her friends and family in high school. However, she said coming out in college may be easier for some students.

Brandino’s story comes on the heels of National Coming Out Day, an annual time in October for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to publicly identify themselves, often by wearing gay pride symbols or sharing their own stories. Brandino, a junior psychology and communication science and disorders double-major from Alpharetta, said she was afraid of how other girls at Milton High School would treat her if they knew she was a lesbian. But as Brandino confided in more friends, others she hadn’t told began talking about their gay classmate. She asked three people not to talk about it anymore, but eventually she couldn’t keep up with everyone who knew. “It just completely got out of hand,” she said.

Even as friends stopped inviting Brandino to sleepovers and she had her first girlfriend, Brandino still had not told her parents she was gay. Her parents suspected it after Brandino and her girlfriend had been spending a lot of time together, she said.But when Brandino admitted to her parents she was gay, she wasn’t ready. Her dad initiated the conversation. Brandino’s dad walked up to her, hugged her and said, “I’ll love you no matter what,” Brandino recalled. Brandino said she began crying hysterically, saying, “I didn’t want you to know.” She said her mom — who is now a board member of the Atlanta chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays — is her biggest supporter. They walked together in the Atlanta Pride Parade recently.

Though Brandino said she is happy now, she struggled between her high school sophomore and senior years with her decision to come out. Her core group of friends diminished, and she didn’t seek support from the school’s gay student organization because “if you went there, you were gay,” she said. “Looking back, it was a stupid decision because everyone there was in the same boat,” she said. “At the beginning of my senior year, I decided I was going to be happy. If I was comfortable, other people were going to be comfortable.”

A Jewish Lesbian

Brandino said coming out at college is easier than in high school because college students are more mature and respectful of differences. She has found a safe space at Hillel, a University Jewish student center, where she is the director of engagement. “It’s ‘come how you are,’” Brandino said. “Most of my Jewish friends are really accepting. I feel they’re more open-minded.” She said the Bible’s verses against homosexuality don’t change her views. “I think people use the Bible, the Torah, to back up arguments about homosexuality, but there’s so many other lines about stoning people, you shouldn’t eat shellfish, that you can’t pick out one line and say we’re going to carry this over thousands of years and say this is how we should make our laws,” she said. With more people coming out, more people know someone who is gay, she said. And it might make a difference in legislative settings. Those who pass laws might consider gay people they know — instead of a general group of people — when they consider extending marriage rights.

But at the hair salon, she worries it may be a different story. “I could be sitting, getting my hair cut and the lady asks, ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’” Brandino said. “I want to say, ‘No, I have a girlfriend,’ but I’m afraid my hair is going to come out terrible if she has some homophobic agenda. I have to always decide: is this a safe place for me to be myself?”

Married With Children

After Brandino graduates, she plans to attend graduate school for either speech pathology or audiology. And she wants to get married, but she doesn’t think she would move to another state if same-sex marriage were not legal yet in Georgia. “I don’t think I would move to have a piece of paper,” she said. “But it would definitely be something that was missing until I was able to do it.” She wants to have children too. She’s not opposed to either giving birth or adopting. If she could rewind history to the day she first told someone she was gay, Brandino said it would be easier overall not to tell. But she wouldn’t change her decision. “I think now that that’s part of my identity, I wouldn’t choose anything else,” she said. “I think the country is moving more toward acceptance. I’d like to think that.”

Originally posted 2011-02-01 17:52:31.