I’ve left my hometown in Hawai’i three times. The first time was when I was fifteen. The second move was when I was eighteen. The last and hopefully final time was when I was twenty-six years old. Each time I left, I got asked the same question: “Why did you leave?”
I understand the perception of Hawai’i. Every sweepstakes prize was a trip to Hawai’i. A television show would have some special episodes set there. But every time I went back to those islands, I would try to leave them.
The first time I left was in the middle of high school. An online girlfriend that had been dating since I was eleven years old had just broken up with me. Everyone seemed to think my depression was solely caused by the break-up, and I thought so too. The more I got older, the more I realized how confused I was. Everyone around me was dating the opposite sex. I wanted to be normal. I wanted to be like all the other girls. So, I dated a boy.
Did I cry when I held that boy’s hand? Yes. Did the relationship only last a week? Of course. I still kept pushing myself to be attracted to boys. I portrayed myself as an obsessed teenage girl that loved hot men. I played all these parts, but never myself. My depression was only getting worse. Everyone looked at me and only saw a girl still sad about a relationship that was online. No one thought my ex-girlfriend was real, but it was the only time I felt like myself.
My “friends” had given up on me by the end of the year. It always felt like sadness was an emotion you couldn’t feel when you lived in paradise. So, I did what any sane person would do and left Hawai’i to go to Alaska, hoping to find myself in the cold.
While portions of my family were living in Hawa’i with me, my sister and her family had lived in Alaska and asked if anyone wanted to live with them. I immediately took up the chance to live in Alaska instead of Hawai’i. But once I graduated high school at the early age of sixteen years old, I found myself back in, you guessed it, Hawai’i.
At that point, I was back together with online girlfriend. We had realized we were still very much in love with each other. We always kept our relationship a secret from our families; something I would regret later on.
I don’t think that the islands are entirely homophobic. Queerness simply did not exist there. I’m sure a lot of places deal with this issue too. The only difference was that I wasn’t just trapped in a closet, I was trapped on an island too. I couldn’t just run away.
Once I became eighteen, I finally did. I set off to finally be with the only girl I had ever dated. It was great… for a while. Take my advice: don’t move to another state to just be with someone, especially when you’ve only dealt with each other online.
Every kiss, every date, every “I love you” was in secret. At that point, my family already had one gay in the family. My brother had come out a couple of years prior. My girlfriend didn’t want anyone to know about our relationship.
I was okay with the secret for a while. But keeping it a secret for nine years? I think that’s a little too long. We would break up and then get back together. Then, I would move, and she would ask me to come back (and I’m sure if you asked her, she would deny that.) It was an endless cycle of hating and loving each other.
We were never meant to be together. She figured that out. I was always a late bloomer and didn’t realize it sooner. When everything was over, we didn’t say goodbye. Having spent almost a decade of our lives on and off together, and closurea door always remain a little open.
I found myself back in Hawai’i. Since I only dated one girl, I went back to the question of “What gender do I date now?” The answer was different this time: both. This epiphany didn’t last long once I went to visit my family in San Francisco. I felt like I could breathe there. There was a heteronormative weight on my shoulder that finally lifted off.
I realized I wasn’t bisexual. I was a lesbian. Looking back now, it was pretty obvious. I mean, I dated a girl for nine years, for crying out loud! I finally came out of the closet when I was twenty-one. For the first time, I was truly happy. My family had already accepted it. I had actual friends that were there for me even when I was sad. The only thing I didn’t have was the girl.
I never expected to find a girl in Hawai’i until I met a girl named Bri. Now I look at brie cheese very fondly. My one rule when it came to finding a girl was that my dog had to approve of her. When they met, it was love at first sight. And I thought that’s what happened between us.
Now here we are to the final departure from Hawai’i, This time with my girlfriend and our dog. Both times I had left before, I was running away. I wasn’t running away now. I was moving on to something better.
My relationship with my family was strained before because I am a lesbian. My friends before left me when I was too hard to deal with. My ex-girlfriend was always ashamed to show me to anyone. Now my family accepts me, my friends are the greatest people I know, and I have a girlfriend that shows me off to the world. I may have left Hawai’i three times, but it will always be home.
Kristina Ebanez is an openly proud lesbian from the Big Island of Hawai’i. She wants to one day write stories for video games that include the queer community and going against gender norms. She also hopes to bring more women into this male-dominated industry.