Meeting Christina Raia was a quintessential moment in my life. I'm not sure how aware she is of this fact, but there are so many things I have learned from her that could fill novels. NOVELS! So much wisdom in that tiny body. How? No one knows.
We met in a screenwriting class at Hunter College in 2010, a time when I had just given in to my long lingering truth- I was gay.
The year I met Christina, not only did I finally allow myself to be who I always knew I was (Kelsey 2.0), I found a lovely young lady I fell head over heels for. I was so excited, but scared at the same time because I had only come out to a select few. My sister, her boyfriend and a few of my closest friends were the only insiders, and while they were slightly skeptical, they were also incredibly supportive.
In the screenwriting class, Christina always killed it. All her ideas were well thought out and clearly articulated in a way that I had a hard time believing it only took her fifteen minutes to pull it all together. The thing I admired (and still do) about her the most was her fearlessness. All of her plot lines were meaningful and they always had a significant message. Needless to say, we became friends the first day of class.
As the course went on, we talked and laughed a lot. It was my favorite part of the week. As Christmas approached, I was sad because the course was ending. That winter, I'd go home and ‘come out’ to my parents because this time I had the courage. It was no longer just a feeling I had in my heart of what I thought to be true, this time I had a girlfriend and I knew what I wanted and who I was (for the most part).
The last night of class, we all went out and got drinks with our professor. Christina didn't drink, and I thought, “How are we friends?” Nonetheless, it was an incredibly fun evening and a small group of us left together. As we walked to our next destination, we talked about the chemistry between the individuals in our class and who liked who. Someone asked me if I had a boyfriend and I said, "No". I didn't feel totally comfortable with that answer, but I thought it didn't matter. As the conversation went on, it became more intense and personal, and I couldn't keep it to myself anymore. So, I said nonchalantly (or so my memory recalls it), "Because I have a girlfriend." I remember the look on Christina's face. It was disappointment. She looked straight at me and said, "So why did you say no before?"
Caught red handed.
"Because I don't have a boyfriend?!"
She didn't like that answer, and she was right. It was that exact moment where I realized I wasn't doing anyone any favors by not being who I was all the time. Why should I care about anyone who wouldn't accept me for who I am, if they couldn't accept all of me? I also realized that people like Christina Raia were out there, fighting for my rights, more than I was. I felt embarrassed, but I was glad that she set me straight (about being gay) without saying much.
After that night, we continued to stay in touch and meet up bi-monthly. I felt lucky to help out on a couple of her projects. They were always filled with passionate people. We'd continue to keep each other updated on our personal lives, and we'd laugh at the ridiculous things we'd have to go through, including the frustrations that dating and trying to find love brought along.
Then, in one fell swoop, we both found love. She was really happy, and I continued to grow and learn to love (as I'm sure she did, but I don't want to speak for her). I'd found someone I would've considered my soul mate, had I believed in such a thing. Feeling so much love just made me want to give in, and eventually I did.
It was the most emotional time I have ever been through, and when it ended, I lost a part of myself. I lost my mind. I was a mess. I lost my self-confidence completely. It was so bad that I would walk into bars and not take off my jacket because I was afraid people would be appalled by my body.
I did, however, have the best friends in the world who helped me get over it. And I say 'get over it' because it wasn't simply getting over my ex, it was more about finding myself. I didn't know who I was without her. I didn't even want her back, I needed myself back.
So, when 'Suckface' happened, it wasn't until three months later that I got to hang out with Christina. I told her the story and we laughed. When she suggested we turn it into a web series, I was flattered and excited. I was almost back to the point where I was comfortable in my own skin!
In my very first draft, the main character was named 'Charisma', and her two best friends were named 'Randy' and 'Sandy' . No, they were not twins; far from it. It turns out I’m just the absolute worst at picking names.
Christina wasn't into it (imagine that?!).
So, we thought long and hard, and I texted her one day and said, "What if we just name her Christina?”
I could feel her eyes rolling as she texted me back, "Why don't we just name her Kelsey?"
Was my being gay a secret? Not at all. Hence, we stuck with that.
Since the show has come out, so have I (without having to say it out loud). Not that I wasn’t out before, but now it’s not something to awkwardly bring up. It’s out there. I’m out (there). And it’s nice.