When I came out to my mother as bisexual at 18, she rolled with the punches, seemingly nonplussed — perhaps because we'd just dropped off a girl I'd been seeing at her house during a typical March snowstorm in Colorado. When I came out as queer to my friends a few years later, they were, likewise, unsurprised. As an editor at the nation's oldest LGBT publication, coming out as a queer femme doesn't hold much shock value either.
But what I'm about to reveal is arguably more nerve-racking than any previous coming-out I've endured. I was — and to some extent, still am — a horse girl.
From my early childhood, I was enraptured by these majestic creatures that are at once unfathomably strong and yet gentle, peaceful creatures. I love horseback riding, and have been known in recent years to jump rural fence posts to mingle with these equine beauties in mountain pastures.
In elementary school, my closest friends and I spent almost every recess with jump ropes tied around our waists for reins, galloping around the playground neighing and whinnying to our heart's content. My bedroom was full of My Little Ponies — my favorite was a special one with sparkly tail and a rainbow on her flank. The peach walls in my childhood bedroom were topped with a wallpaper border that featured unicorns frolicking in a meadow with rainbows scattered behind them. (Foreshadowing, anyone?)
When I was 9, I went to horseback riding camp, where I learned not only how to post properly, but also how to effectively saddle a horse, pick its hooves, and brush it down after a ride — I grew up in the Wild West of Colorado, after all. I bragged to my friends that I was an experienced rider, and I had a special bond with each horse I met.
I recorded my adolescent angst in a plastic-coated diary that had a majestic chestnut thoroughbred on its cover. And yes, I referred to my hair as my "mane."
I'd always sign up for the horseback riding field trips in middle and high school and summer camp — a trend that continued through my college years, when I took a science class while studying in Madrid solely because one of the class's "lab" sections involved riding horseback through Spain's Asturias Mountains. While my classmates were warming themselves with hot chocolate after our half-day ride, I saddled back up and raced the professor through several mountain valleys. I still remember my horse's name —Andarín — and the photo of me proudly atop his back is one of my favorites from the entire semester spent abroad. (You can tell by that goofy smile on my face despite the frigid temperatures.)
During my last semester of college, I took another horseback riding class in upstate New York — and convinced my best friend, a city boy from the south side of Chicago who'd never set foot in a stable — to join me. By the end of the introductory class, we were gleefully cantering around the arena.
When my partner planned a romantic getaway weekend for me last year, he knew exactly where to start and booked us a private horseback ride through Estes Park, Colo. A photo of us both holding hands atop our horses — Cowgirl and Guinness — was my Facebook cover photo for quite some time.
While my parents — and perhaps my partner — might have hoped I'd outgrow my borderline neurotic equine obsession, my taste has only become slightly more refined but has yet to shift to some other creature or, heaven forbid, an actual activity. When my partner and I get married next year, we'll do so in a mountain meadow at a cozy bed-and-breakfast called, of course, the Wild Horse Inn. I'll be wearing cowboy boots underneath my dress.
And there's more than a small part of me that desperately wants to enlist not a getaway car for my new spouse and me, but rather a pair of gorgeous paints that we could mount and ride off into the Colorado sunset.
Sure, it’s a little harder to come by open fields and mountain roads that beg to be galloped through here in Los Angeles, but I’m certain I’m not alone in my adult fondness for horses. Right? Please, someone tell me I’m not alone here. I don’t have access to actually owning my own horse — that’s among the top things on my dream “When I Grow Up” list that isn’t facilitated by a journalist’s salary, but I believe my affection for these creatures and the peace I feel sitting in the saddle or just stroking that warm, broad snout will continue to bring me joy long into my golden years. And I refuse to be ashamed of something that helps me handle the rat race modern life has become, by providing fleeting moments of peace, quiet, and connection with a wordless beast that could carry me far away or crush my lungs with a misplaced hoof — but always chooses to approach with trust and mutual respect. We’d all do well to take a few cues from our equine friends in maintaining egalitarian, utilitarian relationships.
So to all you horse girls out there — and any horse boys, too — hold your head high, let your glorious mane flow in the autumn wind, and be proud of who you are and what you love, because you don't have to give up on your childhood desires just because you "grow up." Lord knows I didn't.
SUNNIVIE BRYDUM is the news director at The Advocate. She’s a proud queer woman who still dreams about one day becoming a barrel racer or show-jumper.