Veronica Scott-Miller (right) sits next to her girlfriend, Sade Robinson.

The Long Path to Acceptance

BY EVE KUCHARSKI

Purple. Hair, jacket, car. Everything about Veronica Scott-Miller is purple -- and she likes it that way. Looking at the 25-year-old you'd imagine that in all aspects of her life, she'd be as outspoken about who she is and what she loves, but it wasn't until recently that she could truly begin to own her identity.

"It started kind of when I was 19, but it was kind of like, 'I'm not really going to talk about this, but this is definitely happening,'" she said.

What was happening, was her realization that she was a lesbian, and that her surroundings, both at Virginia's Hampton University and at home, weren't welcoming places for people with her identity. Eventually, she got the courage to put her feelings of alienation at school out there.

"I decided I was finally going to write about it," Scott-Miller said. "I wrote about how it wasn't, 'You can't do these things,' but it was more like, 'You probably shouldn't do these things.'

That article was for the now defunct Black Girl Dangerous, a site dedicated to the amplification of queer and trans people of color. And although in her school career there wasn't one defining homophobic moment from the university, there were many little things that added up to a greater, unwelcoming whole.

"I wanted to wear a suit to our senior ball and they told me that I could not do that," Scott-Miller said. "So, I had to wear a dress that I did not like."

In her article, she recalled why she was reluctant to come out on campus.

"For me, 'coming out' never made sense. I attended a conservative, majority heterosexual, historically black university, and I knew how adding 'queer' in front of 'black woman' would single me out," Scott-Miller wrote. "A major reason why I stayed in the closet was because year after year, requests to form a group for LGBT solidarity were denied by the conservative university who continued to ignore the queer members of the student body. For many, college is a time of freedom in all aspects of life. For the queer community, conservative ideology kept us in secrecy."

So, Scott-Miller was forced to find solidarity in on-campus friends.

"My friends were pretty OK with it. They figured that that was what was going on anyways, because I hadn't been actively talking about men for a while. One of my other friends came out after me, and they were like, 'We knew you guys were super gay this whole time,'" she laughed.

Perhaps because of Scott-Miller's article, or because of increased pressure on the university board, Hampton finally received its own GSA club -- though after she graduated. Even with this positive step, Scott-Miller was still far away from fully accepting her identity, and receiving more opposition from her surroundings didn't help it.

"I didn't date anybody seriously until I graduated. She was the first person I talked about being gay with and that's kind of how I transitioned into that relationship," Scott-Miller said. "My first girlfriend, her mom hates gay people, and as soon as she found out that I was her girlfriend, she decided she hated me. She really liked me until she found out that's why I was at her house. I was like, 'This is your only daughter.'"

Eventually, due to distance -- her girlfriend lived in Virginia and she lived in Detroit -- the relationship sputtered.

"I got dumped over the phone before I went to work," she said.

Although the relationship's end meant she could distance herself from one source of homophobia, Scott-Miller's situation at home seemed to mirror her university experience: many small moments that built up to a greater whole.

"I don't know if they've said anything outwardly homophobic, but they have turned off the TV when those characters are one there," she said. "They don't like shows anymore once those kinds of characters are brought up. They're like, 'Oh, this is terrible.'

She said that their strong ties to the Baptist faith also made it a difficult topic to broach.

"I hadn't planned on telling my parents ever, but I figured that I should probably do that when I get a serious girlfriend," she said.

Eventually, she got one, and talking about the topic became unavoidable.

"The girlfriend that I have now, we were hanging out a lot, so my dad jokingly asked, 'Are you dating?' I just was like, '...what?' I left the house," Scott-Miller said. "He called, and told me to come back inside with her. She was downstairs and she said, 'This is the scariest thing ever.'"

After that confrontation, although Scott-Miller wasn't officially thrown out of her house, she didn't feel comfortable returning. For a week and a half, she timed her visits to get clothes and other necessities from home only when her parents weren't there.

"And then, I finally, accidentally ran into them because I didn't time it right," she laughed. "They said, 'You can come back home.' They were actually more mad about me lying about it than the actual being gay thing, which I didn't understand at first. I was like, 'Well, it's not the first thing that I've lied to you about, and it's definitely not the worst.' They mostly got over it."

That was a year ago, and today, Scott-Miller is still in the same relationship. She said that over time, her relationship with her parents has definitely improved, but that it still isn't ideal.

"I think my dad finally got it out of my system. It was mostly him, which was interesting, because I thought it would be the other way around. I thought he would be more understanding. My mom was just, 'I'm your mom. I've been here your whole life and I'm the only reason that you're here,'" she said.

Now, Scott-Miller is planning a holiday trip to visit her parents with her girlfriend, who have since moved to Florida. She said that although things seem to be looking up, she is happy that she had friends to rely on while coming out. She said that her chosen family was instrumental in giving her the courage to start accepting herself. Had she been able to do it again, she said she would have approached things differently.

"Talking with my friends definitely helped," she said. "I think I would just focus on the chosen family that you have in case your actual family abandons you. Make sure that those people are looking out for you."


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