By Ms. Yellow
As with most cases of this sort, I thought I was the only one who felt the way I do. I assumed it was a condition or some malignancy with which I had been cursed. I would lie in bed in the deepest hours and gaze into the night sky praying that I could somehow separate myself from the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings I kept hidden.
High school was an extremely difficult time for me. I for sure didn’t fit in with most of the other girls and boys who all seemed so sure of themselves. But contrary to what one may think, I wasn’t ridiculed or marginalized. In retrospect, I think most everyone knew exactly who the girl wearing the Columbia PFG shirts and camo fleeces was except for me.
It wasn’t until the winter of my sophomore year of high school, with a little help from my pastor, that I finally came out.
That December, all of the surrounding church choirs decided to gather together and put on a special community Christmas cantata in the middle of town. My father had signed the two of us up to help build the stage in front of the courthouse where the event was to take place. The first evening of construction Dad and I got there late and were still wearing our hunting clothes. We had been in a box blind on the edge of a winter wheat field watching several does graze and had to wait until dark to leave so we didn’t disturb them.
“Bob,” said Brother Jim. “Looks like you two just come out of the woods.”
“Yes, sir,” Dad answered. “Trying to put my daughter on a shooter buck.”
Brother Jim turned his attention to me and asked, “Any luck, darlin’?”
“No, sir,” I answered.
“Well… don’t fret. I’m not having any luck in the deer woods, either.” Then he chuckled and said, “Maybe the three of us should hit the lake and try to catch a few walleye.”
I couldn’t believe what I had just heard Brother Jim say.
“Are you serious, Brother Jim?” I asked. “Fishing in the middle of the rut?”
“Of course, darlin’,” he answered. “Remember that the good Lord sent both fisherman and hunters to deliver his people.”
It was just the epiphany I needed; the affirmation I desired; and the revelation I had prayed for during those sleepless nights of confusion. I was, like Brother Jim, non-binary… or more specifically, “outdoor fluid.”
All those times I wanted to talk about jerking perch from the lake to my father while we sat in the deer stand; and all those times I scrolled through kill shots of whitetails on social media while Dad and I were fishing were not only justified but natural and apparently part of God’s plan.
Three days after the Christmas cantata, Dad and I went fishing with Brother Jim and caught a boatload of walleye; and on New Year’s Day, I shot a great eight-pointer in the wheat field.
School got easier, too. I discovered that there were other kids who had “outdoor dysphoria”. At lunch and breaks, we’d swap stories about secretly casting lead sinkers with spinning rods at pop cans steadied in the snow, or waiting for our parents to go to sleep at night during summer break before sliding on our waders to watch old “Duck Commander” videos on YouTube.
Looking back now, it seems such a silly thing to think that I had to choose between being just a hunter or just an angler. And though I may lean one way or the other depending on the season, there is no pill, shot, nor surgery that will ever change me or any of the other girls and boys from the way God made us.