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September 27, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Trinity Rainey didn't realize she was gay. The high school senior had an idea that she might be, but she was shocked when her mother blatantly brought up her sexuality. “It’s OK,” her mom said. “You’re gay. You can come out.” The reality hit her hard. What Trinity also didn’t know is that sharing her story would give voice to sexuality issues in Macon.
As one of the featured vignettes of the My Life, My Town series by the Columbia Missourian and KBIA radio, Trinity, 17, sat down with reporter Elizabeth Trovall and gave people a peek into her life — what it means to come out during high school in rural Missouri. After a panel discussion and a two-hour audience Q&A about the project, many people from her high school and around Macon approached her with questions. They wanted to know more about the girl with the short hair who gets mistaken for “sir” at her part-time job; the girl who made white V-necks, jeans and sneakers her trademark style; and the articulate girl whose own personal story has inspired her to become a journalist.
Trinity came out to her family and friends during her sophomore year. “I came out slowly, so it wasn’t a huge deal,”Trinity says.At the time My Life, MyTown was unveiled this past May, Trinity and her ex-girlfriend, Vanna Couch, pictured above, had stopped dating, but they were still best friends. “When I actually went to date a girl, nobody made a big deal about it. It’s actually pretty accepted in this town. That’s what’s surprising to me. I guess it is kind of a big deal, but it seems normal to me. Macon is pretty small.”
One Christmas, Trinity’s stepsister got her a rainbow flag. “That Christmas, everybody knew I was gay,” she says. “I got that flag from her, and I got a couple of other things, like key chains and bracelets. I guess the flag represents the closeness of my family and how accepting they are of it.”
For “Twin Day” at Macon High, some of Trinity’s classmates asked her how they could dress like lesbians. “The other girls make jokes about it, and they’re all really curious about it,” she says. “They want to know about my love life, about how lesbians have sex. It’s kind of a new thing, and it’s fascinating to them.”
“I’m completely myself around her,” Trinity says of her friend Vanna, pictured at Trinity’s house.“There’s nothing she doesn’t know about me, and I’m pretty sure there’s nothing about her I don’t know. Sometimes she says things that make me mad. But I’m there for her because she’s my best friend.”
Since the premiere and panel discussion featuring her story in the My Life, My Town project,Trinity, pictured with Vanna, says people constantly approach her with questions. At school, she’s even had the coming-out talk with some of her peers and has given one advice on making the move. “Don’t come out until you’re ready, and don’t be afraid to embrace yourself and realize that it does come with responsibilities,” she says. “It is hard, but it’s worth it in the end.”
Trinity prepares for her junior prom with her mom, Ronnell. Instead of wearing a tuxedo like she did the last year, she picked a curve-hugging, strappy red dress for the occasion, which she attended with a friend. “My mom’s always known a lot of me that I don’t normally know about myself,”Trinity says. When her mom brought up the fact that she’s gay, “It was just kind of a slap in the face, like, ‘Yeah, I am,’” she says. “My mom said it as if she knew, and she wasn’t accusing me of it.”
“I know Trinity’s had some people say some pretty hateful things,” Ronnell says. “I’ve always asked, ‘Do I get to go talk to ’em? Do I get to teach ’em there’s no reason to be hateful?’ She’s like, ‘No.’Trinity’s got too big of a heart; she always has.”
For more information about the My Life, My Town project, visit mylifemytown.org