Here's how "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" helped me discover my queer identity
Picture me, age 11. I was a goofy blonde kid with a peculiar sense of style, a deep-rooted passion for Sailor Moon, and absolutely zero concept of romantic love. I was also a big, huge, rabid, capital F Fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and in many ways, that show changed my life.
The changes began in 1998, early in Buffy‘s third season, when we were introduced to Faith, a vampire slayer who was activated by the death of Kendra, another slayer who was activated by the temporary death of Buffy. Still with me? Basically, there were two vampire slayers at the same time — Faith and Buffy — when there should have been only one. Moving on.
Faith was a total badass. She lived in pleather pants, gave zero f*cks about what people thought of her, and you just knew she’d have a sailor’s mouth if only she weren’t a character on primetime network TV. And me? Well, I loved her instantly.
With her dark hair, deep brown eyes, and penchant for black-red lipstick, Faith represented the “bad girl” inside of me; the girl who wanted to push boundaries, make my own rules, and live by an outsider’s code. That, and the actress who portrayed Faith — Eliza Dushku — was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. She sparked not only my desire to rebel, but also a deep, urgent kind of longing I’d yet to experience at my tender age.
You see, up till that point I’d had maybe one “crush” on a boy. He was gay (not out yet at age 11, but out now) and I ~liked~ him mostly because he shared my love for dancing and talking on the phone till the last possible second of my “phone curfew.” (My mom would even pick up the landline downstairs and tell me “enough,” and I’d have to hang up with my pal, sighing longingly.)
But there was something about Eliza as Faith that just… changed me.
While many girls my age were plastering their walls with posters of the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC ripped from Tiger Beat and Bop, I cut out as many photos as possible of Dushku from those same titles, swooning like my BSB-loving pals. I even dug up photos of the actress from the deepest recesses of the internet (a feat in the days of dial-up!) and waited impatiently as they emerged slowly — so slowly — from my family’s bubble jet printer, before racing up to my room, pages in hand, to add the pictures to my collection.
And you thought this essay would be about Willow and Tara’s boundary-pushing relationship — ha!
A year or two after I became obsessed with Faith, I started to frequent an online fan forum for the band S Club 7 (sorry, Americans, if you’ve never heard of them, they were awesome). I used the screen name “faiths_girl” — obviously wishful thinking — and became friends with a girl my age who lived on the other side of the country. (Side note: My screen name endeared me to many conservative, white Christians in the South, a phenomenon I didn’t understand until years later. If only they’d known what it really meant!)
The girl I met online had dark hair, deep brown eyes, a love for sports, and was generally a badass. Subconsciously, she reminded me of Faith — and she became my first love.
Our courtship began slowly, an exciting online friendship more than anything. Then we started to exchange emails, then longer emails, and soon graduated to phone calls. Eventually, we were sending each other piles and piles of snail mail: cards, gifts, photos of ourselves, our families, and our friends — and letters. So many love-filled letters.
It seems insane now to admit that I felt so strongly about a person I’d never met — who, by the way, I had IRL dinner with almost a decade later and now keep in touch with on Facebook — but I really, really did love her in my sweet, youthful way. And I’m pretty certain she loved me, too.
Things ended between us eventually, as all online love affairs do, and she now has a wife and two beautiful babies. But I was different after our relationship. Grown up, in some ways. I knew more about who I was and finally understood why I so adored that vampire slayer. And unsurprisingly, my childhood obsession with Faith continued — for years.
Truth be told, the fire never really burned out completely.
In fact, years later — after about a decade of dating both women and men — I was working as an editor at The Huffington Post and happened to write a story about 11 couples who’d won a free wedding on November 11th, 2011 (11/11/11 — an apparently ~lucky~ date for weddings). It was the tiniest, NBD piece, and it didn’t even have my byline on it. But, in what will surely go down in history as one of the all-time best days of my life, Eliza. Freaking. Dushku tweeted a link to that piece.
And friends, I went back in time and found you that tweet.
I managed social media for my section, HuffPost Weddings, and when I saw Eliza’s tweet in our mentions — I lost my GD mind. I was in Las Vegas covering all the 11/11/11 weddings happening that day, and the moment I saw the tweet I ran to the side of the road to call my best friend in Toronto (who, by the way, spent her young years obsessing about fellow Buffy character Angel) to tell her the good news. Or rather, to scream the good news into her ear (sorry, Rosie!). Like I said, it was one of the all-time best days of my life.
All these years later — almost 20 freaking years! — seeing a photo of that woman can still set my heart aflutter. And, thanks to Faith and the Buffy series, I got to become a more complete version of myself, so I’ll be a fan of the show forever and always. I’m also (probably) still searching for my brown-haired bad girl with a heart of gold. So if you’re out there — call me?