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Image of the blog author kissing her wife holding a rainbow flag.

Image of the blog author kissing her wife holding a rainbow flag.

This post is brought to you as part of Girls With Gut’s Community Connection in collaboration with Tina Aswani-Omprakash of Own Your Crohn’s.

Our love isn’t simple, but it’s also the easiest feeling in the world. Being a woman in the LGBTQ+ community, I assumed that I would always have to come out over and over again throughout the course of my life. But when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s at 19 and had my first surgery at 20, I realized that I would have to come out about multiple parts of who I am for the rest of my life. It wasn’t until I found Girls with Guts in 2016 that I found a group of people that I finally didn’t have to go through the process of coming out to, at least about one part of who I was, and realized the relief that can be found when one finds their community. What I didn’t know about that retreat, or finding that community, was that I would also be finding the woman I now call my wife.

When I met Elizabeth at the retreat in 2016, we were in different places in our lives, but I knew she was fantastic and I couldn’t escape the draw to get to know her. Within the first couple days of the retreat, we had both approached the topic of being part of the LGBTQ+ community, and I knew instantly that there was no way that she could escape from my life permanently once we departed from Pennsylvania. As luck would have it, we actually were on the same flight out (for my first leg across the country to California). We had the chance to talk and get to know each other even

more, and I was fortunate enough to get to meet the adorable 5-year-old that I had been hearing about for the last few days. When we parted ways in Denver at her stop, I felt like I was walking away from someone I was supposed to know better, but I wasn’t sure how to make that happen. For the next 3 years, we moved in and out of each other’s orbits as a pair of women connected by this chronic condition, but it wasn’t until 2019 when we met up in person again at the retreat that things really clicked. We spent time talking about life around and outside of IBD, and we deepened our bond through friendship into something more.

Image of Kayla with her wife, Elizabeth wearing pink t-shirts that say “love.”

Image of Kayla with her wife, Elizabeth wearing pink t-shirts that say “love.”

Our conversation at that first retreat about our identities within the LGBTQ+ community was brief, but informative. Both of us were out to family and friends, and neither of us had any interest in hiding that piece of who we are. But it is also “yet another thing to manage” when we meet new people and get to know someone. See, we had the beautiful advantage of already knowing we had Crohn’s in common, as well as being AFAB (assigned female at birth). But this piece made it another intersection we both sat at, and that we had in common. It was a struggle we understood about each other’s stories, and really, our histories. We knew what it was to reveal an intimate part of who we are, and to express the vulnerability of being in that place with another person before knowing how the other person would  react.

It turns out that we had a lot more than that in common, and not only did she become my best friend, she became my wife. One of the biggest factors  we both took from our friendship into our relationship was a simple but important fact: we would always have to communicate due to our diagnoses. We couldn’t dance around what needed to be said, or how we felt, physically or emotionally, because we both came from a  background of having to advocate for ourselves and our needs due to our IBD. We took this into our relationship, and into the way we approached being together as a same-sex couple: “Is there something that might be difficult about moving into a new neighborhood and dealing with new people?” Let’s talk about it and address it. “Are we worried about some symptoms and if they might be  Crohn’s-related?” Let’s talk about it and figure out the best approach.

We talk all the time, and every June (Pride) and October (National Coming Out Day) we spend a little extra time talking about how proud we both are to be together, to be raising our son, and to be part of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a piece of who we are, just like our IBD, but it shapes who we are in big ways. Our love takes guts, and we are in it for the long haul.


Image of the blog author, a woman with long brown hair smiling.

Image of the blog author, a woman with long brown hair smiling.

As a product of Northern California, Kayla thoroughly believes in the power of sunshine and rainbows. Her hometown gave her a love of the beach, a good book, all things pit bull, and adorning as much of her life with rainbow flags as possible. Born and raised in California, Kayla now calls Colorado home, where she lives with her wife (fellow GWG Elizabeth) and their son.

Diagnosed with Crohn’s in college, Kayla has been learning from the amazing Girls with Guts community since her first retreat in 2016. She is excited to bring her love and support of all things guts-y into conjunction with her LGBTQ+ identity with the Community Connections team. She is looking forward to expanding the outreach and inclusion of the organization she loves to ensure the equity of opportunity and information for the marginalized communities that are a thriving part of our sisterhood.

 

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