ANDERSON — Morgan Avery Wilcher is an ordinary 14-year-old girl in many ways: She has a wide array of musical tastes, plays three sports, enjoys spending time with her friends, and is nervous about taking AP World History as a freshman this fall at Pendleton Heights High School.
She is different in one big way from the other girls who are attempting to navigate their way through an awkward and uncertain period of their lives: Morgan Wilcher knows who she is.
The teen took to social media early in July to make an announcement that she is a lesbian. In her Facebook post, she said it was something that she had been meaning to do for a while and would come as no surprise to her close friends and family.
“I was really young, like 8 or 9,” she said. “The way I acted around other boys and girls and the way I liked to dress.”
The first person she told was her mother, Mary Forshee, who said she always knew there was something unusual about her little girl.
“I knew something was different when Morgan was about nine months,” Forshee said. “It was a feeling. As a parent, I’m really in tune with my kids. At nine months, I knew there was something not quite like her sister. At two or three (years old), she never liked dresses, never liked frilly things or played with dolls.”
In the post, Wilcher said, “I was born like this and brought myself up this way. I am not too young. I know what I’m talking about, and I know who I am.”
Her mother added that when she saw the post for the first time, she was scared for Morgan and wanted to protect her. But, after some thought, she changed her perspective.
“She didn’t tell me she was doing it,” Forshee said. “Once I thought it through more, I was proud. To me, knowing who you are is very empowering.”
Wilcher said she thought about the post for several hours before typing it up but did not hesitate before hitting the send button. The response has been mostly positive, both online and in the real world. She said most of her classmates and teammates already knew, so they have been accepting.
She recalled one negative reaction.
“Most of my friends kid me, but they are accepting, and I’m grateful for that,” she said. “One of my best friends dated a guy that was a homophobe, I guess. He pressured her to not be friends with me, but it didn’t go too well for him.”
That couple broke up, and Morgan still has the friendship.
Wilcher may be an exception among the many young people in the same situation. According to the Trevor Project and the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 24, and the rate of suicide attempts is four times higher for LGBT youth.
While Wilcher is a self-assured and confident young woman now, there were fleeting moments when she was scared of what the response to who she is might be.
“I didn’t know what my family would think,” she said. “It was really brief. It wasn’t something I thought of deeply — but yeah, I thought of it.”
Avery said the support of her mother and her family has helped her be confident and unashamed of who she is.
“Honestly, I’m just really thankful that I have an accepting family, in general,” Wilcher said. “Some kids don’t have that, and they have to hide who they are. I actually feel really bad for them.”
“I don’t think there is anything (my children) could do on this earth to make me stop loving them,” Forshee said. “It’s not an on-off switch. Love is a wonderful thing.”
Morgan doesn’t just know who she is, she said she believes that even in small-town Indiana she is not the only one. Her message to them is to not be afraid.
“I would say to not hide who you are,” she said. “It’s your life and your choice, and you only get one chance to live. If you don’t live it how you want to, you’re not going to be as happy.”
Forshee said having a gay child isn’t always the news a parent wants to hear, but it is important to love the child regardless.
“You’re not going to understand everything,” she said. “Try not to think of it as a bad thing. I struggled with that for a little while. She just wants to be proud of who she is because not everyone is like this. It’s just empowering to her. It’s not the end of the world; embrace it. Try to embrace it.”