Becca Tilley just celebrated her first Pride after going public with her relationship with singer Hayley Kiyoko in late May and is now reflecting on her journey.
The Bachelor alum, 33, who has been dating Kiyoko, 31, for nearly four years, confirmed the relationship on social media after starring in Kiyoko's latest music video.
“Hard to say if this is a hard or soft launch, but it is a launch," Tilley captioned an Instagram post sharing a video of time spent with Kiyoko.
Although she didn't mind speculation about the relationship, Tilley explained that she preferred to keep it private.
"It might be a fine line, but I don't want anyone to think I was ashamed or embarrassed," she told The Cut. "That was really important to me."
Instead, she embraced the budding relationship in her personal life while keeping coy to the public. On her own podcast Scrubbing In, Tilly referred to her partner as 95p, as in the person she was 95% sure she'd marry. She also avoided using pronouns when talking about her relationship. In real life, however, she wasn't as secretive.
"When we're walking around, we're holding hands. If I meet someone who’s a podcast listener, I'm like, 'This is my girlfriend, Hayley.' It's never been, 'This is my friend,'" she explained. "I'd go visit her on tour, and I posted about it on Instagram. People just thought I was great friends with Hayley. Huge fan."
Tilley also noted a general lack of understanding when it came to introductions of her girlfriend, explaining that heterosexual friends would take it to mean a platonic relationship between two girls. In one instance, it was Selling Sunset star Chriselle Stause who didn't grasp what Tilley was saying when they were in the crowd together at a Fletcher concert where Kiyoko was also performing.
"Chrishell didn't know that Hayley and I were together," Tilly recalled. "I had said, 'My girlfriend's coming out,' and then later in the night, she was like, 'So are you dating anybody?' I was like, 'Oh, yeah …' That happens all the time."
Part of Tilley's reluctance of sharing her relationship publicly had to do with her own tendency to people please and prior experiences in the public eye — namely, during her time on The Bachelor.
"My storyline on The Bachelor was that I was a virgin, so when I was in my relationship before Hayley, and all of a sudden I wasn't a virgin anymore, I felt like, Did I let people down who looked up to me for that reason?" she recalled thinking. "I'm very much a people pleaser, and I want everyone to be happy."
She also feared that she'd face criticism for coming out after looking at the responses to other people's coming out posts on social media.
"I'd go through comments and they would be so horrible that I was like, 'I'll never do this. Why would I ever subject myself to this criticism?'" she said.
Tilley didn't neglect to reflect on the controversy surrounding Rebel Wilson's recent coming out as the actress may have been pushed to do so by an Australian newspaper.
"I'm happy she can live in freedom," Tilley said. "But I hate that there was fear and threats associated with it because that's not fair."
After coming out on her own terms, Tilley said that she was met with an outpouring of support and love that she wasn't necessarily expecting.
"I've realized I have to give people a chance to prove me wrong," she said. "I didn't even give people a chance to be more open-minded than I thought. People were just rooting for me to find love. They just were rooting for my happiness."
She jokingly added, "These people were also rooting for me to get engaged in eight weeks. They may not have the best perspective in all cases."
Since then, the pair have been able to share their love publicly and have done so through numerous social media posts. Now, she remains cautious of how people might take advantage of her platform after sharing this part of her identity. However, being able to represent the LGBTQ community is something she’s proud of.
"I have something that's 'unique' about me now. I have this platform, and for a long time it's been like, 'What am I doing with it?'" she said. "I'm so grateful to be part of this community."
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