Coming out: again and again and again…

Coming out. That rather special time in a gay person’s life when it’s time to tell; tell parents, sisters, brothers, tell friends, tell husbands wives, kids. Tell anyone we think needs to know.

For those of us who do come out, one of the many ways we divide our life is BEFORE COMING OUT (BCO) and AFTER COMING OUT (ACO).

Coming out is our own universal rite of passage, although nowhere near as much fun as the first haircut, or sweet sixteen party, the Burmese Buddhist tradition of Poy Sang Long, a bat/bar mitzvah.  Maybe it’s our own version of a vision quest, alone in the forest of straight people as we search for a language to speak to people to stand up for who we are, to live from the core and love from the heart, or up on the mountain with no-one but the sky and birds to talk to for all that we’re heard by those around us who, until a minute ago, apparently loved or liked us and now have moved to that mighty tidy town of Tolerance.

Tolerance may be a pit stop on the way to Acceptance which is itself a pit stop on the way to the portal of Mainstream, and “Wow, welcome to Who Cares about your sexuality:  we love you and are you happy but first, what’s for dinner?” Am I alone in finding the notion of tolerance and a tolerant society condescending? I suppose it is better than hate and death sentences.

To my mind, Coming Out was born under the Sign of the Gemini Twins, because the process is Unique and Universal (aren’t they beautiful twin girls?).  There are similar milestones, events, similar themes, similar outcomes, even similar words and responses.

We recognize our coming out in how we talk with each other. We want to know how each of us got here: “tell me your coming out story.  We bond with each other through our coming out stories. These stories are part of what unites our diverse community and serve as our myths, our parables, our allegories. And there’s an American website devoted to coming out stories that provides a platform for people to share their stories.

It occurred to me, while thinking about my own coming out, that it was not a one-time event. I’m not alone in that: for many of us, coming out happens time and time again, even after that FIRST rite of passage time. It doesn’t get any easier; the prospect of rejection or violence is never an easy one to contemplate, but having made the choice to be out, it’s hard to slip into reverse, go back into hiding.

Coming Out

Like many others, I met and fell in love with a woman in college. Happily, she fell in love with me too. Like many others, I realized I was gay, she realized she wasn’t, even though we had a relationship for two years.  About a year into the relationship, I thought I should come out, get to know more of my kind: it took me a month to gather up the courage to go downtown to a bar. I dressed up somewhere neutrally (since I didn’t know what tribe I would belong to), walked straight to the back of the bar, turned right around and walked back out, my heart practically jumping out of my rib cage. I was petrified.  I buried myself in the closeted relationship.

My parents were splitting up. It was a bit of a rough time. My brother and I happened to be talking and for some reason, even though he is younger than me, I told him I was gay. He just smiled his beautiful smile and said, “me too.”

That changed a lot of things.  Turns out my way underaged brother was sneaking out of the house when everyone was asleep to go places. He knew people. He gave me some names of community resources.  I gathered up my courage to call and was invited to some meetings where I met some wonderful people.

College love and I started to go to the clubs and we met other couples, made friends as a couple.

I do not recall the exact circumstance of telling my parents. My mother already knew, and while a bit disappointed and open with the fact that she did not understand, was fine. As long as I was happy. My father was less accepting and made me quite aware of his displeasure by giving me a concussion.

Then college love went away for two months. I got to know more people in the community and was happily dating up a storm, being entirely naive about lesbians, U-hauls and relationships with women.  But I did make one of those crucial coming out decisions: I would be my own tribe, since no tribe fitted  me well enough.

College love came back, and announced she had met someone, a man, and was serious about him. She asked if I was ok with that?  I was not.

A week later a woman I had dated a few times showed up on my doorstep, complete with garbage bags full of clothing, saying she’d been kicked out by her girlfriend.  I am not sure what shocked me more: Girlfriend?? WHAT girlfriend? I could not turn away a homeless lesbian, and was confused enough to become involved with her. While a nice enough woman, we were not well matched. SHe did not want to leave even though things were clearly not working out. The entire experience made me question if I truly was gay, and I decided I was not. I went back in the closet and started dating men again; met a lovely, wonderful man. I told him about me, so that he would know. We became involved and a little over a year later, when everything was packed ready for me to live with him, I sat on the stairs looking at my stuff and knew it. I am not straight, never going to be straight. I came out again. My family was disappointed. He never spoke to me again.

Work was a different story: it was never safe to be out in the fields I worked in. There was a time I worked with serious homophobes and while I did not come out, I would, in my objective gentle way, always counter what was said. I began to worry when my colleagues who were gay started to get termination packages too attractive to ignore.

In a short time, I was in a different department. A new VP was coming in and I’d be reporting to directly her. The night before our scheduled meeting, I had one of those long, dark, tea times of the soul searching sleepless nights.

We met in the briefing room. We shook hands. Hers was warm and firm. I liked her energy and her lightness, but I had a job to do right now.  I wondered if she heard my heart pounding.

She reviewed a bit of where she came from, what’s she’d heard about me, and asked if I would stay on in the role.

I took a deep breath before falling into one of those rare moments in my life when words just tumbled out of my mouth, not connected to mind or reason.

“Before I say anything I want you to know that I’m gay, and if that is a problem for you, tell me now because that will influence my decision.” Okay so that was WAY aggressive for me.  But I was taking my coming out stand.

It is fair to say that she was taken aback. Not a word from her for three beats, then she said, “Okay, well, I don’t think it’s important, but if it is an issue for you or a problem in your work, then let’s talk.” And she said it with her slight French-Canadian accent too, which made it even better.

Holy worked-up-for-nothing, Batgirl!  Had I painted all straight people with the same brush?

I calmed down and told her why I had raised it; she explained that she worked with gay people her entire career, so it really isn’t an issue for her, but she was worried that it would be for me.  We worked it out in a minute.

That experience helped me to come out in gentler ways from then on in, which I still have to do because I am invisible as a lesbian unless someone’s gaydar is exceptional and because I don’t have that banner on me that says…GUESS WHAT? NOT STRAIGHT! Unless I am wearing one of my buttons, or doing something with someone in public that would indicate, HEY! Some Gay People Here!

Each BCO is a bit of a confusing, worrisome time. I disclose that I am gay because it is important to me and the situation around it, and the people I am telling are somehow important. I don’t want to be rejected, but nothing is worse to me than being untrue to who I am in the worlds that matter to me.

ACO is what it is. And that’s why we have friends, community, and if you read the blogs, a whole new group of pro-gay straight people. (What on earth is pro-gay?)

And so thinking about rites of passage, I look forward to the day when coming out can be celebrated as much a birthday.  Just think of the cake!  The dancing!  And  best of all the GIRLS!!

About FS

Toronto, Canada. Writing about slices of life, the moments and minor details of which come into awareness or out of imagination and the spaces inbetween. On hiatus from writing anywhere else but here ... at least for now.
This entry was posted in being a lesbian, lesbian, lesbian life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Coming out: again and again and again…

  1. terrisitagg says:

    FCS, things are not particularly good here in Florida, but depite the bible-belt mentality that exists, there have been some positive changes. Things as simple as listing a life-partner as next of kin, having power of attorney…the usual things. Larger employer/corporations are getting caught up, but it is slow going. Yoiu certainly generate interesting dialogue!!Happy Sunday!!

    • me says:

      T; Thank you…. and I think the dialogue… is coming from the commentators. and happy Sunday to you too 🙂

  2. terrisitagg says:

    Holy worked up for nuthin’ Batgirl! Sad, sad me… I was hoping for a passing nod…sigh (read heartfelt). Always kinda thought …. oh well. Ms. Keira, listen to our blog-person. She has amazing knowlege and insight into many of life’s bizarre twists and turns. Another brilliant read FCS!!

    • me says:

      T…. More than a passing nod, T. You know the place you have in my heart no matter where you are in the world.

  3. Thank you dear, you’re an angel. Thanks for the concern over my health, but don’t worry too much. I quit smoking over a year ago, gave up caffeine before that, hardly ever drink and never get drunk (can’t because of medication) and I avoid fatty foods and bad cholesterol. To say orange soda and chocolate are the worst of my vices feels wonderful.

    Coming out is an adventure we get to live over and over and over. I’m grateful there are people I can share my private life with. Isn’t it ironic that on the internet – the most public of public places – I can be myself and not have to worry about being “caught”?

    • me says:

      Oh my gosh: If I am an angel, the world is in for some serious, cheeky trouble. I wear the dark, moody wings. Irony is a wonder; being you…(how many princesses are there in Wisconsin, anyway?) can only be fun on the snakes and ladders game of life, and you’ve nothing to get caught out about since you are doing nothing wrong, and worry….hurts your spirit. Dark or milk chocolate?

      • terrisitagg says:

        Yes you are an angel…this world is in need of some cheeky, dark, moody irony…you fit the bill perfectly! Princess Keira, keep tuned in to this awesome woman. She is (in my personal experience of years beyond reckoning) a wonderful source of enthusiastic thought provoking soul searching introspection (say that three times fast!) And DARK, darlin’, DARK!! (Even if you never “tell”, most know when you are “out” I have lived like that since forever….).

      • There are two princesses in Wisconsin. Me, and the one I’m marr… er, “Domestic Partnered” to.

        Milk, dark, extra dark, mint, raspberry, peanut butter, hazelnut, chili pepper…

        It doesn’t matter, there is a time and place them all.

        Some are crazy for coca, I’m coo coo for cacao!

      • me says:

        Princess K; <Planting tongue firmly in cheek> Your dishes must be VERY clean.

      • Of course our dishes are clean. The dishwasher is a Jenn Air. Finest appliances on the market!

        (fit of giggles)

        I’m actually proud of Wisconsin’s recent Domestic Partner legislation. It’s a big step in the right direction. I’m not a member of the angry, torch wielding, fight-for-equal-rights tribe. I understand that centuries of pro-hetero brainwashing takes some time to undo. I’m totally OK with that, you know?

        It’s not like in Florida, where I hear if your lover is dying in a hospital bed they can refuse to let you be in the room because the law doesn’t classify you “family”.

      • me says:

        Princess K; Hmmm the fact that you giggle I believe actually disqualifies you from being a member of the angry, torch-wielding…..fighting tribe. And of course anything women do is domestic… . Giggles? Seriously?

        All I know about Wisconsin is Madison where the pizza was good and the girls were kinda cute. One town does not a state make, which means I am not informed enough to have an opinion, but I agree from nothing to acknowledgement in law IS a step forward..

        Come in Florida… is that true?

      • Yes, giggles. I giggle. Someone once told me I was so ‘lipstick’ that if you twist my feet, I get taller. Don’t let the chic looks fool you though. I don’t fit gender roles, I defy them.

        Florida, sadly, yes…

        http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/19/health/19well.html

        Things are slowly changing:

        http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/01/20/1434713/south-miami-approves-benefits.html

        It’s still one of the most backwards states in the country, which is sad, because there is such a large GLBT community. I used to live in Miami. I don’t think I’d go back, the place was too “urban” for me. I’ve been spoiled by the small-town lifestyle.

  4. “My father was less accepting and made me quite aware of his displeasure by giving me a concussion.”

    Oh.
    My.
    (Insert deity of choice).

    You do realize it took me almost 10 minutes to clean up the orange soda I spit all over my LCD when I read that. Girl, you ought to warn people when you’re going to drop a bomb like that!

    I have not told my parents. I’m not sure I ever will. I am seriously concerned it would kill them.

    They are highly religious and very vocal about the sin called homosexuality. It’s what they were taught as children and what they continued to believe as adults. I’m convinced that they have spent so many years listening to high holy brainwashing that coming out would be a disaster. They’d react according to their brainwashing, decide they had failed as parents, lost me to Satan, and there was no hope.
    They would lay down and die, praying with all their might that the Lord spares them from the “hell for parents with gay children”.

    I can’t kill my parents. No.

    I’m “lucky” I guess. I was the victim of a stalking a few years ago – a very disturbed man became obsessed with me and secretly plotted some very sinister things. He was caught, but I was emotionally traumatized by the incident. How can I call that luck? My family knows what happened and automatically assumes it’s the reason I never date or show up with boyfriends. Clouds with silver linings, I guess.

    Last year I made amends with a long time on&off girlfriend. This time we called it for good, and she moved in. We cited the bad economy as a reason, claiming “what with expenses rising, two single girls sharing a place makes sense.” Nobody argues. Mother and Father are naive. We think her parents might know but if they do, they respect our desire for secrecy – no one has questioned us.

    Our friends know, and they accept us – some may “tolerate” as you say, but even they have a love or at least a like for us buried in there somewhere – you can feel it.

    I blab, so forgive me. Thank you for another wonderful write-up 🙂

    • me says:

      Princess Kiera; Thank you. You did not blab at all; thank you for sharing. Decision(s) to come out to one’s parents, or family or anyone for that matter are highly person. I think keeping one’s parents alive is a highly honourable reason to keep your private life private. Now, why would I warn you? That writering trick to drop a hint of foreshadowing? Do not assume a quiet sentence will end in silence. Besides, I might have done you a favour: soda (or pop as we say in Canada) is not good for you, in the same way brainwashing isn’t good for you. I am very sorry — horrified really — to hear that you were stalked; for that there are no words and no getting over, just getting through to the other side of feeling safe and trusting, with at least one or two people. Sounds like you made a good call with making amends. Take your happiness where you find it, as you can, and if you find it in Wisconsin….then that’s brilliant! Af no-one has the right to judge you for loving a woman, for being gay, then it is equally true that no-one has the right to judge you for deciding who tell about it.

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