It boggles the mind that anyone would name a female child after a big, hairy fictitious extraterrestrial species found in the Star Wars movie franchise but some 35 years ago, two parental units did just that to their newborn daughter. Now an adult, Wooky (spelled differently than the Star Wars’ species) has a life that seems good — a job, money, a partner, friends, a family that’s together and cares about her.
And then a few weeks ago Wooky woke up as she often does when the alarm goes off, and turned in bed to face the man she’d been living with for the last five years and instead of her usual good morning, suddenly blurted out, “I’m a lesbian.”
He was surprised. Wooky was straight. Or was until then. Granted, she’d played in the sexual arena with women a few times before she met him, but it was just sex. For fun. Nothing serious.
It’s hard to know precisely why Wooky needed to blurt out what seemed to be an impulsive, or spur-of-the-fashionista-of-the-moment thing that would change both of their lives from that moment forward. But I suppose there’s no easy way to tell the nice man you’re living with that who you both thought you are is not who you are, or is changing. You know the woman you think I am? Well, this morning in the shower I realized that’s not who I am…
In spite of all the best plans and hopes to be sensitive, there’s a lot of last-minute blurting out because people seem to think if it’s said really fast, it’ll be over with faster, or if they don’t say it fast, it’ll never be said, so why not just say really fast? I’m a lesbian.
Shall I tell you the (true) story of the bridesmaid who ran away with the bride a week before the (straight) wedding? Another time perhaps.
Coming out happens first on the inside
Some women are only interested in men. Other women come to understand that, for reasons that are not easy to explain, their heart, mind and body and soul is only ignited by women.
Then there are some women and a few men who don’t feel the need to choose between being straight or gay because love is love and they have no burning, essential need or preference to make a decision either way about a label or category. Yes, I said decision. It is not a decision to be straight, to be gay, to be a lesbian, bisexual, intersexed or asexual. However, for those of us who are not straight, at some point we are faced with a decision: to accept and acknowledge this aspect of our self, decide what that means for us, and, how or if that aspect of self will manifest in our life.
Coming out is not always an easy process, even to yourself. It can take a while to get to the point of saying to someone, “I am a lesbian. A lesbian is part of who I am.”
For women who’ve established lives and identities and relationships on the basis of being straight, declaring otherwise often comes after a long, dark tea-time of the soul. Once that’s been faced, there’s all that outside world stuff to navigate when telling people who might need to know, a boyfriend, parents, siblings, a husband, kids, colleagues, grandparents. That’s a process fraught with emotional traps: otherwise considerate people can respond badly when told the new truth: No, you’re not; or, it’s just a phase, or we want nothing to do with you as if somehow knowing that you are a lesbian has changed you from being the person you are into a tequila-swilling she-monster who gobbles up kittens, puppies and children for breakfast before going out on the town to hunt down women. It can be a confusing, exhilarating, painful, happy time.
Of course some people will not care and are totally accepting, and say COOL! When can we go dancing?
That response is good and not good. Good for you because it’s one hurdle you don’t have to jump. Bad for the cause because those people are seriously endangering the rich history and drama of coming out stories. Think about it: with changing laws and education and same-sex marriage and same-sex parents with kids and same-sex divorce, it is possible that dramatic coming out stories will no longer be common in many places in the world in less than three generations. In fact, the loss of coming-out drama is on the UNESCO watch list of tribal stories that are at risk of disappearing within three generations in some Western cultures. We’re losing this defining milestone, this rite of passage, this bonding story. A core part of the identity for people within the world’s LGBTTIQQ2S communities is being threatened with extinction.
Not to put too-fine a point on it, and acknowledging that acceptance is an uneven thing with what’s happening to gay people in Ecuador and Russia, but with all of this acceptance and not caring who’s gay and who’s not, coming out is starting to be a non-event.
We only see the end result
It might seem as if Wooky just woke up and figured she’d be a lesbian and declared it to the man in her bed. Snap decision. Un fait accompli. Maybe. Maybe she is just trying on a different persona for a while. Or wanted out of a relationship and had no good reason to do so, and couldn’t think of another way out.
On the other hand, it is plausible that after a long period of pondering and consideration and worry and wondering, Wooky woke up that morning and realized that those times she was played with women wasn’t playing so much as exploring the part of her that she kept hidden and on that morning, as much as it might hurt some people, she needed to say her truth. It only seems a spontaneous turning because she kept it all inside to herself as she was going through it. We only see the end result, not the process that got her there, the process of turning from straight into a lesbian.
And it is this — saying what’s inside — that was ingrained in her she was born. After all, didn’t that evil empire of parental units name her after a strange, gentle and hairy species from a 1970s movie? Doesn’t that give her the right to be everything she wants to be, do everything she wants to do, including to be who she is even if that means changing who she’s been and turn into who she wants to be declaring, hey world: ta-da! I am a lesbian.