Today is National Coming Out Day. I have many thoughts on this day. On the one hand I’m really glad it exists. Having a day to celebrate coming out and embracing who we are? That’s awesome! It’s another way to create community and to show the world we aren’t ashamed to be gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans. I live my life openly queer and after years of living in the closet it’s very freeing to be able to just be who I am and admit it without shame or fear of certain people finding out. Even my employer knows and doesn’t give a shit! I am one of the very few super blessed queer people, and I know.
But what about those who aren’t so blessed? What if coming out just isn’t an option for some people? If you’re a teenager and live with very homphobic parents/guardians, then you might fear losing your home. If you’re a grown man who is part of a church he loves but is gay, you may fear coming out and being kicked out of a church and community that you’ve loved since you were a kid. If you’re a mother who had kids with a man you may fear coming out to them and risk them turning away or not accepting you. There are several reasons why people can’t come out, and so this day can be very bitter or even heartbreaking for them.
I’ve lived both lives–forced into a closet and now open.
I was 15 when the realization that I was into girls hit me. I was sitting on the edge of my bed watching Birtney Spears dance around in a sports bra and Catholic school girl outfit when it hit. I’d been looking at girls for awhile already and always asked myself why I was so intrigued by them. Why I wanted to look at them. Why I never cared about which male celebrity my friends were crushing on. I flicked off the TV when my mom called and we headed out to the mall, my world and identity forever changed.
My mom and I were always super close (think Lorelai and Rory Gilmore type close), but I knew she’d have an issue with this. She was/is a Christian and lived very much by what the church taught her growing up. One of those was that being gay (or any variety of LGBT) was bad, a work of the Christian devil. I knew I had to stay hidden. I hated it. This though…this would lose me not only my mother and best friend, but also potentially my housing. So I closed the doors and hid in the shadows. I got my first girlfriend–my first serious relationship–and didn’t tell her. We had fights and I couldn’t talk to my best friend. My girl lived a fair distance away and went to a different school so our main method of communication was via the internet. We stayed up until 3am most nights talking–both of us getting in trouble for being awake so late. It was worth it though. I was smitten and she was, too.
The entire thing shattered one night though when I came home from work to find my grandma (who is way more like Emily Gilmore than I ever want to think about) had taken my computer. I still don’t fully understand the reasoning why she did it. Maybe it was because I used it to research Paganism. Maybe it was because I was a rebellious teenager who often refused to work. I don’t know. All I kne was that I had a horrible night at work and just wanted to come home to the comfort of my girlfriend. But when I went to logon…there was nothing to log onto. I absolutely crumbled. My mom couldn’t understand why I was so upset. And I was so upset that I didn’t care about consequences…
As I lay in a ball in the middle of the living room floor I told her I was bi and that I had a girlfriend. The rest of the night and subsequent days are kind of a blur. All I remember her saying “is not in my house, under my roof”. I didn’t lose my housing, but it was made very clear that if I should ever talk about it again Bad Things would happen. I cried myself to sleep that night.
My relationship obviously ended, though I never even got to talk to my girlfriend again. We hadn’t exchanged phone numbers because calling each other was too much of a risk that we knew neither of us could take (her family was just as religious as mine, maybe even more so). So with the loss of the internet I lost her. My first serious relationship and my first broken heart…both of which I had to go through without my mom.
I know the pain of living in a closet, of suffering in silence all too well. It’s part of why I am so outspoken for equal rights everywhere. No one should ever have to live that way. EVER. I’ve been there and I refuse to ever go back. But again, I’m one of the lucky ones. I moved away to another state and now live with my significant other of 10 years. He gets me and knows about my sexuality and is fully supportive. All of my friends are fully aware that I’m queer and none of them care. I think my mom is aware of my truth. It’s not something we talk about, but she’s on my Facebook and she reads my blog. So if I were to assume that she didn’t know I think I’d be kidding myself.
You may have noticed my use of the word queer throughout this post. When I was a teenager I labeled myself as bisexual, and I suppose in all technical terms that what I am. But my truth is that I’m more attracted to women than men. I think I always have been. I am not equally attracted to male and female people. There are males in existence that I am attracted to, but they are kind of few and far between. Females on the other hand? Different story. So, for me personally, I don’t bisexual to be an accurate description or label for me.