By Carol Rood
I had a fairly normal life. I grew up with two brothers, a mother, a father. We moved around some when I was little (born in Phoenix, spent three years in Colorado, 5 years in Southern California, and finally landed in Connecticut). My family was a bit dysfunctional, but we were okay for the most part. We went on family trips. My brothers and I fought. My mother was ALWAYS on a diet, my dad went to work in the city and came home to the ‘burbs. A typical 70′s family.
I was a typical teenage girl. I talked on the phone incessantly. I had a diary. Had lots of boyfriends, and struggled with high school cliques and popularity contests. I had a part time job, and hung out with my friend and shopped. Normal teenaged girl.
When I graduated high school I moved out of my parents’ house because they were just too strict and I “NEEDED MY FREEDOM”. I actually shouted that at my parents when I moved out. What a fucking turd I was. Really, was it so bad that my parents wanted to charge me $50.00 a month for rent? My mother even offered to pay me $5.00 an hour to do ironing for her, thereby giving me an opportunity to “earn” my rent. Nope, no good for my sorry teenaged ass. I “needed” my freedom. So I traded my parents’ house in a safe middle class neighborhood and their cheap rent to move in with a girl I worked with at the grocery store. I went from my parents’ house to an apartment on the second floor in a not so safe neighborhood in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I went from food and heat and security, to very little food, limited money for gas, and struggling enough that I had to get a second job so I could choose to either put gas in my car, or eat. STUPID!!
However, when I moved out something even more dramatic changed for me. It was after I moved in with Pam (I think her name was) that I met Kathleen. Now when you read her name, you need to imagine her name being said with music playing and a pretty face with long black hair floating in one of those conversation bubbles with shimmering stars behind her face. THAT would be how it was back then. Kathleen was pretty, funny, and (said with a whisper) … a lesbian…
She was not looking for a relationship, but apparently a fresh-faced, pretty, 18-year-old girl with a curiosity about her was too much for her to resist, and our little friendship blossomed into MUCH more…
Suffice it to say that Kathleen was the first woman I ever kissed in an other than “you’re my best friend” way. She was also the first woman to break my heart. We had a great time together in the beginning. However, when I went to boot camp a few months after we started dating, my mail went from cards every day, to letters once a week, to the dreaded “Dear Jane” letter, then it was over. I cried. I moved on.
Since that time I have been in relationships with both men and women (no not at the same time you twisted people), and although I enjoyed being with both men and women, I always enjoyed my relationships with women more. Somehow for me the relationship had a depth that was missing in my relationships with men.
I have been in a wonderful relationship with my Bluebell for 8 years. We are very happy. We love each other very much. We share our lives. We argue, we laugh, we raise our kids, and we are truly happy with each other.
By now you are probably wondering where I am going with this? I was wondering that too, but don’t fret I actually DO have a point.
My point is that recently I learned about National Coming Out Day (NCOD). I did some research and found out that National Coming out Day has been going on since 1988. I didn’t know that. Did you?
Well, I think it is wonderful that there is a day set aside for people to rejoice in themselves and announce their identity to the world. For many it is truly a celebration. A day where they finally let friends and family know who they are, and whom they love. It can be a wonderful, joyous, liberating experience. It can also be filled with anxiety, concern, and plain stark terror. What if they reject me? What if they don’t like me anymore? What if my parents, brothers, sisters, friends will no longer associate with me? You might be able to guess, or hope, or predict what others will think, but until that moment of declaration happens you won’t truly know.
I am a glass half full kind of girl. The kind who always tries to see things through rose colored glasses and find the positive in EVERY situation. Bluebell tends to be a bit of a Negative Nelly, seeing the negative side of things. That is why we are such a great match. We balance each other. And even though I try to always look at the positive side of things, I am also a realist and so for that reason I want to tell anyone who is going to come out someday, or might come out someday, or is thinking about it: IT WILL NEVER BE OVER!!!!
Now, don’t get your knickers in a knot. I am not saying that coming out is bad!! I like being open about who I am and whom I love, but it is not a one time deal. I come out over and over and over again and again and again and again. When you start a new job and someone asks about your significant other you can chose to come out or not. When/if you have kids you can choose to come out to the teachers and administration or not. When you meet new people you can choose to come out or not. Can you see where I am going with this? It is often a weekly, if not daily decision.
I am a skin care specialist for a leading dermatologist. I have new clients on a regular basis. If it is someone I see regularly and frequently (most of my clients see me every two weeks, or at least monthly), at some point they will ask me about my family. I always talk about my kids, but usually leave my marital situation out of the conversation. However, at some point it inevitably comes up…..sigh….
Truthfully, there are some GLBT who are very open about who they are, indicative by their dress, mannerisms, and speech; however, there are many of us who you wouldn’t “know” just by looking at us. I am a feminine woman, I am a “girly girl”, and no one ever “suspects” that I am gay. So very often someone will innocently ask about my husband (I am a middle aged woman with kids, so that is fairly common). Right then I have a choice to make….do I tell them about Bluebell? Do I fib? Should I be evasive?
Most of the time I am honest. And once the words are out, “No, I don’t have a husband, I have a partner,” I cringe a little inside. Most times there is a small pause while the person thinks about what I have just said. I have to be honest and say that 98% of the time after that quick pause the person says, “Oh,” and then goes on to tell me how it is okay that I am gay and relates a story about someone they know who is gay. Their hair dresser, friend, family member, neighbor, etc. They almost always say something like, “It doesn’t bother me. It is okay that you are gay.” I knew it was okay already, but I appreciate their letting me know it doesn’t bother them. Then we move on to other topics. However, now that I think about it, I realize that I don’t usually “come out” to anyone until I know them for awhile. I guess my philosophy is:
1) If they like me before I tell them and then they don’t like me afterwards, that tells me more about them than about me.
2) People don’t generally start a new acquaintance with giving lots of personal information about themselves, unless it is your physician……
I suppose the point to my rambling today is that I am happy there is a “National Coming Out Day” to celebrate and give voice to so many people who can open themselves up on that day. However, we should be honest, and say that every day has the potential to be a “Coming Out Day” for anyone who is “other than” heterosexual. So it really should be “National Coming Out Day …….Over and Over and Over”.
For the last few decades I have had boyfriends. One turned into a fiancé, that later became my husband, who now is my Ex. For the last several decades I’ve had girlfriends. Girls, then later women, with whom I have a friendship. Which leads me to my newest internal debate . . .
What in the hell am I supposed to call the person I’m dating now?
Historically, when I said I had a boyfriend, it was pretty obvious that that meant it was the person I was dating (i.e. had an emotional and sexual relationship with). Now that I’m dating Erin, if I introduce her as my girlfriend, it could mean several things. Is she my friend? Best friend? The woman I’m in a emotional and sexual relationship with? It could be any of those! My best friend Stacie is also my girlfriend. See?!
Do I tell people Erin’s my “GIRLFRIEND, GIRLFRIEND?” Just as you may like someone and a friend asks if you “Like them or LIKE LIKE them?” Pretty confusing, right?
Is she my partner? Which then makes me think of square dancing and cattle wrangling.
Hello, this is Erin, my . . .
girlfriend? (with a wink)
lover? (oh geeze)
lady friend? (which lovingly is our “go to” on Facebook)
homo-soulmate (my friend Drea’s concoction)
What about no words and I just wink and nod my head real slowly? I don’t know! Who knew it would be an issue? I know that to me she’s sometimes “baby,” at times “hon,” and almost daily “sweets.” Which I guess, should make her, “THE ONE” to everyone else?
Over the years, several people have mentioned that I should write a book. Usually it’s about my journey as a gestational surrogate (times 3) but now it seems to be about my coming out process. I joke and say that if I were to write a book about finding out that I’m a lesbian at the age of 37, I should entitle it, “Late to the Party.”
Actually, the last year has been pretty fun figuring out where I fit, and gay and lesbian friends trying to welcome me over to their side. Of course, most is in jest and is totally aligned with a lot of stereotypes, but funny nonetheless. One of my friends told me right off, “You do know that now you need to have a favorite USA women’s soccer player, right?” I needed clarification. Am I basing this off of cuteness or actual skill? Apparently, it can be either . . . for the record, I chose Tobin Heath . . . although it’s killing me she isn’t “age appropriate”.
I was also given all six seasons of The L Word. I had heard about the show for years but never watched it. Now, if someone would’ve given me the DVDs a while ago, I wonder if it would have accelerated the end of my marriage? Who knows? But as I watched it, it was wonderful reinforcement. Yep. This is it. My friends loved talking to me about where I was in the seasons and reminiscing about the plot and my thoughts about it. I loved the show and couldn’t wait for the kids’ bedtime so I could get through as many episodes as possible each night. I think I powered through them all rather quickly. It was like a drug. I couldn’t get enough.
I think the reason I never watched the show before is because we didn’t have Showtime. Because you can bet your last dollar, if I knew what I was missing, I would’ve figured out a reason to order it back in 2004. That’s another thing. I was told right away that as a lesbian, I needed Showtime. A few months later when I moved I did get three months’ free and although I could see why I should have it, I didn’t end up sticking with it. As much as I fell in love with Kacy and Cori off the “Real L Word”, I couldn’t really bring myself to pay more money. I also didn’t feel comfortable DVRing any of the shows. Don’t need to have episodes of “Ninjago” and “My Babysitter’s a Vampire” bookending episodes of “Polyamory” and other fun shows. Don’t want to explain that much stuff to my 6-, 9- or 11-year-old.
I was also told that I need to lose my purse, because appraently lesbians don’t carry purses. But I’m simply not a billfold in the back pocket kind of lady. My friends would tease me about other items I was missing: swiss army knife, tool belt, flannel, a cat. I was officially the worst lesbian ever!
When I first came out to a few close friends and my sister (and myself!), I was a several weeks into my final surrogacy. Being pregnant helped me not rush into too much, although I was told by a few friends that some lesbians are totally into the pregnant thing. Just my luck! However, as a surrogate, you sign a contract that you’ll be monogamous with your partner and both of you are screened for sexually transmitted diseases. Basically sex of any kind is out . . . unless you get your new partner (male or female) screened, and that’s hundreds of dollars. So I was told if I decided to start dating and it got physical to keep my clothes on. I wasn’t going to whore around because first, I am a rule follower and second, that’s just not my scene. I am a serial monogamist, it’s what I do. So I was able to date and kiss but not much else. In a way, it was a blessing, because being pregnant could help me not make stupid decisions and jump into things too quickly.
My friends kept telling me that after the pregnancy, when I could finally be totally out, that I would be “very popular”. I found this a little disconcerting. I had been popular before. I didn’t want to be popular. I didn’t want to spread the wealth (or anything else for a number of ladies) and was a little nervous about all of it. Dating nowadays was much different than back in 1999 when I had no kids and wasn’t the same person I am today. Again, I didn’t want to go out and experience every Tina, Debbie, and Hannah. I have always been a woman on a mission, to find the one right person. Being a lesbian didn’t suddenly change that.
A very close friend asked me what I was looking for in a girlfriend. I told her my list of traits, like she has to be REALLY funny (a sense of humor is very important to me), loyal, sweet, have a great smile, be a good communicator, and an awesome mom. I wanted her to be someone with whom I could see myself raising my kids. Someone who was as active with her own kid(s) as I was with mine.
Physically was a different story. I never really thought about what type of woman I was in to. Throughout the years I would see various women and think that certain parts of them were attractive, but I honestly think sense of humor and a great personality are more crucial in making a person attractive. When my straight friends would ask what type of woman I was attracted to, I couldn’t just say this or that type. Although as time went on, it became obvious to me that I wasn’t into girly girls –definitely more athletic than feminine. I would see certain women and think, hmmmmmm… maybe? But again, I was looking for a total package, not just a cute face.
One of my biggest issues with being newly out – me with with three kids, long hair, make up, mini van, and Coach handbags was, how in the hell would I attract women? I thought about this a lot. I thought this is probably going to need to be a set up, since I don’t see myself hanging out in lesbian bars trying to “out myself” to random, attractive women. I also am not the kind of person to waste time dating around everywhere. I would like to know ahead of time that you have your shit together. I don’t want drama. I don’t want a big drinker. I don’t want someone who doesn’t have similar morals and views as my own. You aren’t sure you ever want to get married and be a mom? – then keep moving. You have a history of cheating on partners? -been there and no thanks. I’m looking for trustworthy and loyal, not the local whore. But all of that is null and void if no one knows I’m “up for grabs”. I know it sounds funny, but for months I’d both dream day and night about how this was all going to go down once I lost this baby belly (literally with baby inside my belly) and wanted to start dating.
Funny. When the time came, it wasn’t an issue at all. The perfect woman who had every single thing I was looking for just…fell into my lap.
I have never been one for labels. I don’t really think ONE WORD can describe someone completely and I find this true about my sexuality as well. If I had to label myself, I would say that “lesbian” would be the closest. But again, I have issues with labels. I am attracted to women emotionally and sexually. At this point, I don’t think I would ever be with another man nor do I find myself missing a man one bit. I have never been so satisfied emotionally or sexually in my entire life. I have found someone that I can be myself with at all times. Part of that is because I decided to finally accept and love myself and part of it is that I have found the love of my life; she just happens to be a woman. However, even before Erin and I started dating, I was into her.
I do feel uneasy calling myself a lesbian because I feel like it takes away from women who have bravely loved women for years. Yes, I have fantasized about being with women for decades and had some experimentation here and there, but I never had the courage to go “all in” until 11 months ago. At the time there was no one, but I made the decision that once I started to date again, it would be with a woman. Even my ex said, during a conversation as he was moving out, “Now you can date a woman,” and I thought, that’s the plan.
I was married to a man for eleven years and only had relationships with men until several months ago. Most people just assume that would make me bisexual. I am not. At this point in my life, I can’t even imagine being with a man, ever. Yes, certain men are cute, but it’s not the same. It’s like once I decided to embrace the real me, I didn’t have to comment about men anymore. Yes, he is cute . . . or he has nice abs . . . it’s just not what I want. It’s almost as if a switch had been flipped and the fascade could fall. Historically, I thought men were cute, that’s who I am supposed to be with, but I was also very attracted to women. However, if the plan was to get married and have a family, that has to be done with a man, or at least that was my thinking fifteen years ago. So that is who I focused my energy finding. Several of the men I dated, including the one I married, knew I was into women, but not to the extent that I was/am.
I remember while I was married, I’d fantasize about a three way with another woman and the more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn’t a three way I wanted, I wanted a female partner. I would watch Big Love and think, oh, what I would give for a sister wife . . . someone to help me with the laundry, raising the kids, to talk to but what a bummer they couldn’t hook up. What I really wanted was a wife, not a sister wife.
Am I pansexual? Pansexual describes a person with the capability of attraction to others regardless of their gender identity or biological sex. Up until my “switch” was flipped, I think this would’ve been the best label for me. For years, when I would teach about relationships and attraction, I would say this very thing. For me, sense of humor ranked higher than gender on a list of characteristics that were important to me in selecting a partner, but now I think that wasn’t completely true. I think it is what I would say at the time because I was married to a man but knew in the future, if given the opportunity, I would be with a woman. I don’t think I’d say this now because I am attracted to women, and don’t really think about being with a man again, so not really “capable” anymore.
The “Kinsey Scale” is a heterosexual-homosexual rating scale developed by Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues. It was created in order to account for research findings that showed people did not fit neatly into exclusive heterosexual or homosexual categories. Just like Kinsey’s team found while recording people’s sexual histories, many people’s thoughts, sexual behavior, and feelings towards the same or opposite sex were not always consistent across time. This is also true with my own sexual history. Kinsey-wise, I would say in my high school years I was probably a 2. Later in college I would have put myself as a 3. For the last decade I would say 4, maybe 5. Currently, I would say I am a 6 and if I’d have to guess what the future holds, I would hypothosize that I’d stay a 6.
I hate labels. I’ve said that before right? So instead of a label I’ll just describe myself. I am a woman who is involved in the most emotionally and sexually rewarding relationship I have even been in. I cannot imagine being with anyone else but Erin, but if something happened and we were no longer together, if I found someone else, I have no doubt it would be another woman. So, if you feel the need to label me, go for it!
The last year has been the hardest of my life. I know I’ve only been blogging about my divorce for a few months and I did have a timeline of how I was going to lay it all out, but with Thanksgiving having just passed, I feel the need to skip a little ahead. Well, ahead with the story that also requires a few major “flashbacks” if you will.
I am truly thankful for my divorce. If my ex-husband had never left me, I don’t think I would have ever left my marriage. My counselor says that my “moral compass” would not have allowed me to and I totally agree with that theory. I didn’t want my kids to come from a divorced home. I didn’t want my kids to have to struggle or not feel whole. I was “okay” in my marriage. It was fine. I was surviving but I certainly wasn’t thriving. I was able to grow as a person and do some pretty amazing things in the last twelve years but I wasn’t where I should have been. I wasn’t 100% myself, and how could I be? I married a man.
Now don’t get me wrong, I loved my husband. He was my best friend. When we met I thought he would make a great husband and father and he had this wonderful large extended family (and I did want to be a wife and mother and always wanted a big family) so I felt fine with proceeding. Over the years I settled into the role of traditional wife and mother with a few “out of the box” adventures, which included continuing to be one of the biggest GLBT allies I knew. I thought I was happy with all of it, or at least what I thought happy meant. Looking back, I can see it wasn’t happy really, it just was. I was incredibly happy with my children and loved them so very much, however, my best friend had definitely become my roommate. There were lots of times where I brainstormed how I could make my marriage better but I would never follow through. My husband was lonely and I felt bad about it but didn’t want to put forth the effort physically because it wasn’t what I wanted. There were even times when he was upstairs on the computer or playing games on the xbox and I was downstairs watching TV and folding laundry and I would daydream about us not being together. But I would never leave. I just couldn’t.
Lucky for me, he left. It was a surprise and quick and painful but he did it. He did what I would have never done. And even with all the bullshit that he did the months before he left and is still doing today, I wouldn’t go back there for anything. Him leaving gave me the opportunity to finally be me, 100% me. So I made the decision to go for it. To live the life I never had the courage to live before. To be myself, to be attracted to and to love who I wanted, and to show my children the lessons I had been teaching them for years. That love is love.
I promise to fill you in on the last several months of becoming the real me and the years of piecing it together but for now I will just say I’m thankful for many things this year, one being my divorce –because without it, I would have never embraced and celebrated who I have always been and in turn I would have never met the love of my life, Erin. And SHE is absolutely amazing.
By: Lex Jacobson
We are into our second trimester and have started to announce this pregnancy. Most of our friends know, and last week I told my boss and then my colleagues.
I am amazed at how similar I’ve found the coming out experience and the announcement of a pregnancy experience: They are both secrets you’ve held for a long time (granted three months is a little different than three years) and it is the most important thing in your current life.
Ten years ago, I was terrified to come out. I was scared of not being accepted, of living a life that was frowned upon by many and of losing my nearest and dearest friends. Though with this pregnancy, the fear of losing people is much lower, there is a sense that my choice to have and raise a baby in a queer family is not a lifestyle that would be celebrated by many.
However, just as I was surprised at how people stuck by me and supported me when I came out, the reaction to the pregnancy announcement has been nothing but positive. I honestly didn’t expect people to be this happy for us and excited about the prospect of a new little heartbeat entering the world in six months.
I have also been a little bit worried about my wife Devon’s heart through all of this too. I was scared that people would put the focus on me, because I was the pregnant one, and forget to celebrate her impending motherhood, and again, have been surprised.
So far, there have only been a few questions about the “dad” in all of this. What is the dad like? Did you see a picture? How did you choose? What are you going to tell the kid about his/her dad when they grow up? I wish I could educate people to not use the word “dad,” as that is a growing pet peeve of mine. We used a donor, not a dad. He is no more a dad or father than a man who leaves a woman while she’s pregnant and who has nothing to do with the kid.
There is no dad. There is a donor. And we are extremely grateful to that nameless man from a mystery state who has given us the biggest gift of our lives, but he is “just” a donor and though one day we may get the opportunity to meet him, this baby is my wife’s and my baby. We are the parents and the baby is ours and ours only.
The biggest similarity for me between coming out and announcing the pregnancy has been the utter relief I’ve felt after the message had passed out of my mouth. In both scenarios, it was like exhaling a breath that I’d held for far too long.
So no more holding our breath. We will breathe into this new life and feel extremely blessed that we get to share this miracle with those we love, those who support us, and those who are part of this little village that will help raise a child.
By: Selina Boquet
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to
blossom. –Anais Nin
Blossoming is a dangerous act. It takes courage to spread your petals to the world and gamble losing friends, family, and even your life.
Many people ask how I made the decision to come out of the closet.
I had a lot to lose. I was deep into my perfectly formulated heterosexual lifestyle. I’ve been asked how I could have left the church and my marriage of eight years to face Los Angeles alone with my two kids. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t painless, but it was worth it.
When I decided to come out of the closet, there was no one magical moment that pushed me into full bloom. Instead, it was a million complex movements that lead me to the greatest epiphany of my life.
I had many puzzle pieces that helped awake me out of my 28-year-long slumber. I always knew that I liked women, yet there is a huge difference between knowing that you are attracted to women and realizing that you are, in fact, a lesbian. Admitting this to myself was a long process.
One of my first recognizable turning points occurred after watching the movie, “Into the Wild”. I was surprised by my feelings of jealousy for the freedom of the protagonist of the story. As the plot unfolds, a young man turns down the comforts of money and modern society to live in a van in the Alaskan wilderness. He had no masks. No one’s personal agenda or religious expectations affected his life decisions. He was living the definition of pure freedom. Having that kind of liberating freedom in my own life seemed so distant and foreign that I broke down crying and couldn’t stop for hours. All night I searched through this mysterious sadness in my heart that I had pushed to the side for so long.
It didn’t make sense to me, though. I had followed all of the rules to success that had been taught to me. My mental list had neat little checks in all of the boxes. Church Leader. Check. Teaching Career. Check. Two beautiful children. Check. Husband. Check. I had the life that others told me would make me happy.
So then why did I feel so empty inside?
In the eyes of everyone around me, I had the perfect life. My grandma sure was proud of me. She loved to hear what we were doing in the church and how we were being promoted higher and higher into leadership.
“I’m so grateful all of my grandchildren (there are 27 of us) are workin’ for the Lawd,” she would proudly say at the end of each of our conversations in her sweet southern drawl.
When I started to see the truth, that I was gay, I felt empty inside. If I believed that what my church and my Southern Baptist family had taught me about homosexuals, then I served a God who hated me. I remember singing for the church choir and feeling like an absolute stranger to these people who were closer than my family. I knew that if they knew I was gay then I would no longer be welcome amongst them. The more I learned about my true self, the more I felt among enemies. This was difficult because as I had moved from Oregon where I grew up to Los Angeles just two years earlier, I didn’t have any family in California and almost all of my friends were from the church.
My co-workers were my only true friends in California and one in particular, Patty, helped me by asking me challenging questions and patiently listening to me. We were carpool buddies and we spent about two hours a day in the car together. She became my therapist and my great wise sage as she listened intently and supported me each step along the way as I discovered my authentic self. I owe her my life.
“You mean that you used to be gay, but you gave it up for God? How is that possible?” Patty marveled one day, “If someone told me I couldn’t be straight anymore, I had to be gay, I couldn’t do it!” I nodded with confidence and pride at my dutiful commitment to God, yet inwardly I was shocked at why I had never seen it that way before. Even in my disconnected state, it made a lot of sense, yet I wasn’t ready to admit that I had been wrong. Gay people aren’t made, they’re born. Tiny moments of clarity such as these accumulated in my thoughts and helped to take me one step closer towards my own acceptance of the truth.
Over the next few months my eyes began to open little by little as I slowly began to accept the fact that I was gay and that I wasn’t going to change. I started to see that I did not fit in the life I was living. Once I fully accepted that, I came out right away. On April 25th, 2008, approximately one year after my conversation with Patty, I told Omar, my husband, that I was gay.
As I look back at my journal entry from that day, I can see that even then I doubted my decision. I wanted the picture perfect life that had been painted for me. Yet as I wrote on that fateful day, ‘there is only so much pain one person can take’. Despair and self-pity run so deep in my journal entry, it scares me at how close I was to taking my own life. I remember that at my darkest moment, the faces of my two beautiful children came to my mind and a glimmer of hope flickered somewhere deep inside.
When it feels like you have nowhere to go, death can appear to be a good option. The number of people who have fallen for that lie and choose to take their own life, sadly seems to rise every day. I thought that I had come to the end, yet it was only the beginning. In the eyes of my children, I found the hope that I needed to carry on.
Anais Nin understood that there is more suffering in hiding from the world, than there is in revealing your true core by spreading your petals to the sun. The fear of pain and rejection is what kept me tight in a bud yet the philosophical poet, Kahlil Gibran, reminds us that, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” The sorrow that once created canyons of emptiness inside of me now allows me to hold an ocean of joy.
Thanks to the struggle that it took to come out of the closet, I now possess a more profound level of gratitude for the simple things in my life. My hypocritical and judgmental friends have been replaced with loving, supportive friends and family who love me for who I am. It is better for someone to reject you for who you are than to love you for who you are not. Every day I treasure the freedom and peace that comes from living an authentic life.
By: Selina Boquet
As a little girl I was never allowed to watch any cartoons with magic in them, for fear that they would somehow turn me into a witch. While shielding me from the sorcery in Care Bears, my over-protective mother failed to imagine the influence that Punky Brewster would have upon me. Her tomboy ways made my cheeks flush as I gazed in admiration. More than twenty years later, I still have the same type. My girlfriend looks just like her.
When I was seventeen, I fell in love with Ellie. She was my first real kiss and I was so relieved. Any other kind of romantic relationship with a boy that my mom pushed me into felt so awkward and foreign. When I was with Ellie I felt pure serenity. We were both deathly afraid of my mother’s Southern Baptist Values and Heavy Texan Hand. My mother made no mistake as to her beliefs on homosexuals. She prayed for their damned souls just as she prayed for the child molesters and the murderers.
At age 18, I told my mom I wanted to move out. She said that the only way I could leave the house was if I was married to a man. No daughter of hers was going to be one of those slutty girls who lived by themselves. When I met Omar, I knew that he was my ticket out of a bad situation. We married six weeks after we met.
Marital stereotypes construed my understanding of a healthy marriage. When you grow up and get married you’re miserable. Married people don’t have sex. And if they do, the wives always have headaches and are unsatisfied with little sexual desire. My marriage fit those misconceptions perfectly. In my innocent viewpoint of the world, the dysfunctional marriages I saw around me were my only comparison. I was unhappy. I was normal. I filed away the attraction to girls that I had felt since early in life into the category of experimentation.
I chose not to see that the things or people that we are attracted to in our youth are the same things and people we are attracted to when we grow up. Social-learning theorists tell us that children are able to identify gender as early as two years old. However, gender is fluid until the age of seven years old. That is when learned gender stereotypes are adapted and most children adhere to the societal expectations of their gender. This is easy for the majority of people who fit into those two categories. For the rest of us, it can be the beginning of a life-long challenge to find our place in society.
As I watch my own kids grow up, I see gender roles being forced upon them. Their father is one of the main culprits. Because of his insecurities of his own sexuality, he makes sure that Ezekiel and Savana are neatly compartmentalized into girl and boy boxes. I know that Ezekiel would enjoy taking ballet with his sister, yet even though I encourage him to do so, he’s paralyzed by the fact that he would be the only boy.
Society has suggested and his father has confirmed that boys don’t like ballet. However, little do most people know that when ballet first began and for more than three hundred years after, women only stood around in their corsets and hooped dresses, while the men were the main dancers. In fact, The Austin Ballet states that the pointing of the foot, which is the foundation for all five ballet positions, was created so that King Louis XIV could show off his shiny shoe buckle when he played the Sun God in Le Ballet de la Nuit. Society’s definition of masculinity has completely flipped since the 15th century. The mainstream definition of gender and sexual identity is enforced by popular thought, which leaves us pigeonholed and restricted from exploring ourselves freely.
Ezekiel’s struggle reminds me of my own as I pleaded with my grandpa to be allowed to drive the four-wheeler on the farm. My cousin Bubba Jack was my age when he started to drive the four-wheeler, but that just was not allowed for girls. My hope is that someday soon human beings will evolve to an androgynous society where everyone can choose what and whom they love and feel no shame for following their heart’s desire.
When it comes down to it, we are all people. Although there are many commonalities between people with the same genitalia, no one can put a stamp on a group of people because of their physical appearance. Sandra Bem, from the University of Nebraska, asserts that research shows ‘exaggerated gender-specific behavior severely limits the intellectual and emotional development of both men and women’. When you define a person by their character and not by their gender, only then can you expect to authentically know that person, and not simply a reflection of false gender roles, acquired by conformation to the societal norm.
When I came out to my mom, she cried that it was all her fault that I was gay. If she wouldn’t have forced me into relationships with guys, I wouldn’t despise it so. Being in bad relationships with guys did not turn me into a lesbian, just as secretly watching the Care Bears behind my mom’s back did not turn me into a witch. Likewise, my crush on Punky Brewster was not the beginning of learning how to be gay, yet a sign that love sees no gender.
When we are told what and whom we may love, it restricts us as human beings. Coming out of the closet does not mean that you change teams or that you become gay. It simply means that you decide to shed the gender roles enforced upon you in order to reveal your true self. That being said, there is no moment when you realize you are gay; instead there is a moment when you realize that you are the person who defines your sexuality and not the society in which you live.
By: Carol Rood
I have been in a relationship with my lovely Bluebell for 7 years. We are very open about being together, yet we do not announce it to everyone we meet at the first meeting. We feel as though being together is just a part of who we are, not the sum of who we are.
Because, in addition to being a person in a relationship with a woman, I am also a mom to 3 boys, a step mom to a boy and a girl, a college student, a worker, a retired Navy person, etc. Think about it this way, when you meet someone for the first time, they don’t say, “Hi my name is Jane and I am a heterosexual woman who is married to Tom.” With that in mind, I don’t need to say, “Hi, I am Carol and I am a lesbian in a relationship with Bluebell.” Besides the fact that I am more than just that, many people are bigoted and I like to get to know people before I tell them my personal life.
I have always believed that if I meet someone who becomes my friend (or at least has a friendly relationship with me) before knowing my relationship status, but then changes their opinion of me and no longer likes me once they find out, it tells me their character (or lack therof). Those are people I don’t want to be friends with anyway, so I move on.
Once I tell them about my relationship status I get various responses. Most people say, “Oh, that doesn’t bother me. I have a friend, hairdresser, cousin, (fill in the blank) who is gay. I am cool with that.” Sometimes I just get a “That is fine with me.” But the ones I like the best are the people who I tell, and then I can actually see the mental processing taking place.
I will be having a conversation with someone and I will nonchalantly say something like, “Yes, my partner said the same thing the other day.” You can actually see their brain whirring, and almost see the thought bubble over their head as they realize I said “partner” and what that means. Then they blink and respond. This whole process usually takes about 1-2 seconds, but it is always obvious. It makes me smile every time.
Recently I was talking to my 14-year-old son’s girlfriend’s mother. Zack and R were going to an event and I was telling R’s mom that Bluebell would be picking up the kids. I said, “I have a meeting, so my partner will be picking up the kids.” Zack and R have been dating for over a year. I have talked to R’s mother many times. I guess I had never before that time used the word “partner”. The minute I used that word, I saw the mental process taking place. As I watched that happen, time slowed down, (just like in the movies), and I held my breath. In that split second of watching her process, lots of thoughts went running through my head. What if she doesn’t like gay people? What if she won’t let R date Zack anymore because his mom is gay? What if she doesn’t want her daughter around gay people? I mean who knows really? The nicest people you meet may be prejudiced. You don’t know until they make themselves known by saying something or doing something that shows their prejudice. After a couple of seconds, R’s mother completed her processing, blinked and said, “Ok, no problem.”
And then she smiled! Whew…crisis averted. R’s mom is okay with me and now I won’t be the cause of heartbreak for my kid! My heart stopped beating staccato.
Our kids are growing up. I am sure that was just the first of many more “unveilings” in our (and their) futures. I can only hope that all the other parents will be as open minded as R’s mother.
By: Shannon Ralph
Today was National Coming Out Day. Only, I forgot to come out. In the excitement over starting my new job, I momentarily forgot to come out. As a matter of fact, I momentarily forgot I was gay altogether. As we did introductions around the conference room table at the “Welcome Shannon” breakfast potluck this morning, I shared about my children and my dog and how excited I was to be starting a new chapter in my professional life. I did not purposely leave out the whole lesbian thing. I simply forgot. I forgot that I was a tad different. I forgot that I was a sexual minority. I forgot that my family was not the same as every other family represented around that conference room table.
It was kind of nice to forget. It was pleasant to feel just like everyone else. It’s a testament to my friends and family and the city and state I live in that I am capable of forgetting my gayness. Of course, it didn’t last long. By not saying that I was gay, every person on that team assumed I was straight. At lunch on the first day with my coworkers, I got the question. THE question. We were discussing my being a transplant from the south when one of my new coworkers asked, “So is your husband from Kentucky, too?” Ummm…hmmm….uhhhh….no.
No matter how comfortable I am with being a lesbian —no matter how proud I am to be Ruanita’s partner and one of my children’s two moms—I am still blind-sided by this question every time. The response is really quite simple. “I don’t have a husband. I have a partner and yes, she’s from Kentucky, too.” That is how I answered the question. And that is how I answered the same question a couple of hours later when it was asked a second time by a different coworker. Both times, I did so with eyes averted and after a bit of unintentional humming and hawing. Why? Why do I respond in this way? Why do I allow myself to be caught off guard by the question?
I think even in the out, loud, and proud world I inhabit, there is still a tiny bit of me —a miniscule part of my psyche— that is afraid of the response I will get. I hate that I respond in this way. I hate that I stumble over the question. I hate that I hesitate. I hate that I care what others think. Will people dislike me because I am gay? Will people judge me? Will people make assumptions about me? Or my partner? Or my children? Will I be made to feel like an “other”?
That was not the case today. As a matter of fact, that is very seldom the case. Rarely am I made to feel like an outsider. I am lucky in that regard. I am lucky to have been completely embraced and uplifted by all of the straight people in my life. I look forward to the day when my gayness can be as much a non-issue to me as it is to everyone around me. Perhaps when my family has the same rights as all other families, then I can answer the husband question without averting my eyes. Without concern for the responses of others. Until that time, I am a work in progress. Proud of who I am and trying to live that pride every day.