On Coming Out (again and again)

Coming out is an ongoing process. While there will most likely be a definitive point in one’s life in which they will decide to come out to many of their family and friends, it doesn’t just stop there. There is the ever-present assumption that any given person is straight until otherwise specified, and it is a very harmful ideology to LGB youth. Many kids realize their same-sex attraction or crushes on those of the same-sex at an early age, but they don’t come out right then and there because they are constantly spoon fed the rhetoric that boys like girls and girls like boys, and that’s just the way it is. Growing up confined to these gender expectations can be quite a struggle for someone who is questioning their sexuality. I spent a majority of my childhood feeling like an outcast and I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I slowly began to come to terms with my sexual orientation.

In one of my previous posts, Why Queer Representation Actually Matters, I explain how media has a huge influence on societal customs and expectations. When I was growing up, there were absolutely no same-sex couples on T.V. shows or movies. They always generally concluded with the guy getting the girl. Misogyny aside, this enforces how children form opinions about the world around them. If you tell a young kid that donuts are magical, they’ll most likely believe you because they don’t even think to question adults or authority figures. They can’t quite comprehend that there could be possible bias or untruth in what their parents tell them. They probably don’t even know what bias is. And many homosexual and bisexual(pansexual) children spend far too long attempting to unravel the societal norms that they have been forced to assume.

So when one finally comes out, it’s not like some major news announcement to the world. That may be the case for celebrities, but ordinary citizens find that coming out never really ends. Coworkers or new friends will ask you if you have a significant other of the opposite sex, and you’ll just want to say no and leave it at that, in fear that their response will be negative. However, it is also quite freeing to break down that barrier and to not feel like you have to completely avoid talking about that aspect of your life. It’s not about parading around town with a rainbow stamped on your forehead, (with the exception of Pride) but rather living as your authentic self. And in order to live authentically, you will most likely need to inform the people in your life of who you really are. It is certainly not easy, but one must hope for the best. And yes, it does get better.

 

 

*I am leaving out the T in LGBT simply because that has to do with gender identity rather than sexual orientation. I promise this was not meant to exclude anyone.

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My (Unofficial) Coming Out Story

I struggled with my sexuality all throughout high school and partially throughout middle school. The main part of my struggle was the inability to accept myself for who I was, who I am. Of course now I cannot fathom how I ever thought I was straight, but accepting myself and being open about my sexuality gave me a whole new perspective on the matter.

While I was in elementary school, I became overly attached to quite a few of my female friends. At the time I didn’t think anything of it, especially when girls are supposed to think boys are gross at that age. However, I was submersed in a heteronormative culture and I attended a very conservative Catholic school, so I evidently suppressed any thoughts and feelings that had anything to do with liking girls. It wasn’t until I was in sixth or seventh grade that I had my first lesbian awakening. I was watching the ever popular Desperate Housewives with my parents, and two of the female characters on the show kissed. At that moment, it was like something suddenly clicked inside of my brain. I liked girls. I liked the idea of two girls being together. It finally all made sense. But I still could not truly accept that about myself, so I again suppressed any feelings I had and attempted to be a nice heterosexual girl. While it surprisingly didn’t take that much effort, it also didn’t exactly work well for too long. I was still developing feelings for my female friends. They would tell me all about boys they liked, and I would get so jealous but just pretend I was disappointed because I wasn’t receiving any attention from boys.

During my freshman year of high school I kind of fell in love for the first time with my best friend. It was very confusing and very hard to differentiate feelings of close friendship and feelings of romance. I drove myself crazy over it. She began to date a guy who was much older than us, and I was once again disappointed. I was weary about the age difference because perverts are still unfortunately alive and well, but I also selfishly wanted her to myself. Of course, I didn’t say any of this. I didn’t actually voice my sexual confusion to anyone until sophomore year. There was this girl a year behind me that I really began to like. Let’s call her S. She would follow me around everywhere and hold my hand as we walked to class, even if her’s was in another building. I really thought that she liked me, but she would always mention this other girl she had dated so I quickly abandoned any hope. She had perviously told me that she was bisexual and I immediately blurted out that I thought I might be bisexual too. Not knowing what to make of this, I called my gay friend, and that was when I told someone for the first time that I liked a girl. It was so difficult for me to do at first, but I felt so relieved for finally having done it.

Throughout my first semester of sophomore year, I spent many nights crying and watching a mix of lesbian flicks and depressing suicidal films, all courtesy of Netflix. It was too difficult for me to come to terms with who I was, and I honestly had no idea why. I clearly did not have a problem with other gay or bisexual people, but I was afraid of being treated differently again. I was bullied nonstop from second to eighth grade, so when I finally got to high school it was my time to start over and actually make friends and not be called names. Because of this, I just stopped talking to and hanging out with S as much, but I thought about her. I thought about her all the time.

I wasn’t really all that vocal about my sexuality until the beginning of senior year. That was an interesting time in my life. So many of my friends had come out as gay or bisexual as well, so I just jumped on the bandwagon. At first, I came out as bisexual. This felt like the safest option to me at the time because I could like girls but still maintain some heterosexual privilege. But after a couple of weeks, I decided to finally be honest with myself. And for the first time, I told my friends and family that I was gay. It was probably one of the happiest and most relieving moments of my life. I was so lucky to be around so many people who accepted and supported me. At this point, I had resumed talking to S, who had now become M, and we started dating shortly after. And that’s pretty much it. No more struggle. No more shame. Just love and acceptance and a whole lot of gay.

Coming Out of the Feminist Closet

Someone very close to me is still unaware of my ever-present and ever-growing feminism. This person is my sister. I am hesitant to inform her about this part of my life because she tends to be judgmental and because of various things she has said in the past. About a year ago, her and her husband were talking and said something to this effect: “Feminists are butch lesbians who hate men.” At the time, my only reaction was to roll my eyes and feel somewhat shitty inside, but now I feel disgusted and slightly hurt that someone I love would make such an ignorant comment. Lesbians can be butch, lesbians can be feminists, and lesbians can be butch feminists, but they do not make up the entire demographic of feminists. Feminists consist of men, women, heteros, homos, bisexuals, transgenders, Christians, atheists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, republicans, democrats, libertarians, independents, femmes, butches, you name it. So, obviously not all feminists are butch lesbians. This is because people have the ability to think for themselves and decide what they want to believe and agree with. Each and every human being is an individual, who can use his or her own judgment to determine who they are and what they want out of life.  My other new reaction to this ignorant comment is: Then what the hell am I? I am not a lesbian, or a butch lesbian, yet I’m a feminist. Oh, and I also don’t hate men. So it would seem that we now have a debacle on our hands since I am now the ultimate exception to the feminist rule. A predominantly straight, biological female, who doesn’t hate men can be a feminist? What? I know. I am astonished as well.

All sarcasm aside, the fact that her and so many other people think feminists are part of the “she-woman man-haters club” shows how seriously misinformed and ignorant the world is. Feminism is about achieving equality for both women and men because we are equals, regardless of our inherent, biological differences. Those differences are insignificant and matter not. The goal of the feminist movement is to rid the world of misogyny and misandry and to eliminate gender stereotypes and gender specific insults, so that one day a girl will not be given grief over her desire to join the school football team, and a guy will be allowed to cry and feel emotion in public without being called a girl, because, in reality, that is not an insult. In reality, we are all human. We were all created equally. Different doesn’t equate to less.

So, Sister, I am stepping out of the feminist closet to show you who I truly am. I do not expect you to agree with me on every issue. We both have very different beliefs politically, socially, religiously, academically, but in the end, none of those differences matter. I have looked up to you for so long. For so long, I wanted to be you, but now it is time for me to become my own person. I am who I am, and I am proud to be me. And I hope you are proud to be my sister. I love you, and I can’t wait to see you on Thursday.

Love,

Catherine