Today is National Coming Out Day.
COME OUT COME OUT WHEREVER YOU ARE. (The Wizard of Oz, by the way, was one of my favorite movies as a little girl. I think I was in love with Judy Garland. And is it just me, or are there queer subtexts to it? Anyway.)
In honor of it, I will tell my coming out story. Which is not, just to warn you, terribly exciting. But since it is National Coming Out Day, and since I hope that people all over the US today are talking about being queer and knowing people who are queer and all those sorts of things, I will do the same. And maybe my coming out story, undramatic as it is, will add yet another voice to the mix of those who came out unproblematically, without even really having to, well, come out of anything.
For me, the hardest part was coming to terms with it myself. I was 12 when I had my first sexual dream about a girl, and I put it out of my mind. I was in junior high when I fell in love with the girl I called my best friend, but I never admit it to anyone, even myself, except in the form of excruciating journal entries in which I said such things as “please, God, send me a guy to prove I’m not a lesbian!” and “I think I might be in love with Alyssa, but I think she’s in love with Erin and no one will ever love me.” I was tortured. And the fact that three of my best friends came out to me (not publicly came out) and dated each other convinced me that I wasn’t really gay, I was just gay by association. They were rubbing off on me. So I put it out of my mind.
Until I started dating guys. I didn’t like kissing them, and I didn’t like the sex, and I figured I was doomed to bad sex with guys who cared about me but not enough to give me orgasms. They were good guys, but there was something missing.
Then I went to college–women’s college on the east coast. Why did I go to women’s college? Certainly NOT because I wanted to date women. I almost didn’t go to women’s college because I was afraid I’d never be able to date, I’d never meet guys. But there was something about it that I just fell in love with, when I visited as a prospective student, so off I went. And within two weeks, I was out.
There was no defining moment, at least not that I remember. I was just watching and absorbing everything around me, and it wasn’t making sense anymore, being straight, identifying as straight. It just didn’t work. There was no grand announcement, no “Guess what? I’m GAY!” Because people were still starting to get to know each other, so it could just be something that was part of me right from the outset, when people got to know me.
I didn’t come out to my parents and family until my sophomore year of colleg. And then it was a phone call home that went something like this:
“Hi honey, what’s new?”
“Well I’m dating someone new!”
“Oh really? Who?”
“Her name is Stella.”*
“Mom? You there?”
“Alriiiiiiight. You do know that it’s a hard life for gay people, right? I’m worried about you.”
*Her name wasn’t really Stella.
Et cetera. She went into the whole it’s-hard-to-have-kids thing and the people-will-discriminate-against-you thing. DUH. And the is-this-a-phase thing. And my dad is STILL doing all of that. Sigh. But my brother and sister (both younger) were remarkably unconcerned and my parents try. They do try. My mom will send me newspaper clippings and links about gay and lesbian issues. “Thought this might interest you,” she says. Yes, Mom, because all things Homo interest me. But she’s trying. My dad generally avoids talking about it.
I’m not out to my grandparents. They would have conniptions and would probably disown me. And would probably then die of heart attacks. I have no plans to come out to them ever, unless I’m getting married/civilly united/domestically partnered and they’re still around. They’re 90, though, so I’m not too worried about that. I love them, but they’re ridiculously conservative and it’s not worth it to me to try to change them at this point. Or to make them hate me.
And with other people, like friends or employers or co-workers, I don’t come out. I just let it come up. It’s no big “so, you should know I’m gay” thing, it’s a “so I have a funny story, one time my girlfriend and I were blahblahblahing” etc.
I think coming out is slowly becoming obsolete. I think eventually, queers won’t have to come out any more than straight people come out. We won’t have to brace ourselves. Eventually, I think that will be true. I think more and more, especially in urban areas, this is already the case with young people. Sexuality is becoming more of a non-issue. I have hope for the future in this regard. But for now, coming out is still important, so important, for everyone everywhere, because the more visible we are, the more people will know we’re not going anywhere. We’ll become rooted in the American Consciousness. And the more people who know queers and love queers, the more we’re not going anywhere. You know? So, today, on National Coming Out Day, COME OUT!
I’m working on my roommate. She’s super gay, but has trouble saying it. She has trouble saying “I’m gay.” “I’m a lesbian.” “I’m queer.” I think today she might say it. Because it’s NATIONAL COMING OUT DAY.
Also, in honor of the day ‘n all, consider donating money to Equality for All to defeat Proposition 8 on Election Day. We’ll be so sad, so defeated, if it passes, if California constitutionally bans same-sex marriage. We’re so close. But right now, polls indicate that those who want it passed are leading by 5-7 points. So we need help. Just something to consider.