National Coming Out Day

Happy Coming Out Day, everyone! I’m sorry things have been so slow around here lately; Sarah’s being eaten alive by grad school, and I’m being eaten alive by moving. But I’d like to introduce you all to my shiny new Eee PC, which is my new favorite toy and is also very effectively distracting me from the despair of moving. It should mean that I can continue to keep things running around here even while I have to spend every spare minute at home going through and packing up my belongings. I’ve been writing on the subway (as right now) and during slow times at work, and I’ll definitely be making better use now of those long bus rides to and from DC. Yay!

It’s hard to say exactly what my coming out story is; it happened over so many years to so many different people. And I’ve talked about some of it here already. I don’t really remember when exactly I came out to my friends. I know that, with several of my friends, I was talking about it as I figured it out and so was already out by the time I realized myself. I waited much longer to come out to my mother; I put it off until I had my first girlfriend at 20 (even though my sister had been out to her since she was 12, when I was 16). I still feel a little bit badly for springing it and my polyamory on her within a week of each other, but I was dating a dyke couple, so both were really relevant to understanding my life. She took it pretty well, too, although she did ask me if I had any other bombshells to drop on her. And these days I’m out to pretty much anyone I interact with meaningfully – I used to slip in a mention of my ex-girlfriend, and lately I talk about my girlfriend or this blog. A friend and I call this the slip-out, and I absolutely love it. With people who haven’t known me my whole life, my sexuality is just not such a big deal that it needs a whole announcement and production. An off-hand mention suffices to let people know where I’m coming from. I love that the world has changed enough to allow for that.

At the same time, there are people I’m not out to, for various reasons. Most of my clients, because I don’t generally talk about my personal life with them. Really, in my line of work it’s better if my clients don’t think about me *having* a personal life. I’d rather they never think of me and sex/sexuality in the same sentence, in any context and for any reason. On the other hand, I wonder how much of not “coming out” is about it being inappropriate to talk about myself to clients I don’t have a long-standing relationship with (and many of my oldest clients do know) – and how much is a worry that male clients will be inappropriately intrigued, while female clients might no longer see me as “safe” in whatever way requesting a female massage therapist makes them feel safer. Still, while it’s a good part of my life’s work to combat that kind of sexism and homo/biphobia, I just don’t think while I’m at work is the right venue. I’m out to my employers and coworkers, but coming out to most of my clients feels inappropriately personal in a way I just can’t get past. Maybe because it is inappropriately personal, or maybe because even I am vulnerable to societal pressure to stay closeted. I honestly couldn’t tell you.

I’m also not out to most of my father’s family (specifically my grandmother; I’ve been mentioning it to aunts and cousins whenever I have the opportunity), and that’s definitely about societal pressure to stay closeted. This is a woman who still doesn’t know that my parents lived together before they were married – not because they didn’t tell her, but because she didn’t hear them. And she’s old, and it would make her unhappy, and it just doesn’t seem worth it. I’m fairly certain she’s pro equal rights for queers in general, and just wouldn’t be terribly pleased that her granddaughter is one. But I wonder about this impulse in myself, whether Kant would say that if everyone stayed closeted just to their own grandparents, no staid old people would realize they know any queers (and as little as I think of Kant, the universal imperative always made sense to me. I just thought he applied it too broadly.) And there’s an uncle on the other side I also need to do the slip-out around, and that’s going to lead to one of those conversations where family members question my choices and my knowledge of myself. In that case, though, I’m ready and just waiting for the right conversational opening, so I can be casual about it and don’t have to do the big announcement. So I’m still thinking, still in process. I strive toward being totally out with everyone, and maybe someday I’ll get there, but right now there are still things holding me back.

Here’s my favorite coming-out story: I was working in a bookstore in one of NYC’s gay gay gay gay gay neighborhoods. My boyfriend at the time had come and picked me up earlier that day to have lunch with me, and I’d greeted him with a quick, chaste kiss – pretty indistinguishable from the way I greet some of my platonic friends, really. The event that night was for a photography book of male nudes, and *all* of my gay male coworkers (who were legion) were standing behind the audience watching. “Wow,” I observed, “all of the fags who work here have found some excuse to be at this end of the store.”

“You know,” a coworker scolded, “in the south where I come from, that’s really not a polite word to call someone.” I responded that I’m allowed ’cause I’m queer myself (it’s since been pointed out to me that the way we talk in public around people who aren’t intimately acquainted with our identities and politics still matters, and I buy that, but that’s neither here nor there.) To which this charmer responded, “You’re not queer – I saw you kissing your boyfriend earlier!” Um, yeah. Can’t fool you, you’re sharp as a tack. If you’re not careful, you’ll cut yourself. A quick “Yeah, he’s queer, too” shut him up, though – he suddenly had something to do at the other end of the store. I was amused. And that was always my major frustration in that relationship; as indviduals and as a couple we were about as queer as it’s possible to be, but people looked at us and saw one boy and one girl, and that makes a straight couple.

How about you? I’m totally going to use today as an excuse to get to know some of our lovely commentors. It’s Coming Out Day – what’s your story? Your coming out story, or anything else about yourself you’d like to share.

5 Responses to “National Coming Out Day”

  1. 12 October 2008 at 3:12 pm

    I, too, was talking to my friends as I figured it out. I came out as bi when I was 14, and then as gay about a year later. All my friends knew before I did — the most common reaction I was was, “Yeah. I know.” Even my mom said that: “I know. I’ve had my suspicions since you were about three.”

    Anyway, this is my favorite story: I had a dear boyfriend for a year or so in middle school, S. We got together both identifying as straight, then both came out to each other as bi. A few moths after we broke up (we remained good friends), the two of us and our female, then-straight-identified best friend, J, decided it would be a good idea to try to form a three-way relationship. We tried very sincerely but couldn’t make it work; J and I kept trying to make out but, despite mutual desire, couldn’t bring ourselves too. (We’re all fifteen at this point.) Anyway, a few weeks later, S the ex-boyfriend comes out to me as gay: I was the first person he told, and our would-be girlfriend was the second. Fast-forward about six months and another boyfriend: I come out as a lesbian to J — she’s the very first person I tell — and then call S, making him the second. Fast-forward another year and a half; J and I start kissing and holding hands and eventually sleeping together, at which point she (belatedly…) realizes she’s bi, telling me first, of course, and then, for tradition’s sake, calling S to tell him second. So it’s a perfect, three-way circle of coming out!

    That was about a year and half ago; she’s still my girlfriend and we live together now. I have no idea what will happen over the next ten or twenty years, but if my girlfriend and I end up getting married and wanting kids, I want S to be our sperm donor.

    : )

  2. 13 October 2008 at 4:34 pm

    I came out as bi in middle school. I was more or less forced out-I’d been questioning my sexuality for a long time and wasn’t terribly quiet about it, at least for where I lived. I had pictures of David Bowie in my locker and talked about how much I liked boys in makeup. So it wasn’t long before people started saying I was a lesbian. They knew I had a friend who was bi, so eventually I just snapped and told them I was ‘like my friend’. As this was a small school and I did it at lunch, by the time the lunch hour was up the whole school knew, and then the whole small town. Made the rest of middle school hellish regarding the girls (basicaly got me thrown out of the locker room because everyone was uncomfortable around me), and I think a lot of the teachers were uncomfortable as well since I was only 13, but I definitely don’t regret it, because if I’d stayed closeted any longer I probably would have punched the next person who called me a lesbian.

  3. 3 Stephanie
    24 February 2009 at 10:11 pm

    One of my favorite coming out episodes had taken place in college while in class. Myself and fellow classmates were mounting prints in a very small and narrow hall, all making small talk about our photos.

    I was mounting nude photos of a woman when a classmate came up behind me, peering over my shoulder.

    “Woah that is bold…. who did you get to model that for you?” she said, interested by the vulnurable pose and blunt nudity.

    “Oh well it’s my girlfriend.” I said, so concentrated in my work, neglecting to realize that she had no idea of my sexual preference.

    “HAHA YOU’RE GAY!” She blurted out then turned giggling back to her own work.

    I stopped and looked up from my mounting and saw the rest of my classmates, half of which knew of my girlfriend having met her in studio, and the other half assuming that she had struck some cord.

    Not breaking to realize the silence around her, she continued.

    “HAHA that is what my mom always says when I refer to my friends as my girlfriends… you big lesbian. You’re so gay.”

    She smiled to herself and went on, but at this point, I felt sorry for her and the embarassment she would soon endure as the rest of the room looked on.

    I walked up behind her, placing my hand on her back.
    “Oh sweetheart…. I did mean my girlfriend. I am queer.”

    The poor girl was mortified as the rest of the room broke into laughter, myself included.

    Still to this day, she blushes at me as we cross paths.

    I only wish that every coming out was a cute little antidote which we can look back on and find humourous.

  4. 4 Aviva
    26 February 2009 at 1:40 am

    Stephanie — oops! I always feel a little bit bad when people have it pointed out to them that they’re making fools of themselves, but that is pretty funny. And when you go around spouting whatever your parents said without ever thinking about it, you kinda have it coming to you.

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