So I suppose the best place to start is with my own story. My coming out story is not full of glitter and unicorns, but it’s not full of venom and the fires of Hell, either.
They say hindsight is 20/20, and I believe it. Looking back, I realize my lesbianism was prominent as a child. I didn’t play with Barbies and Easy Bake ovens. I was a tomboy, and my toy chest was full of Micro Machines and G.I. Joes. I played baseball with the boys. Ironically, there was this game we would play, a free-for-all football game where everyone would try and tackle the person carrying the football. I carried the football most of the time. The name of the game? Smear the Queer.
I always cringed when someone would call someone else a ‘fag’. Those words, like faggot and dyke, stirred the same reaction in me as words like ‘cunt’ and the n-word. I can’t even type it, it bothers me so much. But it was a natural reaction, not something taught to me by my parents. It was automatic that I hated these words. This is rather ironic considering I grew up in a very Conservative household, one where Rush Limbaugh graced the living room and kitchen every day.
I used to have really sexually charged dreams about women when I was young. The youngest I can remember, was when I was 8. I never thought they were wrong, but I never told anyone either. It was in my mind, where everything was safe and nothing was subject to debate.
When I was 11, I was diagnosed with leukemia. I relapsed when I was 17, so my teen years were not like those of my peers. I didn’t have the opportunity to explore any aspect of sexuality during those times. I was busy fighting for my life, not the affections of the star quarterback. During that time, my focus was completely somewhere else. I never went on a date, was never asked to any dances. I spent my high school years as everyone’s friend. As the ‘sick kid’ that everyone knew. And that was fine by me. That entire time, not once did I face the pressure of having sex or the worries of teen pregnancy.
I graduated high school, and went off to the local community college. I lived at home and had a full-time job. I wasn’t really out on my own, because I’d still come home to mom, Imus, and Rush. However, I finally had the opportunity to explore my sexuality. I found a gay and lesbian website with a chat room, and started talking to women on this site. I started to realize that I always found women more attractive than men. I felt incredibly comfortable flirting online with women. It was easy, natural. It came as normally to me as putting on pants.
I’ll never forget my first experience in a gay bar. I walked down the stairs and into the crowd. The lights were flashing and the music was loud. And I was home. I was so comfortable and at ease. I met some incredible people, and for the first time in my life, I was being hit on. I felt attractive and desired and wanted. The people here were accepting of me, and even they didn’t question whether or not I belonged. Again, I had come home.
I started going to the bar on Fridays and Saturdays. And this is when things became a bit more complicated. When I realized my homosexuality, I knew I couldn’t tell my parents. So I came up with stories about where I was going.
“Oh, I’m going out to the bar with some friends from work.”
“I’m going to the bar with Stephanie and some of the guys. Their names? Oh…uh, Mark, Jack, Peter…”
Suddenly I felt like Jan Brady talking about her non-existent boyfriend, George Glass.
Eventually I found myself in a relationship. We would meet up at the bar, hang out on the weekends. I was 22 or 23, and still living at home. My bouts with cancer in my teen years forced me to experience other aspects of growing up a bit later than most, including getting my own apartment and living on my own. The relationship was going well, except during holidays. Her family lived out of state, and when the holidays rolled around, I was faced with a dilemma.
I hadn’t come out to my parents, so how in the world could I possibly bring my girlfriend to family functions? The answer? I didn’t. I went to family functions by myself, leaving my girlfriend to her own devices. Was it wrong? Yes. But I saw no other way at the time. She came to me, and told me how much it bothered her. That was when I decided to come out.
I knew it wouldn’t go that easily. My ‘cover’ had nearly been blown on several occasions, including a time when a lesbian friend called and left a message on the answering machine for me. Her and her girlfriend wanted to hang out. My mom confronted me about the message, saying that ‘some dyke’ had called for me, and why was she calling me? I lied through my teeth. Poorly. I said I had no idea who it was. I was about as believable as organized religion.
I knew how my Dad would react. Laid-back, relaxed Dad would shrug his shoulders, joke about it, and in the end tell me that I’m his daughter, and he loves me no matter what. My Mom, on the other hand, would probably kick me out, if not disown me. So I decided to tell them separately.
I wrote a letter to Mom ahead of time. Straightforward and to the point, I wrote that I was a lesbian, and I was coming out, but that didn’t change who I was. I got home from work later at night, and Dad got home around the same time. We sat up and I told him I was a lesbian, and he nodded his head, gave me a hug, and told me that I’m his daughter, and that he loves me no matter what. He then went and got Mom. She sat down on the couch, and I handed her the letter. She crumpled it up and threw it at me, and told me to grow up and just tell her what I needed to.
I told her. “Mom, I’m a lesbian.”
I’ll never forget her response.
“Not in my house. I will not have that around my daughter.”
She was talking about my younger sister. I was confused. Was she disowning me? Was I no longer her daughter? I knew I had to leave. I told her I had a place to live, because I did figure she would kick me out. I packed a bag and left that night. My Mom didn’t disown me, but the fact that she ‘suddenly’ had a homosexual daughter, was a taboo topic. It didn’t get discussed.
My Mom passed away in 2006 from cancer. When she was diagnosed, I moved home to take care of her. I felt it was my duty, even though our relationship would never be like what her and my sister had. Mom spent the last few weeks of her life in Hospice, and the night before she passed, she called me to her bedside. There she told me she was sorry that we weren’t as close as she had wanted. She also told me she was proud of me, that she was always proud of me.
In that moment, I had achieved perfect acceptance by my Mom. It wasn’t direct or deliberate, but it didn’t matter. She didn’t have to say that she accepted my homosexuality, but all my life I had striven to hear those words. Everything I did, I presented to her, in the hopes that I’d hear her say she was proud of me. She was proud. She was filled with pride when she looked at me. That was acceptance for me.
She passed at 5:30 the next morning, in her sleep. It was peaceful, and the end to a painful journey for her. But she left knowing that any rift between us was healed, and that her daughter knew that Mom loved her, and most importantly, was proud of her.
Pride is a big deal in the GLBT community. Pride in who we are as a people. But pride comes in many forms. And for me, there’s nothing quite like the pride of knowing your family loves you for who you are. I’m proud of who I am, and although it took a while, my Mom let me know she’s proud of who I am as well.
It’s never too late to feel true acceptance.
So that’s my story. Like I said, no glitter and unicorns, but no demons, either.
What’s your story?