It’s true what people say: you never stop coming out.
That is especially true if you’re a femme-presenting lesbian. I don’t have the haircut, and I only own one plaid shirt. I’m still on my first pair of Doc Martens.
I have had to come out many times and am doing that again, right here. For all the gravity that seems to be associated with Coming Out, I still don’t really get how I’m supposed to feel about it. Relieved? Nervous? Nauseous?
It probably depends on the reaction of the receiver of the Coming Out. Almost always, there’s some surprise, but most people are polite enough to hide it. Sometimes, I’m met with disapproval, which is still always surprising. I guess sexuality is one of the few things that strangers can acceptably have an opinion about.
One of the most confusing parts about realizing I’m not interested in guys is just how long I spent thinking I was straight. I had that message reflected back at me every time I looked in the mirror and saw someone girly and when my friends gave me knowing looks about that new guy I was hanging out with.
Doing what didn’t feel right was a way of meeting expectations, and I thought that when I came out, I would disappoint a lot of people. I was also so in love with the guys that came into my life that I didn’t recognize that the love wasn’t romantic.
I saw my gay guy friends come out in high school at parties full of friends and proceed to get happy-drunk while spilling their guts, letting loose a secret that had been weighing on them so heavily for so many years, so I expected that when I came out, I’d feel that instant relief. I’d suddenly understand everything, all my tics and anxieties. And for a long time, I tried to make that idea fit.
It turns out that being gay doesn’t exempt you from regular worries and misunderstandings. All the things I had to deal with before - depression, anxiety, insecurity, confusion - are still a part of my life and will be as I continue to figure out who I am. It sounds a little obvious, but it took me a while to realize I’m more than A Lesbian, and that being part of the LGBTQ+ community isn’t the only thing that I’m part of.
Everybody has secrets and parts of their personalities that they hide - secret compartments in their lives that might be too painful or complicated to explain. You don’t have to be in the closet to feel like you’re not quite being sincere or true to yourself. It’s just a human thing.
Most of us are trying to find ourselves and where we fit on the spectrum of everything from careers to having kids to sobriety to politics, all things that are probably going to be influenced by the expectations of family and friends.
I expected my sexual orientation to set me apart. Instead, it made me realize how much I have in common with everyone else who’s got it about half figured out and is faking the other parts. By the way, faking it ‘til you make it does not work with liking guys or anyone that you don’t like of your own volition (lesson learned).
Coming out isn’t a problem solver or even a weight off, especially knowing I’m going to have to do it at all of my new jobs and to friends I haven’t seen in a few years and to the guy aggressively staring me down at The Good Will.
But it is honest, and that feels pretty good.
Published in Volume 71, Number 14 of The Uniter (January 5, 2017)