Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Removing the Closet Door: "Coming Out" Pt. 2

 If I had only known...

In my last post, I shared a big secret that I'd been keeping for approximately 20 years. If you haven't read it, you can go here to do so. It was pretty much the most important post that I've ever written and I still don't fully know the effects of it. Whatever they are though, I'm glad that I finally had the courage to do it.

I'm sure that those of you who read it probably have a lot of questions, especially those of you who are friends and family members of mine. I will attempt to address some of them in this particular post.

First, I want to say that I was born this way. I did not choose to be a Lesbian. I think it's very important that I say this because, eventually, if we repeat it enough, us Gays (and our allies) might get it through some of your straight heads that we are human beings just like everyone else, we can't change our "gayness" any more than a straight person can't change their "straightness". We can hide it, just like you can hide it (which is, of course, what I did for waayyy too long.), but that can make for a pretty difficult life. Mmmkay?

All right. Moving on...

I don't remember much of my early childhood, which I guess isn't very common. I do remember being 8 and realizing that I was different than others, even though I didn't know how I was different than them. I just never quite felt like I fit in. When I was in 5th grade, I remember trying to hold my friend's hand and her getting really embarrassed because, as she put it, "girls weren't supposed to do that anymore" as she let go.

It wasn't until I was 13 or 14 though, that I knew for sure that I was Gay, when a little light bulb went off in my head after I got a crush on one of my female teachers at school. It was around that time that I also realized that I had never really noticed boys in the same way that I noticed girls, and I never really had the same feelings for them that other girls seemed to have. I was pretty ambivalent, actually. The only thing I did know was that I could never, ever tell anyone about what I'd discovered about myself. I saw how much kids made fun of other kids who they just suspected were Gay and I was NOT going to be one of those kids!

It was then that I started my acting career. I played the straight, boy crazy, teenage girl and made sure that everyone "knew" that I liked boys and not girls. In order to "prove" this, I even became a little promiscuous with a couple of them, even though I remember laying there during sex feeling absolutely nothing, aside from some chafing.

I  did have one boyfriend in high school, who I didn't sleep with, probably because he was also Gay (He ended up coming out a few months after we broke up). We were still really good friends, though and we even went to our Senior Ball together. The day of the dance, we went to an amusement park with a group of other kids. While we were there, I finally got up the guts to tell him my little secret. I knew of all people he would understand and be there for me.

I remember getting really shaky as I brought it up to him.

I think it went kinda like this:

"Hey, Matt?...Ummm....How did you realize that you liked guys?...Ummm....because....I ....think. Well, I think I might like girls."

He replied with a little smile, while he grabbed my hand and winked at me. "Oh, don't worry! Everybody has a little Gay in them. You're just fine."

(Matt, you and I need to have a serious talk...)

Well, that was a relief! I wasn't a Lesbian after all, I was just like everybody else! Phew!

Only I was. I just didn't want to be. Deep down, I knew this.

I was already so insecure about so many other things. Being Gay was just one more thing about me that was "wrong" and I just couldn't deal with it. I had grown up in a Mormon community where little girls were supposed to grow up, find a man, get married, and have babies and even though I stopped going to church when I was 16,  I had spent years in Sunday school being taught that it was the right thing to do.

So that's what I did.

I met a wonderful guy, and as weird as it seems, I did really fall in love with him. He was kind and loving and he treated me well. Nobody else had ever made me feel special like he did. He really was an amazing guy. I don't think I consciously tried to forget who I really was, but I think I let my desire for being "normal", which to me, meant getting married and living happily ever after, take over.

He asked me to marry him when I was still 18. We married when I was 19 and by 20, I was a mom. I became a mom again at 26 with our second child.

Looking back, I realize now that I never had time to really figure out who I was and come to terms with it. I was too busy trying to do everything possible to cover it up, and making sure my life moved forward at 90 miles an hour was my way of doing that.

Every once in a while, I would realize that my attraction to women wasn't just a curiosity, but the thought of giving up a life that I had purposely and carefully manufactured was too terrifying, so I continued to pretend to be someone I wasn't, which ended up causing a lot of pain in my life. However, I would never regret getting married or having my children. Without them, I would have been even more lost. Yes, living a manufactured life was extremely difficult and painful, but it also taught me a lot of lessons along the way and I really do feel that it was the path that I was meant to take.

Anyway, after 15 years of hiding who I was, I finally told my therapist in 2009. We discussed it for almost a year before I finally had the courage to tell my husband. At first my husband and I were optimistic. We read about other couples like us and how they dealt with what's called a "Mixed Orientation Marriage". Some opened up their marriages and just lived together like roommates. Some remained intimate, but the Gay spouse dated outside the marriage. Some stayed monogamous without any changes. We discussed all of these possibilities and also decided to try counseling, but our counselor was not a good one. She was not helpful in any way and we left our sessions more confused than we were when we went in. Not wanting to put our kids through a divorce, and not wanting to cause more pain for either one of us, we chose to stay monogamous. A few months later though, he told me he just couldn't do it anymore, and we decided to separate in early 2011.

The separation was hard on both of us. We had been together for so many years and now we had to learn to be alone. We moved into the same apartment complex, but into different apartments thinking that it would be best for the kids, but it only made things worse by blurring the lines. He didn't seem to be able to know how to give me my own space and independence and I didn't seem to know how to set those boundaries. I think it also made it harder for the kids because they didn't have a routine and they didn't understand why dad could come over and watch movies with mom one night, but that he would eventually have to go home.

While we were separated, my husband didn't date and I only dated one or two people. After several months of both of us being unhappy, we decided during Christmas break, that we would move back in with each other for our children. I guess we figured that if we weren't any happier apart from each other, we may as well be together for our kids. Besides that, we were still really good friends, so why not give it the old college try?

In hindsight, it wasn't the smartest thing to do...

However, moving back in together did mean that I could continue to keep hiding my secret from everyone I knew, with the exception of my best friend and one other friend that I had told. As far as everyone else was concerned, I was "Holly Housewife" and I wanted to keep it that way. There were times when I would think about telling my dad, or my other family members, but I was always able to stop myself just in time. I guess I just wasn't ready.

Things went pretty well for us after we got back together and we generally got long pretty well, too. We thought we were doing so well, in fact, that last year we decided to build a new home for our family because we wanted to give our children the stability that we felt they needed after moving around so much.

Again, that wasn't the smartest thing to do, but we thought it was the right thing to do.

I started having panic attacks shortly after our money became non-refundable. I knew in my heart that I was making a mistake, but my heart ended up being overridden by my desire to give my children a stable, normal, happy childhood, unlike the one that I had. I mistakenly thought that by being my true self, I would be doing a disservice to them. Let me unequivocally state right now that if you are a parent, you are doing a disservice to your children by NOT being your true self. I know that in my case, I had a harder time being the kind of mom they needed because I was too scared to be myself first, and a mom second.

I did tell my husband about half way through construction that I really didn't think I could promise him any type of future. I knew deep down that I was starting to get tired of being someone who I wasn't. In what he now admits was denial, he took my hand and kissed it and said we would be okay. I repeated myself again and still he assured me it would be okay.

But it wasn't okay, obviously.

Shortly before the house was finished, I approached him again and said that I wanted him to think about living in separate bedrooms. We weren't the happily married couple that we were trying to be and I wasn't the straight Susie Homemaker that I was trying to be. It had become extremely difficult to sleep next to him every night, knowing that I could never give the kind of love that he deserved, more so knowing that I could never give him a part of myself that every person should be able to give to the person they love. Often times, I would lay next to him at night, staring at him while he was sleeping, with tears rolling down my cheeks. I would wish and wish that I could be the wife that he deserved, but I knew that there was no fairy godmother out there to grant that wish.

I knew that this role that I was playing, that I had played for so long, was about to end, but I was terrified of what my life would look like without the security of that role. I had grown so comfortable with living my lies that I couldn't even wrap my head around the idea of living my truth. My lies were predictable and safe. My truth was not.

However, the lies were really becoming to difficult to live with. I often slept until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, just so that I didn't have to face the day. I started to avoid my husband because of the pain I felt when I looked at him. I started to withdraw from my family, my friends, and even my children. It was becoming more and more difficult to say why mommy wasn't feeling well today, when mommy didn't feel well yesterday either. Sometimes I would even wish while I was falling asleep at night, that I wouldn't ever have to wake up again. It was starting to get pretty scary in my head and I was starting to feel myself sink even deeper into depression.

Then one day, as I laid in bed counting the hours away, it hit me. I was going to have to make a choice. I could live as the person that I truly am and always was, or I could live as the person who I wanted everyone to think I was. The latter hadn't been working out for me for quite a long time. So, for the first time in my life, I chose to start working on the former.

One night, as we sat watching T.V., I  finally told my husband about everything that I was going through and we started talking. We talked all night long. It was a very deep conversation, maybe the deepest we've ever had, and it opened up the gates for some other really deep conversations between the two of us. It was after several of those conversations that we decided the best thing to do was to start sleeping in separate bedrooms, and prepare for separate lives. We realized that we both needed to be happy one day and that it was never going to happen if we continued to pretend like we were something that we weren't.

A lot has happened since then.

My husband and I have continued to sleep in separate bedrooms and we no longer live as a husband and wife. Basically, we are roommates. Our plan is to try to keep this home for our children if it's at all possible and we are in the process of figuring everything out when it comes to that and other things. At this point, we wouldn't be able to sell it anyway because we are bound by our HOA agreement which states that we cannot sell it for a predetermined amount of time. I think this is probably the part that is hardest for people to understand about our situation, but it is working for us. In our minds, we are separated and will eventually be divorced. The fact that we live in the same house doesn't change that for us. We have separate finances and separate social lives, and yes, separate dating lives.

We sat down with Diva a few weeks ago and I told her the truth with my husband sitting next to me for support. I could not have asked for a better response from her. She has been amazing. She told me right away that I was still her mom and she still loved me no matter what, Gay or straight. She has continued to be supportive. I have to say it makes me pretty proud that I've raised such a loving and accepting child. Her support means everything to me.

I also told my dad, brother, and sister the truth,which is something I never thought I would be able to do. Unfortunately, I don't exactly have an adorable YouTube video to show you with everybody cheering and clapping their hands, but I'm hoping they will come around.

I've also told some more of my friends and have found a lot of support there, so far. However, I'm still well aware that not everyone will be supportive and that not everyone will want to remain in my life.

Speaking of dating...

I'm actually in a relationship with an amazing person, who I will call M. She makes me very happy and I hope I make her happy too. My husband has met her and they get along pretty well, even though I know it's not easy for him. My children have also met her and they both like her. Diva and M love to joke around together and are always sending funny little texts to each other. In fact, M is actually one of the reasons why I decided it was time to come out, though she has never pressured me to do so. I love her and I'm proud to have her in my life. That's not something that should be hidden. The one promise I made to myself during all those years that I was too scared to tell people who I was, was that if I ever did meet someone I would never hide them. I just don't feel like it's right to hide the person that you love.

(Okay, maybe if they're really ugly....)

Anywhooo....You might still be wondering why I, not only made the decision to come out, but why I also decided to share such a personal story with you. Lucky for you, I'm planning on explaining all of this in my next post.

For now, I'm just hoping that this particular post helped you understand even more about me and my journey. Maybe it will help some of you out there who are Gay see that there is one more person in the world who knows what it's like to go through what you are going through. Maybe it will help some of you who are straight, but who have friends or relatives who are Gay, understand a little bit more about what it can be like for us prior to the moment that we tell you that we are Gay.

If you'd like to know more about my journey, you can go move on to part 3 in order to find out why I decided to share my story.



It's Time to Remove My Closet Door: "Coming Out" Pt.1

We all have secrets we keep.

Some are pretty small and innocuous, causing no harm and we may even forget we kept them.

Some of them are quite the opposite though, and these are the secrets that often cause the greatest harm to both the secret keeper and to those who the secret is kept from.

Those of us that carry the burden of these types of secrets eventually learn to live with them as a constant companion, along with the guilt and shame that often accompanies them. They weigh heavily on us, but we still do everything we can to try to protect them. For some reason, we feel that the outcome from sharing these deep, dark secrets will be far worse than the pain that we feel from keeping them. The pain, however, is relentless. It never dissipates and it never goes away no matter how hard we try to ignore it. In fact, the opposite happens. It continues to get worse. We suffer and our relationships suffer. However, we still remain silent. Nothing, we tell ourselves, is worth the cost of sharing our secret, so we lie instead.

We lie to our friends. We lie to our family. Most of all, we lie to ourselves.

We become excellent actors and actresses that continually deliver Oscar winning performances every single minute of every single day.

We manufacture incredible facades that even we can become fooled by.

We do everything possible to make our horrible secret go away.

and still, it refuses to leave.

(In fact, it raises the finger at us.)

I happen to know a lot about secrets like the ones that I am describing, because for the last 20 or so years, I've been carrying the burden of hiding my own deep, dark secret and in doing so, I've watched myself  lie to everyone I love, terrified that I would be hated by them if I dared tell them the truth. I've watched my relationships suffer because of these lies, I've watched myself become deeply depressed because of my inability to make my secret go away no matter how hard I wished it to and I've also watched myself do some pretty self-destructive things as a result.

My particular secret nearly killed me.

More than once.

However, none of the actions and consequences above were ever enough to get me stop hiding, so instead I  stood and cheered for those who proudly stand up for their rights, while staying silent about how those rights pertained to me. I watched others bravely tell their truth, while hiding mine. I taught my children the importance of not being afraid to be who they are, while being terrified of who I am, and I argued passionately for equality and compassion, while refusing to share my reasons for being so passionate.


Because, of fear.

Fear of what people would think.

Fear of what people would say.

Fear of what people would do.

Fear of what my life would look like if I were to tell people the truth.

I cannot begin to tell you what a toll it takes on someone who lives in a constant state of fear, but I will tell you as someone who has lived in that state for the majority of my life that it's absolutely exhausting and eventually you realize your either going to die in that state, without ever fully enjoying your life or you're going to have to get tired of living that way and then do something about it.

Luckily, I got tired.

I got tired of being scared.

I got tired of lying.

I got tired of being someone I wasn't.

Most of all, I got tired of keeping a secret that nobody should feel like they have to keep.

So after several years of therapy along with the support of the very few people on this entire earth who knew my secret, I  finally decided to stop hiding and masquerading as someone else, and to start living my life instead of the one that I manufactured. I decided that I was going to live as the real me. Not the me that I had created.

The real me is a 34 year old, Stay-At-Home mom of two living somewhere in Salt Lake City, Utah. I'm also a college student majoring in Social Work. I live in a cute little house with a picket fence, and drive a 2005 Honda Pilot with 160,000 miles on it. I recycle religiously and feel terribly guilty when I don't. I spend way too many hours driving kids to and from lessons, helping with last minute school projects, and nagging them to brush their teeth. When I have the time, I like to play with my makeup collection or work on various home decor projects. I love cupcakes, Diet Coke, the color pink, and social documentaries. One of my greatest dreams is to see the Eiffel Tower and if I could live anywhere, it would be on a beach, preferably a tropical one. I enjoy quoting lines from several of my favorite movies, including, Wayne's World, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Empire Records, and Dumb and Dumber. I wear yoga pants just to make people think that I give a crap about physical fitness and my lucky number is 5. I'm also a lesbian.

There you have it.

My secret, the one that I've been carrying around for the majority of my life, is now no longer a secret, and unless you think yoga pants are something that a person should be ashamed of,  you probably guessed correctly by assuming that it is the last sentence in the above paragraph, the one that contained just four little words (Well, five if you count "I'm" as "I am"), as that secret.

I'll let you have a minute to let that sink in, in case you need it.

In the meantime, here's a visual aid for those of you who learn better that way.

I guess this means that I'm officially "out" now.

All it took was 20 plus years of hell and the four cupcakes I ate while writing this post.

{I guess that means that, in addition to being a Lesbian, I'm also procrastinator and a stress eater.}

The important thing though, aside from the fact that I obviously need a cupcake intervention, is that the hell that comes with living a false life is finally over. I no longer have to live with the weight of  that huge secret on my shoulders. I no longer have to live with the fear of someone figuring it out, and I no longer have to live with it haunting me no matter how hard I tried to ignore that it existed.

I can finally live a real life now, rather than the one that I created out of fear and I can finally live this real life as who I really am, rather than as a character that I created.

I can live. I mean, really live, which is something that I honestly never thought would happen. It certainly wasn't easy. In fact, my journey to this new place is definitely the hardest one that I have ever taken in my life. As a matter of fact, It took years to get here. Years of living in denial and trying to convince myself that I could live as someone who I wasn't. Years of feeling like a hypocrite because I could accept, love, and fight for the rights of others like me, but just couldn't seem to accept, love, and fight for myself.Years of pretending. Years of lying. and years of fear.

But, I finally did it.

I finally got to a place where I could look at my reflection in the mirror and have one less reason to hate myself.

I finally got to a place where I could look another LGBTQ person like me in the eye and not feel the guilt associated with being a coward and a hypocrite.

I finally got to a place where I can handle the loss of family and friends because they are unable to accept me due to the fact that I'm a Lesbian.

I finally got to a place where I can handle being judged, treated differently, and even hated for who I am (even though it still pisses me off).

I finally got to a place where I can say the words, "I'm Gay" out loud so that others can hear it, instead of just whispering them silently to myself, hoping nobody would ever figure my secret out.

I finally got to a place where I can be me.

And that's a good place to be.

I have to say that it's also a much better place than the one where I was all those years ago when I realized that I wasn't like the other girls I knew who would argue over who was cuter on Saved by the Bell, Zach or Slater, while I sat quietly next to them paying far more attention to Kelly Kapowski, but not really understanding why, and it sure as hell is a much better place than the one that I was in for a couple decades after I realized that I was different than those other girls, but refused to move from because I was too scared of what people would think or say.

So, I think I'll stay here in this groovy little place a while and enjoy it, if you don't mind. Actually, I think I'll stay here even if you do mind, so mind or don't mind. That's completely up to you.

In either case, I'm still the same person I was before you read this post. I haven't changed at all during the time that it has taken you to read it. The only thing that's changed is that you now know about a part of me that you didn't know about before you started reading and now that you know about that part of me, you get to choose what to think about me from here on out. I hope that you will still accept me, but even if you don't, I'll be okay.

I'll live.

I've lived through much worse.



P.S. - Obviously, there is much more to the journey that I've taken to get to where I am now, and I'm sure that some of you would like to know more about it, what my current situation is, and why I finally decided to come out. I apologize that I didn't include it in this post, but I will be posting more about it all very soon. I promise.

P.P.S. - Sincere apologies to any of you who feel misled because you were expecting a blog post about my real closet door.

(Update: You can read part 2 by going here )