Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why I (FINALLY) Removed The Closet Door:"Coming Out" Pt. 3




If you've read part 1 and part 2 of this post you are now aware of the fact that I am a Lesbian.

If not, Surprise! I'm a Lesbian!

For Reelz, Y'all.

Anywho...

Now that you know, and have hopefully absorbed it and accepted it, I wanted to explain why I decided to come out this way, on the internet, rather than just come out privately to family and friends.

Before I do that, however, I want to let you know that it was both an easy and a difficult decision. I actually went back and forth about it for quite a while before I began writing that first post more than a month ago.

Originally, I dismissed the idea of posting my story. I didn't really want to make a big deal out of the fact that I chose to finally disclose the fact that I am a Lesbian, because when it comes down to it, it's really not that big of a deal, or it shouldn't be at least. 

You see, being a Lesbian is just one part of what makes me, me and I felt as though making it "official" might be sending a message that I didn't really want to send, which is that being Gay is something that I'm confessing to, as if it is wrong or something that should be kept a secret when it most certainly is not wrong, nor should it have to be kept a secret. I wouldn't write a blog post about the fact that I have some weird red freckle on my right boob, so why should I feel it necessary to come out and talk about something else about me that just happens to be a part of my DNA, like my natural hair color, or that weird red freckle?

Then, something happened to me personally that reminded me of why I did need to post my story.

Homophobia

It happened in the waiting room of my gynecologists office when I was sitting with M who I made come with me because I am a big baby and hadn't been to one in about 8 years (Disclaimer: Don't do this! It is very bad to not get your vag checked out on a regular basis!). 

Anyway, as M and I sat there and waited for my appointment (which took a really long time because my doctor had to go deliver a baby) I started noticing something peculiar happening. It was something that I may not even have noticed if it hadn't been for the fact that I had been to so many OB appointments with my husband when I was pregnant with my two kids.

We were getting stared at.

A lot.

Not cutesy little stares like the ones I would get when my husband sat in the waiting room with me all those years ago when I was pregnant with Diva and Destructo, whether I was showing or not (you know, the kind where someone looks at the cute couple, breaks out into a little half-smile, probably thinking it's cute that the boyfriend/husband chose to come along?). No, these stares were not like those kind at all. Some were actually the same kinds of stares that I see when people are fascinated by the tigers at the zoo.

Umkay, so some of these people were probably just curious. I get that. It doesn't bother me if someone does a little bit of a double take when they see M and I out in public together, because we are damn good lookin'. How can they not be jealous of our cuteness? 

Okay, because of that and also because the truth of the matter is that "we" are not the norm, so I can see how people may notice us more than they would a straight couple. It's not like I never do the same thing. For example, on the rare occasion that I go to Walmart, I often myself staring at the interesting fashion choices made by some of the other shoppers. 

Before moving on with the rest of my story, though, I do want to make it clear that we were not making some sort of Lesbian scene out of ourselves by making out, or even holding hands. We were simply leaning into each other while we talked and we only really touched when I momentarily took my feet out of my flip flops and put them on her ankle because they were freakin' freezing and I needed to warm them up (because I'm polite like that). I didn't think it was a big deal. I've seen straight couples do a hell of a lot more than that without a second look from anyone. I guess it was enough to offend a couple of people though, because their particular stares were definitely not curious. Some were even downright rude. 

Who would have thought my cute little frozen feet could be so offensive? 

Anyway, at one point, an older woman sat down across from us, looked over at both of us, and immediately looked annoyed. I figured she was probably just in a bad mood and didn't think anything of it, but then I noticed the expression on her face had changed into one of disgust. Then, after a few minutes had passed, she stood up, still staring at us, gave a huge pissed off sigh and walked around the corner to another section of the waiting room and sat down there. When we walked by her on our way to the examination room a few minutes later I caught her eye again and she gave us the same look that she had before. 

Later, I asked M if she had noticed it and she said she had. I asked her if she thought it was because the woman had realized we were a couple and if that had happened to her before and she told me, pretty nonchalantly, that things like that were a pretty common occurrence. I was not only shocked but I was also pissed. In part because it's one thing to know that hate like that exists towards others, but it's another to actually experience it yourself.

Unfortunately, what happened in the doctors office that day, hasn't been the only time we've experienced homophobia as a couple, either (aside from the fact that we can't even hold hands or hug each other in public without being stared at like we just did a triple back flip off the high dive). 

We actually experienced it again when we went up to Sundance resort last month because M somehow convinced me to risk certain death and ride some rickety chairlift to the top of some mountain, which the resort opens up specifically for people to ride every full moon during the summer and fall. It actually ended up being pretty fun (except for the few times I thought I might fall to my death).  

Apparently, though, some jerks don't understand that the point of the ride is not to be a dick by yelling out slurs (which I won't even repeat) at people that you don't even know for sure are Gay. 

Unfortunately, we happened to end up on the lift right in front of some people who must have missed that memo and they did their best to ruin my perfectly executed anxiety attack as we crept up the mountain. Luckily, we were able to laugh at how ridiculous Douche Lord's homophobia was and didn't let it end up ruining the ride for us. 

Later, while M and I were talking about the major douche lord on the chair lift and his douche bag friends who joined in, she told me she has learned to tune things like that out over the years and that it doesn't really bother her most of the time. It was then that I realized that I was going to have to learn to not let experiences like this bother me, which is not something that is easy for me to do, but I am slowly getting better at it (even though it's definitely not right for anyone, regardless of who they are, to have to deal with crap like that).

Now, I'm sure that some of you might be wondering why I would risk experiencing even more homophobia by coming out, especially on the internet where everyone can see this post. Well, I do have an answer and it's quite a simple one. It's actually because I feel like it's a way for me to show others what the consequences are when they decide act out of fear. 

Yes, fear. 

(Do you hear me, douche lord and friends?). 

That might seem weird of me to say, but think about it for a second. We, as individuals and as a society, generally fear what we do not know. Therefore, I personally feel that by coming out and showing those who know me, as well as those who don't, that I'm a real person with real feelings, that it might help some people get over their own fear, which might even end up softening some hearts a little towards me and the LGBTQ community in general. I guess I feel this way because I've experienced it for myself on several occasions when I've gotten to know people, who I prematurely judged before getting to know them. 

Okay, moving on to the other reasons why I ended up making the decision that I did:

M

When I first realized that I was definitely a Lesbian, I made one very important promise to myself, and that was that if I ever found myself in a relationship with another woman, I would not hide her, or our relationship. I knew that it would be completely disrespectful and unfair to do that to a person that I loved. 

I have to say that I really didn't think this would ever happen in a million years due to the fact that I was determined to stay closeted for my entire life and the fact that I didn't feel that I would ever meet someone who would love and accept me for who I really am.  

However, as soon as I realized that I was in love and that I was entering into a relationship, it became clear to me that I needed to begin preparing myself to "come out" and I began to do so little by little. I did so partially because I wanted to be able to share my life with M and keeping our relationship hidden wasn't the way to do that. It would be like forcing her back into the closet, which just isn't right. 

Besides she's claustrophobic so she'd probably resist, anyway.

My children

Yes, despite what some might think, I really was thinking of my children when I decided to take the closet door off. This is partially because I knew that I was a complete hypocrite. Not only that, but I was lying to them every single day. As a mother, I am continually teaching them about the importance of being honest and being true to themselves and here I was, doing the complete opposite of that. 

I think this was definitely part of the reason why it became so hard to look at myself in the mirror each day and to feel like I was doing a decent job as a mother, as well as part of the reason why I struggled so much with anxiety and depression. 

If you’ve ever struggled with depression as a parent, you understand that it can be extremely difficult to give your children what they need from you, especially emotionally, when you are depressed, which does negatively affect your relationship with them despite your best effort to not let it do so. 

I knew this was the case with me, but it really hit me when Destructo started telling everyone that all I did was spend time in my room and sleep all day (which was only partially true, but still not right). I realized then that I had to do whatever I could in order to get healthy for my children so that I could be the mom I wanted to be. This meant that I had to somehow find true happiness, which is something that I really didn't believe was possible to do. However, I had to at least try, and the only thing I hadn't tried all of these years was living honestly, so I decided to give that a try and tell my children my secret. I ended up telling Diva first and Destructo a few days later.

It was scary, but they both handled the news really well. To tell you the truth though, I was actually a lot more nervous about how others, including their friends and peers, would handle it. 

Quite frankly, it was scary as hell to think that my kids may be treated differently or teased because of my sexuality. In the end though, I realized that being honest with my children was more important. They needed a mom that they could trust and who was fully present for them, and I really wasn’t that mom until the moment I made the decision to come out.

Before I wrote the actual blog post though, I wanted to make sure that it was something that Diva would be okay with, considering half my Facebook friends are other parents and dancers at the dance studio she takes at, meaning that she sees most of them on a regular basis. Outing myself was outing her in a sense and I needed to make sure she understood what that meant and what the repercussions might be for her and our family. 

I ended up approaching her the night before I hit "publish" as she was getting ready for bed. We talked about it for quite a while and I explained that I was hesitant about publishing the post because I was still unsure of what the impact would be and how it might affect her. She surprised me a little with her response by saying that it was my decision and she was okay with whatever I decided no matter what came out of it. She also said that she thought it would be a good thing for me to share my story, especially if it helped others and that if anyone had a problem with it, she'd just "tell them to go to hell."

Isn't she just super awesome?

Other LGBTQ individuals

They say that the single important thing an LGBTQ person can do is to come out of the closet.  Not only is it considered important for our own health, but it's also important for the sake of other LGBTQ individuals, and the community as a whole. 

One of the reasons given for this, is that it is generally thought that the more people who decide to come out of the closet and live openly, the more tolerant society will become because it's much harder for those who know and love us to justify inequality and discrimination once they are aware that someone they love is negatively impacted by it. 

It also gives the community more voices, therefore more power, to change and enact legislation to provide protection and equal rights for LGBTQ individuals and families. This is very important to me because, as most of you know, I am a Social Justice nut. It's why I chose to major in Social Work and it's why I'm considering a career in Social Justice related work. I have always been passionate about equality and human rights for others. There have been many times when I felt like a hypocrite for not being open about my sexuality while I was arguing for rights for my fellow LGBTQ friends.

remember one day as I argued about discrimination with someone, a thought hit me that ended up being yet another reason why I felt that I needed to come out. 

What kind of message was I truly sending to others like me by staying closeted? 

My answer to that went something like this:

"Hey everyone! I know I am fighting for your rights and defending our community and all, but I'm actually too good to join you in truth, so I'll just sit in my closet and pretend to be someone I'm not even though I'm telling you that you should feel safe living openly." 

Convincing, right?

Not really.

What I find to be most important about coming out though, besides the benefits to our health from living honestly as well as making a political statement in support of human rights, is that it gives others who are too afraid to come out of the closet hope and support so that they can one day be ready to do so if they desire. 

I believe that if I had known there was someone just like me who could understand what I was going through and who I could talk to when I first realized who I was, that I would have saved myself and my family much heartbreak by finding my courage much earlier.

(I probably would have done a lot less stupid things too, which would have been nice and saved me some of the money that I spent on therapy.)

So, It is because of what I experienced that I really wanted to use this blog to help others see that they are not alone in their journey. I wanted to be able help others out there who are struggling like I did for all those years, because sometimes we just need one person to tell us that we are okay and that we are not alone in all of this (I happen to have a thick skull, so I needed several more than that, I guess). Anyway, I know how deeply painful it is to feel all alone in the world because I felt that way for most of my life. It's not a pretty place to be in and it can create a lot of problems for a person. LGBTQ individuals, especially teenagers, are at a higher risk for self-harm, substance abuse, and suicide.

Suicide.

I just want to let that word sink in for a little bit. 

Can you imagine wanting to die simply because you feel as though you are not worth anything or that you are somehow defective because of who you are? That everyone would be better off without having you in their lives? I can, which is why I felt it so important to take the risk of coming out. If I can help just one person by being able to identify with them and give them hope through this blog, then this whole thing is worth it in itself, aside from all of the positive impact that it's had in my life. 

While I don't pretend to think that these blog posts actually have the power to end up saving a life or to help someone make the decision to come out just by reading them, I am hopeful that I might have the privilege of being at least one voice out of the many a person might need to help them as they travel along their own path to self-acceptance.

Although I can say that once you begin to get there, it really is a beautiful thing.

{Side note: I want to make it clear that individuals who identify as LGBTQ must be allowed to come out in their own time. It is not fair to ever force one out of the closet. There are many reasons why individuals stay closeted. In my own state, we do not have protection from housing and employment discrimination, which is a huge problem for many of us. I also live in a fairly conservative state, where there is a lot of homophobia present, another reason why someone might want to stay closeted. It is NEVER okay to try to force someone out of the closet, or "out" them to ANYONE without their permission. When I first told my husband 5 years ago that I was a Lesbian, he ended up venting to a friend and "outing" me. When we decided to get back together, it created a lot of awkwardness, which my husband did apologize for. If you know or love someone who is currently in the closet, please respect them and their choice. Instead, give them all of the love and support that you can. Let them know that they are okay and that they are loved. Give them time to find their own courage. Okie Dokie?}

Myself

This is definitely the single most important reason for my decision and, like I said above, I feel that it should be the case for all LGBTQ individuals who make the decision to come out. 

It took me over 20 years, from the time I realized that I was a Lesbian as a young teenager until the time I finally came to terms with it and realized that I was sick and tired of pretending to be someone I wasn't and that I really wasn't living my life. I was living someone else's life and that it had made me miserable for far too long.

Every single thing in my life had suffered in some way or another because of my secret. 

I had told myself far too many times that superficial crap would make me happy and it never worked. 

I had told myself far too many times that if I could "just be better" I would be happy and that hadn't worked either. 

The reality finally hit me that I really didn't have much to lose by coming out besides people who wouldn't be able to accept me for who I was, and for the first time I realized that I didn't need those people in my life to make me happy. I had to make myself happy. 

So I decided to take the chance. 

The chance that I spent so many years refusing to take. 

The chance that I never thought I would take.

The chance that would hopefully end in me finding the true happiness that I had never been able to find before. 

However, I did not get to this place of happiness alone. There were many voices and events that enabled me to get there. 

There were the voices of celebrities like Ellen Page, Portia DeRossi, and, of course, Ellen DeGeneres, as well as others who had shared their personal experiences and how their lives had changed for the better after coming out, the voice and support of my best friend who continually told me that she just wanted me to be happy, the voice of my long-time therapist who helped me explore what good could come out of living my truth, rather than what bad could happen, and the voice of another therapist who once said to me, "You can never experience true happiness when you are not living authentically." 

There was one voice in particular, though, that truly helped me find the courage that had been waiting so many years to be found, and that voice belonged to M. 

I can't really say why it was her voice that ended up finally getting through to me, but I can at least say that I realized soon after I met M that I actually liked myself whenever I was with her, which was a completely new feeling that I hadn't ever felt before. I wasn't even sure why I felt that way at first, but I eventually came to the conclusion that it was because she was somehow able to make me feel safe for the first time in my life, and in that safety, I was finally able to find me. 

The true me.

The me that I had spent so many years looking for.

The me that I had almost given up on.

And once I realized that I finally found this me that had been lost so long ago, I was able to take a deep breath and start writing.

Go here to read part 4!