Coming Out…Over and Over and Over
By Carol Rood
I had a fairly normal life. I grew up with two brothers, a mother, a father. We moved around some when I was little (born in Phoenix, spent three years in Colorado, 5 years in Southern California, and finally landed in Connecticut). My family was a bit dysfunctional, but we were okay for the most part. We went on family trips. My brothers and I fought. My mother was ALWAYS on a diet, my dad went to work in the city and came home to the ‘burbs. A typical 70’s family.
I was a typical teenage girl. I talked on the phone incessantly. I had a diary. Had lots of boyfriends, and struggled with high school cliques and popularity contests. I had a part time job, and hung out with my friend and shopped. Normal teenaged girl.
When I graduated high school I moved out of my parents’ house because they were just too strict and I “NEEDED MY FREEDOM”. I actually shouted that at my parents when I moved out. What a fucking turd I was. Really, was it so bad that my parents wanted to charge me $50.00 a month for rent? My mother even offered to pay me $5.00 an hour to do ironing for her, thereby giving me an opportunity to “earn” my rent. Nope, no good for my sorry teenaged ass. I “needed” my freedom. So I traded my parents’ house in a safe middle class neighborhood and their cheap rent to move in with a girl I worked with at the grocery store. I went from my parents’ house to an apartment on the second floor in a not so safe neighborhood in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I went from food and heat and security, to very little food, limited money for gas, and struggling enough that I had to get a second job so I could choose to either put gas in my car, or eat. STUPID!!
However, when I moved out something even more dramatic changed for me. It was after I moved in with Pam (I think her name was) that I met Kathleen. Now when you read her name, you need to imagine her name being said with music playing and a pretty face with long black hair floating in one of those conversation bubbles with shimmering stars behind her face. THAT would be how it was back then. Kathleen was pretty, funny, and (said with a whisper) … a lesbian…
She was not looking for a relationship, but apparently a fresh-faced, pretty, 18-year-old girl with a curiosity about her was too much for her to resist, and our little friendship blossomed into MUCH more…
Suffice it to say that Kathleen was the first woman I ever kissed in an other than “you’re my best friend” way. She was also the first woman to break my heart. We had a great time together in the beginning. However, when I went to boot camp a few months after we started dating, my mail went from cards every day, to letters once a week, to the dreaded “Dear Jane” letter, then it was over. I cried. I moved on.
Since that time I have been in relationships with both men and women (no not at the same time you twisted people), and although I enjoyed being with both men and women, I always enjoyed my relationships with women more. Somehow for me the relationship had a depth that was missing in my relationships with men.
I have been in a wonderful relationship with my Bluebell for 8 years. We are very happy. We love each other very much. We share our lives. We argue, we laugh, we raise our kids, and we are truly happy with each other.
By now you are probably wondering where I am going with this? I was wondering that too, but don’t fret I actually DO have a point.
My point is that recently I learned about National Coming Out Day (NCOD). I did some research and found out that National Coming out Day has been going on since 1988. I didn’t know that. Did you?
Well, I think it is wonderful that there is a day set aside for people to rejoice in themselves and announce their identity to the world. For many it is truly a celebration. A day where they finally let friends and family know who they are, and whom they love. It can be a wonderful, joyous, liberating experience. It can also be filled with anxiety, concern, and plain stark terror. What if they reject me? What if they don’t like me anymore? What if my parents, brothers, sisters, friends will no longer associate with me? You might be able to guess, or hope, or predict what others will think, but until that moment of declaration happens you won’t truly know.
I am a glass half full kind of girl. The kind who always tries to see things through rose colored glasses and find the positive in EVERY situation. Bluebell tends to be a bit of a Negative Nelly, seeing the negative side of things. That is why we are such a great match. We balance each other. And even though I try to always look at the positive side of things, I am also a realist and so for that reason I want to tell anyone who is going to come out someday, or might come out someday, or is thinking about it: IT WILL NEVER BE OVER!!!!
Now, don’t get your knickers in a knot. I am not saying that coming out is bad!! I like being open about who I am and whom I love, but it is not a one time deal. I come out over and over and over again and again and again and again. When you start a new job and someone asks about your significant other you can chose to come out or not. When/if you have kids you can choose to come out to the teachers and administration or not. When you meet new people you can choose to come out or not. Can you see where I am going with this? It is often a weekly, if not daily decision.
I am a skin care specialist for a leading dermatologist. I have new clients on a regular basis. If it is someone I see regularly and frequently (most of my clients see me every two weeks, or at least monthly), at some point they will ask me about my family. I always talk about my kids, but usually leave my marital situation out of the conversation. However, at some point it inevitably comes up…..sigh….
Truthfully, there are some GLBT who are very open about who they are, indicative by their dress, mannerisms, and speech; however, there are many of us who you wouldn’t “know” just by looking at us. I am a feminine woman, I am a “girly girl”, and no one ever “suspects” that I am gay. So very often someone will innocently ask about my husband (I am a middle aged woman with kids, so that is fairly common). Right then I have a choice to make….do I tell them about Bluebell? Do I fib? Should I be evasive?
Most of the time I am honest. And once the words are out, “No, I don’t have a husband, I have a partner,” I cringe a little inside. Most times there is a small pause while the person thinks about what I have just said. I have to be honest and say that 98% of the time after that quick pause the person says, “Oh,” and then goes on to tell me how it is okay that I am gay and relates a story about someone they know who is gay. Their hair dresser, friend, family member, neighbor, etc. They almost always say something like, “It doesn’t bother me. It is okay that you are gay.” I knew it was okay already, but I appreciate their letting me know it doesn’t bother them. Then we move on to other topics. However, now that I think about it, I realize that I don’t usually “come out” to anyone until I know them for awhile. I guess my philosophy is:
1) If they like me before I tell them and then they don’t like me afterwards, that tells me more about them than about me.
2) People don’t generally start a new acquaintance with giving lots of personal information about themselves, unless it is your physician……
I suppose the point to my rambling today is that I am happy there is a “National Coming Out Day” to celebrate and give voice to so many people who can open themselves up on that day. However, we should be honest, and say that every day has the potential to be a “Coming Out Day” for anyone who is “other than” heterosexual. So it really should be “National Coming Out Day …….Over and Over and Over”.