By: Shannon Ralph
Today was National Coming Out Day. Only, I forgot to come out. In the excitement over starting my new job, I momentarily forgot to come out. As a matter of fact, I momentarily forgot I was gay altogether. As we did introductions around the conference room table at the “Welcome Shannon” breakfast potluck this morning, I shared about my children and my dog and how excited I was to be starting a new chapter in my professional life. I did not purposely leave out the whole lesbian thing. I simply forgot. I forgot that I was a tad different. I forgot that I was a sexual minority. I forgot that my family was not the same as every other family represented around that conference room table.
It was kind of nice to forget. It was pleasant to feel just like everyone else. It’s a testament to my friends and family and the city and state I live in that I am capable of forgetting my gayness. Of course, it didn’t last long. By not saying that I was gay, every person on that team assumed I was straight. At lunch on the first day with my coworkers, I got the question. THE question. We were discussing my being a transplant from the south when one of my new coworkers asked, “So is your husband from Kentucky, too?” Ummm…hmmm….uhhhh….no.
No matter how comfortable I am with being a lesbian —no matter how proud I am to be Ruanita’s partner and one of my children’s two moms—I am still blind-sided by this question every time. The response is really quite simple. “I don’t have a husband. I have a partner and yes, she’s from Kentucky, too.” That is how I answered the question. And that is how I answered the same question a couple of hours later when it was asked a second time by a different coworker. Both times, I did so with eyes averted and after a bit of unintentional humming and hawing. Why? Why do I respond in this way? Why do I allow myself to be caught off guard by the question?
I think even in the out, loud, and proud world I inhabit, there is still a tiny bit of me —a miniscule part of my psyche— that is afraid of the response I will get. I hate that I respond in this way. I hate that I stumble over the question. I hate that I hesitate. I hate that I care what others think. Will people dislike me because I am gay? Will people judge me? Will people make assumptions about me? Or my partner? Or my children? Will I be made to feel like an “other”?
That was not the case today. As a matter of fact, that is very seldom the case. Rarely am I made to feel like an outsider. I am lucky in that regard. I am lucky to have been completely embraced and uplifted by all of the straight people in my life. I look forward to the day when my gayness can be as much a non-issue to me as it is to everyone around me. Perhaps when my family has the same rights as all other families, then I can answer the husband question without averting my eyes. Without concern for the responses of others. Until that time, I am a work in progress. Proud of who I am and trying to live that pride every day.