Reminding ourselves ‘this is about love‘
February 16, 2012 | 12:00 am
(Updated: March 29, 2013 | 2:17 pm)
Coming out to myself took a sensible, ahem, 20 years. Coming out to everyone else was of the Band-Aid style – one motion, right off.
I laid it all out for my family, most of my friends and at the office: my parents via “The Letter” and everyone else via “The Explanation,” with simmering courage, attempts at eye contact and increasingly rehearsed segues executed with a cracking voice.
While the lead-up was an ordeal, I came out triumphant. Saying the words “I’m gay” did set me free. (What’s that they say about the truth?) What I wasn’t prepared for was the reaction: complete support from corners where I had gloves on ready to defend, and apprehension, doubt, and borderline suspicion from places where I thought I’d be covered.
Before that, I’d openly identified as bisexual and everyone knew about girls I crushed on or hooked up with – I’d even confided in some friends that I still struggled with my truth. But few of the wonderful queers I told I was gay – two of whom had known me for years and one just a few months; two fully out and one struggling privately – were uncomfortable with the news. How could this be? I thought the straight people would be the ones to double-take, not those in my community.
It almost broke my heart to see some of my non-hetero-conforming friends nearly shudder, or even laugh at my news.
What’s up with the reaction from the LGBTQ friends who didn’t get it? Weren’t they supposed to scoop me up in an epic hug, twirl me around, and sweep me off for a cocktail at Double Daughters? Talk about off-base.
Was it because it was too hard for them to let go of the window they saw me through? Was it my circumstances? Were they worried for me? Did they think I didn’t know what I was in for?
Or was it because they were not comfortable with their own queerness?
I think all of the above. Upon confrontation months later, the queer friend who laughed in my face the day I came out admitted, “I am not proud of my sexuality.”
Was that the issue at its core? Was it that the battle with those ghosts – ghosts whispering that there’s something bad, wrong, or unnatural about us – haunts us much longer than we would like to admit, even long after coming out?
Much of the straight world misconceives that queers embrace each other in a rainbowy explosion of acceptance. As we know, homophobia in the LGBT community is not breaking news. But it’s not rooted in rejecting each other, it’s about not accepting ourselves.
I am no stranger to the epic battle between self-acceptance and self-loathing. I spent my entire life lying to myself and others about who I was – even long before I did about being gay. As a little brown girl in a white class, school, city, state – at least white as far as my young eyes could see – I really felt like a mysterious stain on an ivory sheet. I beat myself up for it.
I’d spend hours looking through my older sister’s Seventeen magazine (the most confusing literature for a young lesbian), and I remember this quarter-page image of an ultra-fair blonde girl – skin and hair nearly the same porcelin shade. My heart stopped. She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever laid my tween eyes on. I showed the picture around, asking, “Isn’t she the most beautiful girl ever?” and was bewildered by the responses: “She’s OK.”
She was perfect, and the perfect tool to deepen my suspicions that I was wrong and ugly and couldn’t do anything about it. “White” was something I could never be, but I’d try to fake it. I could later substitute the word “straight” and the statement would still ring true.
The next day at school, I decided to change my “weirdo” name to Nicole S. (there were three super-popular Nicoles in my class), and for months I wrote that alias on my school papers. Surprisingly, my teacher didn’t have a problem with it.
This evidence is now somewhere in the boxed-up archives of my childhood. This desire to falsely define myself continued to evidence itself in other ways for years to come.
Nothing is more toxic than resistance of who you are, imagining yourself differently. For me it led to unexpected tests dealing with responses after challenging how others defined me, defined gay or defined themselves.
Almost every day, I read, hear, or witness bigotry toward the LGBT community, wishing I could look perpetrators in the eye and say, “This is about love, not about hate.” But perhaps sometimes it’s important to remind ourselves first.