I missed National Coming Out Day yesterday. My little granddaughter had her surgery yesterday and we were at the hospital all day. She looks great and has yet to whimper or complain about her injuries at all. She whines a little about having to take penicillin to prevent infection (tastes like ASS), and was bullshit when she awoke and found they’d taken her pajama bottoms off her and her underwear was showing. She’s a tough little cookie, I’ll tell you.
Anyway, sassy sort of “tagged” anyone that was reading her blog to tell their story of coming out, so here’s mine.
I was born a poor black child…
Wait, wrong story…
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to play with the boys. It wasn’t that I liked the boys all that much, it’s just that I preferred their activities to those of the girls in the neighborhood. I loved playing baseball and football and basketball and climbing trees and running and riding bicycles and throwing rocks. I was a “tomboy” through and through. I liked BEING WITH the girls, though.
I remember being quite young and still in Catholic school. Whenever our class was let out to go to the “lavatory,” I used to stand on the toilet seat and peek over into the next stall to see if I could see the girls’ hoo-hoos. There was a part of me that for some reason really needed to see if I could see them. The thought of their nakedness excited me for some reason.
We lived in a small dairy community that was sort of sheltered from the real world so I didn’t know about words like “queer” and had no idea of the concept of homosexuality. There was a part of me that wondered why I acted the way I did, but I didn’t wonder about it all that much, I suppose convincing myself that it was the way everyone was. But I knew my interests differed from all the other girls.
When I was in eighth grade, Miss Carpenter came to our school and was a 7th and 8th grade math and algebra teacher. I didn’t have her for classes because I was in regents courses and she didn’t teach regents. There was something about her that drew me to her and I went out of my way to walk near or with her during class change. She was my 7th period study hall teacher and, when I got a pass from her to go to the library or the bathroom, I used to save the signed passes so that I had something of hers. Anything. I had such a major crush on her it wasn’t funny.
By that age, I was aware, vaguely, of people that others called “queer” because they liked people of the same gender. I began to wonder about myself but never really worried all that much about it. Since I was abused so badly at home, I rationalized to myself that I was just happy to have someone to look up to.
I “went steady” with some boys in junior high but for very short periods of time. In high school, I had boyfriends as well but spent most of my time out on the sports fields with other girls and found that I really enjoyed participating in these types of activities with them. In my junior year I went with a guy named Gary. I really, really liked this guy and, looking back, I think it was because he was so attentive to me at first. I really needed attention a lot.
The summer between my junior and senior year, Gary got married to a girl he had apparently been seeing the whole time he was supposed to be “going steady” with me. I was crushed. Heartbroken. And I entered into a self-destructive mode.
I gave up my virginity to the first guy to come along and offer to take it and, for the next couple of years, I gave myself to a long string of men.
I joined the Army out of high school and, in basic training, learned that I had not really lived and seen all that the world had to offer. My platoon was full of 40 women of all shapes and sizes, all colors, all religions, and all walks of life. It was the first time I had ever been “exposed” to people of color and I was terrified of the black girls in my platoon. I found myself drawn, however, to the other “athletic” girls in the platoon.
After my initial entry training, I was sent to Okinawa. I was fortunate in that I was able to get on the women’s softball team and instead of doing the things I was trained to do, we went around the Far East on a “goodwill” tour, playing teams from other countries. It was here that I met Sonya.
Sonya was not bull-dyke butch, but there was a butch quality about her that both attracted me and scared me a little bit. But one night she said to me, “I can’t wait to get you in bed,” and I remember thinking how brazen she was, talking about it openly like that, especially since we both had top secret security clearances and could lose them easily if anyone suspected we were even TALKING about being homos, let alone BEING homos..
But, I succumbed. I’d like to say that my first experience with another woman was a good one, something beautiful, but it was not. But, since I had no self-respect, I stayed with her for a while, hating what we were doing, but not knowing why I couldn’t just walk away from it.
Then Sharon came along. Sharon openly admitted to me that she was gay and that she was concerned about me being with Sonya. Sharon was a good friend and taught me some things about myself. I ended up over at the Royal Hotel with her one night after we’d been out drinking. She was tender, loving, masterful, and patiently taught me things. I didn’t really need to end things with Sonya as she had begun to see someone else who could “enjoy” her more than I did, so I didn’t have to worry about that. I absolutely adored Sharon but when I say I loved her, I can’t say I was IN love with her. I admired her, respected her, and was grateful to her that she helped me to find some self-respect and dignity for myself. When she transferred back to the states, I was alone, and lonely. I stashed that size twelve secret into a size six niche in my brain, and hoped it would stay there.
Not long after Sharon left, I met LeRoy. He was very attentive to me, was handsome, and treated me with respect. We dated every night for about 4 months and soon got an apartment together. We were married six months later.
I was relatively happy for the most part. We had a new marriage, I got pregnant, we transferred to San Antonio and bought a brand new home, had a new car. It was like I had been given a new life. In those early years, I had a very healthy sexual relationship with my husband, unlike any other man I had ever slept with before. Perhaps I had confused good sex with love back then, I don’t know.
We didn’t have a bad marriage, we just didn’t have a good one. Frankly, I lost interest in sex, NOT because of the secret I had buried in my past, but because the only time my husband would touch me was when he was interested in sex. I got to where I felt cheap and dirty again, like I had with all of those other men before.
I woke up one morning, after twelve years of marriage and three kids, and realized that I couldn’t raise happy, well-adjusted kids if I wasn’t happy and well-adjusted myself. I filed for divorce and, a year later, after sixteen years on active duty, left the Army.
I moved back to New York, and settled into life as a civilian, working temporary jobs to try and support my family. I longed for someone in my life but rationalized that I needed to be a mother and be home for my kids and NOT be like those single mothers you see out there, leaving their kids at home while they’re out partying. I also rationalized that I had young, impressionable daughters and needed to set a good example for them. I kidded myself very well. Occasionally, thoughts of other women crept into my brain, but I worked hard at trying to push them out and reel in thoughts of men. It was, after all, the societal norm I was born into, right? I successfully hid behind my kids for fourteen years. I did not date at all.
In 1999, with Al Gore’s invention of the internet in full swing, I became a member of women.com and started hanging out at the weight loss board. I had quit smoking a year before that and was really concerned about weight gain (and rightfully so).
I met Kim at women.com and we struck up a long-distance friendship using ICQ as our primary venue. I had commented once that, if I were to have another relationship with anyone, it would be with a woman. I surprised myself with that revelation, not only to her, but that I’d sort of said it out loud. Kim responded in like fashion, although she was married at the time. That size twelve problem had begun to burst the confines of it’s size six container…
Our relationship intensified and took on sexual overtones. When I flew out ot California to visit her on her birthday, we “consummated” our relationship. Kim had a lot of guilt for having violated her marital vows but a month later, when I flew out to be with her in Sacramento for a conference she was attending, we both fell into the abyss that our relationship had become, and neither of us was inclined to try to stop it, even though we knew it was going to be a painful journey.
Kim made promises to me, promises about love and forever, and promises of the future but, in the end, she claimed that her interest in me had been “titillating” at best. She swore I was too needy because I wanted more from her than she could give. Of course I did — I loved her deeply and wanted us to be together more than anything else in the world. But I really don’t think that made me needy. Kim took up the practice of letting me go and then reeling me back in, then letting me go, then reeling me back in. My head was so fucked up that I finally sat down one night with my son, who was almost 16, and poured my heart out to him. He was, after all, my best friend. I cried as I confessed to him who I really was, and he just put his arms around me and didn’t say a word. I don’t think he knew what to say.
But there, it was out.
Next was my oldest daughter and her response was to ask “Well, are you happy?” I really thought I was (as Kim and I were on an “up” again) and I told her “Yes, I am.” “Then that’s all that matters,” she said.
Eventually, things with Kim ended, and ended ugly. But when that happened, I already had Lisa in my life and was drifting away from Kim and toward Lisa anyway. The ugliness of the end of our relationship broke my heart as I knew I would always love Kim on some level. She, on the other had, had to convince herself that there was something ugly and dark in me, I suppose, so that she could go on with her marriage and justify to herself what had happened.
Eventually, Lisa moved in with me, and we became closer and closer and Kim became more and more distant. Lisa and I went to Vermont and entered into a Civil Union in 2001. It changed our relationship, but we didn’t tell anyone about our civil union. Lisa was not yet out to her family (even though we both KNEW that they knew, but just weren’t saying anything). In 2004, we were married in Niagara Falls, Canada and, after having been denied marital benefits where I work, I brought suit against my employer for discrimination. Prior to that, I wasn’t out to anyone at work — not because I felt I had to hide it, but because it just didn’t feel right to mention anything at that time.
Like it or not, we were out publicly once the news broke of our lawsuit. The day after the news article appeared in the local rag, my email box and voicemail box at work were full of messages of support both from friends and from perfect strangers. How empowering that was!
Lisa came out to her family later that year and now we no longer have that stressor in our relationship — it had started to come between us. Of course, our neighbors read the newspaper as well, and they wished us the best in our quest for marriage equality as well.
Living “out” has made our relationship that much better — we’re relaxed when we go places with people because we don’t have to hide anything. We’re not in-your-face out, but neither of us is afraid to mention the other in conversation. I don’t like the term “wife,” as its a heterosexual term that, in my mind, defines specific gender roles, and therefore do not refer to Lisa as my wife. She’s still my partner, in every sense of the word. She’s the Ying to my Yang. The cream in my coffee. The sandwich with my soup. The up to my down. The macaroni to my cheese. The gas in my engine… You get the idea.
And, wonderfully, we find that each time we come out to someone, it gets easier and easier and easier.