Clearly I've been busy what with not posting stuff to my blog...
I should have kept up on my EFA Podcast listens. I could have talked about how awesome ClexaCon was (and shared photos). But instead I'm going to share with you what I wrote in response to some general questions Erica sent to me before chatting with her on her podcast Lez Represent.
Tell us about yourself -When was the first time you became aware of lesbians/queers as a thing -when did you realize you were a lesbian/queer -when did you come out -was it what you expected -are there any unexpected things about being a lesbian /queer you didn't realize or think about.
And because I automatically write blog post style, here was my response...
I wish I could remember the first time I was aware of queers. I remember too many times where I thought back and went, wow, but at the time I was a fairly oblivious person (still am actually). People who I had encountered in life and it was much later I realized they were queer. People who were obviously different and I never remember them actively hiding it, but I also grew up in Idaho so they likely weren’t waving the rainbow flag. It was a more subtle form of “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.” But really the earliest I can truly pin-point, with actual words, must have been Ellen. And I loved that show. I watched it faithfully. I identified with Ellen. But when she came out I shut it down. And I didn’t come back around to it until much later.
Actually I’m sure I had an inkling if not before that moment then exactly at that moment. I’m sure if I found my journals it would be so obvious to me now in the faded pencil and tear stains. I knew I was different but I never had the words. It is actually why queer is a great word, its original use merely meant different. I think I even went through an asexual phase, if I wasn’t interested in sex with males, then I must not be interested in sex. I also went through a bisexual phase, I had two crushes at that time, the girl I went to high school with (I loved it when she was mean to me) and the super nice guy in my college class. But when I really looked at who I was interested in, sexually, it became obvious where I sat on the scale. I was definitely a lesbian. And I became an alcoholic because I didn’t deal with it well.
I first came out to my friend/roommate one drunken night. It was my last year or two in college, I was legally drinking then. I don’t remember it, or didn’t at the time, and afterwards she used to tease me about being a lesbian. I denied it of course, but I wanted to scream “If you’d leave me alone about it, maybe I eventually will.” I actually developed a thing for her too. In fact, when I “came out” to her, the fuzzy flashes I had later, were of me begging her to sleep with me. She was so mean to me (you may be sensing a pattern). She said that was her way of letting me know she was okay with it, but it did not help. It actually did the opposite. But then I graduated college and ran off to the other side of the world for grad school where I would be free from all the people I knew, I could be open, I could start new and be myself and….
I was in a more accepting country and yet I still…. I just didn’t. And being far away from everything I knew I turned inward. I had just become an obsessed Buffy fan that summer and brought all of my DVDs (the 7th season had not come out yet, but I ordered it online and had my parents send it to me) and I watched them continuously. I had always identified with Willow when I watched it as it first aired those first 3 seasons, so when I finally caught up all I missed when I (and the Scooby gang) was in college, everything made a lot more sense. If only I had seen Willow and Tara my freshman year when it aired, I would have known then. I would have known deep in my bones and there would have been no denying it. This is where representation in media matters. Without Willow and Tara on my screen (or frankly any movie where women were kissing), it would have been easy to keep denying. But then I found The Kittenboard and found my tribe. With the help of my online friends, and reading lots and lots of smutfic, I dealt with coming out to myself. Accepting myself. Learning to come out. I went to a counsellor and finally said the words out loud “I’m gay.” Then I came out to my brother, then the boy from high school who I knew was still in love with me, and then I went home. I came out to my parents and then I came out to all of my friends by telling them I finally came out to my parents.
I knew deep down that I would be okay when I came out to my parents but that didn’t stop the fear and anxiety that gripped my life and held it at a standstill for so long. I knew they would be okay, eventually. The most important factors for me were telling them first, so they didn’t hear about it from someone else, and telling them before I had a girlfriend. I had seen and read one too many stories about how disastrous either of those things could be. If the parents weren’t okay and found out from someone else and confronted their child… If the parents were okay and found out from elsewhere, they would be upset that their child wasn’t comfortable enough or didn’t trust them enough to come out. They would be disappointed… And that, the “D” word, is my trigger. The idea of disappointing my parents… Their perfect daughter, who got good grades and didn’t get into trouble, would disappoint them.
Like I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to expectations, me coming out was not unexpected to them. Their reaction was not unexpected to me. It worked how I figured it would. There would be crying, and my parents would eventually transition from uncomfortable with the idea to okay, and I’d even say they finally made it to the proud. What helped, especially my mother, the most was learning that she wasn’t alone. When she reconnected with her friends from her younger days (thanks Facebook), and learned that they too had queer children, I think that is when she really fully accepted it. I think people tend to forget that just us, being ourselves out in the world is some of the most important representation we have.
One expectation that has surprised me is when I first came out, I didn’t realize just how often I would have to keep coming out. Or assess a situation to make sure it was safe to come out. Or realize how hard it was to have a normal conversation in a work environment if it isn’t safe to come to out. I was living and working Idaho, a right to work state, where they could fire me for being gay. But I have ended living most of my early being out life much like the ones I remember from my childhood. I wouldn’t often outright declare I was lesbian, and sometimes I would play the pronoun game, but I would rarely outright lie or deny. If people made assumptions back then about the gender of the person in my life, then that was their deal. If people assumed that my roommate and I were just friends living together, I didn’t feel the need to correct them. Sometimes people will only see what they want to see.
Unless I am seriously uneasy, I correct people now. Sometimes I will generically use the word spouse (I actually like it), or mention I am married and when they ask about my husband, I correct them to wife. Sometimes I just throw out wife and watch their facial expressions change and they take in the word, which is generally just surprise and not usually in a bad way. Of course, more people are surprised to hear my wife and I have been together for 12 years.
And as much as I would like to go on about my wife she is a rather private person. I'm sure I'll say too much when we chat later. And I'm sure I'll totally ramble on and say "uh..." a lot.
Okay that last paragraph was not what I sent to Erica, there were more questions but it got late and I got tired. It is late again and I'm still tired (I'm always tired). So enjoy me talking about being a lesbian on the Lez Represent Podcast!