as many of you know, today is national coming out day. in honor of such an event, i’ve put together a few thoughts and am also sharing my coming out story.
coming out for me is something that never ends and has definitely changed over the years. coming out is different when you’re single, and then when you’re coupled, and then again when you’re engaged, even more so when you’re married, and definitely when you have a kid. until that ring was on my finger, i could easily slide through life ambigously to those that i didn’t chose to share my sexual orientation with. Someone asks, “do you have a boyfriend?” you can very easily say no. and you aren’t lying.
once i was engaged, the questions changed. strangers would ask me about my fiance and wedding plans. if needed, i could usually head off the conversation before it got too detailed, or be vague about our wedding plans, but it definitely got a little trickier.
now, that we have a kid, i think about how i’m perceived by others all of the time. generally, i’m pretty sure people assume i’m her mother. which i am. but then in the store, when i’m talking to her, i’ll say things like, “what do you think mama wants for dinner?” or “let’s pick up ___ for mama”. then what? am i the aunt/sister/ friend? i don’t wear a nametag that says “i’m mommy” (as in, not mama). so, i become invisible as a mother. let’s say my kid starts acting out, and i happen to mention “mama” in reference to my wife, do people think i’m the babysitter who can’t control my charge? who knows.
or, we walk into someplace together (ie a doctors office), the person we greet says, “who’s her mother?” we say, “we are”. depending on who we’re talking to, we get different reactions. sometimes there’s further questioning to clarify, sometimes there’s a long pause and then an “ok…”, and sometimes there’s just acceptance and understanding.
so as a mother in a two-mother family, i’m either invisible, or right out in their faces. and i have to come out. over and over again. sometimes to people i don’t necessarily want to, but because of my daughter, because i want to show her to be proud of her two-mom family, i do.
but, i first came out about 10 years ago and here’s my story in all of it’s awkward glory.
let’s re-cap the beginning. i’ve pretty much always known i was gay. had crushes on female actresses, etc even at a very young age. i can even remember asking my mom one day in our kitchen (i was in about 6th grade), “mom, what would you do if i was gay?” i knew. but i wasn’t ready.
so then the summer between college and nursing school i went to live in nyc. i knew that after the summer i would be returning home to live with a girl and a guy i didn’t know, but knew through a classmate, and i knew that the girl was gay. i was totally ok with that, and i remember thinking to myself, ok emily. either you are going to move in with her and find out you’re gay or you’re not. it’s just going to happen. so, one night later in the summer, my future roommate was coming to nyc for pride and because she thought it would be a great way to get to know each other better, invited me out with her and her friends. well, i walked into that club that night and looked around and just knew. nothing happened that night except i tried calling my friend from home to tell her i’d figured it all out but chickened out once the phone was ringing and i was hit on by a lady with really crazy hair and bad breath. but i knew that was it.
i moved back down to va after the summer, moved in with the girl and the guy, and yes, the girl ended up being my first girlfriend. we kept it from my family & friends for a while as i adjusted to this new lifestyle and tried to figure out how i was feeling inside about all of this, but then it came time to let people know. i told a few friends, i told my sister over AOL “IM”, i told my ex-boyfriend (who i was still very close with), but i still had to tell my parents.
i knew they would probably be ok with it – i mean several people they know are gay, there are gay people in my family, they are pretty liberal, and they are very loving people. but still. they were my parents. they wanted me to grow up and get married and have babies and at the time that i was coming out, in conservative virginia, that all seemed impossible (ha!). so one night, when my sister was home from college and my girlfriend was busy at the fire station (she was a volunteer firefighter), we all went out to dinner as a family. after, we came back to the house and were talking about how my sister was doing in school and some of the struggles she was facing at the time, and after a while, the conversation died down. so, it was my turn. i said, well, this daughter isn’t dealing with such and such issue at school, but she is dating her roommate. bam. there it was.
ok, so are you ready? well. we are unsure of the cause of the next events, but somehow my sister started to react like she’d had an anaphylactic reaction to something. was it dinner? we did eat seafood. was it what i’d just said? was she just nervous for me and reacting? well, whatever it was, all of a sudden she turned bright red and couldn’t breathe. we had to call the ambulance. and in my town, when you call the ambulance, the fire department shows up. yup. so, here we are, trying to figure out how to process all that i have just said and take care of my sister, and my girlfriend is probably on her way right now to my parents house to show up in a massive fire truck with several other manly firemen. take a minute and imagine that scene.
well, to make a long story short, she just happened to be on another call away from the firehouse so she didn‘t show up, my sister was brought to the ER and was ultimately fine, and my parents (and sister, of course, she always has) accepted me for who i am.
and the rest is history…. i am so lucky to have family and friends who have loved me and supported me from day 1.
what’s your story?