IIIIII’m comin’ out, so you better get this party started…
I suppose this is one of those things where you wonder, “Okay, now what?” I’m not even how to address the situation. On the one hand, I am definitely a drama queen, and I think everyone who knows me knows that. But on the other hand, I have no idea how many who know me have ever wondered if I am gay. Technically I’m bisexual; I just don’t like the focus on “sex” as an identifier. I’m going to go with “two-spirited,” because that describes where I am best. It’s not just a matter of preferring one or the other, or being open to both; it’s that there are some things I like about men, some things I like about women, and a great big muddle in the middle of the Venn globes where these things blend.
I’m like that, too. Some things about me are fairly feminine--like being a good listener, or being nurturing, or being in touch with my feelings, about not liking to see people get hurt. Underneath a lot of it, I’m gentle. But there’s also the part everyone sees, with sarcastic humor, sloppy upkeep, a good amount of gruffness, and (developing late in life) a linear, no-frills, no-bullshit perception of issues. Somewhere along the line I decided to be more male than female, since my feminine side has gotten my ass kicked in many ways most of my life. Now that I’m in a much better emotional place, I’m going to start letting that feminine side flourish more. It’s weird being two-spirited, you know. I like power tools, and I cry at movies. I like cuddling, and I watch football. I’ve been trying to reconcile this all my life.
For years, and this is the biggest obstacle I had to coming out, I struggled with the idea that I had to be one or the other. Something that still sticks in my mind was reading an interview with a British celebrity who denounced bisexuality in no uncertain terms, saying you had to choose--you couldn’t be a little bit pregnant, was the analogy he used. I heard that a few times. Society doesn’t like you to inhabit the gray areas, either. They want you to fit in easily referable labels. That’s not an American thing, but a human thing, and everyone does it. People like mental shorthand, which is what labels are, because their heads are already full of problems and trying to figure a new one out is annoying. So I understand that. It’s just that when I grew up, bisexuality was seen as indecisiveness, or guilt, or any number of other things that are wrong with you…the one thing it never, ever was is “healthy.” Even among people who considered being gay normal, being bi is suspect. There’s something WRONG with you! Choose a label and stick with it!
So for all my years growing up, I was terrified. I tried desperately to make myself one or the other. All I wanted was to be settled, to be identified. I hated being confused, and believe me, I was one confused puppy. I can’t count the number of crushes I had on boys growing up, but I had more crushes on girls. There was an imbalance, so I figured the gay side of me was just…wrong. I thought that I had to have started with one and begun to change to the other, and I couldn't decide which was the "real" me. It’s been over forty years and I still struggle with it. But a thought occurred to me the other day, while I was thinking over when (if ever) I would come out, and all the fear I feel about my gay side, and memories of desperate yearning to be mainstream. It was simple, because I was thinking deeply on how I respond to men and how I respond to women. The underlying emotion about men, though, was fear. Tons and tons of fear. But I know that fear is what has been hammered into me since I was a child, and it doesn’t reflect what’s in me. It’s what’s been constructed around me. I know now I was born to be both. It's just me. So I thought: Why can’t I be as enthusiastic about men as I am about women?
I love women. I love all kinds of women, feminine or glamorous or nerdy or tomboyish. My tastes are pretty wide. Now, my tastes in men are much narrower, but I’ve never been happy about it. I’ve never felt free enough to say in public, “Wow, look at HIM!” the way I might about a woman. Fear of being revealed made me hate that part of myself. But I do have friends who’ve known about me, and the beautiful relief and freedom at being able to be open to them tantalized me. Just a couple of weeks ago I visited a friend for the first time, and though the subject had never come up in any way, I felt so free with her that I tossed in a couple of catty comments about men we talked about that I thought were cute. I like that energy. I missed out on it growing up. I would have loved to have sat up nights with a friend, painting our toenails and talking about boys. But this was Indiana and Michigan we’re talking about, not exactly liberal hotspots. Being out was like signing a death warrant.
Not that that mattered. When I was young, I was not effeminate, but I got bullied. A lot of what I got was savage homophobic language. Thinking of it makes me cringe now. It was pretty bad. I’m surprised I survived, as are a lot of gay people who dealt with the hostility of society. Making it through really was a miracle. Those of you who’ve known me for many years, I want you to think about this. How many times, in my presence, did you make fag jokes? How many times did you use the word, “faggot,” or “queer,” or “nancy boy,” or “pantywaist,” or “sissy,” and never know that you were talking about me? How many times did you cut down gays, insult gay people, put gays into nasty categories, and say ignorant things, not knowing you were talking about me to my face? How many times did you argue that I don’t have the same fundamental human right to marry who I want? How many times do you think I died when I heard someone I loved and cared about rip to shreds something that was essential to me?
There’s prejudice on the other side, too. I’ve heard of bisexuals called straddlers, indecisive, dilettantes, posers, fakers, dabblers, and the like. I’ve had it said to my face, and it’s come from gay men and women. I’ve seen the bigotry among people who should know better than to look down on others. I understand it, though, because I’ve known the anger that comes with having been put down all your life and looking for an outlet for it. That doesn’t excuse it, though, no more than it did me when I looked for outlets for my inner anger, either. But it hurts almost as much as knowing your family hates people like you when the people who are supposed to be your community don’t like you much, either. It’s very tough being alone when all you want is to belong.
So I had my moment of clarity. As soon as I thought, “Why can’t I be as happy about being gay as I am about being straight?” I knew I was coming out. Now I understand the “pride” business more than I did before. It’s more than being proud of who you are. It’s accepting yourself and casting away society’s bigotry. It’s making emotional choices for yourself, not letting the history of outside hatred shove you into a corner and make you sorry for existing. It’s saying, “I ENJOY this part of myself! I can have FUN with this! This can actually bring me some happiness, and I can feel free!” Why can’t I be as free about being gay as I am about being straight? That did it for me. Finally, this voyager found a path that leads to stating who I am and that I am going to live and enjoy my life, and for anyone who wants to hate me for it, I’m sorry you’ll be deprived of what I can bring to your day.
So the closet is behind me. I don’t know if this is brave, but it’s certainly essential. Now, expect me to be a drama queen about this for quite some time. I know it’s coming, and it’s fair to warn you. I’ll probably go overboard with freedom, too, and it will probably make you uncomfortable. Sorry about that. I’ll try not to be too militant about it, but if you tell a foul gay joke in my presence, expect to get hammered. It’s like the N-word. If you’re an insider, you get to use it and joke about it, and if you know me well enough and are okay with me being two-spirited, so can you. But no fag jokes.
Other than this, I’m not going to try to make too big a deal of it. Some people have coming-out galas. (That’s where “coming out” comes from; it doesn’t mean coming out of the closet, it means coming out to society, like a debutante. The term originated in the early 20th century among the very lively gay societies in urban America, according to Wikipedia.) I think it’s fun that I came to this decision a mere 5 days before Coming Out Day. I’m not sure what the repercussions (“blowback,” ahuhuhuh) will be. I just know I owe it to myself to enjoy this part of my life as much as I can.
(I waited until today to post this. Surprise!)