Last week, not sure of the exact day, was National Coming Out Day. I’m assuming this only occurred in the States because I didn’t hear about it here in Canada. I read a couple of posts, seen a few articles or notices on Facebook concerning this special day. For those of you not in the know, National Coming Out Day is held once a year to recognize our LGBTQ folks and for some, this helps others to understand just how difficult and dangerous being true to yourself can be.
Now I will admit my first reaction to learning about this day was ‘been there, done that, don’t need to make a big deal out of it.’ That’s just me. I don’t tend to make examples or put my personal quests out there for others to view. I never have, hell I don’t even make a big deal of my birthday. Simple, sweet, low-key. . .that’s me. I know some people, sk included, that celebrate their birthday week. Yes, they expect others to acknowledge and celebrate them for an entire week.
My ‘coming out’ story is not so much about telling others or having others know, it was much more personal than that. For me, my realization and acceptance of who/what I was, in terms of my sexuality, was one of the longest roads I’ve travelled in my life. This was back in the day when I thought ‘gay’ still meant happy and ‘fag’ was what they called a cigarette in England. Later in high school, I heard some of the cruder guys in class call each other the ‘f’ word. I didn’t know exactly what it meant but by the way they used it I could certainly tell it was no compliment.
I also knew by this time that I did not want to do things with boys that my friends were doing. Oh I tried, but the my last ‘boyfriend’ lasted one or two weeks. It wasn’t long because this guy was one of my best friends and holding his hand felt weird. I don’t have a brother, but I imagine that would be what it would feel like. The last time I kissed a guy I bit his tongue. I told him not to put his tongue in my mouth, twice. He continued to ignore my requests, stuck his tongue in so I bit it. Even though I didn’t want to do these things with boys, I never felt like there was something wrong with me. I assumed those feelings would come eventually. I didn’t know there was another option.
And then I went to university. . .and I met one, a lesbian, well I think she was/is. Actually, she was a professor and like no other woman I had ever seen or met. Needless to say, I sat close and paid attention in her class, not so much on what she said but more on her. She was my subject that semester. I watched how she walked, talked, her clothes, mannerisms, hair style, shoes. . . just about everything you can learn visually about a person, I mastered in her class.
It was after experiencing her that I started putting things together for myself. And then came that late afternoon in which I knew, I just knew. One of my co-ed neighbors had taken a shine to me. He was cute. He was a few inches taller than me and in great shape. He and his roommate were those guys that would take off their shirts as soon as the weather started to turn warm in Spring. One morning he even invited me to their apartment for pancakes and to watch Spiderman, the Saturday morning funnies Spiderman not the actual movie. He also did not have any body hair that I could see, not that I was looking closely. The poor guy hardly had any hair on his legs and arms but absolutely none on his chest and I’m sure he only had to shave every couple of weeks or so. One late afternoon, he comes over to my place. The only light on is my desk lamp. I could see his profile and I saw something sitting on his top lip. I asked him what was going on up there. He proudly stroked his lip and explained he was going to grow a mustache. I chuckled and told him I had more peach fuzz than he did. He responded by expressing his doubt and questioning whether my peach fuzz would make it difficult when kissing. Before my brain could execute my mouth said, “You’ll never find out.” I said these words over 15 years ago and I still remember them. What’s worse, I can still remember the look on his face. I had hurt someone, someone who meant no harm and truly liked me. I’m not saying had I been straight we would be married with a few beautifully mixed kids running around. Had I handled myself better, I would like to think we would’ve had a long and productive friendship. But after saying those words to him, he couldn’t get out of there fast enough and our run-ins never went further than the casual hello.
But it was also in that moment when I knew what I wanted. Finally, the light turned on and I knew what I liked, I wasn’t sure what to call myself but I could figure that out later. For the next three years, I learned how to be comfortable with who I was. Due to where I was, I had to be careful, or so I thought. I’m not so sure now if I had to be cautious or I just assumed I had to be because of where I lived. Either way, I didn’t start living as an out lesbian until I moved to Chicago.
This is the most sharing I’ve done on my road to being an out and proud lesbian. I’ve never told anyone the entire story, tidbits here and there but never the whole saga. I’m not ashamed of my story I’m just not a big sharer, in that sense. I am proud to be me; proud of my entire self. There’s more to me than my sexuality. Not only am I a lesbian; I’m also a daughter, a partner, a pet owner, a coffee drinker, an activities director, a niece, an aunt, a friend, a sports fan, a history nerd, a university graduate, a US citizen, a Canadian Permanent Resident, a reader of many books, etc.
Maybe I’ve shut myself off from the struggle of so many LGBTQ in the States since moving to Canada. I have those rights that so many are still fighting for. Sk and I have the right to marry, we also have the right to file joint taxes and therefore pay more to the government. I don’t intend to make Canada seem like a walk in the park, we also have hate crimes and they are increasing. Whether the increase is due to more crimes or people are starting to report them more is still to be determined. I will say that the authorities, politicians and the public seem to take these crimes more seriously here. A couple of years ago, for example, there was a lesbian couple in a western province. One of the women needed to go see a doctor. She made an appointment, went to this doctor and then the doctor, an immigrant, refused to see her as a patient because her culture/religion did not accept homosexuality. This case was discussed far and wide in this country. Instead of the lesbian couple being the main point, the focus was on the immigration process for professionals coming into Canada. There was a call for immigration reform so that those professionals who want to practice here not only must show their master of the English language but also their acceptance for our inclusive culture as well. I daresay this would not have happened in the States.
Yesterday I was brought back to possible hardships faced by those outside of the ‘norm.’ I finished reading “In One Person” by John Irving. I got roped into this book and I wasn’t too happy with it until the last quarter of the book. The author started describing the ’80s and the AIDS crisis. The men dying alone, the mothers watching their only child waste away or the man destroying his family by dying in front of the children and then a few months later those children loosing their mother. Tragically sad. Afterwards I thought of all those who came before me. Fought for what I can now enjoy.
And then, I came across Enough is Enough: the blog page. I read a post about a young man who committed suicide due to bullying. Then I read another post about a young woman, also suicide due to bullying. After seeing these two innocents destroyed because they did not fit into the ‘norm’ along with remnants of the AIDS crisis still in my mind, I decided we do need a National Coming Out Day. If having one day to support the LGBTQ population helps to save one young life or several confused adults, it’s well worth it. Until that day comes when we are all treated as equals we must insist on days such as this to bring the subject into the mainstream. Until then, nothing will change and it’s so easy to shut yourself off from those still in the fight especially if you don’t even know there is a fight or you are happy in your own life.