love makes you real
I don't write a lot about being gay; it's part of who I am but not all that I am and I'm hesitant to continuously place myself inside of any particular label/box. I feel like I write about my life honestly, that people who read what I write know more or enough about me to know who I am and what I am about. I consider myself upfront and open but then again, in so many ways, I've tried to be low key and not rock the boat in some parts of my life. I try to be respectful of people's boundaries without sublimating my own sense of self. However, it seems, that I should have been a bit more forceful and vocal when coming out. Dian Reid talks about how coming out is a process and that it doesn't just end when you say "I'm gay." I am living that reality right now.
I've known for most of my life that I was attracted to women. I remember watching a girl who swam laps in the pool and wishing I was the water, wishing I could feel her skin, her muscles, her body cut through me. I was young, probably 11 or so and had no idea whatsoever of what I was feeling but I somehow knew enough to keep it to myself. When friends would talk about boys and pore over their pictures in Tiger Beat, I would sneak glances at Alyssa Milano. Of course, I taped pictures to my wall of Keanu Reeves from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure because I loved that movie not because I dreamed of kissing him. In fact, every time my friends talked about kissing, I felt more confused. I couldn't imagine it.
Early in high school, I had a boyfriend who reminded me of James Dean, rebellious and dark but really sweet and romantic. I was battling my sexuality, trying to understand my body, learning to be empowered by it. Once I moved away and he joined the Army, I tried to come to terms with the feelings I had for a girl I was friends with.
I write a bit about my first kiss with her here. And though I was scared, I never felt more alive, or more myself than when I was with her. She knew a lot of the people I hung out with so we never really had to plan to hang out. There were no secrets among our friends. They just accepted how we felt about one another and I assumed they were used to the fluidity of her relationships. I felt comfortable with them and it was the only time, I really relaxed. After graduation, she moved to California to live with her aunt and slowly, the letters we exhanged stopped. The last I heard of her she'd gotten divorced, moved to South America and was working for the Red Cross.
In college, I met the first girl I ever loved and we began an on again-off again ordeal that eventually devastated us both. I did not introduce her to my parents; I did not have a lot of friends at the time, mostly people I worked with so, I was enveloped by her circle where I stayed during my sophomore year in college. We fought a lot, about me not coming out. I insisted I didn't want a relationship, that what we had was fine. She pushed me to be honest with myself about who I was, about what was happening between us. Back and forth and back and forth. Moth to flame and repeat.
I considered myself bisexual and therefore didn't feel a need to tell anyone anything but mostly, I was scared.
I escaped to England where I lived with probably the only man I ever loved. I needed rescuing at a time in my life when I was completely wrecked and felt terribly guilty and responsible for things out of my control. After we broke up and I began my Master's program, I put tremendous effort in working out my conflicted feelings. A few failed flings and an intense crush later, I said to myself, "get real."
I came out to my friends in somewhat awkward ways but finally relaxed in my own skin, except where my family was concerned.
When I moved to Illinois for graduate school, I told myself that I would be my true self and still, it took some time for me to get used to life here, to get comfortable with how much I liked Michelle when we met. But once I did, I never looked back.
I introduced her to my family as my girlfriend and I, foolishly I suppose, thought that would be it. We've been together for 7 years and while I've always more embraced as a couple by her family, no one in my own said anything negative or even hinted at it. Perhaps by not saying anything, they were saying something and I wasn't or did not want to pay attention to it.
Our impending ceremony, however, has brought some feelings to the surface. I'm not incredibly surprised with some of the reactions. I knew exactly what my grandmother would say, for example, which is why I never really came out to her, though the last time we visited she wouldn't allow us to sleep in the same bed, which says a lot to me. I have been surprised that my brother has admitted that he is struggling to accept me being gay.
Their disapproval is difficult for me on many levels. I suddenly feel as though I'm being scrutinized, talked about. I have become the family problem to solve. Meanwhile, in my mind, I've been out for what feels like forever and so all of this just seems a bit bizarre.
I haven't changed who I am but suddenly, I am something else entirely.
Because I said yes... to my own personal truth, to being real, to being honest
and most significantly, at this point, because I said yes to a ceremony and mailed invitations and very publicly am declaring that I love and commit to an amazing, funny, generous, kind, silly, intense, authentic, and huge-hearted woman who just happens to love me back.
This weekend for our dear friend, Brianne's wedding, I am reading a passage from The Velveteen Rabbit. I don't want to give it all away here but I love this part of it and think it speaks to exactly where I am right now.
...these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.