love makes you real

I hesitated when both writing and publishing this post. The whole point of me writing it was not to make anyone feel hurt but to continue the process of coming out, continue the process of being me, of being real, of being authentic.

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.