Yesterday was the last day of the second Pride month since I came out as a lesbian. I’d always loved celebrating Pride. Rainbows, music, parades, love, love, love. June is such a beautiful month, too, the way it straddles spring and summer, the days are long, and everything is full of color. The first fireflies come out in June.

I have yet to celebrate Pride — my pride — though. Even in the years when I first danced in the streets and collected beads and displayed rainbow flags, I did it as an ally. Maybe sometimes I would claim my bisexuality, but that never seemed quite right. I was in hetero relationships with cisgender men. Back then, I just wanted my LGBT+ friends to know I loved them and feel their love, while pissing off the dominant culture. Pride was a way to publicly, declaratively, push back against the oppressors. I was not oppressed.

So, now, I’m out, but I’m not proud. I’ve had other people tell me they’re proud of me. For being brave. For living my truth. For setting an example of bravery and self-awareness for my kid. But there is still a shame that makes pride hard to come by.

One thing I’ve had some people ask me is “Why didn’t you come out years ago?” I don’t have a good answer for that. How can anyone explain their past well using the words of their present? Yes, I was a support for my friends when they came out; yes, I was openly advocating for gay rights and marriage equality. But that was because I loved my friends and I wanted them to feel loved. I wanted them to have all the rights, freedom, and safety that I had. Part of the reason I am not proud of myself is because I never spent time on knowing myself well enough to go through that struggle with them, when it was even harder than it is now to be a gay person in Indiana; in the United States; in the world.

Talking about all of this in terms of being “in” or “out” is also problematic when trying to answer this question. I never felt like I was “in” — there was nothing to come out from. I was simply immersed.

It’s not as simple as saying that heterosexuality was the dominant culture. If a kid grows up in a place with no vehicles, will they grow up to want to be a truck driver? I had nothing to go on. And, yes, I know there were “out” celebrities in the 80s and 90s. You don’t grow up during the AIDS crisis and not know that gay people exist. And honestly I didn’t care about “disappointing” anyone by being gay, regardless of the millions of microaggressions and comments made against gay people in pop culture, from the pulpit, and in my school and home. You don’t grow up as a girl in the 90s with short hair who plays sports without being called a dyke a lot.

What I mean is, even if I had wanted to, I had no earthly idea how two women existed in a romantic relationship together. I was a teenager, a twenty-something, who wanted a house with a yard, some pets, and a kid or two. I wanted the partnership of a marriage. I wanted to grow old with someone. I wanted someone to look at me with desire. I wanted intimacy. When I would imagine those things, the only way my mind could see them was with a man.

In high school, I wasn’t interested in boys in the way I thought I was supposed to be — the way other girls were. Because I was (am?) an arrogant asshole, I told myself I was just too evolved to care about sex. The first time I French-kissed a guy (which, in an extreme attempt at heteronormativity, was at a freaking Jimmy Buffet concert. Good lord.), I was incredibly not impressed, but I figured that was due to my immaturity and lack of coolness. So, I had him get me a drink (we were in Margaritaville after all!) or two, and then I kept trying until I found things tolerable. Which set the course for the rest of my dating life, which is sad, and probably fodder for something besides this particular essay, but let’s move on.

One thing that happened, when I was 19, that first planted the seed that eventually bloomed into the full flower of identifying as bisexual if anyone asked, was watching Ellen come out on her sitcom. I watched it and could not stop crying. I was alone in a room and I briefly thought “Why the fuck am I bawling at this?” and then I went back to binge drinking and half-assing my way through my undergrad.

I made out with some women, at parties, and I liked it. But I still wanted the house and the family and all those things I could picture when I thought about my future. I thought I found that, and I got married and I got my house and family. And I want to be very clear here: all of that was wonderful. So wonderful in so many ways. It would be easy to say now that I had “faked it”, and believe me, that has been said. But it felt right when it was happening. Any doubts I had about anything just felt like typical self-doubting and rational critique of big decisions. I was happy.

Talking about what flipped the switch — what made me realize that I was ignoring a huge part of myself — is not for public consumption. It is personal. It is private. It is other people’s personal and private lives, too. But it happened, and I was left with the choice of embracing that part of myself or continuing to live the life I had wanted since I was a little girl. But how do you live like that? How do you sacrifice your sense of self? I tried to because I knew what I stood to lose. What others stood to lose.

I came out to my husband first, then H and my close family, then my close friends, and then slowly, the rest of the world. It never got easier even though I was supported. Through it all I was relieved there were certain family members I would not have to come out to, because they were no longer living. I am not proud of this.

Recently, I came out to the last person that needed to know, H’s birth mother. It was, by far, the most difficult “coming out”, due to the nature of our relationship. When H’s birth mother allowed me to be H’s mother, I could not believe someone would trust me that much. It took me several years before I could fully focus on worrying just about H, and not about letting her birth mother down. Once when H was about 6 months old, I was carrying her on my hip through a screen door, and the spring caught her leg and left a shallow gash. I cried much longer than H did because I kept thinking about how she would have a scar, and someday H would meet her birth mom and I would have to explain that I had scarred our baby.

I know H’s birth mother some, but not well, and I had no idea how she would take this. I feared when she found out I was gay, that I had ended my marriage, that H was being raised in two households instead of the one she had agreed to, that she would regret allowing me to be H’s mother. It took me months to write the letter giving her this news. Last week, the adoption agency let me know that she had read the letter. That she took it well and supports me. This relief helped me finally feel like celebrating this Pride month, just as it was over.

It is getting better. It is getting easier to believe I am “living my truth”. But it remains that living this truth means that my kid only lives with me half of the time. Living this truth means that I destroyed one of the most important relationships of my life.

The world is changing. I’m writing this from a coffee shop in a small Indiana town, and I just watched a minister in a US Army Veteran hat counsel two women on their upcoming marriage at the table next to mine. H’s current favorite cartoon features two teenage girls who fight evil and are also romantically involved in a very adorable middle-school “going together” kind of way.

I am not ashamed of my sexuality. I am proud of my partner and our relationship. I am not going to back down from the fight for equality and inclusivity. Next year I may be ready to dance in the street again. By next June, I hope to be proud of not only us, but also myself.



Cornfed Hoosier with a few thoughts on stuff

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