I want to talk about being gay. I know what you’re thinking: “Tanya, 90% of the time when your mouth is open it’s guaranteed there is something gay coming out of it.” This is fair friends, but for once I want to take it in a more serious direction – rather than talking about what a disappointment it was for the lesbian community at large when we lost Amber Heard to the magical power that is Johnny Depp, I want to talk about coming out and my experience with it.
Growing up and knowing something is different about you is scary. For a long time in the beginning you lack the language and understanding to realize what it is, but you know there is something inside of you innately that sets you apart from your peers. When Jenny is talking about how she has a mega-crush on Mike? And isn’t he so cute? And who do you like? You kind of nod and make something up, or if you’re in the movie ‘Clueless,’ tell your friend that you’re saving yourself for Luke Perry. I was twelve when I think I first knew – while my friends were busy picking out their favorite Spice Girl (Ginger, duh) I was you know, just casually grappling with the reality of my sexuality and what that meant for me.
It really upset me initially. I wanted to fit in with my friends and I didn’t feasibly ever think that being a lesbian was actually an option, or a way that I could live my life. “I’ll just get a lot of cats,” 12-year-old Tanya thought. With that decision squared away, the pre-pubescent version of myself went on to think that maybe if she just ignored it, it would go away. Surely in a few months’ time she’d be doodling boy’s names all over her Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper.
But strangely, being gay isn’t like having a scab and believe it or not, it doesn’t fall off and go away. I went on pretending like I didn’t have a sexuality at all until I was about fifteen and met a girl named Krissy. By then I’d clearly upgraded to hanging out with the Rayanne Graffs of my High School, so when I met Krissy and she explained she was bisexual, I was immediately enamored. Prior to knowing her, I didn’t even know that bisexuality existed and this felt like my sigh of relief. I didn’t have to commit to being totally gay and weird, now I was just kind of edgy and really kind of a Saint. I don’t care what you’re working with; I’m just such a lover of all humanity that I’m like Mother Teresa. You know, if Mother Teresa swang both ways.
This worked for a while but there was that old inevitable problem: I really didn’t like men. And trust me; I dated some really great guys – and some good looking ones at that. Men who probably rated me as a five would still go out with me because I was the worst at being a girl ever. They essentially got to date someone with a dude brain and boobs, every man’s dream. I left for college where I then creepily tried to figure out if girls were gay and then have a panic attack about what I could possibly say to them. “Hi I’m Tanya. I think I’m gay, are you gay? You kind of look gay. Do you want to be gay together?” Imagine missing out on all the dating and socialization you went through in High School. You people learned things, like how to go on a date or talk to someone you think is cute without barfing in your mouth. I missed all that because I was busy avoiding it. To this day, I am still the most awkward.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year when I joined Rugby (I’ll give you a second to sit smugly in that stereotype) that I met my first true lesbians. I was shocked. While there were some girls that presented as a little more butch, there were also girls who looked like girls who liked other girls. I know this isn’t exactly a novel concept but to me this was mind blowing. I think there was one out lesbian in my High School and I remember looking at her with her short hair and thinking “If that’s what being a lesbian looks like, I don’t think I am that.” I don’t know why, but I needed a mirror. I needed to recognize myself in the community and see that holy shit – this is an actual way in which I can live my life. These girls are confident, smart, and funny, and being gay was the most uninteresting thing about them. I recognized how much stake I had been holding in “being gay,” and really came to find out it wasn’t that big of a deal. Yes, it was part of who I was; but it wasn’t everything, or even close to everything. Before I was gay I was literally about a hundred other things and it didn’t have to be the core definition of who I was.
Maybe I had grown up a little since I had decided to become a spinster instead of ever be gay, but I owed most of my new comfort and ease to meeting an amazing group of women who helped facilitate that journey for me. Yes, some of their definitions of “helping me” involved seeing who could take the new (possibly) gay girl home from the frat party – but for the most part they were always willing to listen and showed more by example. “Hey we’re gay and somehow the world is still rotating. We get up and go to class, we hang out with our friends, we have healthy and solid relationships, and it’s really okay.” I started to buy into this notion and after a few months which included reading the “The Whole Lesbian Sex Book,” cover-to-cover about seventeen times, I sent myself out into the world.
I didn’t have a grand desire to “come out” formally. Maybe for some people it feels important to scream it from a rooftop but that was never something that felt necessary to me. Friends were easy, most of them weren’t terribly surprised – almost to the point I was offended that everyone clearly just assumed I was a lesbian and didn’t let me in on that breaking news. When it came to my parents and family, I decided to just let it happen naturally. I wasn’t particularly concerned about their reactions; I had somehow gone from being completely scared of who I was, to being some kind of lesbian superhero overnight. I think it’s just that after years of confusion and self-doubt, it felt so good to just know and not feel so bad about it.
When I finally told them it was because I had reason to. I had my first real girlfriend and I wanted them to know about it. I thought about making the hour-and-a-half drive home from school to do it in person, but that seemed like a lot of work. My Mother’s main concern was when she was going to come visit so she could meet her, and my Dad has stayed true to his bargain of “loving me no matter what,” to this day. A lot of my extended family found out via the good old World Wide Web (gotta love it) because I love to blog and vlog and after hiding who I was for my entire life, I wasn’t exactly going to be coy about this one. I thought the excitement of being gay would fade after a few years, but at this point in time I’ve been out for eight years and I’m still super stoked on it.
I have never told my Grandparents and I probably am not going to. My Dad suggested I keep it on the DL, but that’s not why I do it. Ultimately it’s my choice and I don’t see a point. I love them, as they’re family, but we’ve never been particularly close. They know that I live in Utah and what I got my Master’s in, but they wouldn’t be able to tell you about my blog or my dog, or any of the things that actually make me who I am. Secondly, they’re really stinking old. I don’t think they should spend the last several years of their life hating their gay granddaughter. I’m not sure if they would hate me but I’m sure as shit they wouldn’t approve. My Grandpa, along with every other Grandpa, is one of the most genuinely racist people I know and Grandma really digs Jesus so I don’t need a Magic 8-ball to know the outlook is not so good on this one. It hurts a little bit; to have people I can’t truly be authentic with or just people who would not love me anyone if they knew about my life because I am very happy and complacent. I’ll never get to talk about the person I’m dating, and if I ever got married (ha!) they probably wouldn’t even know.
However, I do recognize that I’ve had it pretty easy as far as my sexuality goes as I know other people who have dealt with things like getting kicked out of their houses at a young age because of being gay, or don’t even talk to their parents. I know people who have faced discrimination because of their sexual orientation, and people who have taken their own lives over the matter. The campaign launched in 2010, ‘It Gets Better,’ included people making their own videos to tell LGBT youth that, yes, it does indeed get better. And from my personal standpoint? yes it really does.
You will get to a point where you are relaxed in your own skin, you will find a community that accepts and lifts you, and at some point you get to have sex with a girl which is the really awesome part. As someone who has gone through it before and if I was giving advice to some mopey 12-year-old who was crushing on Geri Halliwell I’d tell her to spend less time wading in a pointless sea of self-doubt. I’d tell her that she might have to be patient but that she’d figure her shit out, she’d find her people, and eventually be happy and gay (pun intended). I’d like to end with this little lovely nugget of a song I found on the Youtube, Everyone is Gay! #howhaveinotheardthisbefore
‘Cause we’re all somewhere in the middle
And we’re all just looking for love to change the world
What if the world stops spinning tomorrow?
We can’t keep running away from who we are.