I never really came out. There was no defining moment, where I sat friends or family down, screamed it from a rooftop, and when I got there – no rainbow red carpet I walked down where Ellen DeGeneres & Melissa Etheridge awaited with a glittery trophy as the Indigo Girls sang ‘Closer to Fine’ in the background. Instead it happened gradually, whether I was born this gay or caught it from someone who sneezed on me once – it’s not cut and dry for all of us.
As a pre-teen my walls were plastered with the likes of JTT, River Phoenix, and Devon Sawa (I stand by the fact those were some pretty ass motherfuckers) However, I also had a shrine to Geri Halliwell on my closet, a nearly six-foot tall poster of her sitting upside down in a chair essentially wearing underwear. Man, was she my FAVORITE Spice Girl. Anyways, no one really seemed to catch on – not even me. I just thought I really valued the talented woman of the entertainment industry, also why I kept a picture of Angelina Jolie from ‘Foxfire’ by my nightstand.
When I was 15, I met a girl named Krissy. Krissy was everything I was not – she had short spiky pink hair, listened to punk music, and she was bisexual. I had never even heard the word before, let alone did I understand what it meant. Although she had a boyfriend, she explained that she was attracted to both boys & girls. My mind was effectively blown and my 15-year-old brain became as gelatinous as Gak inside of my head. I never even considered that could be an option, and it also seemed much safer than being full-blown gay. I accepted that I too, must like boys and girls, and Krissy gave me the confidence to do that.
That same year, for unrelated reasons, I was mandated to attend several therapy sessions with my parents. At one, the counselor spent most of the time asking me one seemingly banal question after another: “What’s your favorite subject in school?” (“English,” I said) “What’s your favorite color?” (“Purple, just like my Mom,” I replied) And then out of nowhere: “Do you like boys or girls?” Without hesitation, and figuring I was in a safe space, I answered honestly: “Both, I think.” I don’t know what I expected – a gong of gayness to sound, a standing ovation from everyone in the room – but I figured at least some kind of follow-up. Instead, we simply moved on – and it was never acknowledged, or discussed again until I formally came out six years later.
My first real crush occurred shortly thereafter – the year was 2002, and it was the summer before my senior year of High School. Her name was Sarah, and we worked as Camp Counselors together. Sarah was a lifeguard and part of the pool staff, and I’d never seen someone pull off a classic one-piece quite like she did. She was a bit older and supposedly had a boyfriend who attended the University of New Hampshire with her. Sarah and I spent a lot of time together, and at the last camp party – I finally got the nerve to be flirtatious with her (confidence fully sponsored by Raspberry Vodka & Sprite.) I vaguely remember sitting on her lap, holding her hand in the maroon backseat of the Oldsmobile that was our ride home, and that we had to pull over so her sister could puke out the car door – it was very romantic. That night, we laid side by side in her twin bed and fell asleep with clasped hands. I think she tried to kiss me, but I can’t be sure because while I was on cloud-nine, I was also terrified. It would still be a long road, but I was on my way. The next week she would go back to college, where it turned out she had a girlfriend and not a boyfriend, and I spent the next few months writing incredibly bad poetry about her – all of which I still have. Reading them now brings me to tears laughing – Oh, to be a baby gay in love!
At the start of the school year I went out to coffee with my friend Kelsey and admitted to her the identify of my summer crush. Up to that point I’d only discussed Sarah with limited detail, and no mention of gender. “Oh!” she said, “I kind of figured that!” Kelsey then went back to methodically stacking the creamer cups in front of her into a flimsy pyramid as though I’d simply told her about the weather. Her nonchalant response was everything in that moment.
That year I continued to quietly explore my sexuality. I would sequester myself in the section of Borders that had GLBTQ books (spoiler alert: there weren’t many back then) and even though I was too embarrassed to buy them, I’d spend hours there reading. I trolled AOL chat rooms, and found a website called “PlanetOut” where I created a profile. I met a girl my age named Holly and we would stay up talking under the covers on our cordless phones into the late hours of the night. While nothing ever happened romantically between us, I had an ally who was going through the same thing I was. We aren’t always in touch, but 17 years later we are still friends.
I went to college and walked around constantly assessing if any passerby were lesbians. I studied the girls in my classes more than the textbooks, and wondered how I could tell if people were gay or in turn – they could tell I was. I wasn’t forthcoming with my sexuality, because at this point I still hadn’t even kissed a girl. My first anything and everything would happen that summer, when Krissy (yes, the same one) asked if I had been intimate with a girl yet. I’m not going to go into detail pervs, but I remember three things about this experience: 1.) It was awesome, 2.) I was secretly happy we heard my parents stir in the house when it was my turn to return the favor because I was so scared of being awful at sex, and 3.) I felt like the most badass bitch afterwards. I remember feeling myself so hard, as I drove to my friends Sam’s house to hang out with my friends. I’d wrapped a rainbow winter scarf around my neck (what a cliché), so I could drive with the windows down while smoking my Marlboro Reds.
Speaking of clichés, joining the Rugby team in college was the biggest turning point for me. I was introduced to a Queer community, which was the final step to figuring out who I was and in truly accepting myself. I remember when I first joined and they all considered me “straight.” I didn’t confirm or deny any label that was stuck on me, but eventually when I started making out with girls at every party – they realized their suspicions of my orientation had been wrong. And that’s pretty much how it went. Once I started dating and being with girls, I never really looked back. I also never really made a big deal of it because it didn’t feel like it needed to be a big deal. Before I was a lesbian I was about a hundred other things that were far more interesting than that. Eventually I met my first girlfriend Katie, whom I was with for five years. Bless her goddamn heart for being with me in those formative years, and I couldn’t have asked for a better relationship or partner in that time. Dating her was the closest I ever came to “coming out” because I finally had something to say: I was in a committed, loving relationship and I wanted her to be a part of my life. A piece of that was being honest about who she was to me. When I told my Mom, she admitted to remembering that fateful therapy session when I was 15. “I’m sorry,” she apologized, “I didn’t know what to say.” How could she? Parenting doesn’t come with a book, and if it did it might not even include a chapter on how to react when your kid might be gay. Lucky for me, she was accepting and kind. My Father said he’d love me no matter who I dated, unless it was a goat (I just haven’t met the right goat)
However, though my journey was mostly easy – it’s not to say it was completely painless. There were the times when I was bullied on the bus and called a lesbian and I’d go home and cry not because I was bullied – but because innately and deep down I knew that they were right. When I was 12 I had a meltdown when Ellen Degeneres came out because it made me think about being gay. People of different genders and sexuality weren’t featured regularly in TV & movies, and it wasn’t a topic that was openly discussed. There were no role models, YouTube, or social media. We just had to figure it out and sometimes it was hard. Trust me, I have the poetry to prove it.
A few months ago for a friends birthday, my partner and I wrote her a song as a gift. It was set to the melody of ‘Keep Your Heart Young’ by Brandi Carlile and some of the lyrics poked fun at how she personally had come into her own sexuality later in life, and the word “pussy” may have been mentioned more than once. At the party, was a young High School girl who pretended to listen to headphones while we performed, but I could see stifling her laughter in the dimly lit backyard as she listened. Later her Mom would say to me: “My daughter came out to me this year – and for her to come to here and see a bunch of successful, normal, happy adults who happen to be gay is so great for her.” While I wasn’t doing anything but just being myself, I realized how important it was to do that. If I can make a baby gays load just a little lighter, their path a bit clearer – just by existing? That’s pretty rad.
Sometimes we lose sight on the past; and as an extremely confident and resolved person as far as my sexuality goes it is so important to remember the process and people who got me here. There were times I hated myself for who I was, and times I thought it better to hide than confront the truth. There were tears, heartache and rejection. Despite everything, I wouldn’t change who I am and I’ll never take for granted just how lucky I am to have walked my path, and been able to live honestly and authentically for so long now. I am grateful for the cast of characters who showed up along the way, whether you listened with a non-judgmental ear or made me realize just what a big lesbo I was. Today, I am grateful Xo