Tuesday, October 11, 2016

On National Coming Out Day.

Ellen Page came out on February 14, 2014 in her keynote speech opening the Human Rights Campaign’s “Time to Thrive” conference, which promotes the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ youth. The speech stood beautifully on its own – while her choice to stand firmly and say, “Me too,” made it that much more powerful, it wasn’t necessary. I wonder, often, if that’s maybe one of the things that hit me so hard about it – she didn’t have to, but she did.

I watched the video that night. Then I watched it again. It made my heart race and my palms sweat, and I still couldn’t admit to myself why.

Two weeks later, I got there. I came out. I didn’t have to – I’m not a public figure, I had no one to inspire, I wasn’t in a relationship – but I did. And I had the privilege of doing it on my own terms when I felt ready.

It was the end of one journey and the beginning of another. I had spent the first twenty-seven years of my life visualizing my place in the world through a heterosexual lens, one that dictated how I should look and what I could say and what the future would hold so that I would project Straight.

Side note: that’s part of why I really hate the terms, “girl-crush,” and, “man-crush,” and, “bromance.” For me, the subtext to all of them is just, “No homo.” Like you’re suddenly going to think your pal Cindy’s a closet case in a sham marriage because she said she had just a regular crush on Beyonce.

Coming out stripped away that lens, and eventually the understanding that I was gay and not bi added another layer to how I both saw and actually felt myself in the space that I occupy.

Another side note, and this is a very important one:
the bi community I found was extremely welcoming and supportive and wonderful, and remained so even when I came to understand that I was not one of them on a micro level, though we are brothers and sisters and non-binary siblings in the larger community. And I also know, through observation and experience, that said larger community often ignores, marginalizes, or erases the B in LGBTQ+ altogether. I see you, I celebrate you, and I will always champion you.

Wearing shirts and ties, having my haircut, and existing in the world as a reasonably butch gay woman makes me a political statement by default. I don’t say that to court praise or present my life as the Most Difficult And Challenging Ever Pray For Me Hashtag Struggle – at the end of the day, I’m a white cis-woman in San Francisco, so I’m doing all right – but it is not something I am comfortable with because it’s not my intent. I look the way I do for purely selfish reasons – it’s what I want.

But in some ways, it does feel like a full circle moment to have gone from trying to hard to hide to literally wearing my identity. I feel a certain measure of responsibility that comes with the right.

Coming out and being visible has been altogether joyful and painful. More the former than the latter, because I am extremely fortunate in the family I have and the company I keep, but I expect life to bring me more of both as I keep going and keep growing.

I say all of this now more to record and share than anything else – we are our stories, and this is another piece of mine.

I didn’t think of watching the Ellen Page video, nor realize just how close to the finish line it pushed me, for a long time. My brain had to file it away a bit, I think, until I had the space to process it. She saw an opportunity to both own her identity and do something that would open up the world that much more and make it just a little better.

That’s the foundation that National Coming Out Day was built on.

I am not the biggest or the bravest…not even the butchest, really. Mine is not the loudest voice. But I think I’ve kept my heart open. My ears, too. Being out has made them better tools, and I hope I use them the right way more often than not.

If you came out in some way today, or any other day, I hope you are safe and with people who care about you. If you are still hidden, either by choice or necessity, you are no less real or valid or loved.

We will do our best to open up the world and make it just a little better for you.