my friend drea has started a coming out blog and she's lookin for people to share their stories/experiences! so here's my piece...feel free to check her out at Queer Experiences
when i first think about my sexuality, i remember not thinking boys were very important to me from a very young age. that is not to say that i didn't like boys as friends or get along with them, but more in that i really didn't feel the need to go crazy about boys, even while other girls started getting crushes on them. my clearest memory of this sentiment was when all my friends that were girls were super into
New Kids on the Block (NKOTB)
and Saved by the Bell
...i was WAY more into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,
and Punky Brewster
(a clear sign that i was such a dyke from a very early age...)...i felt no inclination to pick my favoirtie NKOTB or choose who was cuter, Zach or Slater...when really, i totally had a crush on Kelly
but being that i was raised Catholic and was told that homosexuality was punishable by eternal damnation, i really tried hard to be attracted to boys. in junior high, i had pretty much nailed the art of appearing to be boy obsessed, while secretly having crushes on many a girl on my volleyball, basketball and softball teams. my room was plastered full of half naked boys...in fact, i'm pretty sure i had an entire wall dedicated to 6-packs, beefy arms and backs...
(it looked a little like this...but envision an entire wall of male objectification...)
by the time i reached high school, i was pretty sure i was a lesbian, and had even entered a down-low relationship with one of my best friends. i was fine with this arrangement because we lived in a rural, conservative town...and quite frankly, being brown in an all-white town gave me more than enough unwanted attention. it wasn't until my second year in college, that i embraced my sexuality and came out to many of my close friends...but even then...it was a very gradual coming out. hell, i knew my mom knew i wasn't straight but when i came out to her i literally said "i'm in a relationship with another woman"....i couldn't say 'i'm a lesbian'. i came out as being 'sexual' (meaning, i didn't want to fix my sexuality to any one category), to being a dyke, to being a lesbian, to being queer, to being a queer dyke...you get the point.
as i think about my progression of self-labeling, i think about how 'coming out' is never something that you get to do once and be done with it. first you come out to yourself, then maybe your close friends, then maybe your parents/relatives...maybe your teachers or mentors...then your co-workers, then your boss, maybe a stranger on the metro because you get into a great conversation and you feel comfortable sharing yourself a little...
it is always something that you have to navigate in your every day life...in your day to day interactions... however, taking that first step does alleviate the difficulty and it has definitely increased my self-confidence, as i no longer feel as though it is some huge secret identity that, if found out, i will be destroyed. (dramatic, i know...but when you're a recovering catholic, it's serious business people!)
some of the most interesting times i've had with deciding who to come out to has been within the restaurant industry...last summer, i worked at a restaurant that was located within a mountain lodge in colorado. i knew that i would only have that job for about a month and was really focused on just getting a job, making as much money as i could, and then moving back to dc to finish my last year of my master's program. because i knew i wasn't really going to be making many super great friends, as this really was a strictly business endeavor, i decided to not let anyone in on my personal life a whole lot. i wanted to 'just be me' instead of being that brown girl who we aren't sure of what exactly she...oh and did we mention? she's also a big fat dyke.
it wasn't until the end of my last shift that i came out to some of my coworkers when we were having our shift drinks and shooting the shit. i received an overwhelming response of 'why didn't you say anything?!?'...and all i could think was 'i just didn't want to be treated differently...' i think this particular experience was very telling for me because i was living and working in a space where i felt like my primary identity was more about my racial makeup than anything else and so because i was receiving so much attention because of that, i didn't want to deal with the implications of negotiating people's reactions to my being a lesbian.
another experience i have had was at a restaurant/bar that was specifically geared toward the queer community. the majority of people staffing the place were gay men and there was one other lesbian that i worked with. i really enjoyed this job because it was a space where i really could be me...i could be meggo...the brown queer girly butch dyke. i got to wear shorts, sneakers, baseball hats, tshirts...you know, your basic softball dyke attire! however, the majority of the gay men i waited on were, for some reason, oblivious to my sexual orientation and assumed that i was straight...or bisexual...i know this because they'd ask me to check out other guys in the restaurant with them. when i would respond, 'i'm not really sure what i'm supposed to be looking for to help you because i don't look at men that way'. i would immediately be given that look...you know...the 'interesting' look. the look that is quizzical....where you can literally see the wheels turning. even though the look never lasted too long, it was still there :) it was usually followed by a grin and then questions about 'how i knew?' and 'what do lesbians do?' etc...this environment, though frustrating at times, was one of the healthiest working environments because i felt safe in my workplace and i did feel free to just be myself...even though some people still didn't know i was a dyke until i told them.
in other words...since i've come out to myself, i've realized that it's not something that i can be done with once it happens...it's something that i negotiate on a daily basis in conjunction with other aspects of what makes me me (i.e. my race, class, gender, geographic location, etc.) it's something that i have had to make a conscious decision to do, based upon how comfortable i feel with the people i am surrounded by...but it does get easier...that's for sure!