hi, my name is…

by kittery

lgbt-blogI’ve wondered for a while now what the best thing to do was. Should I keep the truth to myself, portray myself as a straight ally? Avoid the appearance of wanting equality because the subject was personal? Here’s the thing, for years I considered myself a “straight” ally, because anyone looking at my life would consider me that. But the truth is, I’m bisexual. And I have been since before I can remember. It was never a choice I made. It was the way I came. I’m talking still young enough to sleep in my crib, knowing the truth about myself. I knew there were members of my family who wouldn’t approve, so I kept it quiet. If any of my family are reading this post, they’re discovering the truth about me just now, same as you. I’m lucky to have never felt any shame or despair, but there were key moments in my life I remember. One was listening to a conversation my older brother and mother were having. He was snickering about Bambi being a girl’s name, and some innuendo about Walt Disney I didn’t understand. I couldn’t understand why being happy (gay) was so funny. Seeing the confused look on my face, my mother explained that gay meant not everybody got together boy-girl boy-girl. Some boys had relationships. She assured me that gay people thought heterosexual sex was as gross as straight people considered gay sex. I remember thinking, oh okay. But I don’t think any of it’s gross. Where does that leave me? But I was a quiet kid, and kept my thoughts to myself. A few years later, the same brother and I were in the car with our parents. He was talking about how his high school Spanish teacher was gay. My mother was delighted with the town gossip, suspicions confirmed at last. My father, who usually kept his opinions to himself, and rarely swore said, “I don’t give a damn what anyone’s sexual orientation is. It doesn’t matter.” I remember being utterly horrified my father said the word “sexual,” and deeply impressed he’d found the subject important enough to swear about. Years later, when the question of equal marriage rights was on my state’s ballot, my mother told me she wasn’t sure how to vote, and with complete disgust, continued to say how she wished they’d “keep it to themselves,” and “not rub {her} nose in it.”

I called her a narrow-minded bigot and stalked off to seethe at my father for her complete lack of decency and compassion. He shook his head and said, “some people just don’t get it, and never will.”

While I never felt self-loathing (for that, anyway), I continued to grow up and keep the truth to myself. A few years before she died, my beloved grandmother asked if someone we knew was dating anyone. “Does X have a boyfriend? Or a girlfriend? At this point, anything would be good.” I laughed. Partly because it was such an assy thing for my ninety-two year old grandmother to say, but mostly from relief. Because a girl having a girlfriend wouldn’t have been a problem for her. I still never told her, but knowing that gave me a lot of comfort – that she would accept me, even if she knew the truth.

When I started dating my husband, we had a lot of heated fights. Fights about equal marriage v. civil unions. We kept going around and around on the topic until one night we were sitting on the couch, and he said, “why are you getting so upset about this?” I broke down in tears and yelled, “because you’re talking about me. About people like me. Would I somehow be lesser if you were a woman? I’m the same person!”

He stopped arguing for civil unions after that.

Lately he’s been coming home and telling me snippets of conversations he’s had with his father. His father has the view that being gay is a choice, that boys who don’t fit into the jock universe lack confidence, and eventually bond with other guys with similar experiences, thus becoming gay. He hasn’t shared his roadmap to becoming lesbian, but I’d guess it takes a similar trajectory. Too unfeminine and eventually they find other likeminded women and bond in bed over ice fishing and lamp repair. Who knows. I never “chose” to be who I am. Neither did my husband. Nor have any of the people I’ve asked. Their preferences revealed themselves, period.

Please think about this, why would anyone choose to be unsure if their family would continue to love and accept them? To wonder if their friends would continue to be friends? Why would anyone choose to be gay when that could mean harassment, or worse? All of the gay teens who killed themselves out of despair, did they choose to be a way that would entice others to treat them like outcasts and freaks? I don’t think so.

I say this without sarcasm: if you remember choosing to not be gay, or bi, or trans, perhaps you need to look in the mirror and examine the person looking back at you. It’s scary. I know this. I’ve been shaking writing this, and there are only a few family members that might read this. It took me ten years to tell my best friend Hermione, and she knows the best and worst parts of me. We lived together in college, for god’s sake. That’s how closely I guarded my secret.

I’ve decided though, in the wake of the election and the godawful week we’ve had, to stop hiding under the protection of “straight” and add my name to the ranks of Other, where it belongs. To be honest about who I am in the hopes that it will remind even one person that we’re all just people. That a person’s sexual identity and preference is not something they decide on when they’re bored and have nothing better to do. That it can’t be cleansed away, like a kleptomaniac’s compulsion to pilfer, or an arsonist’s fondness for matches, anymore than you can scrub away the parts of yourself that are authentic and true.

If there is anyone in your sphere that belongs in the Other category, and you’ve held opinions about them, try to let those go. Show them support. We could use it right now.

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