Community / Life / Portraits / Sex & relationships

VQ Comes Out: Featured Family Portrait

VQ-comes-out-simpleIn celebration of National Coming Out Day and LGBT History month, VillageQ is running a series: VQ Comes Out.  We thought:  we are what we are because of our community, so what better way than to kick off the series with a coming out story from a family in our Instagram community? So here is Jenn’s coming out story. You can find Jenn on Instagram @stuffbyjno.

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stuffbyjno

When did you come out?

I come out every day.  Every time I meet someone new and I talk about my family, I have to come out.  It’s not an option for me to allow others to assume that my spouse is a “he” – that would be dishonest and I can’t do that to my wifey!  I consider my official coming out though the first time I actually said it aloud to someone other than my sister.  I went away to college (in central New York in the mid-90s) so the girls I dated then knew but no one at home (Staten Island, NY) knew.   I moved to Washington, DC in 1999 to start my career and after a few lonely years of not dating anyone, male or female, I decided to give online dating a try (thank you internet!). I was working for a US Senator at the time and right there, in the office at the photo copying machine, a colleague asked me how my date the night before went and asked me HIS name. Without thinking about it, I replied with, “Why does it have to be a he?” and the rest was history. A year later I went to work for the Human Rights Campaign and met the woman who would eventually become my wife.

What got you out?

I think it was pure frustration.  I wanted to share who I was – or at least the me I was discovering. I am an outgoing person, total extrovert, and I wasn’t being myself.  I don’t know if I was worried about my career or the labels or what, but knowing that the colleague I told (and those within earshot) was a friend made it easier.  And that friend is also the woman who stepped in and played the role of my father when he did not attend my wedding three years later.  Here I was, an advocate by trade, and I couldn’t even advocate for myself.  It was a moment that changed my life in so many ways.

How long did the coming out process take for you?

After telling my colleagues in 2003, and knowing that my sister knew, I had to tell my brother.  He was in the Coast Guard and is a staunch member of the GOP so while he’s my ‘little’ brother, I was worried about his reaction.  In the end, I didn’t have to because he said, “Wait, you mean to tell me my sister has a girlfriend before I do?  Does she have a hot, straight sister?” and I laughed my ass off.  Little did I know my father would be the issue (my mom passed away).  I went home two weekends after 9/11/01 – he worked very close to the World Trade Center and I lived within blocks of the Pentagon – and thought the tragedy might put things in perspective.  It didn’t lessen the blow of my father telling me he’d never accept it or me nor did it lessen the hurt when he told me he couldn’t attend my wedding. But, instead of pretending like I never told him or avoiding telling him about my life, which my wife was a big part of, I spoke with him like I would anyone and while he’s not 100% there yet, he is much more accepting of me.

[pullquote]I had to tell my brother.  He was in the Coast Guard and is a staunch member of the GOP so while he’s my ‘little’ brother, I was worried about his reaction.  … he said, “Wait, you mean to tell me my sister has a girlfriend before I do?  Does she have a hot, straight sister?” and I laughed my ass off. [/pullquote]

He speaks with Nicole, my wife, and when we visit, we are welcome to stay there – even in the same room!  They can get in the car and go to the store together and I don’t need to play “go between.”  My wife helped me realize I needed to either accept him the way he is or totally cut him out.  I wasn’t ready to do the latter so … my dad’s sister, our only other living relative, and her family attended our wedding.  We’ve got great support from ALL of my wife’s family too.

I lost a few friends during my coming out process but really, how good of friends could they have been in the first place? And those that stuck with me are the ones that I love. Funny thing is, I started writing a blog (back when it was called an online diary) somewhat anonymously in 2001 and was totally out then – the blog chronicled my life, all of it.  So, I was really out to the world before I was out to those closest to me! And I made so many friends, such supportive ones, because of the blog and got contacted by so many strangers about how I helped them come out that I don’t regret being out online one bit.

What’s easier about your life now that you’re out?

Everything!  I love my family and love being able to freely share all aspects of my life that people want to hear. I am an advocate and I am able to advocate on behalf of my family, friends, and strangers.  Educating people is easier when I can share my own personal story!

What’s harder about your life now that you’re out?

Losing that close relationship with my father was hard, but I don’t regret telling him, obviously.  I’ve been lucky to have worked for some very forward thinking organizations so I’ve always been able to be out without fear of being fired and I’ve always had the option to cover my wife under my insurance, etc.  However, not having a relationship recognized by the federal government is hard. It was a bit annoying to have gotten legally married in DC in 2011 after having gotten officially married five years prior.  Having had two weddings was a bit harder.  Lastly, having had to shell out lots of money to move to MD from VA because Virginia’s laws (what if we want kids?  How about when I go to the ER and need Nicole in the room with me but they refuse?) are so antiquated and anti-GLBT was super annoying.

How are you out in a whole new way with the children in your life?

My nieces and nephews, on both sides of the family, know Nicole and I love one another and are married.  Again, we’ve been lucky to have supportive family members who are willing to explain that love is love – some boys love girls, some girls love girls and some boys love boys.  Just that simple.

 stuffbyjno4

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All photos used with permission by Jenn. Thank you for sharing your story with us!

Join the conversation on Instagram by posting a photo of yourself from around the time you first came out. Tag your photo with #VQComingOut and tell us your story! You can find VillageQ on Instagram @villageq.

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3 Comments

  1. You are right– it is just that simple. Here is to the rest of the world figuring that out!

    Thanks Jenn for sharing your story with us.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your struggles and your triumphs. Pleased that you’re out, proud and happy AND here with us!

  3. What a cute couple.

    Sorry, I’m shallow.

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