Life

VQ comes out: Feeling like Judas

VQ-comes-out-simpleNext up for VQ Comes Out – our series honoring National Coming Out Day and LGBT History month winds down as Clare shares her story – from Drama Club to straight prom dates to coming out as queer while married to a man. ~ The Editors


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 How many times have you come out?

Drama Club

Drama Club
Photo Credit: Clare

Pretty much from the moment I started having lusty thoughts, I knew I was queer. I was one of the lucky ones who was exposed to gay people growing up. My Mom had lesbian friends and I babysat for their kids, my older sister went to Smith and had queer friends, and I was coming of age in the 90’s when queer families started to gain more visibility. In fact, the sex-ed book by sister bought me had a handy-dandy chapter on “being gay”. Okay, maybe it wasn’t called that but that was the gist of it and it was affirming.

In high school, I joined the high school gay straight alliance and went on a few dates. I was out but not super loud about it, though I didn’t hide being bisexual. I was big into the Drama Club and spent hours in those halls. Needless to say, it was a pretty accepting environment.

Before prom, my school always organized a promenade. My senior prom (1998) was the first time Shorewood High School allowed same sex couples to participate in the promenade and I went with a girl but she wasn’t a “date”. We were two female friends going to prom together and we walked out together in the promenade and my not-out-of-the-closet friends walked with their heterosexual dates and we had a great time.

prom

Senior Prom
Photo Credit: Clare

All was not as rosy and easy as it may seem above, however.

I wasn’t out to my parents.

I tried to tell myself that it was because the subject simply hadn’t come up except my Mom did, in fact, ask me several times during high school and college if I was gay and, without thinking, “No” came out of my mouth. My Mom, whose queer friends were central roles in my life, who talks about marriage equality and gay rights, who adored my sister’s queer friends, was the number one person I knew would be an ally.

And yet, I said “no”.

More than once.

I know my Dad would have been just as supportive though he never asked.

This is the first time I have written these words and, honestly, I have grappled with and tried to understand my negative response for years. It is a fact that I am embarrassed about and would rather forget or re-write. How did that internalized homophobia seep inside me? Why was this my gut reaction? How do I reconcile this with my otherwise very out and proud self? I don’t know the answers to those questions. I also haven’t quite figured out how to forgive myself for these moments of weakness. And, since I grew up in the Catholic church, I do think of Judas denying Jesus three times before the rooster’s crow. Did I mention that my mother asked me on three occasions?

What got you out?

I officially came out to my parents at 26 by telling them I was bringing my girlfriend at the time, Sylvia, home for Thanksgiving. By that point, they had come to terms with me being straight so there were some awkward questions. Then, there was a call from my sister’s best friend, the great Liza who started Lesbian Family, and an amazing, affirming call from a close family member to tell me that, although he was part of the military, he disagreed with their policies and would never consider changing my relationship to him, his family, or his kids.

Thanksgiving was great as has been life since. My parents never questioned why I wanted a commitment ceremony with my husband or why I didn’t want to marry in the church. See? I am one of the lucky ones.

How long did the process take ’til you were out to family/ friends/ world?

Coming out at large, however, is a continual process. People do not read me as queer. What little lesbian-cred I might have had in the past has all but disappeared with the addition of a two-year-old, a husband, and a legally recognized heterosexual marriage. Still, I do what I have always done. I come out and drop things into conversation when they come out. The one time I actively “come out” is when I am with people who are saying things that are inappropriate (jokes or language mostly) or who are espousing political views that are homophobic. When someone talks about how they don’t believe in marriage equality or think that gays are in some way less, my reaction is generally to say, “Huh… Do you have any friends or family who are gay? Would having a friend that was gay change your opinion? Sometimes it just takes talking to someone.”  Wait for reaction.  “Well, I’m gay.”

How are you out in a whole new way with kids?

2006

Taken in grad school around the time I brought my girlfriend home for the first time
Photo Credit: Clare

My daughter is a toddler.  While I tried to teach her the word heteronormatvity the other day, she really doesn’t understand the politics of queer and straight and ally.  I consciously talk to her using inclusive language regarding both gender identity and inclusive family structures.  I find the need to come out has increased exponentially as my appearance – Women, Man, Child – screams heterosexual.  I am sure it will become a bigger deal and some day I will grapple with how to tell my daughter I am bisexual.  But, that day isn’t here quite yet.

 

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5 Comments

  1. Have I told you recently how awesome you are?

    • Why, no. You haven’t! Thanks Liza.

      It was actually really kind of hard to write this piece. Ugh. There I said it.

      But, honestly, thanks. You are pretty swell too. 🙂

      • It’s good to do hard things and I’m glad you put your story out here for everyone. I also have deep respect for the fact that you continue to come out when it would be easier to let people make assumptions. Go you.

        • You are right, in some respects it would be easier. But it would also be so so so much harder to feel closeted. Thanks Vikki for your encouragement!

  2. It has been pointed out (on one of the FB shares) that my Christian analogy is wrong.

    Judas is known for his kiss and betrayal of Jesus to the hands of the chief Sanhedrin priests in exchange for a payment of thirty silver coins.

    It was Peter who Jesus predicted would deny knowledge of him and Peter who did (according to the Bible).

    So, I guess that is what you get when you rely on your religious knowledge from when you were in middle school. Sorry.

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