Life

VQ Comes Out: C.J. Prince

VQ-comes-out-simpleWe’re running a series of our coming out stories – VQ Comes Out – in honor of National Coming Out Day (which took place last Friday) and LGBT History month. We began over the weekend with the story of Jenn, from our Instagram community. This morning we hear from C.J. Prince, who came out seven times (by her count) over the course of 13 years. How can that be? Read on.  ~ The Editors

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How many times have you come out?

Officially, seven: to myself, my therapist, my best friend, my coworkers, siblings, and finally, to my parents. But that last one didn’t take right away. It turns out that after you come out to parents, you must raise the issue again within the first six months; otherwise the coming out expires and you have to start all over.

Me and a boy named Jack roller skating. I wasn't out yet, but the leather vest and plaid shirt are foreshadowing.

Me and a boy named Jack roller skating. I wasn’t out yet, but the leather vest and plaid shirt are foreshadowing.

Coming out to myself was the longest process. I went through many of the stages parents do when their kids come out to them—denial, fear, anger, grief, and finally, acceptance.

“I think I might be gay,” I told myself at around age 14.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You have long hair and you’re not psychotic.” I replied.
“But I think I like girls.”
“No, you don’t. You like boys.”
“Really? Okay.”

Some months or years later:

“It hasn’t really gone away,” I admitted to myself.
“It’s just a phase. You go to an all-girls school. That’s normal.”
“But the other girls are also in an all-girls school and they seem to be pretty boy-crazy.”
“Believe me, it’s a phase. A lot of girls have crushes in high school. It will pass when you get to college,” I told myself, knowingly.

Later, at Yeshiva University Stern College for Women:

“I still like girls,” I informed myself.
“Well, who told you to go to an all-women’s college?”
“I don’t think it’s the school. Women here get engaged all the time.”
“So you just need to meet the right guy.”
“I’ve met a lot of nice guys. I don’t feel anything.”
“You’re not gay.”
“How do you know?”
“Because God hates gay people and He loves you.”
“Maybe He just doesn’t know me that well.”
“God knows everything. Maybe you should try a little less time fantasizing about girls and a little more time praying.”
“I did pray.”
“Pray harder.”

Two years later, now a Barnard College transfer student:

“Pretty sure I’m gay,” I told myself, with a sigh.
“How would you even know? You’ve never tried it.”
“True.”
“Maybe you just think you’d like it. You’d probably hate it.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Prove it. Sleep with a girl and we’ll see,” I dared myself.
“Sounds risky. But okay.”

After that, I believed myself. Except that every so often I’d have to “try men” again—just to be sure.

What got you out?

This is me at 17. Out to myself, I made sure to keep my hair no shorter than shoulder length so as not to arouse any suspicion.

This is me at 17. Out to myself, I made sure to keep my hair no shorter than shoulder length so as not to arouse any suspicion.

Initially, it was the movie “The Color Purple.” I was around 15 years old and my sister-in-law, Karen, who had already seen the movie several times and loved it, thought I would like it. We went just the two of us to a movie theater in Nanuet, near Monsey, where I lived. When Whoopi Goldberg and Margaret Avery kissed, I was floored. Women can do that? I thought. After the movie was over, I decided to broach this with my sister-in-law. Although like the rest of my family she was Orthodox Jewish, she had always had a less provincial view of things than is typical amongst our sheltered kind. So I decided to bite the bullet.

“So…was Whoopi’s character gay?” I asked her.

There were a lot of ways she could have answered my question—most of them negative—but instead, she thought for a minute and, to the best of my recollection, said, “I don’t know whether she was gay or not. But I don’t think that’s what matters. This was the first person who really loved her, who showed her affection and kindness and love, and that was what she needed most. It was about love.”

Her kind, sensitive and honest description of a romantic relationship between two women made a huge difference as far as retaining my sanity during that long and winding coming out process. Her words did not make me any more gay — but they sure made me a lot less suicidal when I had to come to terms with it. I will be forever grateful to her for that.

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

In total, about 13 years until I was way the hell out. But we’re never quite finished coming out, are we?

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

I don’t have to live in fear of being outed. I don’t have to cover my tracks or remember to omit pronouns. I don’t have to reconsider each time I meet someone new whether I will come out to them. Now that I’m just out, I just am. It takes a lot of the stressing and strategizing off the table.

What’s harder?

Now I’ll never have the chance to be a closeted gay actress playing straight leading roles. Fortunately, I’m just a writer, so this hasn’t impacted me in any material way.

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

The biggest difference being out as a mom is that I don’t have the luxury of internalizing homophobia or avoiding coming out when I just don’t feel like it. Coming out has become much more of a utilitarian necessity than a personal choice. I have to come out regularly to my daughters’ friends’ parents, to their teachers, to doctors and nurses, and so on and so on. I don’t want my children to ever feel the shame I did, so I have to always be ready to come out, loud and proud and, yet, as casually as I can. I want them to be proud of who they are and of having two moms. They’re young yet, but so far, so good.

 

[PHOTO CREDITS: C.J. PRINCE]

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4 Comments

  1. “Now I’ll never have the chance to be a closeted gay actress playing straight leading roles.”

    I know, right?

    Also, adorable pics. I never would have guessed! ; )

  2. The acting thing is a real blow. But thank god, I can still be an out lesbian construction worker, if I learn how to work with tools.

  3. I went to an all-girls’ school full of boy-crazy friends as well. I never dated until college (co-ed).

    I distinctly remembering an article in Seventeen Magazine reassuring me that having crushes on girls didn’t mean I was gay, and that was my gospel for years–even well after I was married to a man and still “just crushing” on “girls.”

    Hopefully, Seventeen wouldn’t publish something like that now, but who knows…

  4. Strange to say, but I WAS boy-crazy at precisely the same age.
    Go figure.

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