10-11-12: National Coming Out Day

LGBTQ&A may be a string of letters, each signifying a word, each word representing a supposed distinct group of people… and like anything else, as soon as you open things up, you see the complexity of the cross-sections, the intersections, the nuances and subtleties and real-life-ness of real people.

I truly believe it when I say that none of us conforms to a label–straight, queer, or otherwise. To be human, to be alive, is to flow.

I am thankful to live in a time and place where space is at least beginning to expand for more of that fluidity, be it in terms of sexuality or gender expression. In many countries, even in many parts of this country, I would not be safe to be out, to be in a loving, public relationship with another woman.

Coming out was, for me, at once beautiful and wrenching, an experience of life force and truth more powerful than any other than childbirth I’ve ever known.

And–we have a long way to go.

**

Among the dozens of journals I left behind in preparing for this recent move from Burlington to Amherst, these are a few of the final random entries I opened to and read before deciding to let them go for good.

July 19, 1988

I am just me. No matter how I turn out in the end (is there an end?), no matter how much people hurt me or love me, it will enhance everything within me. Everything scares me to death, but in a strange way I’m fearless.

July 20, 1988

A small room but not too small, with a sink and a bed and a desk and an empty ashtray–a small window reflects it all. Trinity College, Oxford. Tonight after dinner, I went back to Lee’s room and hung out for a few hours with Lee, Elizabeth, and a few other people. It was really nice. They all think I’ll be a senior (this was in fact the summer before 10th grade) so the question of where I’ll study keeps coming up. But in a funny way, it’s helping me figure it out and I am leaning towards NYU or Barnard.

Elizabeth is entering her senior year at Smith. I can’t figure out why I keep thinking of her. I think part of me could fall in love with her, which is really weird for me to think about. (Lesbians??) I’ve never questioned my sexuality before (seriously) and I don’t even think I am now, if I ever had a relationship like that with a woman, I still wouldn’t not be heterosexual (bisexual?).

I wonder if everyone questions these things at one point or another. I wonder if she’s a lesbian. Her hair is dirty blond and long and a bit curly, she’s also a Capricorn, a writer, picks up languages, a perfectionist. She’s 21. They all think I’m 16. I’m beginning to think I could even talk about this kind of thing with Jessi or Tasha… It’s just so different being around girls than it is with guys. I’m not self-conscious, etc. I mean, say Elizabeth is a lesbian and she went to kiss/touch me or something, I don’t think I would stop her. But I do like guys, not that I’ve been with a lot of them, but so far…

It’s weird. I am, of course, the same person as before this trip, but I feel different. I’m not really sure what it is. I think I’ll stay in touch with Elizabeth since she’s right in Northampton. God, I’m confused. But that’s alright. Maybe it’s even wonderful.

And then reading back on earlier entries–from the spring of 1988:

She’s got a disease
that no drug can cure
it won’t go away
it won’t go away
she’s screaming inside
she’s screaming she’s crying
“they’re all lying
cause she’s dying”

Entry after entry about suicide, being tired of being unhappy. Sad, scared, angry, alone.

I was fourteen.

It may seem cliche to write this, but reading these both broke and healed something in me. I spent so much of my life closeted without having the language for it, so intimately identified less as straight or gay but as somehow missing-in-action from my own life.

In all those years of journaling, even from time to time overtly questioning my sexuality or naming my interest in women, without exception I always wrote it off in one way or another, never coming out and saying what I wanted without a dismissal, a reason why it wasn’t really legitimate or true.

The inner violence of self-denial, however deeply subconscious or masked, took many forms, from self-inflicted harm to depression, self-doubt, and a sense of pressure to fit when I knew I didn’t.

**

I want to write about what this past week has been like. I do not know when I will have the time or space to land and let those words find their way out, though I know they will flow eventually, like a river finding its way home to the ocean.

Like anything big I suppose, moving through this move has been so much more intense and emotional for me than I could have expected. It has been a powerful reminder that the only way to know what something will be is to go through it; no amount of planning or manner of mental or practical preparation ever substitutes for actual experience.

So yes, I thought for many years about being with women, but could never have known until I opened that door (or the skies opened up and unleashed my soul–I do not exaggerate) how this would actually feel–what shifts it would initiate in my entire being, my life.

And no, opening to this, to myself, is not a fantasy wherein my restlessness and the discomfort of existing vanish. Life is both dissonance and harmony, the music of the dance between these, one not even preferable to the other.

Me at fourteen–suffering, curious, crumbling, reaching upward. I didn’t keep the journals, and in the end, it was a clear choice. I was able to tell that girl she no longer needed me to tote her around in a musty book, in a wooden peach create, in a basement, in a closet.

She had grown up and become a woman. She is me. I am her. We are one. It is all a continuum: One life, one love, one self, no self. Learning how to be human, in, out, or otherwise, beyond labels and acronyms.

May you be safe. May you be loved. May you be free. May you be you.

5 thoughts on “10-11-12: National Coming Out Day

  1. gailnhb says:

    A lovely piece indeed. I especially like that last line, the benediction – may you be safe, loved, free – and may you be you. As it turns out, I guess you’ve been you for a mightly long time. Those journal entries confirm it, don’t they?

    Peace be with you on this Monday morning, Jena. Deep peace.

    Like

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