I saw this picture over at Lewis’ blog and then followed the link in his post to Kelly’s blog to read more about his challenge. Kelly’s challenge was to post his rainbow pride flag picture on as many blogs as possible, and then tell him. Kelly also added to the “pride challenge”–tell your coming out story (or lack of one, etc). OK, here is Kelly’s picture–let it wave far and wide for PRIDE! (And below I actually attempted to distill my “coming out” story into words for the first time).
My coming out story? I had not as of yet distilled that to writing. Where do I begin? A decade or so ago I was a “straight married Christian housewife” watching my husband squirrel away canned goods and jugs of water in preparation for “Y2K” (insert a visual of “Chicken little” here). Then, my already small box of a world became so small I feared I would suffocate and so I stumbled “out” of that box–without a lot of fanfare, but with a lot of confusion and pain and ultimately… relief!
Is that where it all began? I doubt it. My current partner and I were both previously partnered with men for over a decade. We are both still with the first woman we ever truly hooked up with (each other). And our standing joke for years was “we should have always known on some level.”
Although, I didn’t “know” for sure. I knew that I always had boyfriends and enjoyed dating and holding hands and kissing… but when it came to approaching actual “sex” I was scared. I had thought that was because my ultra-conservative Christian father threatened to send me off to “girl’s prison” if I got pregnant (strange he said that to me because I was a “perfect” teen–fear based of course). But I think it was more than that. At age 13 my boyfriend was my best friend’s brother. Although I liked my boyfriend, I much preferred being close to my best friend. This boyfriend was my first kiss, but I don’t remember any fireworks. Contrast that with one time my parents picked me up at her house–and my best friend kissed me on the cheek before we left–and I felt… electricity! But, nothing ever became of that. Combine being raised in a conservative church in California hearing about “those people” in San Francisco and the “evils of homosexuality” with my family moving to a different state at that juncture.
Fast forward to 21. I’d been at a Christian college for a few years, dated a very “handsy” guy off and on during those years, and it looked as if we were going to end up getting married at the end of that year (because he was graduating and his parents were going to be in town–not exactly the proposal every girl dreams of). This “good Christian young man” had not really been faithful to me during our dating years. I had broken up with him a couple times for that. This time, a young lady I did not know came to me and told me stories about what my “boyfriend” had done with her while he was purporting commitment to me. Whether it makes sense to anyone else or not, I was nauseated by what she had disclosed to me, I felt that he had cheated on me for the last time! I cried all night long–while she held me. Nothing happened! She was a good Christian Midwestern girl who wouldn’t have fathomed not marrying a good rancher boy. But, that one night in her arms felt safer than the 3 years with this boyfriend/fiance (who I intended to break up with after this revelation). Something was awakened inside me (re-awakened from 13–who knows). I did break off my engagement, and spent about a year hanging out with this young lady. It was a very highly emotionally and chemically charged year for me. Then, the whole world changed for me again. I could not reconcile my spirituality with (being a Christian and what I had been told about homosexuality) what I felt inside me regarding my sexuality. So, when my former fiance tirelessly pursued me telling me he had “changed,” I figured it must be “God’s will” and agreed to marry him. (After the wedding, I never saw that friend again by the way.)
Fast forward again. Marriage had been “OK”–certainly not fulfilling. But I guess I figured it was better than my parents’ marriage! During the decade plus of marriage I started feeling increasing discontent with the small, constricted world I was in (My former husband dictated most every area of my life, even what I “was allowed to” watch on TV. I have since learned much of that control by him was emotional and spiritual abuse). During that time frame he disclosed to me some “skeletons in his closet” continuing from college that had an amazingly unnerving effect on me. We went to 1 counseling session, the Christian counselor told my husband to, in essence, “get his poop in a group.” Yeh, well that didn’t happen! But I still found some autonomy and fulfillment in my friendships and in being a mother–whenever he wasn’t around. Then he decided to quit his job and work “freelance” out of our home (a.k.a.–not working). That really started closing in the walls of my world. My 8-hr./day sanctuary had been taken. Then came the big scare at our church regarding the end of the world as we knew it (a.k.a.–“Y2K”). My husband swallowed that up! I think it gave him something to do in the absence of employment. Our garage became full of stockpiled can goods and water. Throughout the years I had sublimated my inner sexual desires with (as an aside, I love the word sublimation…”the transformation of unwanted impulses into something less harmful”) “ministry,” motherhood, friendship, writing, education, exercise, prayer. It all worked so long as I had space to express myself somehow. With this “Y2K” scare came the last straw for me. My husband knew that no matter how penniless we had been at times, I was not ever willing to live with family. Independence and autonomy were highly valued to me–even if in a studio apartment eating rice! The “last straw” was hearing my husband on the phone with his mother making plans for us to all move into THEIR small house out in the middle of nowhere (far away from any friends or freedom–or cell signal) and just live with them in their small house while his dad would hunt and gather to feed us. I was incredulous! My suffocation levels were reaching critical level at this point. I decided I would rather face the “end of the world” with uncertainly and freedom than in the tiny wilderness world he was content to move us to (I didn’t believe Y2K was going to be the end of the world, but my husband would not listen to the wisdom of his wife of course). That world ended–I left him.
I met a woman who rocked my world. And I thought to myself: I had tried to do it all the “right way,” I tried to be “perfect” for more than 3 decades, I tried to be what everyone else thought I should be… and it left me empty and lost. I figured that I may as well just “go for what I really wanted.” And so I did. I took the plunge and entered a relationship with that woman who rocked my socks (still my partner)! I had never experienced anything like this! She just “fit”… this was more than I had even imagined. And so for better or worse, I changed my whole world to finally have what I had really wanted for so long. Of course, I lost all but a couple of my former friends, lost some family too, and other painful losses were sustained.
The journey out has not been without pain, and no relationship is perfect, but I will tell you this: it is much easier to B-R-E-A-T-H-E in this life of mine now. I don’t have it all figured out, but to quote one of my favorite song lyrics… “slowly I’m becoming who I am.”
(Song lyric by Margaret Becker)