You Can Never Go Home Again: Part II

This whole story isn’t really about being queer. My life isn’t supposed to be about being queer the same way yours isn’t meant to be about your romantic and sexual relationships. That’s not who you are in your core. You don’t “identify” as straight. You don’t describe yourself that way. I don’t want to describe myself by my relationships, either. But I have to. Time and again. Why? Because it matters to cis-gender straight people for some strange reason.

I moved to Houston sometime in late summer of 1998 after I graduated high school. Why Houston? Because my girlfriend, an educated, polite, and successful Texan happened to be from there. (The story of how we met is detailed in the coming out anthology if you want to read it some time. It’s romantic as hell and even includes writing letters and making mixtapes featuring The Cure, Depeche Mode, and George Strait.) I had plans of softball scholarships and Mizzou, but I secretly applied to the University of Houston and made my escape.

The shock of going from a quiet town along a river to a huge, stinky city near the gulf was immense. I could read a map, but I’d never driven anywhere larger than Columbia. I didn’t really know how to cook or wash my clothes. I didn’t know what raves were. Until I did. I hated cilantro and avocado and I’d never had Indian food. I went to class and came home to the house we shared with my girlfriend’s best friend. I was a terrible roommate. I don’t think I cleaned once. I’m sorry to both of you. After a few months I felt myself slip away; I realized I’d never been where no one knew me. Around my part of the world it was always, “Aren’t you that Holzhauser girl?” The anonymity of the city helped teach me I wasn’t as special as my parents had led me to believe. It was a tough lesson to learn, but it was also a huge relief. I had to remind myself constantly that was a big reason I had to leave.

Being queer isn’t a lifestyle. It’s not like subsistence fishing. It’s not deciding to live in a van and travel the U.S. like Steinbeck. I did a lot of queer things in Houston, though. I had a friend who sneaked me into “the gay bar.” (It was called “Chances” or “The Barn”) There were plenty of gay bars, but only one I ever really went to. It was divided into three areas: The front was a classic American diner where the trans ladies and drag queens hung out. The middle was what we called, “prom.” That was the area for dancing to Madonna or whatever was new. Then, in the back, that was where you could two-step. I went other places, too. Rich’s was a men’s bar that looked like something from all of those films I watched about cities. There were almost-naked men everywhere. Some wore make-up. Some wore mesh shirts. Some danced in cages. All of them smiled at me in a way that told me I could belong and not belong at the same time.

No one tells you how uncomfortable it is to watch so many same sex couples and other queers dance and kiss like straight people. When you’ve never seen it, even if you’re one of them, it’s disorienting. And I’m not talking about gross stuff. I’m just talking about people acting like people do when they’re out on a Saturday. I was embarrassed that I had to get used to it. In my world, there were no queer people in movies or in tv shows. I wasn’t used to seeing myself anywhere other than my own mirror.

I was taken to a pride parade without understanding the concept. I mean, when you’re queer, no one teaches you history or anything, they just expect you to know or figure it out. So, there I was, walking down the sidewalk taking in the parade, when some dudes are walking backwards, holding signs and chanting, “God hates fags!” They accidentally bump into me. One dude turns around, you know, instinctively, and apologizes sincerely. I look at him for a moment as he looks at me in a white tank top, baggy men’s jeans, and Birkenstocks, my chain wallet glistening in the sunlight. I say nothing as I wait for him to see the irony of what’s just transpired.

I shaved my head and dressed more masculine. Then, I grew out my hair and tried out leather pants and no bra. I learned to drink Shiner Bock and Lonestar while I danced with older women who’d bought them for me. I learned to play rugby, what an arthouse theatre was, where to go around the city, how to drive anywhere, how to shut up with my former judgmental shit and learn about new people. I learned how to live in a city. I got so good that no one who met me would guess where I came from. By looking at me, you’d think I was some sort of rave kid or alternative street kid.

I lived in the queer part of town. Westheimer. People were very weird there, so I was nothing. I didn’t stick out. No one gave me the looks. I blended in and found my people at the job I worked which was an outdoor/camping supply store in the area. This is where I unlearned all of the prejudices I’d amassed growing up and where I became cultured. I was schooled in music: Tito Puente, Bob Marley, and Shakira. I learned what vegans and vegetarians were. Oh, the food I learned and learned to eat! I learned that abortion isn’t the murdering of babies. That not all brown people are from Mexico. That not everyone grows up eating squirrel. And, I was shocked to find out that not everyone was Christian. I learned that people can be bad. That people can be very, very wonderful and accepting. I learned there that I was not alone. That we are all different and the same. I grew and grew into myself.

More and more frequently I found myself in spaces where my whiteness was the minority, and sometimes unwelcome. Some huge and very bright light bulbs started flashing above my head.

In that growth and that swarming mass of beautiful and strange people, I started to see my hometown as an awful, backward place. Only white Christians lived there. Only straight people lived there. I had to consider all of the racist shit I’d heard growing up. Did I remember correctly that my relatives said these things? There was a whirlpool of bigotry that my younger self felt but couldn’t name. Most people there had never really left. Had they tried to? Were they stuck there? I felt like I was the only one who knew I had the choice to leave.

Not many people from my family reached out to me the four years I lived in Houston. I mean, of course my parents did, and I even made trips home for holiday gatherings. At the time, my relationship with my parents was still very strained, but they were getting better. The distance helped, of course. Only one aunt sent me a letter. I can’t remember what it said, exactly, but it was something along the lines of “I don’t understand your lifestyle, but I still love you.” As a 19 year old, it pissed me off. Now I see it was an attempt at reaching out, maybe apologizing. I still carry the guilt of not responding to that letter.

At that time, I was ashamed of where I’d grown up. I was embarrassed to be so ignorant. I felt deprived of a life I could’ve had if only I’d been raised in an urban place.

The first panic attack I ever had was at an Indian restaurant after I bit into a samosa. The flavor was too much, too unfamiliar. There were so many people in the restaurant and so many cars whizzing by. And my new girlfriend who couldn’t figure out why I’d freak out over such a delicious place to eat. I had to leave. I wanted to be by myself. But in a city that large, it was impossible. I tried to think of a place to go. I pictured parks with trees-full of people. Museums-full of people. There was no where. So, I sat and cried in my basement efficiency apartment.

Each night when I tried to sleep, with all of the sirens blaring, and cars with their vibrating trunks and Tejano music, the occasional screams, the upstairs neighbors stomping about, I put a pillow over my head and tried to think of home. I just needed one night of peace, of an open window and cool breeze. Of frogs and cicadas. Just one day in the woods alone to quiet my thoughts.

My only options for an existence seemed to be to stay in the city that was wonderfully ambivalent toward me but was constantly noisy and busy, or go home to the peace of my river where people stared through me and talked about me behind my back. Back to the country where people had opinions about groups of people they’d never even met. Back to a place that no one could seem to leave.

Portland, my hometown, was suffocating though I could get lost in the woods. Houston taught me how to feel alone without ever letting me be alone.

I was 22 when I felt like I knew too much and not enough. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.

For the first time in my life, I felt like an orphan.

Age 21. Somewhere in Texas Hill Country.

You Can Never Go Home Again: Part I

When I came out at the age of 17, I knew my family would never look at me the same again. From the beginning, I was called pretty and beautiful. My mom kept my hair very, very long, and it was given a lot of attention and praise. I was enrolled in kid beauty pageants and put into dance classes. I was made to wear sun dresses and Easter dresses and I had those damn lace collared socks. I hated all of it. Well, I didn’t mind the tap and gymnastics portions of dance class. I knew then, when I was 5, that I was different from the people around me. Most of those feelings I dismissed because I was adopted. I figured, you know, adopted kids just feel a little out of place no matter how much their family loves them.

There were times when I wondered if I was supposed to be a boy. There were times when I wished I could be. There were times I cried about all of those feelings in that tiny overhang of bluff by the river. Of course, this was in the ’80s. In my part of the world, there was no such thing as gay people. And there was definitely no such thing as trans people, or any alternative gender. In case you’re getting excited about my own gender reveal, calm down. I’m not saying anything, really. I’m a girl. Probably. I guess. I just don’t care. I am just me. But more than enough people have called me sir. Or stared me down in a bathroom. Or looked at me with that look you’ve never known unless you’re gender-bending in some way.

Anyway, you know that coming out in Callaway County was hard. I don’t want to sound tough about it anymore; it was traumatizing. Someone keyed “dyke” into my gym locker. I told some teachers, but guess what, nothing happened. There were rumors that I was kissing random people at the softball field. There were people who straight-up told me that their parents wouldn’t let them hang out with me anymore. That I was going to hell.

When I went to basketball camp, only one person would be my roommate. She endured some teasing and a lot of questions from the others wondering how she could possibly be comfortable sleeping in the same room with me.

My basketball coach was so rude to me the first few days of practice, I quit. The previous year, I was MVP and won Best Female Athlete. When I handed him my uniform, all he said was, “okay.” Yes, you know him. And yes, you know his wife was also my fifth grade teacher and is currently a MO state senator. And yes, when my ex-wife was pregnant and I introduced her, she literally looked past us and said nothing.

My parents sent me to therapy. Not to help me in the sense we might think about it now, but to help me get back to being straight.

I saw someone in a gas station a few years after I graduated and he was like, “heyyyyy, how are you?” In that kind of voice that says something was really wrong with me. I asked, “what do you mean?” He said, “You know, all of that stuff you went through in high school?” I said, “you mean coming out?” And he was like, “no, all the drugs and stuff?” I was like, what the fuck are you even talking about? I was a total narc in high school. I hated drugs. I hated alcohol. I judged anyone who used them. I went to two parties; at one, I had three sips of Boone’s Farm and drove my friend home. I felt guilty about that for years. Maybe you’re wondering about the other party? My friend got high and drunk and started puking. Luckily, she came with someone else, so I wasn’t responsible for her. But there was so much hetero making out, I had to leave. I arrived sober and left even more sober. Anyway, I yelled at that guy in gas station, “I’m just fucking gay!” and left.

And then there was the sexual harassment, luckily all verbal, interspersed with lewd sexual questions and suggestions. There were threats of corrective rape.

So, being 17 and gay in a tiny ass, rural, southern town in 1997 wasn’t just hard; it was hardening.

Those obvious abuses were awful and plentiful. The worst things, though, were the looks and the utter silence. This came from the principal, who scowled at me any time I walked by. This came from most of the teachers and students. Most importantly, it came from my family.

That was surprising and the most damaging. I was doted on since I was little and even up until the point I was outted. I was the smart, pretty athlete they were all so proud of. Then suddenly, I was no longer beautiful; I was a wretched disgusting creature unworthy of words. No one really spoke to me. About anything. When they did, they didn’t meet my eyes. I had hoped that my family’s love for me would help them understand that gay people are just people. I believed that if they really knew a gay person, they’d learn that it wasn’t sinful or bad or whatever they thought. At the time, I wanted them to ask questions because I had the strength to teach them. There were no allies to do the emotional lifting for me. I was ready. But. It was just a year of silence. And those looks. How does one describe them to someone who has lived such a life as not to experience them?

Well, it is the face of someone right before they vomit. It is pale and disoriented. It is the face of someone seeing a mugshot of a pedophile on the news- that sick sonuvabitch. It is the face of someone as they draw up their nose at the first hint of skunk. It is the face of someone who has been betrayed.

It is the face of your parents and cousins and aunts and uncles. It is one of those dreams when you realize you’ve gone somewhere naked.

Yes, that’s it. You’re naked. But you can never wake up.

I was out just a few months when this was taken. Yes. It’s my senior picture.

A Note to My Second Cousin: Fuck Your Microaggressions at the Potluck

Dear Second Cousin,

If you remember correctly, just this Saturday evening we were hanging out in Portland, celebrating all the 70th birthdays that just happened in our extended family. You and I hadn’t seen each other in quite a while, and because you’re, like, 7 years older than me, we were never super close growing up. Anyway, I made a joke about being from Portland because you’d told me your daughter was dating her second cousin and you laughed at her. And I was relating to you the time my dad told me I was related to my boyfriend. I joked, you know, good thing I’m gay, anyway. And you said, “Yeah, we all know” And the other cousins standing in the circle, sweating and drinking their Busch lights as the lightning bugs started to flash all laughed. But you. You had to say, you had to mansplain, “Well, I think women are lesbians because a man has done them wrong.” And I, ever so much more like my sweet, non-confrontational mother, just said, “Oh, my God. Shut the fuck up.” I looked at the surrounding cousins to help me, but nothing came except swigs of  light beer and the shifting of bodies and slapping of bugs.

What I meant to say was this:

  1. How dare you, or any man think that a woman’s default setting is men. That’s fucking ridiculous. I hate how men think they have ALL OF THE POWER to keep a woman straight or turn her gay. Fuck you. Fuck every guy who thinks they have that kind of influence.
  2. If every woman who’d ever been treated badly by a man became a lesbian, EVERY FUCKING WOMAN WOULD BE A LESBIAN, you sweating, cut off shirt wearing ogre. Look at you, all uncomfortable in those Wal-Mart brand, saggy ass jean shorts. You think women are into all that mess? Please.
  3. Are gay men gay because a woman has done them wrong?
  4. Lesbians are not man haters. But you, and men like you, are doing a super duper job of turning us (and straight women) that way.
  5. Also, your comment about your daughter being a lazy barrel racer. Fuck you. And fuck your sexism.
  6. I want to say your comment didn’t wake me up all night with thoughts of what I should’ve said. With me telling myself how terrible I was in that situation with no comeback. I totally stayed perfectly asleep not thinking about how I’ve been out for so long and still, you, a family member, had to say some stupid shit. Some stupid shit in front of others who didn’t notice the indiscretion or also didn’t know what to say. Some stupid shit that I, queen of witty comebacks, didn’t have a comeback to.
  7. Fuck you. And fuck the deer sausage you brought.
  8. And to the relative who asked where my “Friend” was (meaning Gaby, my partner of yearly 5 years) Fuck you, too.

 

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Pride and Prejudice

It’s pride month. So, let me remind you that I’m a homosexual. I’ve been aware of myself and out for 21 years. In that time, society has changed drastically, but not enough.

Maybe it’s because of my age or the people I hang out with, but it’s very rare that someone asks me “when did you know you were gay?” or “who’s the man?”  It’s such a relief.

This is the time I dreamed of when I was 17 and sitting in that therapist’s office and he was trying to tell me that being gay was going to be so hard and weird and maybe I should reconsider. As he would go on about all of the challenges of being gay, I would try to imagine the day when I just lived without anyone caring if I was. Today is that day.

I’m so grateful to feel so much safer than I did 21 years ago.

That doesn’t mean that everyone is safe, though, or that things are just fine.

My fitbit app updated the other day to include “female health.” It’s a nifty period/ovulation tracker. I pushed the button to allow it to ask me a series of questions. They included what type of birth control I use. I clicked none. And felt judged. Now that that portion of the app is set up, I can go in and track things in my life like: sex, unprotected sex, and the morning after pill. Obviously, these things don’t apply to me.

And I really hate that my fitbit thinks I have sex with men. My fitbit has made an assumption about me based on the fact that I clicked “female” at some point in time. At least I’m a cisgender female. Think of those others who have clicked the same and then been faced with a menstruation app that doesn’t apply to them. I’m sure all of this seems like the stuff that makes your conservative uncle want to say something like, “all of these gotdamn people wanting everything to be sooooo POLITICALLY CORRECT.” But, if the people making the fitbit app update were a little more diverse, I bet this wouldn’t happen. Someone in that room would’ve said, like, wait not all women have sex with men or have a period. And they would’ve designed a separate button that says, like, “click here if you have sex with women.” I would’ve felt so included. I would’ve happily clicked the shit out of that button. I wouldn’t known that someone out there was looking out for me. Instead, I feel a little sad. Instead, I have to stare at those options of clicking protected or unprotected sex.

Speaking of sex.

I’ve had this skin problem on my right hand for years. In the past, it went away and came back. I would have a few months with no outbreak. But now, it’s been here since October. It’s eczema, I think. These tiny bubbles form under my skin that leak fluid. My hand itches like a sonuvabich. More specifically, my thumb, middle, and pinky finger and no where else. It never goes away. Something as simple as water can make it flare up. It’s the fucking worst.

But here is what is worse than the worst: this is, essentially, my penis.

I’ve been to the dermatologist and allergist. I’ve had patches stuck to my back. I’ve been prescribed some insanely expensive steroid cream (which only makes my skin crack and bleed). I’m not telling you all of this for a diagnosis. I’m telling you this because, as I mentioned before, things are better for queers, but not the best.

I had to suck up my feelings and tell the dermatologist that my partner is a woman. That my right hand is vital to my sex life. She smiled, but didn’t seem to care.

The allergist, when I told her, at least showed sympathy and said, “oh, my, this must really be affecting your quality of life.” I said it was. And I felt heard. Or nearly understood.

But yet. Here I am, still suffering with this stuff. Now, before you all start messaging me with other ways to be sexually active without my right hand, believe me, I know them. I’ve been having sex with women for 20 years.

Consider this: maybe a male friend you know has confided in his doctor (and you) that his penis has tiny, itchy bubbles, that it is constantly burning and flaring, that the skin cracks and bleeds. Would you offer him other ways to have sex or would you want to help him find a solution? Don’t you think the doctor would do everything in their power to help this poor guy?

So, why am I sharing with you these intimate details of my life? Easy. I want you to know that homophobia, or even lack of awareness of homosexuals, affects my life in a lot of strange ways. Several times a week, maybe even every day, I’m reminded by others that I’m not the status quo, that I’m not still fully included. And I’m white and cisgender. Just imagine how trans people feel. How people of color feel. How immigrants feel. How differently-abled people feel. How someone who is all of those must feel.

This is why inclusion and diversity are so important.

Your conservative uncle might also get annoyed with all the pride talk this month and all the rainbow flags. He might ask, “who cares if they’re gay? Why do they have to run around waving flags?”

Because. Every other day of the year is straight, white man day. And though there is no specific flag for that (though some might argue stars and bars), I see it everywhere, all the time. And I’m reminded, even when I look at my phone or visit my doctor, that I am still an outsider.

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Girls on Film

When I was 17, I started working at Broadway Video in Fulton, Missouri. (“Thank you for calling Broadway Video where the hits are here, now, guaranteed, this is Christina, how may I help you?”)  I had to ask my parents first, since it was 30 miles from home and the closing time was around 11:00 p.m. It was 1996, so everything was still on VHS. I spent hours putting tapes into the rewinder and charging people a fee because they couldn’t do it their damn selves.  I worked with Kristin, one of my best friends, so we spent our time gossiping and choosing movies to put into the VCR when no one was in the store. She memorized the Men in Black dance and loved to do it when no one was around. When she wasn’t there, I challenged myself to close my eyes and picture where every single film belonged. Sometimes I’d just spin move my head back and forth, try to orient myself, and open my eyes to see if I knew exactly where I was looking. It was usually Lost Highway or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. To the left of the check out counter were the new hits, mixed in with newer indie films. Of course, being from Portland, I had no idea what an indie film was, but Kenny, another guy who worked there was starting to show me.

One of the first ones on the shelf was All Over Me. I was allowed to check out movies for free, and really, the boss said, I could just take them and bring them back without putting them into the computer.

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I chose this title one night, after a long day of rewinding because it looked like one of those indie films I’d heard about. I took it home and popped it into the VCR around midnight. I sat in the living room and watched as some girl with pink hair played guitar. And, at one point, she kissed another girl. In another mind blowing scene, I watched as one licked the other’s stomach. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I mean, I’d seen two girls kiss just a year before in this film:

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And why do these two film covers look the same?

Which a friend had recorded from HBO and given to me to watch. I didn’t know why she did. But I came to understand as we aged. (If you’ve seen this film, you know there is some violent sex, rape, and very awful situations, but my focus remained on the girls kissing in the pool)

But this pink haired girl had me very confused. I stayed up all night, rewinding the kiss, the tongue to stomach action, worried that my parents would wake up and find me watching it. I didn’t quite know why it was wrong. I mean, there was no sex in the movie All Over Me, just some kissing and stomach licking. But it seemed dirty. Like I wasn’t supposed to see it. So I watched it in darkness that night and probably 20 more nights as I’d return the movie to the store and sneak it out again, sometimes in a different case.

Not long after that I met a girl. My world started spinning uncontrollably and, to make it worse and more confusing, this movie was on HBO that whole summer:

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I watched it, disgusted. Confused. In silence. I cried. I prayed. I wished I could be someone else. And you know what happened after that.

 

Tonight when I was with some of my rugby friends we started talking about lesbian films. There aren’t that many, so it’s common for lesbians of any age to know most of them. We were in mixed company, though. There were 4 girls who date boys and 3 girls who date girls sitting at the table. The girls who date boys had never heard of any of these films. Meanwhile, we laughed and joked about all that we’d seen. How it seems that any movie with a lesbian lead means she’ll a) kill someone b) kill herself c) turn straight at the end. It’s hard to find films about lesbians that have happy endings.

The straight girls wondered how they missed seeing all these films since the rest of us had seen them. But. I tried to explain, we had to seek them out. To find ourselves mirrored somehow in society. I remember discussing titles with my worldly co-workers in Houston, trying to memorize all that they’d said so I could find and watch all of them. I felt like I was in a secret club.

One of my teammates, who is at least 10 years younger than I, said she used YouTube to watch most of her movies, clip by clip.

I shared that I was lucky to be exposed to a video store and then moved to Houston, met liberal people, worked next to a video store, and had movies like

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come out in the art house theatres. So it was from there that I learned about

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Claire-of-the-Moon

and

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and I also saw

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in the theatre.

I wanted to explain to my everyone at the table how  important it was for me to see myself on a television, to see two girls kiss in some larger narrative (instead of at the gay bar). In my day, there was barely an internet and Ellen was still newly gay. No one even talked about gay marriage. I know some of you must know how this feels– to want to see yourself on a screen. Ultimately, though, I think most people have never yearned for it because it was never missing from their lives. They see themselves in every movie, terrible sit-com, and perfume ad. Every single day.

I, however, see myself (or people meant to represent me) in very few films. One commercial with Abby Wambach. Ellen is on every day now. I still can’t believe how many straight women love her show.

I see misrepresentations of myself everywhere, though. I see people like me being denied marriage licenses, being denied cakes, jobs, and a pot to piss in. I am reminded daily by advertising and movie previews that I am not like everyone else. I have watched for half of my life as politicians and other people make decisions about what I can and cannot do.

And I’ve grown so used to it that I forget to talk about it with others who might feel the same way.

Tonight’s conversation felt so good.

At the end of the table were two teammates quietly mocking us, “So, when did you realize you were straight? Do you think your parents made you that way?” I don’t think they meant it in a mean way, but what I took away was this: they felt left out of the conversation.

That must feel awful.

 

 

My Gay Timeline Part II: 17 Years of Coming Out and Out and Out and Out and…

This weekend I was fortunate enough to be on a panel at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. There were 5 of us there, writers of Crooked Letter I: Coming Out in the South, to talk about the book and our experiences.

If you haven’t read it, and I’m guessing you haven’t, it’s not hard to tell what the anthology is about: coming out. The more I say that phrase, the more tired I become.

An audience member asked a question that still has me thinking. Chu asked, “Isn’t coming out something that you have to do more than once? Like, any time you meet someone?”

The answer: YES. Every.Single.Day.

When I first realized I was gay (or different, in some way, from others), I wore all the rainbows I could find. I had necklaces and bracelets. Shirts, too. Some funny, some offensive. I made it my goal to make others see me. To see that there are people like me (whatever that meant or means now). I loved watching peoples’ faces as they saw my Lez/Pez shirt and would either smile or snort their disapproval. My other favorite shirt I can’t seem to find any iteration of on the internet; it was basically the women’s bathroom symbol with boobs. Two of those. 69-ing. It read “porn star.” And my first offensive shirt I made in high school. I tore the bottom off a white t-shirt, so it was a crop top and wrote on it, in sharpie, “FAG.”  Mom ended up throwing that one away soon after I wore it to a coffee shop in Jeff City. She denied every touching it.

But my point is, I used to do that. I used to love doing that. I needed to do that. I wanted to be seen. I wanted to make that statement. I’m gay. I exist in the same world as you. Deal with it. My clothes and bracelets did all my coming out for me, I guess.

But now. I don’t want to come out any more. If you’ve never experienced this, let me try to explain all the ways we have to come out.

In the classroom: “Professor Holzenfluken, do you have any kids?”  I have a son. “Are you married?”  No. “Does his dad live close?”

And here is where I have to chose to come out or not. If I leave out the pronoun and say, “Yes.” I’m lying. To myself. Denying Cyrus’ true family. Not doing my part as a gay person to make sure people know we’re everywhere (more on this later). So I make the choice to say, “he has another mom.”

Then the barrage of personal questions about how we made a baby. And you know, no one ever asks a straight couple how they have a baby. And here is where I feel that obligation to educate. I could say, “none of your business,” but if I do, then I’m a bitchy dyke or they don’t learn a damn thing. So I take the time to explain because I’m probably the first person they’ve met who’s had that experience. It’s exhausting.

At the doctor: “Okay, just put your feet in these stirrups and scoot your butt down…more…more…more…more. Okay. So, I see you’re not on birth control; what methods are you using for family planning.?”    Sigh. I have sex with women. I told you last time. Doesn’t anyone write that down?

At another doctor: “So, you’re cramping and feeling nauseous, huh? We’d better do a pregnancy test.”  I’ve never had sex with a man/I haven’t had sex with a man in 5 years. Beat“Well, better safe than sorry.”

At restaurants: “Separate checks, then?”  Sigh. Together, please.

Walking with a partner anywhere: Can we kiss here? What happens if we do? Maybe we can just hold hands? We probably shouldn’t. You know. Just in case. Hands touch momentarily. Loving look exchanged. Person walking by frowns. 

In your own home: Repair guy shows up. “I have to leave, but my…(wife? girlfriend? friend? roommate?) will be home in just a few minutes.” Raised eyebrow.

At the bank: We’d like to buy a house. “I see.” -Fumbles with papers-

Most of you might say, “Well, fuck them.” But you’ve never had to do this. Weekly.

At this age, my sexuality is the lowest on my list of my identity. I hope, too, that if you describe me to someone, you wouldn’t include this part of me in your description. Just like I wouldn’t say, “Jane Doe? Yeah, she has black hair, is tall, she fucks guys. Loves it.”

There was a moment this weekend, when I was speaking on the panel, when I said, “Everyone in this room has a different sexuality. We all like different things. But not all of you are asked to explain yourselves. And it’s really no one’s business”

My sexuality is not my lifestyle just like yours is not your lifestyle. It means nothing to me until I have to explain it or justify it.

It’s the same for you. How often do you sit around wondering about your intense love of being on top? Or being tied up? Or tying someone up? How often are you asked to reveal that part of yourself?

Another thing I was asked to think about this weekend is my job as a queer educator. Questions from the audience members were somewhat political, asking what was next for the LGBTQ movement. Did we think that things will get better soon? What advice do we have for parents and friends of those coming out?

Honestly, I have no idea. I write and teach English and dig holes in the ground. I’m not a spokesperson for The Gays. I’ve done my part; I did that for years. Now. I just want to relax and raise my son. I want peace and quiet. I want to watch Netflix and go to bed at 9:45.

I feel some shame in that. If I quit making people aware, who will? If I don’t force myself to hold my girlfriend’s hand in Callaway County, how will people become used to it? Because I’m still afraid to do that… in most counties. Because, despite my tough rugby persona, I don’t like to be looked at or snorted at or made fun of or called a dyke by a Jeep full of fratboys. Because words are still very powerful.

And the silence of our loved ones is louder.

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