July, 2005. I try not to edit. I want to, so bad, but here is my coming out story as told in real time. I cringe a little, but overall. I think I had a lot of grace:
I didn’t come out so much as fall out. I just fell in love with this girl. Plop. Just like that. Well, it is slightly more complicated, but not by much. I always had intense relationships with girls, when I had girl friends – all the way back to Heather who moved to Ghana, breaking my heart and starting a trans-continental letter writing campaign that lasted for years. We actually wrote a novel around our shared fantasy world, complete with illustrations, that we sent back and forth, alternating the writing of chapters. Think Heavenly Creatures without the matricide. Heather left in second grade. In high school female friendships were possessive and all-consuming and I only ever had room in my life for one primary girl friend. We’d spend nearly every waking moment together and generally get enmeshed to an unhealthy degree, it was so enthralling though.
Since 6th grade, my various girl friends and I were tagged as lesbians in the hallways of school. In a small town this stuff settles in thoroughly, and by my sophomore year, I had teachers approaching me to suggest that if I wore more skirts or joined in some co-ed extra-curricular activity I might get boys to call me. My father staunchly defended my heterosexuality in the Teacher’s Lounge by assuring all his colleagues that “plenty of boys called me and he’d be willing to bring in the phone bill to prove it.”
The only physical fights I ever got in were with boys who didn’t hit girls, but I was a dyke, so that didn’t count. It sounds worse than it was, in fact I enjoyed the reputation I had for being queer along with my reputation for promiscuity, pregnancy and practicing witchcraft. Shannon and I called ourselves the Pregnant Lesbians from Hell. We had mad, mad punk cred. We fed the fire with our goodbye-kissing and general physical affection.
But I always had a boyfriend, since the minute I could find a boy to kiss me in 7th grade right through until the end of January of this year. Often more than one. Having been an ugly little girl, and having such a fucked up father, getting boys to love me and act like idiots for me was satisfying and compulsive. So was boyfriend thievery, alienation of affections and the like. Didn’t matter if I even liked the boy, I just enjoyed the attention.
Sex was really not the point, and I was an ancient 17 years old before I ever had it. And don’t get me wrong, I loved sex with boys. At this point in my life I was what my friend Kraig liked to call a ‘boyfriend girl’ I always had one serious, longterm, monogamous relationship. Monogamy is actually one of my strong suits.
Which is why I never slept with a girl before. I was with M. from the age of 21, and I was happy, and I was faithful. But I always had some girl, someone who was so inside. When I was 26, it was the infamous G. and one day I just looked over at her, driving her red jeep with a sulky, concentrated expression and thought that the best thing in the world would be to lean over and kiss her on the back of the neck – right where the fine blonde baby hairs catch the light. But I didn’t. And that is the very second I thought, ‘okay, I’m queer.’ No big thing, mama. Just a little click. And life went on, same as ever.
I moved home and instead of the one girl inside, I developed a tribe of women, all of them inside, and it wasn’t possessive or enmeshed, it was amazing and warm. Two years ago I had a talk with M., I told him that what I got from my girl friends, I needed to get from him. I realized that I depended on women to provide me with things I didn’t have with him – affection, attachment, understanding, support and a particularly intense form of intimacy. That’s what it means to be inside. All that stuff. My best girl, B, left for the UK and she left a hole in my life, and M. couldn’t step in there. In fact he said he thought what I was asking for was unreasonable, against his nature – uncomfortable.
Boys were never allowed inside, that’s not what I wanted. They had other functions and only girls have ever got in here with me. For once, though, I wanted my boyfriend to be in. I wanted the whole thing, all of it. I realized my girls were triage for what I couldn’t feel with boys.
And I went to school and I was introduced to Her, and I remember thinking exactly “oh shit”. But I dealt with this before, right? I didn’t kiss girls when I wanted to. Crushes are survivable. And then it just went click, click, click, drop. So I fell in love with this girl, just like that. I left.
I never hid it exactly, but I didn’t tell him either. Once I asked her to park her car down the block and I felt so wrong and cowardly. So he eventually asked, and I answered and since then I think he needs to hurt me.
Strangely, the first casualty of my coming out, and there are surprisingly many, was my stone butch dyke friend and former womens’ studies professor, B. From the night M. told her, she evaporated. She has never offered to hear me on it, she has never offered support or help in navigating this. She just disappeared. As my closest friend after B, I have to say, though I don’t want to give her any importance right now, it fucking hurt.
M. also told his family. Actually, first his middle sister asked him “Is Mary seeing someone, and is it a woman?” Then he told his dad, his other sister, his cousin and his mom. He assured me they were all very understanding and not at all freaked out. Well they were at first, but M. reminded them that “Mary had a really fucked up relationship with her father”, and they all went “oooooh” and became suddenly sympathetic. That’s right folks, my father made me queer. Whew, I am so glad they can forgive me because obviously sexual attraction to women is a result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Everyone knows that, right? They are polite, but clearly freaked. And distant. And really, just gone from my life. Since I have no family and they all at one time or another insisted that no matter what happened with Matthew, they were always going to be my family, that fucking hurts too.
Many, many of our friends have told M. that they ‘knew’ I was a lesbian, I mean I was all into that feminism stuff and I went to Pride, right? Nice. Tell the guy who just got left that his partner was faking it all along. People are so sensitive in these trying times.
School. People took a long fucking time to figure it out, but they did. Aside from some serious homewrecker gossip and a few idiotic comments, school people were fine. Except the Lawskool Lesbians. Please, don’t get me started. Warm family welcome? Nuh uh, more like I am Winona Ryder and they are the Heathers. I never get to join in their reindeer games and actually was informed I am not a real lesbian. Like I ever said I was. And if these are my lesbian role models, which thank god they aren’t, then it’s a wonder anyone comes out of the closet. Um yeah, I may delete that later. Moving on.
I can’t bring myself to call my Republican, Masonic birthdad. I just can’t. Firstly because he is going to freak that I left my middle-class partner who is a “really great guy” for economic insecurity. And secondly because he will push me to go back, probably spouting his philosophy of marriage at me (that marriage is WORK, and it is HARD, but those few times of happiness make it all worthwhile. Plus divorce is EXPENSIVE.) But also because I know what his reaction to “and I fell in love with a girl” will be. He will be profoundly awkward and uncomfortable, but he will try to deal. He is a good guy and all. But he will not tell his wife or his kids, and he will expect me not to. It will be a total taboo secret from my grandparents on his side, who are devout Mormans. I don’t do secrets. Not calling him means he can’t let me down. Yet. This one wakes me up at night and I still can’t think of a solution.
M. outed me to a Crone a while back. They were talking about K. whose partner A. hung herself last summer (was it really only last summer?) Anyway, said Crone was tsking that K. has a new girlfriend because she always dates women who have just left their men (or are still married). She thought it was predatory of K. So M. decides this is a Jim Dandy time to bring up the fact that I fell in love with a girl and started dating her right after I left him. He assures me he said it in a supportive way. The Crone hasn’t spoken to me since I returned from Italy. Oh yeah, she homeschools The Kid twice a week. That’s cozy.
Finally, one last thing – The Letter. After I wrote about what was going on in my life here in my own sweet time and as the mistress of my own sex life, a friend (one I never considered close or intimate, but someone I liked) sent me a four page letter detailing a list of wrongs I had committed going back to the first day we met. Apparently I am a ‘toxic (shudder) friend’. The last and fateful fuck up in my long line of fuck ups was that she had to find out about my queerness on the internet, at the same time as everyone else. Ye Gods, is there no decency in the world! My admission of girl sex recalled to her a memory of long ago. Wherein I had accused her of being a lesbian in order to hide my own secret desires. In fact, in this conversation I apparently uttered the words “I love dick!” and boasted that I had healthy, normal heterosexual intercourse 5 times a week. Now she saw, with alarming clarity, that I was using her as a scapegoat for my own issues.
And the worst thing? I felt guilty. I said none of those things. Could never say any of those things. It is so against everything I believe in about sexuality and privacy and, well, social grace. But I tried to think – did I do something? was I in denial? Oh lord. And though I hate to give this person one shred of importance (or whiff of victory), that fucking hurt. The self doubt? You win. I had it.
The girlfriend is not-a-girlfriend any more, and there has been a lot of crying and wishing about it. And people disappear and they cause pain and they let me down about it. But it was worth it. It always will be, even if I never kiss a girl again.
Like that’s going to happen.