Ok so I came out. Hooray! Where are the fireworks? No party hats? What about cake? I figured once it happened, there’d be some sort of momentous indicator that my new and awesome life had now begun. Instead, everything just kind of…stayed the same. I mean, I was crying a great deal more than normal because a girl had just used my heart as a doormat, but other than that, the wind kept blowing, the sun kept shining, and I still hated peppers as much as I did before.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned so far is that coming out, alone, cannot make you happy. It is, of course, an incredible start. Just being able to admit that I was gay to myself was an unbelievable triumph for me. Many people have not yet gotten there, and if and when they do, it will be no small victory. It is a step, but it is not the end. It is, to be as clichéd as I could possibly be right now, only the beginning. And that fulfilled feeling you want from coming to terms with who you are? That doesn’t come from accepting it; that comes from embracing it.
The only thing that immediately changed when I came out was that I now had a Tinder account. I never had one before because, well, I would have had to be pursuing men, and who would want to do that? So I got one, and now, instead of simply doing all the stuff I normally did, I was swiping left and right while doing all the stuff I normally did.
It didn’t feel active enough. Throughout my entire lifetime of sexual confusion, I always told myself that when I decided I was ready to come out, I would come out in full force. There was not going to be any only-certain-people-are-allowed-to-know business and there was certainly not going to be any more time spent sitting around not dating people and pretending it was because no one ever asked. I wanted to be out there meeting and dating girls and making up for lost time.
I just had absolutely no idea where to begin. I kept thinking how much easier this may have been if I was still in college, where there would be clubs to join and extracurriculars designed to help me through all this. Instead, I was jobless, freshly brokenhearted and had just moved back to Chicago. I already had to focus on finding a job and establishing some sort of friend group, and now I also had to figure out how to be gay, all the while doing everything in my power to not burst into lovesick tears during events like job interviews and grocery trips.
Even Tinder was a complete mystery to me, and while I had incredibly elongated text conversations with girls, I was far too afraid to ever ask to meet in person (I have since gotten over that, but that is for another post).
I was also scared that people would not be interested in someone who was new to the lesbian scene, like they wouldn’t want to have to deal with someone so naïve and clueless. Now that I think about it, I am pretty sure I thought that solely based on Arizona’s initial reaction to Callie in Grey’s Anatomy. What I have found out here in the real world, however, is that nobody cares.
I knew I was the type of person who liked to be friends with people before dating them, so it became a matter of surrounding myself with potentially datable friends. I was sick of having crushes on people who could not reciprocate, and I wanted to find, as one of my close gay friends put it when advising me what to do, a ‘gay posse.’
Well, I had many gay friends, but none in Chicago, and it wasn’t like I could just snap my fingers and find a posse. How would I even do that? Go hang out at gay bars and hope to make lifelong friends? Join some sort of grown-up extracurricular? I’m honestly still working on it, but one thing I’ve found is that it is actually pretty easy to build a decent social network through online dating. The cool thing about dating other girls is that it is not that hard to become friends with someone from tinder or okcupid if you realize there is no romantic spark.
Sometimes, I really do wish people just walked around wearing sandwich boards alerting the world whether they are, a) single and b) gay or straight. For now, though, I’ll just keep setting goals to put myself out there as much as I can.