“I just wanted to let you know that I am going to be dating girls from now on.”
That is the way I came out to most people. It was either that or I’d simply begin to tell them the story of how I had fallen for a girl a few months earlier so they could draw their own conclusions. For months, I danced around the phrase, “I’m gay.” I couldn’t say it, or wouldn’t. Even when people flat out asked me if what I was telling them meant I was gay, I’d shrug my shoulders, mutter some sort of “I guess so,” and move on as quickly as I could.
It doesn’t feel natural to so staunchly label yourself as something, especially when it is a label you have been resisting for your entire life, a label that holds so much baggage, one that is laden with pain, fear, denial, and discrimination. The word felt so heavy on my tongue, and I couldn’t muster the strength to get it out. I was not even a little bit ashamed of who I am, so why was it so hard to say?
I wasn’t worried about the concept of defining myself. I knew I was gay. I knew I was completely done even pretending to consider men as an option, so it wasn’t that I feared placing myself into a category that I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in. I think it was more a fear of placing myself into a category that I knew came with a whole lot of hardship.
It is less difficult to rigidly define yourself as something when that definition is something everyone sees as tolerable and natural and right. There is far more to it, however, when you are trying to get comfortable placing yourself in a box that some people wish would stay shut, when you have to call yourself a word that you know will make some people want to cringe and back away from you or talk about you behind your back, a word that many can only say with undertones of confusion or disdain or judgment, a word kids use at the lunch table to mean something is stupid, a word that you have seen splashed across picket signs covered by a gigantic red X.
So how did I get over this? Well to be completely honest, I’m not sure I have gotten over it. At least not all the way. I’ve been out for about seven months, and while I can now say it with relative ease, there are still times my stomach lurches when the word leaves my lips.
I try to write it out a lot in this blog, and that is one way I am working towards making myself more comfortable, towards making myself associate that word with the happiness coming out has brought me. As I wrote in a previous post, it is far easier for me to reveal myself in writing than it is with spoken words, and I figure the more I let myself write it down, the more I’ll be able to say it.
It’s unfortunate that a word that describes such a significant piece of me can be so terrifying to utter. It shouldn’t have so many negative connotations, and saying it shouldn’t make us feel afraid. We live in a world obsessed with labels, and if we are going to force everyone to place one on themselves, then we at least have to help foster an environment where whatever we determine we are is not scrutinized.
In my first post on this blog, I did not use the word gay once. I wrote that I was “finally ready to be a female person dating other female people.” I spoke of coming out and falling in love and having my heart broken, but I still could not even write those two little words. I know it seems absurd that I could talk about all that and still be afraid to say I’m gay, but I can assure you that describing it and defining it feel a hell of a lot different. When I look at how far I have come and how often I have written it in posts since then, I have faith that soon I’ll be able to stand up and scream “I’m gay” from the rooftops.
From now on, when I think of the word gay, I will do my best to forget about the picket signs and judgmental faces and instead associate the word with the amazing, happy, and beautiful members of the LGBT community I have met. I will think of the way coming out has given me incredible friendships and connected me with wonderful people I would have never otherwise found. I will remember that gay means I get to be part of one of the most supportive and fun communities I’ve ever encountered. Support, love, happiness, friendship. Those are all the connotations being gay should ever have, and all the connotations I will henceforth allow myself to see.