Six Things I Learned When I Came Out
I used to be a radically different person. Namely, I was straight. A wife of 25 years, and a mother of two. Then came the day that I hopped in the front seat of my freshly-loaded U Haul truck, and I drove ... and drove ... and drove.
All the way from a town of 500 people in upstate New York to the heart of San Francisco.
With me was my stuff, and the intention to start all over again. That was more than eight years ago. Since then I've found my way to a vibrant, fun community of lesbians in the Bay Area city of Oakland. And more importantly, I now have a wife.
Finally, I'm at peace. And I'm happy.
Here's what this process taught me.
1. No matter how inconvenient the truth, if you're gay ... your gay. Believe me, I tried not to be a lesbian. I came of age in an era when being a lesbian was a terrible idea -- a concept reinforced by my homophobic parents. Even poor Freddie Mercury struggled to own his gayness before he came out at the time. The fact was, I had no idea how much joy owning my lesbiansm would ultimately bring. Back then I was focussed on the wrong thing. By worrying what everyone else would think, I'd forgotten about what I wanted and needed.
2. Somehow most people already know you're gay. Okay, so I thought it was a big reveal when I did my first uber-vulnerable, trembling announcement by video in 2010. Immediately all these people started telling me things like, 'Oh! I'd assumed you'd come out a while ago..." and "I always knew you were gay." Well, hell! What was all my agita about anyway?
3. The world is far more supportive than I realized. Yes, there are haters out there. Fortunately, I haven't run into a lot of them. And if I do, who cares? I love my life, and my wife, and my lesbianism. I love it more than I could ever have known. No one can take that away from me.
Furthermore, the worldwide acceptance of queer folk has radically increased over the last five years. (Thank you US Supreme Court.) I'm hugely grateful for this. And yes, I do live in a lesbian mecca, the East Bay of Oakland and Berkeley. But I find generally that people everywhere have truly come to accept us more and more. I no longer fear holding my wife's hand in public.
4. Coming out was not nearly as impossible as I thought. For years I made excuses about why I couldn't own my lesbianism. I imagined no women would be interested in me. Or that I'd ever find a lover in rural New England. I also told myself I couldn't leave my kids, or my husband.. When I finally did leave, my daughter had already moved away from home, and my son was nearly through his teenage years.
Maybe I'm just lucky, but even my husband of 25 years was supportive of me coming out. Not only that, so were my children. My daughter drove out to San Francisco with me. And my son later told me that when I left, I inspired him to own his own truths completely. Turned out my own fears were the biggest barrier to taking action.
5. I love myself completely ... especially as a lesbian. Long ago I hated the word 'lesbian'. It scared me, and out of loyalty to my queer-bashing parents, I banished it from my mind. Regardless, I went to a women's college where I was surrounded by lesbians at every turn. I found myself drawn to Cris WIlliamson's moony albums, and I wore flannel shirts for days. I even drove a pick up truck with glee. Finally, at the ripe old age of 52, I was able to connect the dots.
6. Gay communities are beyond wonderful. I've found such fun, friendship and support among the queer folks I've met in the Bay Area. In fact, this is what inspired me to write queer fiction -- because the way these people show up for each other is nothing less than inspiring. Perhaps it's trickle down from the AIDS crisis, or maybe it's just the community that comes from being marginalized. Either way, I feel not only accepted but extremely supported here.
The result is that I'm now a far more grounded, peaceful person who feels good in her life and in her body. Turns out I'm not so bad, old me. In fact, I'm one happy dyke!
Viva la difference!
Suzanne Falter writes poignant, sweet lesbian fiction. Try out Driven: An Oaktown Girls Novel.
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