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Monday
Oct112010

Come Out! Come Out! Whoever You Are.

I’m lesbian… a homosexual. 

Today is National Coming Out Day here in the United States. Today, Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgenders (GLBT) gather their pride and stand up for who they are. The first Coming Out Day was in 1987 and celebrated with a March on Washington (the second one). I was at the first March on Washington in 1979; it was sheer coincidence that I lived in DC at the time. 

I remember the ecstasy of walking around with thousands and thousands of gays and lesbians (the bisexuals were suspect and transgenders were considered “others”), screaming happily, carrying signs, cruising… all for the very first time in public… being visible with news cameras everywhere. Exhilarating! I was out and proud (as the saying went). 

Yet, when I was back home, everyone questioned my “sexuality,” saying, “You just haven’t met the right man,” or “You’re just going through a phase.” Amusingly, I wasn’t the strongest-minded back then, so embarked on a Let’s-Find-the-Right-Man adventure… a trip that eventually led to marriage and three kids. 

Then Sarah and I met at a La Leche League meeting when my youngest was two days old and she was seven months pregnant (they are both 24-years old now). 

Apparently, the right man was a woman. 

My then-husband, Sarah’s then-husband and Sarah were all in the Army. Once we became “lovers” (the vernacular of the day), we moved into her military quarters where we lived with all four kids, relatively undetected by the straights for 18 months. 

When someone turned us in, the investigation found that Sarah was, indeed, a homosexual (gasp!). She was subsequently kicked out of the Army even though she’d won an array of awards, including being Soldier of the Year, separated from service with an Honorable Discharge with a bar to re-enlistment. When the first Gulf War started, she received a call asking her… begging her… to please come back because her MOS (a mechanic on trucks 22.5 tons and bigger) was desperately needed. Her response was, “This dyke wasn’t good enough in peace time, she sure isn’t good enough in war time.” 

Sarah vowed to never live in the closet again and she’s paid for that promise many times over the years. She was overlooked for promotions, not hired and turned away despite her always exemplary schooling and employment history. That she looks like a dyke, most certainly has had an effect on her career. (Oh, c’mon, you and I both know there’s a look to most dykes. Even though I don’t fit the stereotype, it isn’t difficult to pick out the butch or androgynous lesbians. It’s in the genes.) 

Despite graduating top of her class in Administration of Justice and also finishing top of her class in the Police Academy, a local police department, known for their “progressive” views of the GLBT community, didn’t hire her, saying she didn’t have the right qualifications. Those qualifications, apparently, include not looking like a lesbian. The Sheriff’s Department snatched her up without batting an eye. 

It’s been easier for me since I “pass.” I look like a girl (er, woman… Sarah despises the use of the word “girl” for women), so have to come out in nearly every situation that includes more than a few minutes’ contact. That means I’m out to clients as well. It took a long time for me to figure out what the line was I wanted to draw between me and my clients and when I finally settled on being out, I was able to relax considerably. Before I make a consult appointment, I ask clients to please read my Bio page, which explicitly talks about Sarah and our (legal) marriage. Over the years, I pondered the issue, thinking, “Doctors don’t share their sexual orientation, why should I?” or “What does it matter?” But, in the end, I chose being out. The first reason was personal integrity; it just felt right. The second reason was I didn’t want a client to find out after I’d given her care and be upset that a lesbian had seen her naked or, even more dramatically, touched her. I know it shouldn’t matter, but I am also well aware that it does matter. 

A recent discussion had folks in their twenties saying National Coming Out Day shouldn’t even be done anymore, that there is too much pressure for closeted GLBT’s on that day and besides, shouldn’t people get to define themselves? Shouldn’t the assumption be sexual-orientation neutral until proven/stated otherwise? Hmm… aren’t there about eight million “should’s” in our lives already? 

We live in the real world, not Utopia, where not everyone lives an authentic life. Because the overwhelming majority of people in the world are heterosexual, the assumption is, and I suspect, always will be, that you/I are heterosexual, hence the coming out process over and over… throughout a gay person’s lifetime. 

Sure, it would be wonderful if everyone could live an authentic life, but even that definition shape-shifts over time. I was heterosexual, lesbian, heterosexual, bisexual and lesbian again. Today, I consider myself about 5% bisexual, but still identify as lesbian. (And the whole deal with my genital activity being the basis for my classification gets on my last nerve, but that’s a different story.) 

But National Coming Out Day means so, so much more than just “coming out” and announcing your sexual orientation. Perhaps it is time to change the name to GLBT Pride Day or GLBT Recognition Day. Whatever the name, it offers companionship, camaraderie and solidarity in a fight (yes, in many ways, it is still a fight) for equal rights. You don’t have to be GLBT to show pride or come out today. In fact, the more who aren’t GLBT and proclaim their out-ness, the better! 

For people like Sarah who are clearly homosexual, it’s Coming Out Day every day of the year. For those that pass like me, I come out in my own way… my choosing to live out(loud). But, there are so many other ways you can come out. Not just in support of the GLBT community, but also in touching and embracing your authentic self. Are you a closet artist? Writer? Did you always want to be a clown? Have you secretly wanted to act? Grab that part of you, the part you are embarrassed or even ashamed of and give it light. If it is your sexuality tucked away behind the coats and board games, dust it off, too. See if it still fits. And if it does, come on out. You are not alone.

Especially today, you are not alone.

References (3)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    - Navelgazing Midwife Blog - Come Out! Come Out! Whoever You Are.
  • Response
    Response: Phil St Ores
    - Navelgazing Midwife Blog - Come Out! Come Out! Whoever You Are.
  • Response
    - Navelgazing Midwife Blog - Come Out! Come Out! Whoever You Are.

Reader Comments (9)

I'm more comfortable with those that are comfortable with themselves. :) I'd love to have you as a midwife. Sadly, I'd have to move to California for at least 9 months!

October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSara

Beautifully written, my beautiful Barbfriend! Although gender orientation isn't an issue with me, there are other areas I wish I could come out about. Your writing inspires me! Love you love you love you!

October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSherry

Thank you so much for sharing your story. You're not alone. I'm glad that you're proud to be out- it's not always an easy thing to do.

I think it's awesome that Sarah stuck to her guns in regards to the military.

Thank you for writing this.

October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaLa Makes A Baby

Very nicely said!

I was 12 when my parents got divorced and was told that my father is gay. Although I didn't understand everything it entailed at the time, I now know that he is the same person he always was, just happier and less constrained.

He is an amazing man with 4 grown children, all doing well in the world. I love that he is completely open with his sexuality. He is one of the top personnel at a prestigious medical school, and touches many lives every day. His boyfriend is also an amazing man who I am glad to have in my life and my daughter's life. We are both better people for knowing such strong, inspirational men.

I can't wait for the day that marriage is available to everyone who so desires in this country - what a beautiful day that will be. Thank you again for posting this.

October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShavahn

This is my first reply to your blog, though I've been reading for over half a year. Since I started reading, I have quit my boring job as a medical analyst for a Medicare Set-Aside vendor, moved from Massachusetts to San Diego (where my husband has always wanted to return), and now I'm finally pursuing my lifelong dream of providing care to women, and am a student midwife.

I consider myself about 90% straight - I love my husband, but many of my most fulfilling fantasies and crushes have been female. In the end, it was about the individual rather than the gender. I attended my first gay wedding this September, and cried happily through the whole thing. I have GLBT friends and I've been active in the V-Day movement, down to playing a transgender woman in my college's performance of The Vagina Monologues.

So here you go! I'm coming out to you as a reader, and to the world (yet again) as an ally. Happy Coming Out Day, everyone!

October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Um... Emily? And we're not friends because? ;)

I *love* hearing the stories! Keep telling your own.

October 11, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Just wanted to say how much I support you and Sarah. Blog on, sister.

October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLessons in Life and Light

Thanks for your honesty and for sharing your strength with us all! Happy days to you!

October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLynn

Thank you, Barb for this beautifully written piece. I will be sharing this with many.

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

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