I was reminded pretty recently by a friend of mine just exactly why I began this blog. I mean I guess you can say there are many reasons, but none ring truer that the fact that I wanted to grow within the LGBTQ community. When I began this (almost a year ago now…I cannot believe it) I had the full intention on being my authentic self. It is the part of me that I on a regular basis dim down for the comfort and ease of others – more recently for the fear I have of others emboldened responses. The societal and political climate of the US has brought up increased need to really dive into my community and begin advocating for and standing beside one another as well as proudly being as out as I really am.
There are so many instances even in this last week where I have adjusted my behavior, dropped a pronoun, hesitated when answering a question or joining a conversation, wondered if the person asking me if my work space was a safe space for LGBT issues realized that I am a lesbian. Alright, and yes I know there is internalized homophobia that runs rapid, so the mere fact that I am a member of this community does not automatically make it safe, but I mean still. I responded as if to say of course this is a safe space, not fully acknowledging the day to day differences in my behavior that I just mentioned. Yes, my office, our sessions, they will most definitely be safe, but can I say I always genuinely feel 100% comfortable and accepted at my place of work? – I do not think I can.
This is not to say there aren’t select coworkers (1) that I feel comfortable speaking with, who actually knows, but that is really it. I have alluded to my fiancé on occasion with a few other staff but nothing has really come of it. Honestly, I am even feeling a bit queasy right now as I write this because I do not make those adjustments out of my own personal discomfort – it is as if something has been ingrained in me through years and years of oppressive mandates. The craziest part being that I am so incredibly happy with my life, in my relationship, and with who I am and who I am becoming. It has taken me so, so long to accept myself fully and to really understand myself at all. I spent years in a haze of chaos not even remotely understanding why it was that I never wanted to be with any of my boyfriends. I was so bored, there was no passion, I felt nothing physically, and I just could not understand because I knew that girls were supposed to be with boys. I kept trying; one after the next, but none stuck.
When I came to terms with sexuality (and I use that phrasing strictly because it was somewhat of a difficult time) everything changed. I started reflecting on moments from my past, feelings that lingered around females in my life, an attraction and comfort that I could not sort out at the time. And then as an adult in college discovering women loving women literature and films and really seeing the connection between those undefinable feelings and what was happening to cause them it kind of just clicked for me. My heart was literally just racing while reading a slow burn SwanQueen fanfic…I mean come on. I imagine that what I experienced a bit later on in my life is what heterosexual people go through when they see movies and read love stories when they are teenagers. Our society being as hetero-normative as it is never really gave me the exposure to fully understand those feelings when I was younger and so those feelings, in my experience anyway, never really came until I saw women loving women as an option.
So while talking with my friend we came upon the subject of the process of me coming out and what it meant to me. When I realized I am gay I think I went into immediate adjustment mode. I came out as bi (because somehow I thought that would be easier for family and friends…it wasn’t) and began to openly date women, well one woman in particular. It was both a freeing and shackling experience. It was like yes, finally, I’m out, but woah why are people constantly staring at us, why do they feel they can shout in our faces, why does the room grow silent when I use a pronoun to describe my partner? These overt and covert forms of discrimination do actually lead to fear and the feeling that one is unwelcome. So if you maybe happen upon this and you know someone in the LGBTQ community – or actually even if you are not sure if you know someone – maybe try to ease some of the discomfort and be an ally because this is not a case of over-sensitivity. This is real. These instances happen every day and you never really know how what you say and do can impact another person’s entire sense of safety. These incidents are not easy to talk about because we fear further isolation – as if allowing space to process these incidents is further inconveniencing the person who made you feel uncomfortable in the first place.
I guess the point of this is just to say – hey, we are human, complex individuals, and have feelings. For many of us being out is still a brave act so please – take that into consideration the next time you make an assumption that can marginalize or isolate someone.
We can all learn something from one another and no one should ever feel like they have to lessen themselves to make you feel more comfortable. Not ever.