To be, or not to be — out that is. It is a question we all have to ask ourselves numerous times every day. Every situation is different and many issues considered before we make the decision. Different risks, the energy to cope with the reaction, or just plain trying to decide if the return is worth the investment.
Coming out to ourselves is, of course, the most difficult part of the process we will ever encounter. Family, friends and society all sends us its own messages. Beginning with our earliest memories we are promised the excitement of meeting the man of our dreams — our knight-in-shinning-armor, we will then marry, give birth to children and purchase that white picket fence. I do not think there are many of us who had a lesbian role model while growing up [though hopefully that is changing now]. For myself, I do not think I was so much hiding anything from myself as much as I just never thought of being a lesbian. After all, the subject never came up.
So, you finally come out to yourself and now you have to come to terms with all of the messages you have received over your lifetime about lesbians. I do not recall being upset by realizing I was a lesbian, but I do recall the long journey I took in self-discovery. I admit I felt the need to test every memory against this new knowledge of my being different than the norm. Many memories stood up against this new discovery, but many did not. So then you question if your new discovery is perhaps a fraud. In and among all of this, you have to keep asking yourself, how the hell did I miss this about myself for so long?
Finally, you accept that you are a lesbian — different from everything you ever knew — but you also know you are the same person you ever were. How many of us felt as if we were any different now than we had always been? I know I felt the same. I was still Therese. However, this was a big enough change in my life that I would have to explain this to family and friends who had known me for more than 30 years. How does one explain that to loved ones? How else would I explain that suddenly there was this woman who was with me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? (I figured eventually they might notice I’d gone from two to three).
I cannot say it was easy and frankly, there were times where it was downright scary. It took my family a long time to come to terms with it — but I think they are finally there. I lost some friends, including a best friend of 30 years, and that hurt. And I lost a job — but I have a better one now.
What I have discovered though, is that no matter how many times you come out, or even if you do not come out — it is never a done deal. I am out everywhere in my life, but I still have to decide to come out on a regular basis. A new person on the job, my son’s new teacher, a man hitting on me — all are only some of the situations that come up every day, which leave me with a decision on should I — do I want/need to — come out all over again.
Some days are easier than others, and some situations are more encouraging than others. They only promise I make to myself is that I will do the best I can. I think that is all any of us can ask of ourselves.
Until next time…