Coming out is a process for most people, myself included. I tried to write about it and realized that to do so in one post would be possible but not ideal. For me, it was an evolution. A collection of starts, stops, and pauses. I will write it as such.
As a kid, I never really felt like I belonged anywhere. Not among my family, community, or friends. There were many, many reasons for the feelings of displacement- my attraction to girls was just another brick in that wall. And, to be fair, it was only one, medium-sized brick. However, I think that my feelings of ‘otherness’ contributed to my decision to keep my lesbolicious feelings to myself.
By the time that I was ten, I had consciously resolved to keep my sexuality a secret. I kept pretty much everything else to myself when I was a kid, too, so this was fairly easy to do. If I had actually told anyone, I would have been pretty far outside the norm: I was born in 1981 and was aware of my preferences by 1988. At the time, the average female in the US was coming out in her late twenties. I’m not sure exactly what would have happened if I had advertised my feelings, but I do know that it would not have been pretty.
Despite my girl-crushes, I started having childhood boyfriends very early. I found boys attractive and certainly liked most of the kids that I dated as well as the attention that it got me… not really from the boys themselves so much as the other girls who didn’t have boyfriends. I was very insecure and desperately wanted to be cool in some way.
It wasn’t until middle school that I first understood the concept of bisexuality. I don’t really like the term ‘bisexual’ now and no longer use it to refer to myself (more on that at another time) but, at age twelve, it was nice to be able to apply a label to myself that seemed to fit. It never occurred to me that I could actually act on my attraction to females. Instead, I was just happy to know that I wasn’t alone. The fact that there was a word that described people like me meant that there were people like me. I felt connected to a community of ‘others’ that I had yet to meet:
The otherness persisted for quite some time. In high school, I came out of my shell but not out of the closet. My 1,200 kid high school was situated in a small and close-knit community. In my four years there, only one kid came out. His name was Jeremy and he happened to be one of my best friends as well as someone whom I had dated on and off. I am still amazed by Jeremy’s courage.
Watching him come out was awe-inspiring and painful at the same time. He waited until senior year (1998-9) and caught a lot of hell for his choice to be open about his sexuality. I had a front row seat to watch other kids pick on him. Worse, I angrily observed how the teachers stood dumbly to the side when Jeremy’s classmates called him a fag. It was enough to make me cling to what little popularity I had and keep my mouth shut.
College began much the same way. I still felt like an ‘other’ but I suspect that most of us did in the beginning. As a first year student, I was fairly typical. My first semester was spent working, partying, and trying to find a place in the college social structure. But, in my second semester, something magical happened: I took a class called Psychology of Women and it changed my life.
Everyone has a different coming out pathway and there is always some catalyst, big or small, that prompts an LGBTQ person to tell someone about themselves for the first time. For me, the push was meeting people like me. Or, more correctly, a group of kids whom I worshiped and desperately wanted to emulate, who also happened to be gay, lesbian, bi, and queer.
My Psych of Women class was amazing. It was a perfect mix of professorial talent, fascinating subject matter, and bright students. By the end of the semester, more than half of the 25 kids in this class had become my friends. I had found feminism, ditched Biology for Psych with a Women Studies minor, met my favorite professor, introduced myself to the intellectual queers, and discovered Morgan Hersill. Morgan Hersill.
Morgan was both my idol and my first love-crush. I had had dozens of crushes on both real and imaginary chicks by the time I met Morgan but she is the first girl I ever really wanted. And, possibly, the only person whom I’ve ever been so infatuated with that I cried over the weight of it all. (I am not a crier.)
She was extraordinary: President of the campus feminist club, Vice President of the LGBTQ club, brilliant, cute, funny, popular, unabashedly bisexual, and, psychologically messed up in a deep, “she’s totally crazy but isn’t it dreamy,” kind of way. Morgan was a co-ed bisexual’s dream. She was my dream. And, I wanted her badly enough to start thinking about the actuality of dating her- something that would require coming out.
I found out that Morgan was the teaching assistant for a Women Studies course in the upcoming fall semester so I signed up. Then, I spent all summer thinking about how there was no way that someone as cool as her would ever go out with me. In the fall, classes started and Morgan invited me to start attending meetings of the feminist club, of which she was still President. I went and then got invites to parties at her house with her other amazing friends and people who were generally way out of my league.
I still didn’t have the courage to hit on Morgan or tell anyone that I was bi but, for the first time in my life, I had found a place to belong. I was no longer an ‘other.’ Or, at least, if I was an ‘other,’ I was one of many.
I wanted what my out friends had and it was time to start testing the waters.
It was time to try dating a girl.