National Coming Out Day and My Coming Out Story

October 11, 2013. A lot of people don’t know the importance of today’s date. To be honest, I didn’t. I hadn’t heard of the importance until recently. October 11, 2013 is the 25th anniversary of National Coming Out Day. I spent a few days thinking about when I came out. My coming out is just like any other coming out story. I wasn’t even going to mention it because it really isn’t anything special or anything so different. Except the more I thought about it, the more I realized how important that day was and still is to me. It’s a big part of MY story. It’s like one of those days everyone always remembers: where were you when Kennedy was shot; when Elvis died; on 9-11. The only difference is my coming out is specific to me.

Stage One: Me
I knew I was “different” when I was eleven. I blame Dolly Parton and the invention of CDs. That’s right. Back before we could just google the lyrics of a song and before everyone had ITunes, people actually went out to stores and bought CDs. The great thing about CDs (as opposed to cassettes) was a cover book usually came in the jacket of the CD with lyrics already printed. Thank God we no longer had to rewind (you may have to google that word if you’re younger than 20) a cassette 10 million times and scribble each word down on a piece of paper. So there I was, sitting in front of my mom’s CD player (the first I had seen), going through her boyfriend’s CD collection. I don’t remember any other CD I listened to that day. I just remember the cover of Dolly Parton’s “Slow Dancing with the Moon” CD and knowing the song “Romeo” with Billy Ray Cyrus. So I popped the CD into the huge floor model CD player (yeah-it’s also before the small portable CD players). As I lay with my back on the floor, I listened to “Romeo” about a dozen times. I was finally able to enjoy reading along with the lyrics and memorizing each word so effortlessly. But as much as I liked that song, I had new songs to listen to and lyrics that I didn’t have to take a whole day to write down. So I moved on to the next song.

As I half-listened to each song, I flipped through the book and looked at all the pictures. I had heard of Dolly Parton before this day. But I had never paid any attention to what she looked like. Remember, this is LONG before google images made seeing what someone looked like so readily available. Sure there was TV, but at 11, I wasn’t watching country music videos (was CMT even available in the early 90s?). I was captivated, looking through all the pictures. And then I came to song number six: “Put a Little Love in Your Heart”. I listened to Dolly sing as I looked at her picture…and when she got to 1:25 in the song (yes…that exact moment), I knew I was “different.”
Here’s a link to the song and exact moment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_76nAD7ygc

But, unfortunately, that’s not my coming out story. It would have saved much heartache and time had I admitted it there, laying on the floor, listening to Dolly Parton. But in one minute I knew I was different and in the next, fear stepped in and took me for a very long, dark ride. I was scared to even LOOK at pictures of Dolly Parton until I was 18. I feared the feeling I had because of how I was raised. Pentecostals preach Hell and damnation and fire and brimstone. And even at 11, Hell was very real. So I avoided Dolly Parton and her great big….eyes. I continuously lied to myself. I pretended not to feel some weird excitement and triumph when I was 14 or 15 and saw “The Puppy Episode.” I ignored how I knew Rosie was a lesbian before she came out and never questioned why no one else saw that from a freaking mile away.

And then one day, when I was 20, I met a woman. And I knew I couldn’t keep trying to drink my thoughts away and lying to myself. So I went to get a haircut. It was just supposed to be a trim. But the more I thought about it and looked at magazines, the more I wanted more than just a trim. So when I sat down in the chair, I pointed to Halle Berry’s short hair, and said, “This is what I want.” That night on my way home from the haircut, on Rt. 50, coming down from the set of lights that cuts off to old Rt. 50, I was finally able to tell myself something that I couldn’t even form the thoughts to for so long. As many times as I had tried, they wouldn’t form. But that night I finally felt like on the outside what I felt like on the inside. I finally was able to tell myself that I was gay. I came out to myself on January 2, 2004. I guess it’s just one of those days you never forget, kind of thing.

Stage Two: Friends
The very next day I went to the place where I worked. My very best friend also worked there. She was stocking the cooler, so I went back to talk to her. I told her I had something to tell her and that I was a lesbian. She slowly and dramatically inched her way backwards, away from me, and said, “Ummmm….ok.” And then she busted out laughing. In the next couple of months, I came out to all of my friends and coworkers. I never had any problem at all. No one made me feel any less worthy.

But I never really feared coming out to my friends and coworkers…

Stage Three: Family
I told you I was raised Pentecostal, right? Well…I knew it was never going to be easy to come out in my family. No one had done it. I didn’t even know a gay person growing up. So I didn’t come out immediately. I honestly can’t remember which came first; the chicken or the egg. I think I am a master at repressing memories. I can’t remember if I came out to certain family members before I came out to my dad or if I came out to my dad and then came out to certain family members. Some of my family took it like no big deal. Some said they couldn’t condone it, but it was my life. But it came down to me inviting my new girlfriend to my dad’s house to watch the Pro Bowl downstairs. Dumb idea, yes. She was very butch. A person would have to be totally blind to not know she was a lesbian. So I explained that my new friend was a lesbian. No big deal, right? We were just watching football…until we started drinking. You remember what happened in your parent’s basement when you were alone with your girlfriend or boyfriend, right? Well…I was no different. My dad is also not a stupid man. The hickey was probably a clue to this was no ordinary “friend.” I was disrespectful and I wish I could have come out a different way, but I was a coward that probably had to be entirely too drunk and foolish to ever come out to my father. So it is what it is. He called me upstairs and asked me if I “was one of them.” I managed to confirm that yes, I was one of them.

I won’t rehash particulars or any hurtful things said by either of us. He wasn’t happy, of course. But he loved me. I’m sure, looking back to ten years ago, it was not easy to understand “lesbian” for him. He was also raised Pentecostal. No one talked about gay people in my family. We didn’t have gay friends. We didn’t have gay neighbors. And if you did, no one talked about it. And even though I heard the Hell threat nearly every single day for the first few months, he also told me he loved me. He was scared for me. My mom was much easier to come out to. I said, “Meet my girlfriend.” She said, “Nice to meet you.” But she also had moments where she feared what being a lesbian meant for me. She watched “Boys Don’t Cry” shortly after I came out and called me hysterically crying in fear for my safety. She also mentioned eternity a time or two. But neither of my parents ever shunned me or made me feel unloved, and for that I am luckier than some who have come out before me.

It’s been a decade since I came out. I came out before I knew anyone who had come out. It was a much different time just ten years ago. I didn’t know anyone gay who could walk me through the steps. The internet was not what it is today. I couldn’t just reach into my pocket, pull out my phone, and google coming out stories. My story isn’t a great story. It’s not one of those great stories people will remember forever. But it’s my story. It’s unique to my life. My coming out took place in a car when I was all by myself, coming back from a haircut. When I came out to myself, everything changed. Sure, coming out to everyone else was scary. There are still days that aren’t easy. But that day, driving back home, my whole life changed. And I will never be ashamed or regret the decision to love myself enough to accept myself.

Coming out didn’t “make” me. But it definitely helped shape me. To all the people that secretly google coming out stories and wish they could come out, our stories are an important tool. And because of that, it’s important to keep celebrating National Coming Out Day and keep telling out stories.

Published in: on October 11, 2013 at 1:59 pm  Comments (6)  

360 Months; 1560 Weeks; 10,950 Days….

However you say it, it all adds up to one thing: I turned thirty on May 16. I know many who dreaded joining the 30’s crowd. I was never that person. It seems like most of my life has been spent wishing I was older so the dreaded 30 was never agony for me. After all, thirty meant I joined the 30-39 group in polls that ask for age! I’m no longer associated with twenty. Quite frankly, I don’t think I was ever associated with twenty…even when I was twenty.

So in the month leading up to thirty, I was mostly excited to spend a long weekend with my friends in the mountains. Little did I know I would be celebrating thirty so many times that I figured people feared this would be my last birthday to celebrate!

It all started when my cousin Eva asked me to go shopping in Pittsburgh. We decided to go on April 27. I left work early to have enough time to shower and get dressed before we left for Pittsburgh. When she arrived, we had to go pick my Aunt Peachie up at her house because she was also going with us.

I should have known immediately that something was awry. We went down the wrong street to go around the house. We pulled into my Aunt Peachie’s normal parking spot. My Uncle Bobby’s vehicle was there, but so was my dad’s. Dad had been doing some work so I figured no big deal, Uncle Bobby is looking at the progress. When we walked into the house, everyone started singing Happy Birthday. I must have jumped two feet off the floor; it scared the hell out of me! As I am trying to focus on faces to see who was there, I see Dennis, my best friend’s husband. But it never occurred to me my best friend was there too because I was trying to put names to faces in my head. Then it hit me: Helen and Dennis had made the two hour drive from Pa to come down too! Everyone was there and I felt really loved.

Here’s a few pics of that day. Mind you, no one had pictures of the water battles! I was soaked from head to toe from water balloons, squirt guns, and cups full of water! Great time!

 

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The second celebration took place on the Monday before my birthday. I have been going to the mountains for my birthday for a few years so I am never at home for my birthday. This year, though, I wanted to do something with my family before I left (I didn’t know about the surprise birthday). So for more than a month, I had planned for all of us to get together to go bowling. We all like bowling and it’s something fun for the kids and the adults. So that’s what we did. Unfortunately, not many pics were taken! Here are the pics I have:

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Surprise! Aunt Peachie’s butt!

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And then the mountains. This is the third year I have gone to the mountains for my birthday. I can’t even explain what going to the mountains on my birthday means to me. I am surrounded by my two best friends in the world and their families. Starting in January, I begin the countdown to the mountains. It’s like a breath of fresh life for me. I anticipate the arrival and I dread when we have to leave. This year, I met Helen and her kids on Wednesday. Somer and her family came down on Thursday. And Dennis came down on Friday. Mind you, I have the shortest drive-time at an hour and a half. Helen and Dennis drive three hours and Somer and Jessie drive like five! Have I mentioned that I have the absolute best friends ever?

This year was the best year, if that’s even possible. Helen and I went site seeing in Thomas, WV on Thursday afternoon. When Somer arrived later that day, her first words were, “My goal is to make you go into liver failure this weekend.” She almost succeeded. I very seldom drink heavily. I don’t drink a lot to begin with, but I have an occasional glass of wine or “swig” of Crown. If I drink heavily, Somer is ALWAYS right beside me. We see each other four to five times a year so that’ll tell you how often I drink to drink. We started out with Jell-O shots and never looked back. I never blacked out, but I have trouble remembering every single conversation. And that’s the problem because Somer remembers EVERY SINGLE DETAIL. She’s been my friend since we were eleven years old and she does not forget anything! Helen and I could forget our names, but Somer remembers every single detail of my life….it’s scary, really.

So we drank Thursday night. Friday we went site seeing in Davis, WV. When Dennis arrived, we started drinking again. Again, it started with Jell-O shots. I remember being drunk and taking a walk to the nearest Wifi connection, hoping and praying I didn’t fall into the pond by the cabins because I’d never make it out alive. When I finally had wifi, I downloaded songs from our high school days: Bloodhound Gang, Insane Clown Posse, Eminem, and the Presidents of the United States of America. The husbands stayed inside (we may have been annoying) as we sang…loudly…vulgar song lyrics until midnight. I may listen to the 50’s and 60’s now, but there was a time when my musical tastes were influenced by Somer and Helen and don’t be surprised if you ever hear me, out of the blue, bust out singing, “I need to find a new vagina” or “You born in a barn? Shut the f***in’ door!”

Saturday we went to Black Water Falls, Lindy Point, and Seneca Rocks. We played outside with the kids. But, again, when bedtime came around, we started drinking. Saturday I may have had too much to drink. Or maybe drinking while sitting (and singing) in a hot tub is not wise. I know, FOR SURE, never put me near a telescope when I’m drunk. I can barely see the moon with the naked eye…but I’ll never see it through a telescope (I just move too much and bump the telescope…although I blame that on Somer). I had drank too much before Somer said, “It’s time for the lemon drop shots now!” I remember thinking, “Oh, God. Tonight I’m puking.” Somer had said we would do three shots. I literally choked down the second one and she said, “OK…no more for you.” I drank water after that. The men went to bed while the girls stayed outside. We didn’t go to sleep until two (like three hours after I stopped drinking), and I still ended up waking up and hugging the toilet.

I woke up Sunday with a hangover. I tried coffee….no. Food was a definite NO. Helen then pulled out the evidence of our drunken night. She had recorded EIGHT minutes of us on the porch the night before. I have never been more drunk in my life…including the time I was in Las Vegas and drank from the time I woke up until the time I went to sleep. Had I had that third shot, Somer would have succeeded in causing me to go into liver failure.

Needless to say, Sunday was a rush of everyone packing up and heading home. I hate Sundays at the cabin because I never want to leave. Even with the toilet hugging, I have never had a better full weekend in all of my life. Somer and Helen will, of course, remind me of all the drunk things I said until the day I die…but it was all worth it. Here are pics:

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And then there was alcohol…

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The dreaded last shots…

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Lemon drops do this to me. I’m sorry.

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I was trying to find the moon. Don’t judge me!

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Jessie calls this my “scary, mean lesbian look.” I have no idea what I was doing here.

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And the final picture is of me and my best friends, Helen and Somer, at Black Water Falls. I can’t tell you how much these girls mean to me. You’re lucky if you have one friend for life. I’m more than blessed because I have two lifelong friends.

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Published in: on June 4, 2013 at 6:21 pm  Comments (2)