Recently, over a delicious dinner of salad and fixings (chicken for me, tofu for the vegetarian), my partner asked me a question. It’s one that I had heard before but never really considered for myself.
“Would you be straight if you could?”
My immediate response, without thought or hesitation, was “Absolutely not.”
After some mushy couple-y barf-stuff about not getting to be with her if I was straight (You’re so perfect! -No YOU are! -No, you!), I thought more deeply about the question. I had surprised myself at how quickly and intuitively that answer had come to me. I mean, I haven’t always had an easy time of it in coming out (though my experience was a cake-walk compared to some) and I’ve done a lot of struggling with getting comfortable with the fact that a large portion of people in this country would hate me before they even met me if they knew I am a lesbian.
But still, in spite of it all, I realized in this conversation that I consider being gay a gift, and one I would never take back. The thing is, being gay offered me an opportunity for self-exploration and discovery that I’m not sure I would have taken had I not noticed something was “different” about me. I spent a lot of time trying to figure myself out, and I learned a lot about myself in the process. I learned that I can survive on a diet of cookie dough and mac’n’cheese. I learned that I can stand up for myself and that I can write a research paper in under four hours. I learned that I enjoy watching marathons of Ace of Cakes. Oh, and I learned that I like girls.
It means you can be yourself in the face
of a world that, though steadily crawling
its way toward acceptance, is not quite ready
to say that being gay and being straight
are equally valid ways of living life.
This self-discovery builds a certain kind of strength; one that I see in every non-hetero person I know. Being LGBT means you have spent time getting to know yourself and figuring out who you are. It means you were able to see a life for yourself that is underrepresented and discouraged. It means you can be yourself in the face of a world that, though steadily crawling its way toward acceptance, is not quite ready to say that being gay and being straight are equally valid ways of living life.
All of this leads to an inner fortitude and self-determination that comes with the territory of being an out queer person. That’s not to say that straight people cannot or have not been as introspective or self-aware. Of course many are. My point is simply that the experience of coming out, to oneself and to others, builds a strength of character that brings the gay community together. There’s a reason we call each other “family.”
For a long time, I did everything I could to be the “good girl.” I’ve spent a large portion of my life making sure I didn’t upset anyone around me. I was always the A student, the angel child, the one my parents could count on to be polite and demure and obedient. So when I started coming out to myself, that image I held on to – the image of myself as the perfect daughter – shattered.
[…] not everyone
is going to think everything I do is right,
AND THAT IS OKAY.
I knew my parents would rather that I wasn’t gay. I still know that, no matter how much they love me, there will always be a part of them that will wish that I was different. But for me, coming out gave me a sense of independence that I had never felt before. I suddenly realized that I can’t live my life for other people – that I am the person, the only person, that I must answer and defend myself to. After years of walking through life looking for the approval of everyone else, being gay forced me to realize that not everyone is going to like me, not everyone is going to think everything I do is right, AND THAT IS OKAY.
I would be lying if I said that I had learned this lesson entirely, shut the book, and passed the exam. There are still times when I feel like I somehow need to “make up for” being gay, like I have to do more and be even better so that I won’t be rejected. I still feel like the proverbial black sheep in my family, but I’m learning to like that role. And I’m learning to live for myself more and more every day.
I attribute this epiphany almost entirely to coming out. Perhaps I would have stumbled upon this discovery eventually, perhaps it is just part of growing up, but it is certainly the reason I am grateful to be gay.
- On labels being for jars
- Femme on a Mission Vlog: How I came out to my mother via miss-sent text
- This is a (lesbian) love story post