I was 15
It was summer time. I hadn't told anyone yet, not even my friends. I had just started watching Glee, catching up with the first two season on Netflix before starting the third one. Seeing the character of Kurt, played by Chris Colfer, made me relate a lot to him, but also disconnect from my sexuality. I was a lot like Kurt, I was into Theater, loved all the Divas, and had a lot of his character traits. But I was also nothing like Kurt; I didn't sound the same or act the same, my parents weren't like Burt Hummel and I had nowhere near the vocal ability that Kurt did. On top of that, he got bullied all the time, which I was already experiencing due to my weight and my perceived sexuality, I wasn't ready to make it all a reality.
I remember walking my dog one night with my brother. We just went around the neighborhood and we were talking about his girlfriend at the time, they had just broke up and I was wondering why. He stopped me and asked if I would still love him if he was bisexual. I asked him the same. It was in the moment that we had both come out to each other, a moment that I will forever remember because I felt absolutely safe with him.
We both asked if we were going to tell our father or not, not being able to gauge his reaction in anyway. See, my dad at that point was the epitome of masculinity, in a way an embodiment of what I thought being a "Man" was at that time. However, he had just had a stroke a few months prior so to say he was mellowing out would be an understatement, Still, we weren't sure if he would be able to grasp what we were saying, so we decided to tell my mother instead.
My mom has always been progressive, trying to understand people and new things in life. I knew telling her would be hard but not impossible.
We sat around the table, talking about my brother's relationship and why they broke up. He said, "I'm bisexual," as if that answer essentially answered anything else she had about his ex-relationship. She stood for a moment and we sat there in a thick silence. She asked how he knew and he said that he has been seeing a guy and he knows. She paused and a few minutes later told him that she was always going to love him regardless of who he was and it wasn't her business to judge who he loves. Hearing this washed me with a sense of relief, thinking that her reaction was going to be the same with me.
It wasn't. As I piggybacked off of his confession, she felt blindsided. She had a son-figure and her actual son come out to her within 10 minutes of each other. In hindsight I realized that it put her in a bind, she couldn't say anything different from what she just told my brother, but she also felt differently. After all, I was her child and that made a difference to her. She grilled me with questions about how I knew, had I been with a guy, was it a phase, etc. She said I was too young to know and that we'd talk about it later. It wasn't a denial, but it wasn't an acceptance either. However, I told her that I was bi as well, assuring her that I was going to get married to a woman, have kids, etc. - all that cookie cutter stuff that I already knew wasn't going to happen,
It felt so nice to have my brother there with me, but it also felt awkward considering his messaging was so different from than mine was from my mom.
I told myself that if my parents were to disown me, I would leave home and figure it out. It's weird to think about that at 15, but I had to grow up early for a lot of reasons so mentally I was equipped with the tools to figure it out if I had to. I had friends that would take me in and help me, I'm sure I had some family too. I didn't want to take that road but I was prepared for it.
My parents and I spent the next two years discussing my sexuality and what it meant. My dad wasn't really able to grasp it a lot, so we had plenty of coming-out conversations, meaning that I had to come out to him multiple times. My mom avoided the conversation as much as she could, chalking it down to not knowing what I was truly was because I hadn't been with a guy at that point. Any conversation we did have was about how she didn't want me to fall into the "submissive" role, often messaged as "who will be the woman in the relationship?" She didn't want me be weak, she didn't want to think about the dynamic my partner and I could have.
I knew that she was missing the point, blinded by semantics that had nothing to do with me in any way. It was weird though, to have those questions, especially about power dynamics considering she's always been someone who didn't subscribe to certain roles and constructs. She was the breadwinner, she was the alpha - she was (and still is) a boss. Still, it hurt because there was a whole part of me that she didn't want to know.
I remember that when I was 16, I wanted to go to the Pride Parade in San Francisco. My niece and I were planning on going together and my mom told me to ask my dad, saying that she had no opinion on it. My dad exploded when I asked him. He asked me if I wanted to be "one of those faggots, sleeping around with guys and getting AIDS."
I was devastated because not only was he attacking me for who I was, but he truly believed that being homosexual was a death sentence. It's ironic because my uncle was gay as well, but he had passed away due to AIDS-related causes and was hyper-masculine, so to my dad he was the outlier for gays, while I was the stereotype. I hated him for a time period, I really did. And I hated my mom for being passive on it, for not standing up for me and for not supporting me for being who I was.
This next part may sound disrespectful to you, and if you judge me for it that is fine. But after that interaction I made it very clear to my dad that his life was in my hands. He was disabled and I was taking care of him and if he, at the very least, wasn't going to respect me, I wasn't going to take care of him. They both asked how I could be evil like that, how I could be so disrespectful and how I could punish him like that. It wasn't an easy choice to make in the slightest, but I want to make this very clear:
You are under no obligation to help or serve people who do not respect you or see you for who you are. You are under no obligation to take care of someone who doesn't acknowledge you the way you acknowledge yourself. You are under no obligation to love someone who denies you of who you are.
He came around though, through talks with my brother and my sister and even my mom. He realized that he didn't mean how he felt. My mom did too. And I began to understand them. My dad's experience with the LGBTQ community was very limited and the only person who knew died from AIDS-related causes, it was clear how he could correlate the two and project his fears for me as anger. My mom was swimming in uncharted waters, but not unfamiliar. She was raised to be prejudice but never was, never seeing ethnicity as a negative difference. Our struggles paralleled - she fought with her parents to date men of color and almost severed their relationship when she got with my father. I was fighting with my parents to love someone of the same gender. She realized that she was playing her parents role and projecting that experience onto me.
For two years we all had this struggle, not knowing exactly how to connect with each other and understand each other.
When I was 17, mom and I were watching Glee together and it was the episode where Karofsky attempted suicide. I started crying and my mom asked me why I was upset. I told her, "Because I'm scared that if I tell you I'm Gay then I'm going to end up dead because I'm not accepted and can't accept myself."
We were both crying that night, me because my mom finally listened to me and took the time to understand me. Her because she realized that her messaging to me was homophobic and played a part in my own self-image. She apologized to me for ever making me think that she loved me any less. She confessed to me that as a parent you never want your child's life to be hard and she knew that my sexuality was going to make life hard for me, on top of being mixed and fat, etc. Similarly to how her life was hard being in an interracial relationship and having a mixed child. She never meant to make me feel unloved, but she wasn't sure how to convey her worries and care. In that moment, we both understood each other.
Fast forward to 2017 and the relationship I have with my parents in exponentially better. The relationship with my friends is amazing, as well more of my family. I am living my truth in the best possible and I never feel ashamed for who I am. My parents attend PFLAG regularly and participate in so many conversations that are sure to make their parents gasp if they were still alive. I haven't had a relationship in my life so far so there's still another test to be had for that experience, but I'm confident it well pan out well because we all trust my judgement in relationships.
So that's a part of my story. It's not daunting as many others', not heartbreaking or depressing. It's not as positive either, not as happy off-the-bat. But it's my truth, and it feels so amazing to live in my truth. When you live in your truth, you smile a little bigger, laugh a little louder and love a little harder.
So...Today is National Coming Out Day
The day that many perceive to take the plunge and come out to their friends and family. For those that do that, I applaud you. You are brave and strong, sometimes when you shouldn't have to be.
However, if you are scared to do so, don't feel like you have obligation. Protect yourself. Make sure that you feel safe, and if you don't, then don't say anything. It's powerful to choose this day to come out, but it's just as powerful to come out at all. Do it on your own time and when you're ready, and do not let anyone do it for you or make you feel like you need to do it on their time.
My story, while difficult for me, is also more privileged than a lot of other people. It's not always the same narrative, whether that's positive or negative. Everyones experience is different and for many it is a lot harder, sometimes even lethal. Some of us don't make it and we need to make sure that we remember them, carry their memory and their spirit.
To my family; Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Pansexual, Agender, and everything under the umbrella, I am so proud of us for making it this far and I wish us all the best in our adventure ahead. We're carrying a torch and paving a path, don't stop moving, but don't be afraid to rest either. We'll keep each other lifted.
All my love to this community.