Questions answered: You can’t be gay–you are too feminine!

You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers! Here’s the first one: “What do you say to someone who says, ‘You can’t be gay–you are too feminine!’ I am worried when I come out to my family and friends that this will be their reaction.”

Oh, how I understand this problem! I’m definitely on the feminine side of the spectrum, so when I came out, I did get this sort of reaction from some friends and acquaintances. Most people’s image of a gay girl is more like k.d. lang than Portia de Rossi. So it’s understandable that we have a way to go before many understand that there are as many different kinds of lesbians as there are people in the world.

Another complicating factor is that when you are a feminine gay girl growing up, society more easily puts you into the “straight” category. No one thinks to ask if you are gay, and you don’t know enough to ask that question of yourself, especially if you have no gay role models. You “look” straight, guys are attracted to you, so you think, “Hey, this must be what I’m meant to do.”

I believe that, in some ways, feminine lesbians have a more difficult time coming out to themselves than more obvious gay girls. While we don’t get the teasing and the bullying that those girls received, we are more prone to hiding behind the mask of straightness since it’s simply easier for us to pass–to ourselves and to others.

And this can lead to a lifetime of questioning, “So, since I don’t like softball, I can’t be gay, right? I love wearing skirts and lipstick, so surely I’m not gay? Of course I’m not gay, I’ve been married to a man!” Yes, you can be gay under all of these circumstances–trust me!

All of that said, once you have come out to yourself, you fabulous feminine gay girl, you know your truth and no one can take that from you! My advice to you is to anticipate that question and come up with a funny answer (“Guess I’ll have to trade my heels for sensible shoes now”), a question back at them (“That’s interesting. Why do you think that? Do you know many other gay people?”), or ignore the question completely by changing the subject if you don’t want to address it.

Choose your approach based on the person asking the question and how much you feel like discussing this in the moment. You really don’t need to justify your gayness to anyone else at all!

As a final aside, this is another reason why I think everyone should be as “out” as they can. The world needs to see that gay people come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. People who are questioning their sexuality desperately need role models to show them that being gay is not limited to the old stereotypes. Burly football players can be gay, lipstick-wearing actresses can be gay–break down those stereotypes and add your special style to the mix!

Feel free to tweet your questions to me @latelifelesbian or leave them in the comments section. I’d love to hear what’s on your mind!

The First Step is Coming Out to Yourself

First, thanks to everyone who commented on my first blog post! I really do appreciate you taking the time to read it and share your thoughts with me.

What I’ve been thinking about lately is the process of coming out. When you hear about people “coming out,” it is usually described as a single event. Sometimes, I even picture a person in an actual “closet” jumping out to surprise their family and friends, “Surprise! I’m gay!”  

Of course, it never really works that way. Coming out is a series of events, usually starting with coming out to one’s self. And that process alone can take years! If you have never questioned your sexual identity, then you might not understand how someone can *not know* that they are gay.  

The mind is a powerful tool for self-deception. We try and fool our minds every day, like when we convince ourselves that we really don’t want that piece of chocolate that’s calling our name. Of course, if you believe that denying our true sexual identity takes a lot more bandwidth than overcoming a desire for chocolate, you are correct.  

“Why would someone do that?” you might ask. My answer to that question is: look around at our society. Is it easy to be gay in our world? Is it celebrated? Is it even tolerated in some countries? When you look at places like Russia, Uganda, and, closer to home, the American states that refuse to recognize marriage equality, you can see how the outside world is a powerful motivator to stay in the closet. And I haven’t even touched on pressures such as family expectations, religious beliefs, workplace rules, and friends’ reactions.  

Given all of these negative pressures, I’m amazed that anyone ever comes out to themselves! But, we do, and the reason we do is because, finally, it simply takes up too much head space and energy to stay in the closet.

Or as someone once explained it to me, “Staying in the closet is like pushing a huge beach ball under the water.  Yes, you can do it, but it takes such tremendous force and attention to keep that ball down.  Letting it go can be scary–which direction will it go?  How will I control it?  But, oh, the freedom!”

And coming out later in life has its own special issues. If you are or were married to someone of the opposite sex, you may wonder if this is just a passing phase. You may try to rationalize it or explain it away. But as someone once said to me, “Straight girls don’t stay up late at night wondering if they are gay.” I had to agree that this was true for me!

If nothing else, coming out to one’s self is a liberating first step in the coming out process. And it’s necessary to know yourself before you share *you* with the rest of the world. I’d love for you to share your thoughts about coming out to yourself in the comments below. Thanks!

When It’s Time to Fly

Below is a short essay I wrote in Lisa Ernst’s Writing and Meditation Workshop offered by One Dharma on 2/15/14:

What touched me today was reading about the actress Ellen Page’s coming out and particularly watching the video  on the Human Rights Campaign website. Here was this accomplished young actress speaking in front of a crowd–something I’m sure she has done many times before. You could hear the nervousness in her voice–the wavering and uncertainty.

But what I was most transfixed by were her hands. They were shaking so much that she had to hold them cupped together for almost the entire time. At one point, she let them go to make a point, and they were like tiny birds released, but still unsure of how high to fly.

About halfway through her speech when she finally said the words, “I’m gay,” and the audience stood and cheered for her, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be marvelous if everyone upon coming out had a cheering audience swelling with whoops of joy, mirroring back to you the terrifyingly awesome feeling of finally releasing your authentic self out of your mouth and into the world?”

It’s like watching a birth: the long wait and gestation before, the agonizing pains of labor, but then the deep knowing that there is no going backwards–in fact, what’s back no longer exists even–and you are propelled into a shiny, brand new, sparkling world that blinds you with its rightness. And you wonder how you ever lived in the dull past with you old, small, tightly-reined-in self.

Letting it all go–the expectations, the dreams of someone else for you, your own dreams that never quite fit no matter how you cut and sewed and re-sewed them–it’s the scariest thing ever. It’s tough enough to do that for yourself and your family & close friends privately, let alone on a widely-broadcast YouTube video.

But to live every day as authentically as you can–what a gift to yourself and the world! I could see the relief on her face when the words came out of her mouth. Naming ourselves, saying the words, and believing that you can say them and there will be a bridge to carry you to the other side requires such a leap of faith.

I remember testing out the words myself before I dared to speak them aloud to anyone. It felt like I had a tiny baby bird inside me–me, its nest–and it was time to push her out. Keeping her in the once-safe nest was no longer an option for that would only stunt her growth. I had to have faith that her wings were ready and strong enough to take on the world.  It was her time to fly.