Coming Out All Over Again

I came out as a lesbian twenty-one years ago. I was nineteen years old. I told the people closest to me, one at a time. It was a positive experience, for the most part. There were lots of questions, of course. I was surprised at how surprised some of my loved ones were. I was a tomboy growing up, playing sports, wearing dirty clothes with holes in them. I hated dresses as a child. Still did as a nineteen year old, when I declared myself a lesbian.

So why some of my loved ones were surprised by my revelation, is astounding. Denial is fierce.

Last night, something happened that made me feel nineteen all over again. No, I didn’t try to buy beer with someone else’s ID who looked kinda, sorta, like me.

I came out to a loved one.

It started out as a typical Friday night. I was on my recliner, watching the Sox game. My sister’s kids were over. My seven-year old nephew was laid out on the couch next to me, my niece in college was working on her studies at the kitchen table behind me, and my other niece, twelve-years old, slid onto the recliner with me.

“Do you like girls?” she asked.

It was a casual question. There was no tone. Just a straight-forward, no-nonsense question. I was caught off-guard. This niece, as do all of nieces and nephews, has known for years  that I write lesbian novels, and that I have a gay friend with whom I go to gay bars. But they’ve never asked if I was a lesbian.

Until now.

I knew the question would come up soon. They’ve asked me other questions bordering the, “Do you like girls”, “Are you a lesbian, Auntie?” question.

“Auntie, why do you write lesbian stories?”

“Lesbians need to read, too, right?”

“Auntie, so you go to gay bars and watch boys kiss?”

“Yes, I do. And that’s okay.”

“Auntie, aren’t you afraid someone’s going to think you’re gay?”

“No, because being gay is okay.”

Maybe you’re wondering why I didn’t just come out and tell my curious nieces and nephews that I was gay. They were young – nine, ten, eleven years old. I didn’t think they were ready to know. Or maybe I wasn’t ready for them to know. Whatever the case, I didn’t volunteer the information, but I swore I would answer honestly if they ever directly asked if I was gay.

“Do you like girls?” my niece asked.

I tossed my head back. “Why would you ask me that? No, I don’t like girls.”

“It’s okay if you do. I respect gay people,” my niece responded.

I went back to watching the game, not believing that I had just lied to my niece. I did exactly what I told myself I wouldn’t do. I was not expecting that question at that moment. I was unprepared. In that moment, I wasn’t ready to tell her the truth.

When she got off the chair with me, I replayed in my mind what had just happened, and I knew I couldn’t keep things as they were.

Later, we were practicing our dance routine to Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” and I pulled her into another room.

“I’m sorry for lying to you,” I said.

“When?” she asked.

“When I told you I didn’t like girls.”

“You like girls?” she asked.

I nodded.

She smiled and jumped in my arms. She squeezed her arms tight around my neck. “I’m so proud of you! I love you so much.”

It was a beautiful moment. My twelve-year old niece is proud of me. I have to laugh at that. When we left the room, and joined the others, we went right back to where we left off. She didn’t treat me any differently. Being gay is really no big deal to her.

Later that night, we were watching the movie Signs, and she jumped onto the recliner to snuggle with me at the scary parts, like she always does.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s Not What You Think – Really, It’s Not!

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I took my little niece to the show. She had to go to the bathroom. We walked into the restroom together and I asked if she needed help. She told me she could do it herself. So I went into my stall and she went into hers. I finished first and as I exited my stall, I stopped in front of her door.

“Are you okay? Do you need help?” I asked.

“I’m fine,” a sweet voice responded.

Fine. I walked to the sinks, washed my hands, and waited for my niece near the entrance. The way the bathroom was set up, a person washing their hands couldn’t see the see the line of stalls in the other direction. After a couple minutes went by, and with no sign of my niece, I walked back to the stall area and waited outside her door.

I asked again if she needed help and the door swung open. There she stood, in one piece. I poked my head inside (without touching a thing). She did not pee all over the seat nor was the stall flooded with mounds of toilet paper. Nicely done, little niece!

I followed behind as we made our way past the long line of stalls. At the threshold, she turned left for the sinks and I headed straight to the entrance/exit where I had stood before. I watched my niece wash her hands and my gaze shifted to the woman standing next to her. She was staring at me through the mirror, giving me a “look.”

I didn’t know her and we had no interaction that day, so I turned away, chucked it up as just my imagination. But then she headed in my direction with the same stare, the same look of disgust across her face – directed right at me.  It wasn’t my imagination. This shit was real!

She passed me and as she reached for the door, she tilted her face toward me and then leaned her head back in the most snobby, disregarded, “I’m the head-cheerleader and you play clarinet in the marching band” kind-of-a-way.  I didn’t know what I’d done. I stared, dumbfounded, as I watched her leave.

My mind quickly backtracked every step I’d made since I arrived at the theater to get to the moment I was in. I hadn’t stolen anyone’s parking space, nor had I cut in line. I hadn’t let the door behind me slam in anyone’s face. I always did the courteous, “hold the door behind you for the next person” gesture. So what gives? What the bleep did I do?

My niece was walking toward me while wiping her wet hands against her pants. I pushed a strand of her hair behind her ears. “Did you wash your hands really good?” I asked.

And then it hit me.

Oh bleep me! That woman thought I didn’t wash my hands! She didn’t know that when she saw me walking back from the stalls that I had only gone there to check on my little niece, but she couldn’t see that from where she stood at the sinks. She didn’t know that I had already gone to the bathroom and had already washed my hands!

I fought the urge to chase after her while yelling, “It’s not what you think! Really, it’s not! I only went back there to help my niece and I didn’t  even touch anything! I swear! My hands are clean!”

But it was no use. I had to accept that I was known by a stranger as “the woman who didn’t wash her hands after using a public bathroom.”

I was disgusting.

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Photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net