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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Defines What a Hero Is?

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This emotional picture recently popped up on my Facebook Newsfeed with the caption, “If Bruce Jenner wants to be a woman, so be it. His body – he can do what he wants to it. But please – stop calling it heroic, courageous & brave because it isn’t. This is heroic, courageous & brave………”

The above statement screams ignorance. Yes, the picture above is very heroic, courageous, and brave, but who gets to decide what’s heroic, courageous, and brave, and what isn’t? To people not dealing with gender issues or feeling they were born in the wrong body, Caitlyn Jenner may seem to only be playing “dress-up.” But for those struggling with this issue, and hating the bodies they live in, and fearing they will spend their ENTIRE lives never able to express on the outside, the person they know they are on the inside, Caitlyn Jenner is a hero because she’s shown them they no longer have to hide in shame, or kill themselves because they don’t know what else to do.

According to a recent article in the Chicago Sun-times, 41% of transgender individuals have tried to kill themselves at one point in their life. 41 percent! To put that number in perspective, according to a study by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute, 4.6% of the general public have attempted suicide in their life. One doesn’t need to be a mathematician to notice the significant difference in those numbers.

The two transgender individuals who were interviewed in the Sun-Times article had both attempted to end their life, and did so because they were constantly “harassed, bullied, victimized, discriminated against, or rejected by family and friends….” A suicide attempt came at the age of 13 for one of the individuals, and as a freshman in high school for the other.

They were kids. Children. Minors. At an age when most young people are excited about their future, dreaming of being a famous baseball player, or imagining themselves as the next Taylor Swift, there are kids who have already bore so much pain that they give up on life. Feeling hopeless enough by the time they hit their teen years that ending their life seems like the better option.

According to doctors and mental health experts,suicide prevention for anyone begins with acceptance and kindness, especially by one’s parents.

Love One Another. Be Tolerant. Show Compassion.

If the solution to saving lives seems so simple, then why are so many people still suffering? Simple answer? Because not everyone loves one another. Even some of the most holier than thou people don’t truly “Love Thy Neighbor.” Nor does everyone practice tolerance or show compassion. It’s much easier to ridicule the lives we don’t understand.

The caption above is a perfect example of how we judge others and put each other down.

Caitlyn Jenner may not be YOUR kind of a hero, but she’s the perfect hero to someone out there.

*The quotes came from an article in the Chicago Sun-Times. The article was used as a reference for this blog.

The picture came from Facebook. I do not own it. If it violates and copyright law I will remove it.

Note: After their failed suicide attempts, the individuals in the article received good care, despite some discrimination in healthcare. Not all medical professional are properly trained in dealing with transgender health issues. This is just another obstacle transgender people have to endure.

There’s Help Out There

I was watching a movie with friends. The movie we were watching revolved around a highly-oppressed minority group of people living amidst a society filled with extreme violence and chaos. A scene unfolded as a visibly desperate man – who had fought every adversary he met as bravely as he could, whose mind had endured as much emotional suffering as it could possibly bear, and a man whose body had experienced pain it could no longer withstand – walked down a gravel street carrying a canister of gasoline. He stopped suddenly, poured the gasoline over his body and set himself on fire.

A young woman sitting beside me asked, “Why’d he kill himself?”

“Because he’s a coward and that’s what cowards do,” her boyfriend, sitting on the other side of her, replied.

This exchange took place more than a year ago, but I haven’t forgotten it, and probably never will. The tone that young man uttered his incredibly insensitive words lacked any hint of empathy or compassion. He made the ignorant statement unaware of the plight of those around him. He wasn’t close enough friends with every single person in that room to know their struggles, their downfalls, or to witness the quandary of their weakest moment.

He exemplified none of the human values (compassion, kindness, tolerance ) necessary to be a decent loving human being. I remember being angry when that young man said what he had said, but I didn’t say anything because I believe those who boast loudly and talk boldly, do so to hide their own weaknesses. I swallowed my dissent that night, and instead of challenging his words, I looked at the young man with sympathetic pity in my heart because maybe he was struggling a battle so deep and profound that he needed to appear stronger than he felt.

Maybe the young and confident man was putting on an act.

Or, maybe he was just an insensitive jerk.

But that night I chose to give the young man the benefit of the doubt, and I hope he made no one in that room feel like a coward if they were struggling to overcome their own weighted hopelessness.

According to Veterans Today, the annual suicide rate for veterans is 29.5 per 100,000 veterans. This suicide rate is 50% higher compared to people who never served in the military. If this young man knew of this statistic, I wonder if he would still have boldly stated that people who kill themselves were cowards.

I don’t know, but I do know that men and women who serve our country and protect our freedom are not cowards – no matter how their life ends, and the same applies to everyone else who loses their life to suicide.

Be tolerant. Be compassionate. Life is uncertain. Life is unpredictable. Life is uncontrollable.

There’s help for those who need it. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

Note: I do not own this picture. If it infringes on any copyright I will take it down.