It still takes courage to come out of the closet
I was 27-years-old when I decided I simply couldn’t ignore the nagging voice inside me that said I was attracted to women. Naively, I thought I wouldn’t have to ‘come out’; that I could avoid the trauma I’d seen on TV and in movies, that I wouldn’t have to face potentially being rejected or judged by friends and family. I thought that, you know, we have gay marriage now, Miley Cyrus is bi, magazines write about gender and sexual fluidity – aren’t we’re all a bit gay!?
The truth is that I was just plain scared. Terrified, in fact, of revealing this part of myself and for all it may mean. What I’m trying to say is that I’m not brave or courageous like the people in Pulse nightclub. I didn’t want to be gay. I went to an all girls school and I remembered the bullying and gossiping about lesbians there. I didn’t want walk down the street holding hands with another woman, especially not in the northern city where I grew up.
I didn’t even want to write this blog post – and it’s taken me a week to spit the words out that I am a bisexual woman.
I feel so stupid even writing that, like ‘oh, you’re just bi, stop making a fuss’.
I remember cutting my hair short a few years before I had even properly considered the idea that I liked women. I think I must have been testing the waters or something because it was my first experience of people – strangers mainly – questioning me about my sexuality and it made me mad as hell. When I had appeared to be a straight woman, no one had felt the need to label my sexuality, so why was my short hair now inviting labelling from others when I wasn’t even sure of my own feelings?
I realise this is minor incident and insignificant compared to the homophobia that so many people encounter everyday, not to mention that homosexuality is still illegal in 76 countries. Put simply, I have consciously avoided homophobia because I’ve never had the courage to publicly identify myself as anything other than straight.
In the days following the tragic massacre in Orlando, it was revealed that the shooter was possibly closeted. In some ways this is unsurprising. It takes courage to be who you really are. How maddening it must be to see others living freely as you remain in a cage. It’s the ultimate weakness to punish those who live the way you want but are too ashamed to live.
I have this quote in my room:
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. — e. e. cummings
I love it because it reminds me that throughout history people have been persecuted simply for being themselves. It might not seem a big deal to live authentically these days, but events like those in Orlando show us that to be who you are is a freedom we don’t yet fully have.
All I know is that I don’t want to hide anymore. I just want to be me. All any of us can do is search for truth from within – and do our best not to deny what we find there.