Happy Coming Out Day! Every year on October 11th the LGBTQ community and our allies celebrate Coming Out Day as a way to commemorate and sanctify an important moment in the lives of queer people. It’s also an important way to help our children, families, friends, co-workers and communities know that you are a safe space for LGBTQ folks to come out to.
For this post I’m using photos I found in my archives from the Femme Family Pride Coming Out as Femme party that Femme Family produced in June 2009 at Stonewall Inn. L-R, Damien, Me, Amanda and Chris.
Coming out is such an intensely personal decision, since being queer is somewhat of a seemingly mutable way of being different. (“Passing” as straight is easier for some than others, and it is often tied to gender presentation.) I thought in honor of the occasion, and the fact that I told this story to my friends Jenna and Rick at my Epic High Holiday Shabbat dinner on Friday, I would share it here!
Coming out is easier said than done, and for me it was really difficult. I am 37 years old, which means I grew up in a pre-Ellen era. I noticed a pretty big cultural shift when Ellen’s character came out as a lesbian on her then sitcom in 1997. It was a watershed moment when, more and more, people were aware that LGBTQ folks were openly living their lives queerly. I feel like most kids who came of age after Ellen came out have a different experience within American culture.
I didn’t know gay was a thing that you could be until I was 14 years old. I had literally never understood that any of my mom’s friends were gay, that any celebrities were gay or that people throughout history had been leading queer lives.
I met the first lesbian that came out to me at Girl Scout Camp when I was a Counselor-in-Training. At the time that was a big no-no (even when I became a counselor a few years later it was very understood that lesbianism was don’t ask don’t tell) but we were friends and it came up. I felt a huge paradigm shift knowing that people were gay and it started helping me understand myself better. I wasn’t the kind of kid who grew up knowing I was attracted to other women, mostly I was attracted to gay men. (Hello, Keanu Reeves and George Michael.)
Me and Bridget, who just launched her amazing business coaching! She’s been a little bird supporting me with branding, web stuff and business for years, so excited for her new venture!
I began questioning my sexuality when I was 15. I had no one to talk to about this so I just kept it as a running wonder in the back of my mind. My mom came out for the second time around then.* It was not a bonding experience for us. My Junior and Senior year of high school was really difficult for our relationship, since mom was going through a divorce and my grumpy selfish step dad was still living with us because we couldn’t afford to sell the house (recession) and mom didn’t want to risk me having to leave our great school district. Not a recipe for anyone to be at their most compassionate emotional self. In my perception at the time my mom was not a safe person for me to discuss my sexuality with because we were not safe people for one another emotionally. My mom is awesome and she has been a great safe space for queer kids for years and years as a teacher but we were very much water and oil in high school.
I know now that a teacher at my school was gay (she’s friends with my mom!) and if only teachers were allowed to be openly gay in the mid-90s, my life would have been a lot easier.
Miasia is an incredibly talented belly dancer from Washington, DC and whenever I possibly could get her up for a gig in NYC I did just that! You should check out her classes and performances!
I came out to myself for real when I was 16 years old and could actually articulate internally that I was attracted to another woman. I told three very close friends who were not in my day to day life. When I got back to high school for my senior year I shoved all of that internal realization deep inside, in spite of a low-level crush on a girl in high school, and tried to keep fitting in even though I never actually fit in.
Laurence and Kate Huh, a really vital archivist photographer of NYC queer life.
I never dated anyone in high school, all dance dates were strictly platonic and even though I had some flirtations with boys here and there nothing ever happened. I knew how to keep my armor up as a trauma response to intense bullying I experienced in late elementary and middle school. To this day I still have to work to let my armor down where sex, attraction and flirtation are concerned.
One of my favorite performances of Damien’s is “Femmes Bash Back” based on the Femme trans women of color who began the Stonewall uprising by throwing purses and heels at the cops raiding the Stonewall. Let that fictional Stonewall movie be forever proved wrong, since they rewrote history so some white cisgender gay dude threw the first brick. Stay tuned for Happy Birthday Marsha! It is important that our history be preserved accurately and not white-washed.
In college I met a lot more gay folks, especially gay men, and almost everyone was in the closet for some period and eventually came out. It’s so weird to think about that time because now it’s so normal for people to be openly gay that I forgot that I knew a lot of these folks before they came out formally. Even though I knew in my heart I was attracted to women (I identified as bisexual at the time because I hadn’t realized all my big crushes were on gay dudes) I didn’t think I should come out because I hadn’t dated or even kissed anyone romantically. It was all wrapped up in fat girl body self loathing and not feeling like I deserved access to my sexuality. Why bother coming out if I was inherently unfuckable?
Our Femme DJ Shomi Noise.
Now I know that my identity has nothing to do with anyone other than myself. I know I’m Femme regardless of whether or not I am partnered with a Butch, I know that I am fuckable whether or not I’m presently having sex, I know that I am kinky even when my floggers are collecting dust.
If my college-aged self could know how I would turn out, coming out of the closet would have been way easier.
At the beginning of my Junior year of college, at 19 years old, I was really thinking about coming out for real in spite of not having kissed a girl, and then just days later I met my first girlfriend. I was her Resident Advisor, she was a resident on my floor, she had Ani DiFranco posters all over her room (a very late ’90s tell). She wasn’t out to her roommates but as we became friends she came out to me and then we held hands while watching Mary Poppins late one night and it became wildly easy for me to come out because I was young and in love and wanted to tell literally everyone I knew about it. Plus saying, “I have a girlfriend!” is way easier than saying “I need to let you know I identify as LGBTQ.” Since being Femme presenting is invisibilizing to many folks, coming out is Groundhog Day repetitive for me. I tend to drop a “My partner/my girlfriend” or when I was single “My ex-girlfriend” as a way to come out rather than just telling people directly. Somehow that is more seamless for me.
Early photo of me and my friend Ariel Speedwagon.
I’ve had a few more coming outs in my life, like when I got to law school and decided to come out as a lesbian instead of bisexual, when I came out as Fat and Femme, and when I shifted to using queer to identify my sexuality because it better encompassed non-binary gender identities. There’s also coming out as a medical marijuana user (as Melissa Etheridge says,”I believe anybody who smokes cannabis is using it medicinally, whether they consider it so or not”), and coming out as non-monogamous which for me just means I like to be a little free to ethically explore connections with people as they pop-up and adhere to agreements with the person I am partnered with.
Me and my friend Lissa and Sarah Jenny.
I just can’t endorse coming out enough. I was scared, so so so scared before I came out because I thought I was going to lose friendships, loved ones and access to my dreams. For me, living life authentically, and loving myself for all of me, allows me to feel so free and relaxed that I am more able to focus my energy on making the world safe for other people to do the same. I have had SO MANY DREAMS COME TRUE because I am openly 100% of the time my authentic self. I think global peace starts with inner peace, and we need to be committed to doing the self care and self expression we need to feel at peace.
Our logo intentionally had wings hugging the heart. Sophie designed it and Chris designed our flier.
Queer allies: amplify queer voices on your social media. Tell people you are a safe space and show your support for LGBTQ people. Work to learn how to be a better ally. It’s still dangerous in many spaces to be out as a queer person. Queers who live in countries that are more accepting of queers, learn more and more about LGBTQ refugees and borders and how being queer is sometimes the fight for your life. Offer your resources. I’m hoping to amplify more ways to do that in the coming months as I learn more about displaced LGBTQ folks.
Let’s all make the world more survivable for LGBTQ people and work to make “coming out” obsolete. Wouldn’t it be cool if people got to just grow up to be whoever they really are and love whoever they love and do it to whoever they feel attracted to and have consent and all that stuff?
Happy Coming Out Day!
*It turned out that my mom herself had come out of the closet for a few years in the early 80s. She even rode in Dykes on Bikes in the San Francisco Pride Parade in 1980! After a really traumatizing relationship with a horrible woman, my mom went back in the closet when I was four, dated men and married said step father who started out cool and then got awful and selfish and then after her second divorce she dated a woman and came out for good. So complicated, right? I didn’t come out to her until I came out publicly when I was 19.
I love that in this photo Miasia is holding herself much like the wings of our logo are holding the heart.
Taueret and Jesse were both at the Femme Family Coming Out Party but somehow not in my batch of photos so here’s a cute one I found at a party in the same time period when hunting through my archives. TT made that beautiful hair fascinator herself. She was so talented.