What I hate is coming out with no context. I also hate feeling like I have to come out when sometimes I just don’t freaking feel like it. But on National Coming Out Day, I always feel obliged to find some people to come out to. The barista at Starbucks? The grocery store clerk? “I’d like a grande skim latte, and I’m bisexual.” “That’s a great price on Honeycrisp apples, and my children have two moms.”
I hate National Coming Out Day.
I have hated it since I first learned about it. Once, in college, I spent the entire day hiding in bed.
I hate National Coming Out Day because I hate coming out.
If you know me, you probably think there’s a punchline coming. I’m not just out. I’m notorious for being out everywhere — for specifically coming out everywhere, because my appearance is such that it takes explicit coming out for me to overcome heterosexual presumption. (Even my ex-wife thought I was straight for the first six months after we met. (Before we started dating!))
What I hate is coming out with no context. I also hate feeling like I have to come out when sometimes I just don’t freaking feel like it. I hate pressure to come out.
When people get to know each other in an ordinary way, coming out can happen naturally in conversation. I can’t count the number of times someone has asked me what my husband does, where I’ve then answered, “actually my wife, she [blah blah blah].” Or more recently, “I’m divorced, but my ex-wife [blah blah blah].”I don’t skip a beat, which keeps the conversations flowing, preventing awkward moments of confusion or surprise.
But on National Coming Out Day, I always feel obliged to find some people to come out to. The barista at Starbucks? The grocery store clerk? “I’d like a grande skim latte, and I’m bisexual.” “That’s a great price on Honeycrisp apples, and my children have two moms.”
The other part that I hate is more subtle.
When I first came out, I identified very strongly as bi. Through my 20s, most of my dating was not very serious. I dated more men than women, but my social life revolved around more lesbians than heterosexuals, and although I obsessed a lot (A LOT!) about What I Really Wanted and Who I Really Was, coming out still mostly happened in context and wasn’t that big of a deal.
But. When I met my ex-wife, and we got engaged, and married, and had children, identifying as bi seemed weird to me. I was in a monogamous relationship with a woman that I expected would last for the rest of my life. Coming out as a lesbian seemed easier and clearer — less likely to be confusing to whomever was listening to me.
Years later, as happens to an unfortunate number of marriages, mine ended.
At first, the idea of being in a relationship with anyone — man or woman — seemed horrifying. But as I adjusted to my new life as a divorced mom, and as my ex and I reached a good co-parenting equilibrium, dating started to sound like fun. I started flirting, perusing dating sites, and telling my friends that I was interested in meeting someone. Eventually, I started going out on dates, and since mid-summer, I’ve been seeing someone.
It has been fun, except for one confusing thing.
I have not had any interest in dating women.
Like, none. Less than I have had at any point in my adulthood.
This makes some things a lot easier. I can walk down the street with my new boyfriend, holding hands and not worry about street harassment. No one who sees us interacting familiarly asks if he’s my brother. Last weekend, we went to the park with his son and got lots of benevolent smiles from other people approving of our apparent happy, happy little traditional family.
Heterosexual privilege is really pleasant.
The thing is, my kids still have two moms. My children will be the product of a two-mom family forever. My ex-wife and I are both their legal parents, and that’s not going to change.
My kids have already had ignorant little jerk-kids comment “What? Gross!” on hearing that they had two moms. The fact that I need to interview schools and summer camps about whether or not they have experience with two-mom or two-dad families and how they have or would handle teasing or bullying in that context is not going to change. My need to complain about forms that list “Father_____” and “Mother_____” instead of “Parent_____” and “Parent_____” is not going to change.
In order to be the kind of parent my children deserve and to help make the world a little bit safer for other two-mom and two-dad families, I still have to be out. I still have to come out in any context where my children are likely to spend more than a negligible amount of time. My children are reaching the age where they will get to decide whether or not to come out to their friends, but I will always advocate on their behalf with health care workers, school administrators, coaches, or other “authority figures.” Paving the way with those people is my responsibility, and the first step involves coming out.
Most of the time, my experiences in those contexts have been somewhere between okay and good. They are sometimes awkward, especially at first, but they end up at least fine. I like to believe that my coming out conversations help the next queer family to have an easier conversation with that school or camp or doctor’s office.
That is the value of National Coming Out Day, too. I know it is. And I know that I can’t stop coming out, even if my behavior from now on turns out to be exclusively heterosexual.
Fine. I’ll tell the clerk at the grocery store.
Liza Barry-KesslerLiza began blogging in 2006, initially as an effort to understand what the big deal about blogging was. Approximately 2 hours after getting a positive pregnancy test and realizing that she didn’t actually know any pregnant or parenting two-mom families in her community, Liza found her blogging voice and began scouring the Internet for other queer families. Liza is the co-author of Privacy in the 21st Century: Issues for Public, School, and Academic Libraries, and her work was published in Mothering and Blogging: The Radical Act of the MommyBlog, and PunditMom’s Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media Are Revolutionizing Politics in America.
Image courtesy of the author