I came out to my family when I was six years old. I have this aunt who has always liked to tease my sister and me. When we were little, every time we saw her she would ask us if we had boyfriends yet.
"No," I'd say firmly, "I hate boys!"
"Wait 'til you're older," she said with a sly grin toward my mother. "I'm gonna record you saying that and play it for you ten years from now so you can laugh at yourself."
"Na uh," I responded. "I won't. I will never like boys."
Okay so maybe I didn't officially come out to my family until many years after, but it's funny – I can remember the conviction in my six-year old voice and the frustration I felt when my aunt would not believe my honest words. Well, I showed her.
My coming out story is (fortunately for me) less tragic than many others I have heard. Still, exiting that closet is something that's challenging for almost anyone – except maybe if your parents are gay? Or if you're born and raised in a hippie commune somewhere? Anyway:
I kind of knew there was something different with me pretty much my whole childhood. I was confused by all of the lines drawn everywhere I looked, separating boy things from girl things. I definitely always felt somewhat androgynous growing up – not a full-blown tomboy but not very girly either. I remember being at the beach when I was very young and wondering why I couldn't take my shirt off to go swimming, like my dad and so many others did. I remember throwing a fit every special occasion that my mom tried to pull a frilly dress over my head, but yet I still chose to play Barbies over G.I. Joe. Sometimes I'd paint my nails and other times I'd be outside with my sister making mud pies out of wet dirt.
Throughout much of our youth my sister and I were best friends with these two sisters named Gina and Kristin who lived on our street. We'd hang out and play Barbies all the time – and by 'playing Barbies' I don't just mean dressing them in various outfits and pushing them around the living room in a bright pink Corvette. See, my sister and I were very creative children, and Gina and Kristin watched far too many soap operas with their mother. The result, when the four of us sat down with these 10'' dolls, were these dramatic "episodes" loaded with scandal, romance and tragedy. My sister and I would always play the male Ken characters and Gina and Kristin would play the females. Kristin was more chilled out and more attractive than Gina, so I was happy that my sister usually paired up with Gina so that I'd have Kristin to myself. Thinking back, I guess I could probably call her my first crush. One time as she and I were fully engaged in a Barbie "episode," we had her Barbie and my Ken take off their shirts and kiss. Then they removed their pants and continued to rub faces and plastic bodies as Kristin simulated a kissing noise. That was one of the first times I vividly remember feeling turned on.
In early adolescence it really became more clear to me that I was different. I was apathetic when girls in my class would pull out their Backstreet Boys binders and ask me which guy I thought was the cutest. I probably gave some bullshit answer like, "I don't know, it's too hard to choose." Pshhtt. Lies.
I should mention that I attended Catholic school from first through sixth grade. Although there is no part of me now that considers "what would Mary do" when making decisions, back then for a time, I was brainwashed to do so. So there is where some terror began. I distinctly remember walking through school hallways and having weird feelings as cute girls passed by. I was especially intrigued by the sort of rebellious girls with their uniform skirts hiked up, runs in their stockings, and big-buckled black shoes (funny my type hasn't changed much, 14 years later). At first I wasn't sure if what I was feeling was sexual attraction, but nonetheless it scared the shit out of me. I damned myself for having 'perverted' thoughts. What would Mary do if she found herself wanting to kiss her 13-year old classmates? This was around the time that I started weeding Christianity out of my life.
My senior year of high school was the first time I fell in love. Her name was Angela and she was a troubled soul who smoked too much pot and came on to me very strongly. At this point, thanks to the emerging world wide web, I had made contact with some fellow homo-curious individuals through various chatrooms and such. I typed my way out of the closet to random strangers all over the country before I dared come out to any of my three-dimensional friends or family members. My cyber friends provided me with comfort and support and with each new day I became a little more girl-struck and a little more okay with that. I was now comfortable enough to consider myself bisexual. Angela considered herself bisexual too, plus we were undeniably attracted to one another, which made it easy to be open with her. As far as everyone else in my life was concerned though, my lips were sealed.
I had a relationship with one boy prior to meeting Angela. He had called me a 'dyke' a few times because my favorite movie was Girl, Interrupted and because I listened to female-fronted rock bands, and he broke up with me primarily because I wouldn't sleep with him. I would not sleep with him because I did not want his man junk anywhere near me, and was mostly relieved when he left.
The first time I kissed Angela, I thought "Ohh. So this is what it's supposed to feel like!" And suddenly I was floating on a cloud beneath a big-ass shiny rainbow. It was a truly monumental moment in my life – to this day I remember exactly what she was wearing, right down to her sheer leopard printed scarf.
The more infatuated with her that I became, the less I cared about concealing our relationship at school. I didn't really care what people thought, as long as nothing got back to my parents. I had introduced Angela to my sister as my new 'friend.' I guess making out with her against the lockers as my sister made her way down the hall was my way of coming out to her.
Eventually Angela left me for her ex-boyfriend. I was so devastated that my parents had to send me to therapy for depression, without knowing what the real trigger was. My sister and I talked, and you won't believe this, but: we came out to each other. Yes that's right, we're twins and we're both gay-identifying (no, my name is not Tegan or Sara).
From this point on, my sister and I were suddenly much more open with everyone we knew, besides our parents. The fact that she and I were both having similar feelings meant the world to me. When I was ready for my parents to know, it would be a joint effort. And I wouldn't be viewed as the black sheep of the family!
My sister and I officially entered the dating scene. We had girl 'friends' come over to the house and some boys were mixed in there too. The rules in my household were the same as many houses that sheltered teenage daughters: if a boy was over, our bedroom doors were to remain open at all times and of course no sleepovers. The girls on the other hand, all teenage girls have sleepovers, right? Right. It's just that some stay awake all night painting their nails and prank calling boys, while others stay awake taking advantage of this sacred time, and of each other.
Years went by. My sister and I had nearly stopped bringing guys around altogether. It became part of the routine when whichever girl I was seeing at the moment stayed over – we'd lock ourselves in my room, do our thing, finish, lower the music, open the door timidly and pray we'd hear my parents snoring in front of the TV. If the coast was clear, we tiptoed out of the room half-dressed, with sex hair, and entered quietly into the kitchen for a late night snack. But the more this went on, the more it became apparent that my parents were catching on to it.
At nineteen years old, my sister and I had been procrastinating too long and we both knew it. We had discussed many times regarding the how and when but obviously there is no ideal time or place for this sort of thing. I knew it'd be easier now that they were already pretty suspicious. My sister was the one that woke up one morning and decided, "today is the day." She wrote my parents a letter disclosing both of our sexualities and asked my permission to give it to them. I approved reluctantly and buried my head under the covers.
Overall, my parents were actually very understanding and supportive. They had indeed hypothesized before we confirmed it that my sister and I were at least bisexual. I remember my dad getting into the whole "Ya never know, it could just be a phase" spiel, but I think he realizes by now that this is not at all the case.
And to my aunt, whom I have not formally come out to to this day, you're right that hate is a bit strong of a word. I no longer feel that way about boys, or men, or anyone…but there's something else I want you to know: I love girls. I love them. I love their skin on my skin and their hearts and their minds. I always have and I always will.