Coming out is commonly talked about as a one-time-only thing. But anyone who's had to do it knows it's more like a lifetime process. Every time a member of the LGBTQ community meets a new person, they inevitably start working out the "best" time to inform the other that they're gay/bi/queer – either that or continually convince themselves it's not necessary (the route I usually take).
There are lots of these minor coming out moments, which can be defined as pretty much any conversation where an individual's queer sexuality is discussed or mentioned. Then there are the major, identity-defining occasions – a grand strut or sashay or swagger out of the closet, if you will. Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on how you look at it), I've had three of those, each harder but more worthwhile than the last.
When I was almost 16, halfway through my junior year of high school, I had my first semi-serious relationship with Renee, an 18-year old who was already out of high school. The first few weeks it was a secret, and only a couple close friends knew it was anything romantic. Soon enough, though, my mom called me out of the closet and, much to my surprise, totally accepted who I was without any negativity. (Thanks, Mom!) When my friends asked if I was dating a girl, I confessed to them too. But while their words were welcoming, their actual reaction, unlike my Mom's, was not without reservations. To be fair, making people uncomfortable was sort of my MO back then: I was punk/goth, brash, morbid, and now part-gay. Soon enough the whole school knew I was dating an "older" woman, and although that relationship only lasted a few months, I remained loud and proud for those first couple queer years.
Something was, however, lurking under the surface. I knew after that first girl-girl relationship that I was gay, but I insisted I was bisexual. It sounded so ideal, so logical. Who wouldn't want to be attracted to others based on who they were on the inside, not the outside? Since I've always clicked more easily with men, I kept finding myself in serious, live-in relationships with my close male friends. Every time I left one, I would tell myself I'd date only women from there on out, but then I'd wind up with another man. Deep down I was ashamed.
In 2010, I had had it with not being true to myself. As I said, I've always been rather brash, but I had yet to voice one of my most important truths: I'm super gay! I came out for the second time, and even though I faced harassment in the workplace as a result, I stayed strong. I asked a pretty butch girl out for the first time (too bad she had a girlfriend) and casually dated an amazing chick. Yet then six months later I fell into my comfortable old pattern and began to date a male friend of mine, someone I'd known for nearly a decade and had been very attracted to when I was a teenager.
Even though I was in a serious relationship with this incredible man, who I will always love and respect, I still identified as a lesbian. We would talk about it occasionally, but it was an awkward subject. Fast forward a couple years, and I finally arrived at major coming out moment #3: going from a hasbian (it's not a nice term, but it's appropriate nonetheless) to a proud genderqueer lesbian.
I often feel like I wasted a lot of time dating men, and for years I let negative feelings like that hold me back. After facing my shame head-on, I'm now happy for the experiences I've had and to be where I am today. I'm sharing my story for all the other ladies who feel like this. Know that you're not alone, that there's no reason to hold on to regrets. All we can do is focus on being the best version of ourselves in every moment – and that's a truly beautiful thing.
Dominique is The Logical Editor, a freelance writing coach who helps others work through the inherent stress of the creative process. When she isn't obsessing about language and helping others express themselves, you can find her talking shop with fellow poets/creatives or quite literally hanging with acrobats in the aerial studio.