This is my nonexistent coming out story. Nonexistent because I was never in a place that I left, because I never had that confessional moment; that declaration of the unknown or unspoken. Nonexistent because now, it feels never-ending.
I had a mom and a dad. Everybody else had a mom and a dad. All the girls around me liked boys, all the boys around me liked girls, and we all giggled about it. I was sixteen when one of my boy friends told me he liked boys. I can't remember if by then I knew that boys could like other boys, but I remember the fear in his voice when he said, "If my parents found out, they'd kill me!" To which I said something like, "That's bullshit! Love is love, I'm here for you." I think that's the day I became an ally. I was still living in Istanbul then.
Roll the tape forward a few years: I move to Columbus, Ohio, with my family, major in sociology in college, have a few (hundred) heartbreaks, become more involved (since high school) in radical politics, start learning about the gender binary and how it's socially constructed, and about Alfred Kinsey and his scale. I'm crushing big time on one of my teachers (smart woman and total hippie) and I suppose I am bisexual. Soon thereafter, I learn about being queer and start calling myself a gender-queer. Hey, I think, if it's all socially constructed bullshit, you can't tell me to be one thing or the other. Long live the rebel!
I continue to crush on, date, and have sex with men. I kiss a few girls and I like it. I have sex with a few and I like that too. No big deal, I'm here and I'm queer, whatever. I am not convinced that I would be happy dating a girl so I don't try. I'm picky, I say, and they are too much work.
Roll forward another few years: I am back in Istanbul, in a masters program, with a few more heartbreaks under my belt. I am introduced to queer theory, the thing you do in books and classrooms, and my brain catches fire. This is it, I say, this is my calling. I meet a girl online and I like her. This time I ask myself the right question, and the answer is yes.
It's 2010. I slowly start telling people that I like women, in a real way, not just in the hey-they're-pretty sort of way. Some people don't believe me. Some of them don't know what to say. Some are like, "Wait, people still don't know you're bi?" But the people who matter aren't fazed. To me, it's no big deal. You love, he loves, she loves, we love, they love, and so do I.
I decide to try dating women exclusively, and things get intense. The "realness" of my desire starts to get questioned and I react by talking about my gayness more than ever, sometimes obnoxiously, unnecessarily. Saying "I love" doesn't matter as much anymore – I feel like I either have to prove something or explain it.
So maybe that's when I came out. When I started feeling like I had to explain myself. When what always felt natural to me became a topic of conversation, when explaining started to overshadow experiencing, or when it became a prerequisite for it. To be honest, I still don't really know. I just recognized a desire intensifying, inside of me, all over my skin, and I followed it, slowly and somewhat quietly, in my own way. I never felt the need to have a moment of confession, to let out my "secret" – I never saw my desires as secrets, though they were somewhat private, things I shared with those who appreciated the company.
Fast forward to today: I date women exclusively and can't imagine myself in a different place. My friends and colleagues, my bosses, my mentors, and my students all know, but most of my blood relatives (except the closest ones) still don't. I must say I have been fortunate to be surrounded mostly by those who understood and valued differences in desires and loves. So in some ways I'm out and in others I'm not. But in many ways I continue to come out every day, as I challenge people's imaginations on whose hand I may be holding walking down the street.
[Photo credit to AJ Ingram Elijah.]