Rally for marriage equality at the White House, October 2009. My shirt, it total, read “Closets…are for clothes”
Today, in honor of National Coming Out Day, I thought I would share my story. For the record, I don’t believe that everyone must come out, but for those of us who are out, I think it’s important that we share our stories sometimes. So here’s mine:
Early summer 2000, evening: I’m 15 and working as a junior counselor at a Girl Scout camp in Ohio. My fellow counselors and I are hanging out in the living room of our lodge when another 16-year-old counselor comes out from the shower wrapped in nothing but a towel. My head whips around and suddenly my world is no longer what it was. That’s the first time I ever consciously realized I might like girls.
Summer 2000, the rest of it: I spend my days simultaneously flirting with and excoriating myself for liking this girl. I was Catholic after all, I *can’t* be a girl who likes another girl.
The rest of high school 2000-2002: My friend Bernie and I would skip youth group to go hang out at the grubby pool hall in the local bowling alley. We went to an Indigo Girls concert and snuggled in the back of my old Ford pick-up truck. I dated boys and was sure I wasn’t a girl who liked girls.
Summer 2002: I joined the Air Force to “get straight” according to my journal entry at the time. Yeah well…
January 2003: I’m stationed in Minot, North Dakota where I meet my first girlfriend. I finally come to terms with the fact that I might be a girl who likes girls. I was sure I didn’t like any boys as much as I liked her.
June 2003: My parents came to visit me (all the way from Ohio!) for my birthday. My girlfriend was spending nights in my dorm and had enough stuff there to make it look like two people were sharing a bed. O crap. I mustered up all the courage I have and call my parents, one and then the other since they weren’t living together, that B was more than just my “best friend.” This was the first time I said out loud that I was something other than a girl who likes boys.
July 2005: After a tumultuous and sometimes abusive relationship which at one point involved almost admitting to my superiors that B and I were dating, the Air Force sent me to college on an ROTC scholarship. Truthfully, at the time that seemed the only way I was going to get a transfer from Minot and away from B.
Fall 2005: At Miami University, I had no idea what to do as a single girl who liked girls. I found I was too butch for the butches and too femme for the femmes. So I chopped my hair off, threw out all my dresses and tried to fit as much into the butch role as possible. It worked, kind of. It got me dates at least.
Spring 2006, Women’s Studies 101: I took this class as an elective and finally began to gain a vocabulary for everything I knew about myself and was learning about others. I was a lesbian. At some point during the semester we were having a class discussion (maybe?) about the military and it’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Anyhow, I ended up outing myself to my classmates. It felt good for about 5 minutes. Then I chased the professor down after class and had a freak out session about what I did and how I could potentially be kicked out of ROTC for being a lesbian and “O my God what do I do!?!?!?!?” In front of the Oxford Starbucks, she kindly told me that she would remind the class that what was said in our classroom should stay in our classroom. Susan Pelle for the win!
Late Spring 2006: Apparently no ROTC kids or their friends took Women’s Studies 101. Crisis averted. At this point, I was pretty much living openly, save for Tuesdays, Thursdays and the occasional early morning physical training session. As I was older than most of the seniors (I was 21 when I came to college from the military), they just assumed I didn’t hang out with them because of my age. Yeah well…
Memorial Day 2006: I found Camp Out for the first time. If hanging out with a group of amazing women didn’t solidify for me that I belonged in the queer community, I’m not sure what else would have done it. I really believe that that place and the people I met (meet) there had (have) a hand in my growing up and growing into my identity.
Memorial Day 2007: My mom went to Camp Out with me. I had an extra ticket because an ex had bailed on me right before the event, so I asked my mom to come instead. That weekend was the first time I got to bring my mom into my world. I still remember the conversation we had as we were walking to the showers one evening – “Katie, I get it. Being gay isn’t about sex. It’s about love.” Right on, Mom!
April 9, 2008: I outed myself to my ROTC commander. I had just had enough of the lying about who I was, even only 2 days a week, and I didn’t like the fact that I would spend 4 more years lying as an Air Force officer once I graduated. It wasn’t fair to me and it wasn’t fair of me to ask my subordinates to be honest when i couldn’t do that for them. That and I wasn’t about to shove Marianne (whom I had been dating about 6 months by then) into the closet with me.
April 10, 2008 forward: I’ve vowed to myself and to the world that I will always be honest about who I am and who I love. I’m at a point where I can say that if someone doesn’t like my being a lesbian, that’s on them. It still hurts when I hear someone tell me “Your family is the reason I’m voting FOR the N.C. gay marriage amendment,” but I don’t internalize it like I used to. That’s on them and I just figure they’re missing out on getting to know one of the coolest people on the planet.
Now it’s your turn, what’s your story? How will you choose to tell it?