The lesbian head nod. This was a right of passage I finally got after cutting off all of my hair, tattooing my chest, and wearing cargo shorts into Whole Foods. She was with her girlfriend, lazily picking through the kale, when I passed. Her hair was shorter than mine, she had a shirt that said “too queer for this shit,” and she nodded at me and smiled as I prodded every avocado in a three-foot radius.
This was a life changing moment for me.
I still remember the feeling of walking through the mall holding my girlfriend’s hand for the first time. I felt on top of the world and I almost wanted someone to say something so I could loudly and proudly tell them to suck it.
Coming from a small town where you did not come out, period, I did a complete 360 when I got to a bigger city. I traded my near waist-length hair and long skirts for a faux-hawk and seven different gay bumper stickers, one of which said, “sorry I missed church, I was busy practicing witchcraft and becoming a lesbian.”
When I came out, I came OUT. I went back to my hometown once in those first few years for a funeral and was told immediately by my dad, “for the love of all things holy, please act straight.” The next day I went to Pride in my new city with a rainbow painted across my forehead.
Being out was something I was incredibly proud of. After years of hiding in the closest, hating myself for who I loved, and letting everyone else tell me how to live my life, I was officially free to tell the world who I was. And as far as I was concerned, that was the most lesbian-y lesbian that ever existed.
Flash forward a few years, Rife and I had just gotten married. We went to a courthouse in Indiana because gay marriage wasn’t allowed here yet. We were sitting on the bed, discussing all of the logistics of his transition, and the doctor he would start seeing in a few weeks. There was never a moment we questioned him doing it. From the second he told me he wanted to transition, it was a done deal. His gender didn’t play a part in my love for him, and girl or boy I would always love him completely. There was only one single worry that ever crossed my mind: I was going to look straight.
I switched from saying I was a lesbian to saying I was queer, since technically my sexuality was now bi. And as the months went on, old people started smiling at us in restaurants again. There was a sweet old lady at our favorite breakfast spot that stopped on her way out the door to tell me how wonderful it was that I found myself a “good godly man” and to hang on to him.
Flash forward again to the wonderful life I now have. No matter which one of my beautiful boys I am out with, people see me as straight. My hair has grown out again, and even though I’m even more covered in tattoos, that doesn’t stop people from seeing what they assume about any strangers they see: they must be totally straight, normal people. We are far, far from normal, and we love every second of it.
There may be many reasons why you want to be out and proud, or you may want no one to know at all, and neither of those is wrong. However, if there is a reason the world doesn’t see your queer side, and you really wish that they would, here are some things that might help:
- Connect with other queer people. Whether it’s in person, at meetings and support groups, or only online and anonymously, reach out to others who know the struggles that you do.
- If your family and friends can’t know, try to find just one person to be open with. There are no words for how freeing it is to finally say out loud, to someone else, “I’m gay.”
- Go to Pride. Put on your rainbow bandana, your “some chicks marry chicks” shirt, and strut your stuff.
- Stay connected to the community. Don’t feel like you are no longer welcome just because you’re dating someone of the opposite gender. This is how bi erasure happens.
- Put on the gayest outfit you have and go out for coffee. Go to the movies. Go buy some books. And be proud every time someone gives you that sideways glance of confusion.
Be proud of your beautiful, queer selves, friends. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you are anything less than the magical gods and goddess and gender-queer deities that you are.