Friday, October 12, 2012

Making Every Day Safe

When I met with the earnest young psychiatrist this summer to get all squared away with my prescription drug-free lifestyle, he asked me about my relationship history during the intake interview.  Standard stuff.
"How many relationships have you been in?"
"Two serious, not much casual dating outside of those."
"And those relationships, were they with men or women?"
"Both women."
"I see."
(Do you?)
"So you identify as gay?"
"No, not really."
"Do you identify as straight?"
"What do you identify as?"
"Does it matter?"
"I see...."
(No, you really, really don't.)

I let it go.  One, because it really didn't matter.  My dating history was not all that relevant to what we were discussing.  And two, because truthfully, I get it.  I get that it's weird for him to not be able to put me in a box.  I get that that makes him uncomfortable, and it kinda rocks his tidy way of organizing the world and sends a sharp node of discomfort to his brain.  How can I not identify one way or the other?  After all, a majority of people do identify as heterosexual or homosexual.  That's awesome.  But wherever you fall on the spectrum does not negate the existence of that spectrum.

Today is National Coming Out Day (well, technically it was yesterday, but I'm typing this before I fall asleep, so give me a break).

I still remember coming out to my parents.  It was probably one of the most embarrassing experiences of my life, and I will spare you the sordid details, but suffice to say, I sat them both down, almost passed out, and told them I'd been dating a girl for the past few months (this was at the end of my first year at college) and that I really, really liked her.  Maybe even loved her.

She taught me to ice skate.  She braided my hair.  She played ice hockey, and field hockey, and loved animals the way I love babies.  I had no idea what love was until I fell in love with her.  Did being with her make me gay?  I considered that for a long time, but finally decided two things: one, if it did, then fine, I was okay with that, and two, our love didn't need a label and I had better things to worry about.  Like passing organic chemistry.

Life went on.  We broke up.  I thought I would die from the pain.  Life went on some more.  I met Alix.  We fell in love.  We broke up.  I was sad, but I knew I would be okay.  Life went on a little bit more.  There I was, going through life, the member of a very oppressed group of people.  People who are denied the right to marry who they want to marry.  People who are not safe in certain parts of our country.  People who are bullied, and tormented, and driven to horrible fates, like suicide, because of other people's ignorance and fear.

I'm dating a boy (a man?) now, and magically, am technically no longer a part of that group.  Am I different?  No.  It just so happens that when I fall in love with people, I do so paying about as much regard to their sex or gender (which are two different things, by the way, that'sawholeotherissue) as I do to their hair or eye color.  That's me.  You might be different.  I'll say it again - that's awesome.  But every single time that I consider my possible future now, with regards to everything from if and when and where I want to get married, to how I'll go about having children, to where I want to live, and how I want to practice as a midwife - every time that it occurs to me how much easier, how much more straightforward, how much simpler all of those things will be because I am arbitrarily with a man instead of a woman, I remember being on the other side.  I remember Alix and I going to look at wedding venues and feeling the sting of intolerance.  I remember getting hassled on the street when we would walk by, holding hands.  And I remember how scared, how nervous, how utterly terrified I was to come out to my family - and my family is the very picture of acceptance and love.

There is power in being an ally.  It may not have the same ring to it.  But it is a needed role.  Because everyone should feel safe, supported, and accepted for who they are.  Not just today, on a day when we celebrate the courage that it takes to live a life of honesty and integrity, but on every day that our neighbors, our sisters and brothers, our teachers and classmates and doctors and friends and children get up out of bed and look into the mirror and see a face that society labels as "different."  As less worthy of basic rights.  As somehow deserving of an extra load to bear.  We can lighten that load.  We can make every day safe to come out.

1 comment:

Allison the Meep said...

Love is love, and should be celebrated just for what it is because life is hard enough without having people disapprove of because of who you love.

I hope in 50 years, kids won't feel that they have to come out to anyone, about anything. That they will be accepted for who they are from the get-go and it's just the way things are.