The coming out post

Things just fall apart sometimes. Things also fall in to place. Occasionally at the same moment.

Earlier in the year I had Martha Wainwright’s ‘Bloody Motherfucking Asshole’ on frequent rotation in my head. (I was angry, okay?) But my anger was not only directed outward. In that iconic song, Wainwright says

you say my time here has been some sort of joke
that I’ve been messing around
some sort of incubating period
before I really come around

I had been waiting for someone else to say this to me to save me from having to deliver the news to myself. Waiting wasn’t working for me. I sent myself a memo.

The end of a marriage is a public event. People who’d never reached out in support of the couple before suddenly wield opinions. Strangers, Centrelink workers, small-town acquaintances, parents of your child’s friends, your hairdresser, your online connections; any and all of these people might judge you, question you, probe you for weaknesses and blame. Any of them could (and some of them will) ask you, but what about the kid/s? Any or all of them could make it about them; their own pain, their own parents’ failings, their own investment in your coupledom as a kind of talisman for monogamy.

Some people, the ones who always treated you as one part of a boxed set when you were married, will struggle the most.

(Caring about their struggle whilst you’re in the middle of your own pain will register lower on the list of priorities than belting out Martha Wainwright in the shower, by the way.)

There are many reasons I’m not with Bean’s dad anymore and I’m not going to list any of them here.

But I will say what one of them isn’t.

I did not leave my marriage because I’m queer; nor am I queer because I left my marriage. There are a lot of explanations for why I didn’t take the step of talking about the ways in which I do not fit straight until now but, sure, living the Heterosexual Marriage Lifestyle often seemed like such a powerful imperative that there wasn’t much point in finding space for anything else. Wearing a wedding ring was a shibboleth, mentioning my husband when people asked about my pregnancy or later my child, a ticket to social approval. I benefited from heteronormativity even as it erased me, erases me, and people that I love.

That’s painful.

In traditional narratives of coming out, people always ask, when did you know? And the answer is, for me, that I didn’t know and I always knew. I wasn’t able to express and I was always expressing. I was hiding in plain sight and I was never hiding. Perhaps I was never in plain sight.

Critiquing our culture’s narrow way of conceptualising sexuality and gender — and love — has been one of the themes of my parenting and of my writing about parenting. And, not unhappily, it is becoming one of the themes of my life. Because queerness is not a hat I’m trying on. It’s not even about a relationship I’m trying on.

The confessional part is this: I have always been queer. I do not remember a time, from when I began to have romantic and sexual inclinations, that those were exclusively directed at boys and men. But I also do not remember a time during my childhood or teen years where I even had the words and concepts to articulate the ways that I experienced desire and love. Knowing that I liked boys was enough, given the scripts from which I had to choose, to tell me I was not a lesbian. So I wrote my story in straight lines. I’m re-imagining it now, embracing the apocryphal entries, in a mostly positive process. And I want to write the next chapter boldly, even though it’s a little embarrassing for a thirty-something feminist to be only just learning how to express her queerness.

Embarrassment is one thing. Sadness over lost time and estrangement from self is another.

I am here, writing so personally, not only because speaking soothes me, but also because I am angry. I’m angry at the motherfucking assholes who perpetuate violence – both physical and mental – against queer youth. I am angry about the lack of visibility of bisexuality which leads to the relegation of people like me to a footnote, or a punch line.

Most of all I am writing because of this: someone said to me recently that at least Bean will find it easier to come out to her parents if it turns out that she is not heterosexual.

The best we can hope for for our children is not that there will merely be safe ports in the storm for them to reveal their true selves when they have reached a certain age. We can do better than that. We can allow them to express and explore their developing gender identities and sexualities in safety from the very beginning. We can create a world where children don’t ever ‘come out’ to their parents because their parents are witness to unabashed expressions of queer orientation from whenever they emerge. Children can, quite simply, be permitted to be who they actually are. No coercion, no erasure, no shaming.

The ritual of coming out is only a product of the lucrative heteronormative trade in closets. So however Bean comes to express her sexuality in the future, I only hope she uses her wit and loving heart to undermine the closet business that trapped her mother for so long. The rest of the story is up to her.

25 Comments

Filed under Feminism, Motherhood and Parenting, Writerly

25 responses to “The coming out post

  1. Kind of hooray for this. I hope that a few more people get a bit more hope from this.

    I have known for a long LONG time that I was bent. Not lesbian, not bisexual, not monogamous, not promiscuous. Just a weird grab bag of me that doesn’t fit in a box.

    All I can say is – who wants to live in a box?

    Respect x

  2. Jenny

    Bravo, my dear, bravo.

  3. Muliercula

    “We can create a world where children don’t ever ‘come out’ to their parents because their parents are witness to unabashed expressions of queer orientation from whenever they emerge.”
    I love this. Such a simple concept but so true, and it is so important to say it. Your writing is important.
    Thanks for another though-provoking, beautifully expressed, motherfucking unreal post.

  4. Thank you for your post. This: “I was hiding in plain sight and I was never hiding” just captures so well what bisexuality is like if your partner actually is of the opposite sex. It is so hard to express, there is no real break in the narrative (of heteronormativity) to let it in. Beautifully written.

  5. I feel that any response I have to offer is inadequate, but I don’t want to be silent either. Thank you for this post.

  6. uppoppedafox

    This is the first time I’ve ever read your blog. Came over from a twitter link. Just want to say that this is a beautifully written piece. Honesty is always brave and powerful.

  7. Bryony

    Great post. I look forward to the day when ‘coming out’ is no longer relevant.
    I’ve shared this post on FB as I think it’s so important.
    Thanks for taking the time to write this.

  8. Garden Pheenix

    Nothing but love, encouragement, respect and understanding.

    The break down of a marriage isn’t easy (been there), but I have no doubt you will handle it with grace and the children will be fine.

    Mind yourself and many blessings on this road. And know you’re not alone in your anger. Found websites for women who realize later in life to be helpful :) <3

  9. tiffany267

    Thank you for your inspiring piece. I particularly loved your statement “I benefited from heteronormativity even as it erased me, erases me, and people that I love.” I feel that most people are living this way (I know that I live this secret heartache every day). Unfortunately it creates a vicious circle as we all pretend to hate others’ queerness because we’re terrified to come out ourselves, influencing more people to be afraid to come out. Many people, myself included, live a lie hoping to not be battered, lynched, or otherwise persecuted for our differences. Yet the people we fear so much are probably facing the same emotions as we are.

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts and feelings. Every time we break out from the fear, it is one more opportunity for someone else to feel encouraged and one more step toward the world in which we want to live.

  10. Tara

    What a wonderful brave post. But then it doesnt surprise me as the posts Ive read so far have this layering of thought and introspection that warms my soul to read. Ive always loved that Martha Wainright song, and there have been many times when I too have blasted it, and felt a kind of kinship with another woman who just KNOWS. The same way you do.It takes great courage to be truly who you are. Anais Nin said “our worlds contract or expand in proportion to how much courage we show” – your world is about to grow, and you with it. I look forward to hearing about it.

    Tara

  11. Sam

    I’m crying now, and I’m not a crier. This is a beautiful post, I’m glad you wrote it. Many parts of it fit my life as well. @Antigrinch told me to go read it, probably because of http://sams-stories.com/?p=2069 that post. (I swear I’m not spam!) The link is to a post of mine about my 3yo, born a boy but currently presents as a girl most of the time.

  12. Looks like a whole new era is opening up for you. I’m sure it will be great!

  13. This rung very true for me.

    I always knew. But it took me a long time to figure it out. I mean, I didn’t even know it was an option!

    Thank you for your beautiful words.

  14. still figuring it out

    Thank you for this. I was just talking to a friend about this very thing and my experience of not feeling like I fit at times. You have managed to articulate what I feel in a way I never could. Think I will share with my friend so she really knows where I am coming from.

  15. woollythinker

    “I did not leave my marriage because I’m queer; nor am I queer because I left my marriage.”

    Yes. My father is gay; tried to be a good Catholic boy and live the Heterosexual Marriage Lifestyle. The marriage was of course a disaster. But I hate it when people assume the disaster was because he was gay. I mean, sure. That was never going to work out. But it was never going to work out *anyway*; my mother has her own, completely independent issues. Viewing the whole mess that way, as a simple “he’s gay therefore…”, is weirdly belittling of both of them.

  16. Kristalee

    “We can create a world where children don’t ever ‘come out’ to their parents because their parents are witness to unabashed expressions of queer orientation from whenever they emerge. Children can, quite simply, be permitted to be who they actually are. No coercion, no erasure, no shaming.” I love these words. How lovely a world that would be.
    A new chapter in your life begins. Enjoy xxx

  17. I wish there wasn’t a planet between us, I want to share a hug with you.

    No idea what made me look back at my RSS reader after a year, two years (?) of not keeping up – and this is the only post I read right through before doing ‘Mark all as read’. Guess what? I’m mid-divorce as well. I’m mid-gay/hetero as well. I’m mid- redefining my whole identity as well.

    So many, many times you have written exactly what I *would have* written if I’d been writing on that topic on that day… This could be the most extreme way you’ve managed that!

    You brave, brave, intelligent, strong, admirable woman. :)

  18. doctorjonesy

    Wow. I am so glad to have read this. You’ve expressed so many things I’ve been feeling lately. Especially this part:

    “Knowing that I liked boys was enough, given the scripts from which I had to choose, to tell me I was not a lesbian. So I wrote my story in straight lines. I’m re-imagining it now, embracing the apocryphal entries, in a mostly positive process. And I want to write the next chapter boldly, even though it’s a little embarrassing for a thirty-something feminist to be only just learning how to express her queerness.”

    And I couldn’t agree with you more about allowing children to be who they really are. There shouldn’t be a need to “come out”.

    Thank you so much for sharing all of this.

  19. What a beautiful brave, wonderful post – I hate that we seem to try and categorise people by a set of rules which are so outdated

    Here and today surely we should focus on nuturing relationships, exploring and respecting feelings and discussing these things in an honest and non judgemental way

    I wish you peace, healing and great things on your journey

  20. I’m sorry you’ve been going through such a difficult time. Hugs to you and yours. It’ll get better with time, but I don’t have to tell you that.

  21. Di

    I didn’t ascribe any particular meaning to the heading. Then I was sad about your marriage, and having to tell people, and all the shuffle that goes on when you end a long term relationship. Then I had to re-read the paragraph where you introduced the notion of queer, to understand what it was that you were trying to say, and not to say. (I must be quite a linear thinker – no lateral shifts for me! :-)). And then I thought, well, I’m glad you feel closer to being ‘you’, knowing who you are, and how you want to express yourself. No-one knows what it’s like to be inside another’s skin, but most people can tell when someone’s happy, and at peace with themselves. Be in that space. and it will be a wonderful thing for you, and for your little girl. Bon chance! xx

  22. Pingback: links for thought, October 2012 (2 of 2)

  23. What a beautifully honest post. I really appreciate what you have said. We live by the idea that our children never have to come out of the closet to us because we would never put them in there to begin with. Being queer isn’t something to be tolerated, it’s something that is simply to be accepted as normal.

    I think it takes courage to come out after being in a hetero marriage, especially with a child involved. People can be both purposefully & unintentionally cruel. Good on you for this and I’m glad you’ve had the power to articulate your journey so eloquently so we can share some part of it with you.

  24. Pingback: One Year of Reblogging! | Tiffany's Non-Blog

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