While I don't know anyone who has come out on National Coming Out Day, I think it is an important time to reflect on what it was like to be an individual confused, disoriented, pained, or upset by the struggles with their sexual identity. While my own discovery and coming out was relatively pain free (until first:girl broke my heart), I have taken this day to listen to others and imagine what life is like for those past and present who have come out in awful situations. I think this is also a time to reflect on those we have lost because of their sexuality, whether death was self inflicted or not.
This morning, I couldn't imagine what it would be like to come out in a world where everyone hates you for being gay, where you feel isolated and abandoned by friends and family. I couldn't imagine what it would be liked to be pushed around, bullied, threatened, beaten up, mentally and physically abused.
I still can't imagine most of that. No one has ever beat me up because of my sexuality. But as of this afternoon, on this celebratory day for the LGBT community, I felt fear, despair, because someone didn't like that I was gay.
I was in the parking lot of the local supermarket when an old classmate recognized me. He was three years older than me, but he knew me well enough. He asked me if it was true, if I was a lesbian. "Yes, I am gay. Funny how things work out, isn't it?" was my witty Chatty Kathy reply. Instead of laughing, his whole face darkened, and he moved in so close I thought he might kiss me.
If you had seen the look in his eyes as he grabbed my arm, you would have felt that cold knot of fear slide into your throat too. He whispered that he couldn't do anything here and now, wouldn't get arrested over someone like me. "You better watch your step," he said. "I know you think you are winning now, but there are a lot of us who don't like what queers are doing to our country. Quit now, or you'll all end up in camps, and there won't be any homosexuals."
"Yeah, like the government will ever let that fly. Good luck with that." I should really shut my mouth in situations like this, but when I am backed into a for er, logic goes out the window. I am one of those people who spends too much money and then keeps spending because, fuck it, I've already used the credit card today.
Well obviously he didn't like that and I've got a nice abrasion on my arm to prove it. I can't remember his exact words, but the gist of it was that the government didn't need to know "officially" and there are many politians who would turn a blind eye if it was kept quiet enough.
He then told me that even though it's a small town, I shouldn't go out at night, because even though we all know each other, there are many who wouldn't try to save me if I were, say, raped in an alley.
He didn't hit me, didn't really hurt me, didn't even solidly threaten my life. But he shook me to my core. I think that is exactly what he wanted. He knows where I live, work, shop. Worst of all, he liked me in high school. We were friendly to each other, and he always called me funny and sweet. How can you like who I am, and then hate me for who I love? I think that scares me the most.
Update: December, one year ago, I wrote "Can fear actually make you a more confident person? Can you be so afraid that you put on a brave face, and through that facade become a more courageous person?"
Maybe this encounter has nothing to do with what I'm going through now, but maybe it does. Today, I am writing about first:girl, something I have never talked or written about with anyone. The secret is coming out, and my heartache is finally lessening with every paragraph.