Friday, January 06, 2012

Being Out: Upon Reflection

Now that my bisexuality is public knowledge, at least among those with whom I worship, I've received a variety of responses.  Most are sympathetic. They know the story of how unacceptable and offensive were the responses I got from my parents. I haven't ever quite understood how two people who were usually so practical and common sense went absolutely crazy when I came out to them. They weren't even the same people in the whole of that wounding period.

That's what really has troubled me over the years.  For the rest of their lives, my sexual orientation and gender identity will never be a topic for discussion. I would like their acceptance, but it will never arrive.  I would also like an apology, but I've never be granted that, either.  All of this is their decision, and I don't agree with it, but sometimes we all must form our own "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policies.  The only step now is to continue finding friends who will take me as I am.  

My story isn't unusual. The Meeting has many openly queer members and regular attenders, and always has.  Though the Dupont Circle neighborhood is not as solidly LGBTQ as it used to be, it was for many years the center of gay and lesbian life. Now, with greater acceptance, there is less need to congregate together in one location for protection and freedom of expression. Even so, the legacy remains. My gaydar has improved dramatically.  But having been greeted with spontaneous words of encouragement and truth has answered whatever questions I might have otherwise had about a few people.   

I'm not exactly certain how much information regarding my gender identity was shared. Each generation has its own understanding of gender non-conformity, genderqueer, and transgender. Sexual orientation is comprehensible enough among many of the older Friends, but anything that falls under the transgender umbrella is probably too much. Those who are my age and younger much have less an issue with it. To many, I really wouldn't begin to know how to introduce the subject, because it's tied so closely to my personal life. Forming a comprehensible definition might be trouble enough.

I often wear clothing regularly assigned for the opposite gender.  Because I am ashamed of how I would be perceived by the rest of society, I deliberately conceal these garments underneath clothes normally worn by men. Earlier in my life, I experimented with makeup, and female friends were glad to use me as their guinea pigs. However, I only dared show my face to the world this way while headed to gay bars or LGBTQ specific events. While out and about to flirt or to see the drag shows, I looked very different. As soon as I left, I washed off every trace.  I furiously scrubbed off fingernail polish with cotton and pungent smelling remover. One day, it may be possible for me to feel comfortable enough to not limit my personal expression, but I sense this will be the hardest hurdle to leap.  

In the past couple months, I've been very fortunate to find a friend who also identifies as LGBTQ. She recognizes how difficult this is for me and has been sympathetic. In addition to being within a year of my age, she has shared her own challenges with me. Her feedback and conversation has been rewarding. I also find it gratifying and flattering how much she looks up to my leadership. We've grown close and I've realized again how important it is to have queer friends.  More may arrive soon.

I have other goals, of course. I want to have the ability to interact with men without fear. I've noted that ambition many times and will continue to bring it up until it is no longer problematic. The strange thing for me is while, growing up, I more or less embraced the attitudes and habits of other boys, but yet I never felt like one.  Being male was foreign, incomprehensible. I remember disliking it as well, in certain areas I perceived as disgusting and filthy. I learned a few male gender roles by rote, but I never really felt any desire to fully conform. At the time, I was too afraid of women to make friends or to eventually form relationships. However, that transition in confidence would soon arrive by the middle of high school.

I remind myself these days more as a queer woman. But even that isn't quite accurate. I observe my conduct at times and see the socialization present that I absorbed, subconsciously. I find myself adopting my father's mannerisms. I also see aspects of my mother in my behavior and conduct. When I was younger, I had a few short relationships with women who weren't straight or even bisexual. I was their final step towards self-acceptance. I was once told, a smile on her face, by a kind lesbian that I was the sort of man she would have dated before she came out.        

I'm still working on forming the correct, most helpful conclusions from all of this. It seems that there is still much to sort through.

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