Lesbianism Declassified Part I : Be Here, Be Queer, Get Used To It!
Whether you identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer or Questioning! This Day is for you! A day to proclaim your identity and receive the accolades, love, and support that you deserve.
In celebration of National Coming Out Day, let's get down, dirty, smart, and flirty with the basics of lady loving. Whether you are Baby Lesbian, Seasoned Dyke, you've always known, or are coming out later in life, consider this anecdotal advice, gleaned from my own experiences. A kind of Lesbian 101. I'll be dispensing with sage advice in parts-- as a series-- taking us from coming out to having sex.
Hi, I am Malaika and I am Queer! That is my preferred label, my pronouns are she/her. I came out (for real, finally) later in life. I had been married 3 times and had children when I came out and started living my truth, but let me take you back. While coming out to my children was a major accomplishment for me and started me on my path to living my truest truth, it was not the actual, first time I came out.
I first came out to my birth mother, in 1997 or ‘98 at my aunt’s wake. We were sitting in my great-grandmother’s apartment in Southeast Washington D.C. When I told my mother, I asked her not to tell anybody. A few minutes later, she was across the room telling an aunt. That aunt told a cousin, that cousin told another aunt and uncle. The news spread throughout the room, like a wildfire consuming the dry underbrush of a California hillside. By the time we made it to Courtland, VA to bury my aunt on the family land, I was flush in questions about the who, what, when, where, why, and how.
In 2001, I came out to my second husband as gay. This was the death knell of our relationship. I devastated my friend. I created a wound, which even when we reconciled 2 years later has yet to heal.
Seriously though, I was a cheerleader... and wrestler, a basketball player, and on the softball team.
I came out again after Thanksgiving dinner in 2010 to my maternal grandmother and assembled family. It wasn't the first time they heard this and it was a defiant response to “why aren’t you dating?" and "why aren’t you dating him?” When I told my grandfather the next day, who turned in early and missed the conversation, he said, “So, I knew when you were 13. Wanna watch a Western with me?”
It wasn't huge, there were no big conversations... There was no follow-up and I thought that was all I had to say.
But then I fell in love and proposed to my (then) girlfriend in 2013 and I realized I had never had the conversation with my children. So standing in the kitchen of my Midtown Memphis home, with tear-filled eyes and fear in my heart, I came out to my beautiful children. They heard me out, embraced me, loved and supported me. Their shared sentiment: I taught and showed them love and acceptance. I told them all I wanted from them was to be good people in life and that if they ever came out, I would totally love and support them. They offered me the same. While the relationship with that girlfriend ended a year later, the relationship with myself, my children and living my truth only grew from there.
And I thought surely that was last time I would have to have that conversation cause surely the world knew that I was GAY by then...
But it wasn't... Coming out for me was a continuous series of smaller actions like bringing my partner/lover home to my meet my family, having conversations with my older brother and being honest about why I lived in exile from my family for 20 years and ultimately, having the conversation with my father (my last living parent). With the encouragement of my brother, who offered to have the conversation with Dad for me first, I finally had that conversation in December of 2016. To my surprise my very male, hetero-normative, cis-gendered father, the patriarch of our family, and the one who I was most afraid of said the words I always wanted to hear "I love you and I have always loved you. I'm happiest, when you are happy." In May of 2017 I introduced my father to my female partner/lover and for the first ever I felt like I didn't have to EVER come out again.
But I did and I do. I still come out in spaces where I am unsure if people know. Church, the Botanica, at my children's school, and at work. One thing that this process has assured me of, is that it is a process and all people will not treat it equally. While my story took place over years and ultimately culminates with me finding my true identity late in life, there are so many stories out in the world because we are all different, so are our stories. We are not a monolith.
Additionally, as I occupy different spaces I am reminded that I am still getting used to the way in which I view myself and the way I am viewed in the world.
When I began coming out I had no idea what language to use, I had no guidelines, and the only labels didn't seem to quite fit. I highly suggest taking your time to figure out who and what you see yourself as and getting comfortable with it. I also implore you to try on everything that you choose. Keep what fits and take off what doesn't.
Family, Race, Nationality, Ethnicity, Religion, and Culture can all play a part in creating stress and anxiety depending on your background and how deeply you are connected. And while the abbreviated version of my coming out doesn't fully harness the entire story, my coming out has been 95% positive experiences. That will not be everybody's story.
Also look for support and resources to help you. Your local LGBTQ community center, maybe even your Religious Center or place of worship. Lean into supportive family and friends and address the questions as you feel comfortable and be brave in setting your healthy boundaries. There are also tons of books and websites that you can access to assist you with coming out in various ways and in various spaces.
The Human Rights Campaign has a great resource library online to assist you, whatever your story is.
Your story is your own, own it!
Happy Coming Out Day!