Monday, June 23, 2014
All The Ways In Which We Come Out, Part 1
When I came out ten years ago a wise professor of mine said to me, "Kelsey" and he shook his head, "you're gonna come out every single day of your life." Because I was feminine and in no obvious, outwardly way "gay", I thought he meant that I'd be coming out as lesbian every day of my life. For many years afterwards I'd think of him and smile for seeing into my future in a way I was too young to do. I work in a casual fine dining restaurant - as an example. I dress well, I converse well, I make excellent drinks, and care about my guests, so inevitably there is at least one man a night who I let down gently and come out to. Equally as often a mother offers to set me up with her son, and I come out to her. Before you start telling me that I shouldn't come out to these people at all for any reason or other - it's uncomfortable for them, I'm inviting them to flirt harder, I'm inviting them to make sexual jokes, I'm ruining any future opportunities to serve them, I'm ruining any future opportunities to work with them outside the restaurant - let me assure you, I don't give a damn about any of those reasons. I have experienced every shade of response you can possibly receive, and I am still gay, still happy, and still coming out to people as I see fit.
Here's the idea: I am not defined by my sexuality, but by my authenticity. A man may not know how to respond to my coming out, but almost 100% of the time he will understand that I have opened myself to him in a way more valuable than sex and have trusted him with information more valuable than my phone number. Here's the cool thing: the majority of these people see my coming out as permission granted for them to also be authentic with me. A friendship is born. Of course, there will always be people who don't receive my offer respectfully. These are people I will never want relationships with, friendly or business-oriented. I lose nothing by coming out every day. Authenticity is a terrifying thing, it really is. We risk losing people and the love they bring with them. But it's worth it. I'm grateful for the opportunity to come out as lesbian everyday.
I experienced a very different sort of "coming out" two weeks ago publishing "Bear". I liked the piece, it was important for me to create, but the idea of publishing it terrified me. I had it typed, formatted, and open on my computer for two full days before I was brave enough to send it out into the world. Although I walk through the world as an openly gay woman, I more often walk through the world as an open-but-really-complaisant, always super-nice and happy woman. Those times that I think I need to stand my ground I end up over compensating and behaving in a way more stoic than I wanted to in the first place. People look at me and they see classic, beautiful Kelsey. Here I come out as a woman with a dark side. I have real fears, deep emotions, a really active imagination, and a need to express of myself. The elation I felt the moment I hit "publish" was the exact same buoyancy I felt when I came out to my mom for the first time. Buoyancy like a rabbit with wings jumping on a bouncy ball on a trampoline, I felt silly and like I could fly above the Manhattan skyline. Then I crashed so hard into a deep vulnerability over the thing, I didn't write an entry at all last week!
I just got back from Stratton, VT where I spent four blissful days with hundreds of yogis at Wanderlust yogi retreat. We were on the mountain, surrounded by extremely beautiful scenery. It was hard to tell if the mountain was filling us yogis with joy, or if our collective joy was making the mountain herself feel more beautiful. I think the she and the people celebrated each other. We had perfect weather. Birds followed me wherever I went. Heaven for the weekend. My body feels stronger and sorer than I've felt in a long time. My breath is deep and wide and rich. Even writing this from my New York apartment I can feel the grass beneath me.
At the retreat I challenged myself to feel all of the emotions that meditation and yoga would bring up. (You think one class brings up emotions, try four full days of it...) I wept though all of Friday, danced like a kid each night, fell in love with the warmth of the sun, and found a breath deeper and richer than I knew I could breathe. I felt the most authentic I have ever felt. Which is really something to celebrate.
To all of you who read this blog, especially "Bear", and have offered your appreciation, thoughts, advice, even concern, thank you much for receiving me with respect. Thank you, family, for receiving all these parts of me with love. I am grateful to you all.
Happy Pride, everyone!