29 April 2009

One identity of many

There's something to being out and proud. I thought I was, mostly. Then I started watching these vlogs I mentioned yesterday: Brunch With Bridget.

Bridget McManus takes out and proud all the way. In the first episode of Brunch With Bridget that I watched, she said:
We're just trying to make things better. I never, I don't want someone in twenty years still freaking out about telling their parents they're gay. There is nothing wrong with being gay. Being gay is awesome. It's the best part of my life, so it's makes me so sad when I get these young people writing me on MySpace about, like, "I don't know how to come out. They're going to be so disappointed." Why should people be disappointed when myself and Jill and all the vloggers at AfterEllen and all these wonderful women in Hollywood and all over the world are proud of who they are? It's just infuriating. So, love each other ladies.
[Damn, Bridget talks fast when she's passionate about her subject.]

So, the thing. A few things actually. All my friends know I'm bi (or feel certain I'm a lesbian, another story that), and I'm out on the blog though it only comes up in stray posts. My family, for practical purposes, does not know. (Unless they've found the blog. Hello!)

In my defense, I tried to come out to them back in grad school. I made a film about a bi woman coming to grips with her sexuality and invited my parents, brother and his wife down for Thanksgiving dinner while I was still living with my ex-fiancee as friends. I figured I'd show them the film and that would lead to discussion and, "Yes, I'm bi."

They watched it and didn't say anything when it was done. I asked them what they thought and they said, "It was good." The following day, my mom made a point of saying she thought my actors were really good. And that was it. Their non-reaction put me completely off my game. Given my past outspoken liberality, it was possible they thought that I made a film with gay characters just for the heck of it.

On the flip side, when the school had its end of semester screening, I effectively came out to that entire packed auditorium. OK, I can't be certain everyone made that assumption, but all my classmates who didn't already know did, as well as professors, actors, and people in administration. It was kind of a big deal for me. It was new to me to have that information be public in that way, particularly to people I didn't like. I didn't have any problems with anyone because of it (well, except for some location issues with the film even though it was totally PG. I was after all in the South.).

A bi friend of mine from undergrad told me my family did know, they just didn't say anything. Also possible, but inconvenient. Of course, a year or so later, I was home for a funeral and my brother made a comment wondering why my roommate (aka ex-fiancee) had moved to Florida. I was so surprised that he was that clueless. "Because I was there," I said, with sarcasm and without thinking. I still don't think he got it, though I think his wife did, maybe.

Why don't I just say something then? It has long been my opinion that if you make a big deal out of something, it becomes a big deal. My sexuality is just one aspect of my persona, not an overriding influence on every decision. Besides, I'm not the sort of person who talks about boys to my family either.

But... while writing this, it occurred to me that I'm away from all my friends who know right now while being close to my parents who don't. There have been times I changed my behavior, e.g., didn't say something that I would've in other company, constrained my voice. Why?

For the record, I'm not worried about disappointing my family. I don't want them to disappoint me. For now, there are practical considerations which must be taken into account.

However, the Brunch With Bridget vlogs--as silly as they tend to be--have sparked a desire to be a better version of myself, to have a different, more fulfilling life. So no more internal gay editing, insomuch as I'm able to control my own brain. I know I've already made much progress on this front but there's further to go. Right now, I can say the gay-themed DVDs will stay wherever they are no matter who visits. I didn't move them when my brother's family was up for Christmas, but I did think about it way too much. No more!

A year ago on TTaT: No more state dropdowns!


  1. I know several people who are in that "I think my family knows, but we never talk about it limbo." I imagine it's a pretty hard place to leave once you're in it. I think blogs are a great way for introverts to be out--you can talk about sexuality, therapy, family, explosive diarrhea, ANYTHING without actually, like, talking about it. Then actually talking doesn't seem like such a crazy next step. :-)

  2. There's a pride event on Sat. about an hour from here that I was thinking of going to. When my parents get back from their trip, they'll likely ask what I did while they were gone, and considering the post I'd just written, I started really considering officially coming out to them.

    "So, what did you do while we were gone?"

    "I went to a Gay pride event."

    Knowing them they'd just say, "Oh" instead of, "why?"

    But then I really started thinking about it and realized it's a conversation opener to ones I'd rather avoid. "How long have you known?" seems obvious and innocuous except that 16 or so years is a long time not to have said anything. And it could easily lead to questions about my bff in college and grad school who is my ex-fiancee. Not a conversation I'm in any mood for. Also, I'd rather they not think about the time she came to visit and what was going on under their roof. I'd rather avoid all that past stuff entirely.

    It's gotta be low-key, casual, perhaps even incidental. I really don't believe in the special sit-down talk.

  3. If your parents are the type to just say "Oh" when you go to pride events and make queer films, they're probably not up for a sit-down talk either, which could work in your favor. You can probably feed them info in small but direct doses, and they will accept it in small doses.

    Good luck, and have a great time at Pride!

  4. It ties into my philosophy that if someone can't ask you directly, they probably aren't ready/don't want to hear the answer. If asked about it directly, I'm always honest.

    I like the idea of small doses. Saying I went to Pride might be a bit much though...

    Not positive I'm going to make the drive yet. I've been to other Pride events before and they tend to the surreal when you're wandering on your own.

  5. This was one hell of a post, and it did resonate with me on many many fronts (and I am, I believe, 100% heterosexual), but I certainly have lived with that "elephant in the living room" and, to a point, still live with it, since my not-so-ex-husband is gay, and it took him some 21 years to come out to me (I had known that he was gay for close to 16 years of our marriage, but could never bring myself to confront him about it.)

    I have now been separated from him (and we are excellent friends) for 10 years and he has never come out to our daughter (who does know that he's gay), and I have never ever broached that topic with her either. Our silence here says tons. That's one reason why I never discuss this on my blog, because my daughter reads it. I will not write about it on it until I have told her that it's something that I feel that I need to do. I am getting very close to that point, and my posting this comment to your entry is a small manifestation of my readiness to do so.

  6. You won't believe it, but after I had posted my comment, the next window came up, and the verification word is "pede" which, with accents aigus on each "e" means "fag" in French. I'll be damned!

  7. Elisabeth: Thank you so much for sharing. That's fascinating, and I look forward to the day you write more about it.

    The whole everybody knows but nobody says anything... but then how can you be certain everybody really knows... My mom may but my dad and bro may be totally oblivious.

    Like I said, I have the whole "if you can't ask" philosophy, but I have been in situations with new friends where they were waiting for me to tell them on my terms. They didn't want to push. This might also be the case with my family.

    With people I've dated, I've been upfront about it.

    My dad just sent me an email about maybe getting back tomorrow and I'm tempted to reply, "Yeah, I might be over at Gay Pride." Outing by email, ridiculous and yet about my speed. We'll see.

  8. Yay for email outings! My therapist once told me that there's this whole school of psychology that says you should always do things you're not quite ready to do (like having kids--is it really possible to ever be totally ready?). I assume the same goes for telling people things they're not quite ready to hear. As an overly cautious person myself, I try to make this a mantra (even if I only sometimes live up to it).