In Part 1, I talked about some of my first experiences with the world, and a life I felt like I needed to hide – even from my own self.  Here’s Part 2.

Upon Graduating

Not much changed in my last two years of college.  I hid what I deemed repugnant – to myself and others – and I revealed what I deemed of value – once again by standards not entirely my own.  Then, after graduation, I moved home.  It was not pleasant and much of who I wanted to be as an adult, post-college life, felt stifled at home.  There were too many bad memories from the summer before – one of the most hellish summers of my life, thanks to some unavoidable family situations – and a fair amount of chafing.  But more importantly, there was a different expectation of what was appropriate, worth sharing, or best left unsaid.  My carefully cultivated standards of what was allowable and was not were now outdated and “required” changing.  What was especially hard was the fact that, while I had these expectations at home, I had the old ones with my school friends, and still different ones at work.  While I couldn’t talk at home about anything to do with LGBTQIA culture (or even their existence!) without being snapped at (my parents suffer from some generational prejudice – they’re doing better now, but that was not a good year), that was something that was a mounting concern for me and my friends, considering how that community had been marginalized by the legal system.  And I had never been particularly comfortable about talking about my religion with most of my school friends or colleagues because, well, they were not open to it for a variety of reasons.  I even had a boyfriend break up with me because he didn’t “believe in” mixed race marriages and I not only believe in them, but support them!  It wasn’t much of a loss to be sure, but it was a teaching moment – and I was taught that who I was was repugnant for my opinions.  Every time I turned, I felt like I had to hide one more thing, and eventually I just began hiding them all, because it was easier than to face confrontation with someone who wished me quiet.

It was during this time that I discovered the song Hidden Away by Josh Groban.  He begs in it that we not keep ourselves away.  I listened to it over and over and over again.  If CDs were still a thing, mine would surely scratch due to over use.  I was so very enclosed that I had few friends and fewer confidants.  I realized, somewhere in this time, that I could not keep living the life I lived and I had to start being myself.  Admittedly, it caused more friction in my life, but I was feeling better than I ever had.  I went off my medications and stayed sane.  I was starting to hide less and show more.

Upon Moving Out

Things were better, but as any new adjustment period goes, I felt very reserved around Mikki.  Especially since, during our first meeting, she said, “I get a sense of how much I like people very quickly.”  For the sake of harmony and kindness in the home, I was desperate to be liked.  It took a long time for us to adjust, but we did.  One of the reasons it took so long, I firmly believe, is because we were both on “best behavior” and not being ourselves.  The moment we got that out of the way, things started to click.  We enjoyed each other’s company, started doing small acts of service for each other, and the apartment became a home.  I started going to a new congregation and had a fresh start.  I still wasn’t *great* at showing myself, but I was doing much, much better.  Eventually, it came down to one big thing that I still was hiding: my sexuality.  There were other minuscule things I hid, but nothing so big as that.

Upon Coming Out to the Select Few

I knew, I just KNEW it was the right thing to do.  Part of it was reading this divisive article, part of it was finally needing to say it out loud.  I called friends in a panic a year and six days ago.  I came out all at once and yet barely at all.  But, once I had a support system to run to if coming out went badly in my home/church life (which, for the record, I did not expect any more than a typical difficulty of adjustment), I started coming out to my siblings.  Then, to a few more friends.  Then, to my parents.  The last of my immediate family to know was Giggles, and that was really only because she and Monkey got engaged in November and I didn’t really have a time to talk to her alone until they came out to see us for Thanksgiving.  It was a long several months, navigating each time one by one and being sure that I said the right thing to the right people.  There were a couple big fights and a couple very hurtful comments, but – ultimately – I came through it with a great appreciation for two things: my amazing friends and family who, if they did not always succeed, tried their darndest to make me feel just as loved and accepted as before AND a community in which I no longer had to hide.  Sure, there were tense moments when I brought something up that wasn’t what was expected or a social norm, but I was so much more able to navigate them now that I didn’t have to worry about what I could or could  not say.  For the first time I could remember, I felt whole.

Upon Coming Out to the Many

ONE OF THE WORST ENDEAVORS OF MY LIFE.  And not because I was feeling like it was a mistake, but because my timeline was SO LONG.  It took forever.  I respected why I chose the timeline, but that last month I felt SICK.  So many times, I almost hit the publish button because it would just be done, but I didn’t.  I didn’t out of respect to the friends and family who were still getting used to it, I didn’t because I knew that I was still getting ready, too.  Finally, January first came around.  At 12:01, January 1, 2013 – while my family was still desperately searching for fireworks through the clouds – the post went live.  The stress was gone, I stopped wondering what would happen and just let things happen.  I came out.  Now the whole world, whether they knew it or not, was a place where I could be my whole self.  It was good.

Upon the Many Realizing I Was Out

That is, until it wasn’t.  Some months ago, I had someone tell me I should be less open about being bi-sexual because it intimidated people.  That hurt in a VERY familiar way.  After spending years fighting myself to allow myself to stop hiding, here was the world telling me AGAIN that I was not allowed to be me around other people.  Let me be clear, after the post went live, I made the decision to assume EVERYONE had read it until it became apparent they had not.  When that fact became apparent, it would have to be in a conversation that was related to the topic of sexuality and therefore it would be an appropriate time to share.  I purposely did not just blurt it out to friends and strangers.  I simply let the topic come up naturally (which, by the way, it does all the time – surprise, young people talk about sex) and, when the timing was right, I said something along the lines of, “You did know I’m bi-sexual, didn’t you?”  I was not forcing myself on people who were unwilling to hear.  I was just letting people know so they didn’t feel out of the loop.  And yet THAT was deemed by someone I love and respect as too much of me.  I was forcibly reminded that this was a world in which we hide because, for some reason, we have determined that we are not good enough.

Bull puckies.

And this is what that last step helped me realize: everyone is more than good enough.  Those bad things we hide, and I’m not saying my sexuality was one of them, make it that much harder to fix our flaws.  Hiding doesn’t just hurt our minds and our spirits, it prevents progression.  If someone ever tells you you’re not good enough because you make mistakes, loudly and clearly tell them: SCREW THAT NOISE.  Because that’s all that mantra is.  Noise. Interference. Chatter sent your way to keep you from living honestly, openly, and with an eye to the future.  And if anyone ever tells you that YOU aren’t good enough, that YOU should hide intrinsic parts of yourself because, horror, it might challenge someone’s world view, say NO.  Don’t accept it.  Your perfectly flawed self can contribute more to this earth than you know – especially if you teach others tolerance, kindness, empathy, or a new way of thinking.  And you and I will never learn if others aren’t willing to be the self that teaches me.

Upon Realizing Was Out

It took a while for it to sink in, but it was done.  And all those little things I had hidden whilst hiding these many big things over years and years were so infinitesimal that they all sort of came out during those long, awful months waiting to come out with this last revelation.  I was so ready to be me that I forgot to be me right away.  But, eventually, I realized I was anticipating a changed worldview that I wasn’t living with it.  So, I fixed that (and am sometimes still fixing it – anything as big as not hiding is a long process).  And then I started seeing things like

this

and this

and this

and this

and this

and they all have this glorious new context.  And let me be clear – glorious is not always good.  Just better – brighter, sharper, more striking.  Some of these things make me very happy, some of them hurt me so much.  Some of them have nothing to do with coming out and some of them have everything to do with it.  They don’t have a glorious new context because of subject matter.  They have glorious new context because I’m not hiding anymore.  Not intentionally, at least.

And, Finally, What I Want to Say to You About What I’ve Learned

It sickens me that I live in a world that encourages me to hide.  It sickens me that I can be this beautiful self that has this glorious context of me-ness and someone will try to tell me I’m wrong for it.  Or my beautiful friends.  Or their friends.  Or their enemies.  Or mine.  Basically, I think it’s wrong that the world seems bent on convincing us that we are wrong.

So, I’m telling you – you’re not.  I covered a bit of this before, but I need you to believe it.  You’re not wrong and the minute you think you are – even for that second before you brush it off – I want to know that I am giving you permission to then give to yourself to hide no more.  Because you absolutely never have to again.  This world culture demands a sacrifice of you and that is an unacceptable forfeit.  Laugh in the face of that request every time you hear it, feel it, see it.  Don’t make my mistakes and answer that pressure with a meek acceptance of the demand.  It took me twenty-five years to get this.  I don’t want you to hide for twenty-five minutes.  No societal expectation or cultural pressure is worth surrendering the person you are building day by day, especially when you are an unfinished work.  Give yourself permission to be you.  Give yourself permission to realize that person you are becoming.  Never, ever bow to the expectation to hide.

I want to leave you with one last thing.  This is one of those things I got when I started realizing my new context and new self.  It’s a poem written by a woman named Finn Butler, and she gets it.  She gets not hiding.  And she somehow manages to encourage me and you and everyone to hide no more.

Saltwater by F. Butler

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