Heads up, this piece is quite vulnerable & starts to dive into my experience as a queer woman. Sexuality is a really complex issue that is so multifaceted, & sociopolitical. I think it’s important to consider the continued erasure of queer individuals by society at large when reflecting on LGBTQ+ issues. In this piece, my intention is to share my experience & this in no way represents queer people as a whole. In no way am I trying to generalize or detract from anyone else’s experience. I fully acknowledge that I do possess a great deal of privilege & I feel that should be noted right away.
Monday was National Coming Out Day. I didn’t know this was a holiday until Monday.
Like so many others, my coming out was not/is not linear. It feels complicated & fresh. Sometimes, I even feel like an imposter when it comes to my sexuality. But let’s back up a little.
I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was in the dance world at 8 & found the theatre scene at 11. I attended arts focused, public schools my entire youth. My main peer group my entire youth was made up of loud, vibrant, queer people & I was in the closet.
My first kiss was with a boy at the movies when I was 13. I hated it. I deduced (at the time) that he was just a bad kisser. Fast forward a little - I got into a more serious relationship in high school. We were on again, off again, I love you one minute, I hate you the next. He knew me on a deeper level than anyone I had ever known. He felt safe. I remember telling him how I felt attracted to women & I remember him telling me that all women felt that way - that it didn’t mean I was gay. This would not be the last time I heard that lie.
I went on to have two more serious relationships with men - both who further closeted me. One because he was afraid for my eternal soul. The other because he was afraid I would leave him for a woman. After the latter man & I split, I went out with my queer friends A LOT. There were a few gay clubs in Orlando that we frequented. I felt free - well, free-er. Somehow, I almost always managed to find the only straight/bisexual man in the room & exclusively flirted with them. I would see queer women, notice them noticing me. I wanted their attention, I wanted to be near them, but I didn’t feel like I was allowed to be.
At 23, I was still so confused & afraid of my sexuality.
In reflecting on my youth & my sexuality, I think I was trapped in a closet other people built for me. I think about the expectation for me to marry a beautiful man & have beautiful babies. I think about how the media portrays queer women. I think about the immediate dismissal of the potential for me to be queer based on my external appearance. I think about the sexualization of queer, femme women. I think about the first girl I ever loved, the way she loved me silently because she was out & I wasn’t. I think about this past July when my partner & I went to a gay club in Milwaukee & a straight man singled me out, hit on me & was aggressive when we explained we were engaged (he flipped us off on his way out the door).
I don’t have a big “coming out,” story to share. When I told my family I was dating Stephanie, they didn’t bat an eye & said they couldn’t wait to meet her. No one who actually knows me even questioned me seriously dating a woman. (For transparency’s sake, I had been with women before Stephanie, just not for anyone else to see.) When I was in my yoga teacher training, it kind of bubbled over & spilled out of me that I was always attracted to women, but didn’t feel allowed to be. For the first time, I spoke that truth out loud. I felt sick & I felt relieved. I wonder if coming out once would have ever been enough for me. There has been an evolution in my sexuality & it’s still evolving now.
I still have so much to unpack in regards to my sexuality. I don’t identify as anything except queer & even that feels wrong. I am simply existing in this moment, loving who I love, trying to shed light on the external & internal homophobia I face every day & trying not to fade into the background of my own existence as a femme, queer woman. Perhaps I am trying too hard to squeeze myself into boxes when humans shouldn’t have been put in boxes in the first place. Perhaps I should live outside the box & be comfortable with that. However, I’m not there yet & that’s okay.
On a less personal note, I recently learned the term “Femme Invisibility,” & I feel it’s really important to share its meaning with all of you. Femme invisibility is rooted in the assumption that a cis woman, transgender woman, non binary individual, or gender nonconforming individual who is more feminine in their outward expression isn’t/can’t be queer. This does offer privilege in that these individuals often look like gender conforming, heterosexual people. Thus, they face less harassment & they are less likely to be discriminated against. However, this invisibility often denies femme people from being recognized within the LGBTQ+ community at large & presents a slew of other challenges.
This is part of a bigger conversation that could go on forever. If you would like to discuss femme invisibility, coming out, or anything else further, just ask! I am so grateful for this platform & privilege to share candidly with all of you. Thank you so much for your kindness & your acceptance.