Jun 16, 2021
7 mins read
Happy June, everybody!
Pride can mean so many different things to so many different people, and this year I thought I’d take the time to share a little bit about what it means to me. The original plan was to publish this post at the beginning of the month—but it turned out to be kind of hard for me to find the right words.
As many of you know, I’m not exactly the straightest twig in the bunch.
I’m not sure quite how I identify when it comes to my sexuality—the first label that really struck me as true was “Fluid,” but that one seems to have been omitted from the acronym and, quite frankly, I don’t like to explain it to everyone who asks.
So I usually go with queer, or bi, or pan, or whatever seems to suit me that day. The gist of it is that I am Partially Gay, whatever that means to you, so you can call me whatever you like—I’m highly unlikely to get offended if you’re wrong, because usually whatever I’m calling myself isn’t a hundred percent correct, either.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not one of those “I’m above such petty things as labels!” people (even if I used to be, a little bit). I think labels are important for a lot of reasons. They give you a sense of community with the other people who share the same labels as you. They make it easier for outsiders to understand what you’re all about, without diving into your whole life story. Like any other word for any other concept, having a label for our identities just makes things a bit simpler.
Unfortunately, my brain is not in the business of making things simple for me (or anyone else). So I’ve learned to do without, and honestly… it’s a lot easier for me to just let people assume what they will.
I’m in a committed heterosexual relationship with a man, which makes it easy for people to assume that I’m straight. I have purple hair and am not often in the mood to shave my legs, which makes it easy for other people to assume I’m not straight. I get it. I won’t usually correct these assumptions, because they all have a kernel of truth to them. (Of course, that’s a luxury I can afford, and that’s not always true for everyone.)
A lot of people will tell you that they knew who they were from a very young age—this wasn’t the case for me. I grew up in a small, conservative town, and it took me a long time to begin unraveling my internalized homophobia. I became very adept at denial. Then, when that failed, I tried to find loopholes—explaining away my half-gayness however I could (“girl crushes” on hot celebrities don’t count, right?). And that worked, for a time. But really, for the most part, it was no biggie.
The nice thing about being bi/pan/fluid/etc. is that you always have that straight side of yourself to fall back on while you figure everything else out. And you’re not even being a phony about it.
By the time I was ready to start “coming out” to the people in my life, it was a matter of necessity. I’d written a personal essay about sexuality for a creative writing class in college, and it included some damning evidence of the identity I was finally ready to accept.
The essay ended up getting an offer for publication by a small online literary magazine. Nothing major, but as someone who’d never shut up about wanting to be a published writer, it was pretty momentous for me. Which meant I had to start telling people. I knew my parents might forgive me for a little bit gay, but I didn’t want to add insult to injury by telling the whole world about it before I told them.
So I mustered up all my courage (which is minimal) and told my family the truth. And, as it turned out, I really didn’t have much to worry about. Sure, it was a bit uncomfortable; but that’s true of all serious conversations in my family. Honestly, I don’t think they were all that surprised.
No, all in all, I should’ve been much more worried about coming out to my friends—in particular, my openly LGBTQ+ friends.
Yeah, I know.
Some of my best friends in college—including a few that I’d grown up with—were very confident in their non-straight identities for a long time before I came to terms with mine. And, tagging along as their “straight ally” friend, I admit that I was often a bit jealous of how effortlessly and openly they were able to be themselves.
So when I was finally ready to “come out” to them, I expected them to be as loving and supportive as they’d always been with each other. But that wasn’t really the case.
I don’t know if they didn’t believe me, or if they thought I was trying to be a copycat, or what—but I remember this awkward silence where they sort of shared a look with each other and then faked a smile. I left shortly afterward, and looking back, our friendship pretty much deteriorated after that.
It sucked, and I didn’t understand why. I still don’t, really. Why couldn’t my friends—who were already part of the LGBTQ+ community—embrace my coming out with open arms, when my moderately conservative family was able to do so without blinking an eye?
For a community claiming to be open and accepting of all, it seemed that I had missed the fine print somewhere.
It is possible that I sound bitter. It is equally possible that I am bitter. And the point of telling you all this isn’t to steal some of the joy away from Pride Month. I don’t want to turn anyone against the LGBTQ+ community, or to imply that “they’re all like that.” In fact, if I have a point here, it is the exact opposite: that people are people, no matter what group they’re a part of.
My mistake was to assume that I knew how certain people would react, when in reality anyone has the potential to be an asshole—just like anyone has the potential to be kind.
I have a zillion more coming out stories I could tell, primarily because “coming out” is not a one-time thing; nor is it one-size-fits-all. In some ways, I hope that the whole idea of “coming out” becomes obsolete in the future, that it merges with the rest of the getting-to-know-you small talk that doesn’t require any weird silences or nervous laughter. (“Hi, I’m Rosie. I’m a 26-year-old sticker enthusiast, I hate peanut butter, and I’m queer. Nice to meet you.”)
But then again, I don’t hope that at all. When I see people really owning who they are enough to shout it from the rooftops, something in me comes alive a little bit. Because being on a rooftop is scary. Thrilling, empowering, exhilarating—but also terrifying as hell.
Words have power, even if you can’t always find the right ones.
And I am so in awe of everyone who’s built up the courage to say who they are—whether they’re speaking to thousands of strangers, to their closest friends, or just quietly to themselves.
It seems to me that the whole purpose of existing as a human being is to spend time learning about who you are. And whether that fits neatly into a box, or a label, or a community, isn’t really the point.
So whether you’re already up on that rooftop, or just starting to figure out where you fit in all of this—you’ve got a place here. And even if you haven’t quite found the right words, you’re always welcome to share the almost-right ones with me.