Tuesday, December 28, 2010

IT’S STILL COMPLICATED

Just read a blog entry from Small Town Queer, entitled "Reasons to come out in a small town." The points are well made and I agree that a life out of the closet is ultimately so much better. That said, coming out is, for many of us, a long process. There is no right way, despite the directions provided at sites like wikiHow.com and eHow.com. That is why each of us who has ventured beyond the precisely folded Armani sweater collection has a different story. Stories, actually. Some are comical (if only in retrospect), some affirming, still others are disappointing, even tragic.

I first came out twenty-five years ago, choosing my best friend as a potential supporter who deserved to know the truth. We sat in my darkened living room, each of us in a separate beanbag...more comfy than the card table chairs. She said she'd wondered. She said she accepted it. She said she supported me.

And then she didn't contact me for several weeks. (When we chatted last year about it, she denied this account, but I had stumbled upon my old journal entries. Reading my anguish from the time brought a fresh flood of tears.) The reason why coming out is such a big deal is because you can never predict the response.

Relationships are on the line.

When the reaction is less than positive, it is easy to assert that the person is not a good friend/relative. I've heard it many times: love should be unconditional.

Even as we tap on the shoulder of 2011, coming out can be complicated. I know it took me years to come to terms with my homosexuality before I ever talked openly about it. How is it that we grant ourselves a prolonged period before self-acceptance but expect instant acceptance from others? It is a process for both people in the conversation. While initial rejection stings, whether or not things can grow from there depends on how people act on both sides of the coming out drama.

I have had many positive experiences in coming out, but I've also had my share of rocky episodes. For me, silence has always been the most difficult. Without conversation, how can there ever be enlightenment? Questions are good, even if the first ones are offensive. When I came out to my parents, my mother immediately blurted, "Can't you abstain?" Over time, her questions became more thoughtful. My sister, by contrast, still refuses to talk about it, with me or with my mother. I like to think that my sister is the one who is now barricaded in the closet.

I learned a long time ago never to judge how one person interacts with his or her family. There's too much personal history, much that the person may not even be able to articulate. We can't all be Brady Bunches, Cleavers or Waltons. Each family dynamic is unique. The same goes for coming out. Who and when depends on the individuals involved. All the rest of us can do is share our stories, offer our congratulations when the experience is positive and provide support (through more listening than advising) when coming out feels more like coming undone.

Come out, come out wherever you are...but only when it truly feels right to you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

OOPS...

You know how some people get into a new relationship and forget everyone and everything else for three months? Okay, I wish that was my excuse for abandoning the blog since late September. How thrilling to be swept up in a romance with a guy who can communicate beyond the not-so-witty "How U Doing? U R sexy" online message and whose posted photo isn't ten years old.

Oh, sorry. Bitterness leaking through. Obviously no passionate relationship here. Not much of anything, really. I have been overtaken by work: a new setting filled with chaos that I have yet to get a handle on. (My current coping skill is a new laugh, a non-vocalized heaving sound. Don't like it, don't know where it came from, don't know how to stop. At least it's a laugh, not a scream.)

Three months ago, I was trying to build a relationship with a guy in Toronto whom I'd been emailing since February and seen for a few days in August in Ottawa. That's kaput. His decision in mid-November to trying dating guys who actually lived in the same province made sense to me. Neither of us was piling up the frequent flyer points on Air Canada and absence did not make the heart grow fonder. I just think a phone call would have been more respectful than an email announcement. Call me old-fashioned...

I have been juggling two abodes: my house in the boonies and a condo in Vancouver's West End. It is wonderful feeling like an urban dweller, taking SkyTrain to work, walking to the grocery store, hiking over the Burrard Street Bridge for Sunday dinners in Kitsilano. And, yes, I do appreciate retreating to my house on occasion to enjoy a siren- and motorcycle-free existence. (It hasn't exactly been blissful this weekend with the incessant whirring of chainsaws, but I'm hoping my neighbors' firewood stocks have been replenished. Is there a competition I don't know about? Is there such a thing as too much kindling?)

Juggling two homes and failing to have my lottery numbers come through (yet), I cannot continue my urban-rural existence indefinitely. It would be nice to save up for something like, oh, new socks, but it is what it is. I'll list my house again in the spring and hope that, with the NEW IMPROVED view of the ocean and mountains, a bidding war will ensue. (Yes, I am the hapless lottery player, too.)

So 2010 ends much as it began: single, struggling financially, but still hopeful.