Six years of breathing air out of the closet

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Six years ago as of April 15th (which landed on Easter at the time), I came out of the closet. It hadn’t happened the way I wanted to. I had been a member on the Empty Closets Forum, click here, and looked for support from an amazing online community of LGBTQ and LGBTQ friendly people around the world. I had already told a few of my closets friends from high school and at college and for the most part I felt the support-because it didn’t change how they saw me which I was grateful for. But I was gearing up to eventually tell my family.

I was at my parents house for Easter weekend. I was discussing my long distance relationship with a girlfriend to one of my friends and I thought my parents were out of ear shot but apparently not. Midway through a conversation, my mom comes into the room and angrily comments on what we were discussing. Not knowing how else to respond, I stated that yes I was likely going to marry a woman and I wanted to have elephants at my wedding. My mom stormed off and my friend politely excused herself to go home.

womenpride

(Photocredit: Candygurlz)

So at dinner that weekend, in front of both my parents and my younger sister, I stated that I was not heterosexual. I had written a letter (which I thankfully still have), stating that it was difficult for me to accept myself, let alone tell anyone that I was more different than the average person. I told them my struggles and dating different types of men wondering what the problem was, whilst knowing that deep down I was the issue, I was not heterosexual. I originally came out as being bisexual because I thought that my emotional connection with men, but not sexual connection with them would have been enough and that I was just more attracted to them. I shamefully also thought that being bisexual would have been easier to tell people than flat out stating that I liked tacos as opposed to tacos and hot dogs.

It didn’t go well. There were periods of silence, there were days of non stop bickering and yelling. My sister felt scared to tell her friends her sister was a homo for fear of losing friends in high school. I came home one day to find my mom on the phone with an old friend from high school telling her that I needed to talk to a priest and start Conversion Therapy which led me to arguing, promptly packing clothes into a back pack and driving off to live with friends for a few days.

It was rough and a very lonely period. My friends got me through it. Reading people’s stories and vlogs on the internet got me through darker days.

When I was suddenly brave enough to venture out and find “my people” (like minded people in the LGBTQ community), I drove 2 hours from home to find gay events in another city. I found like minded friends. I found people that were just like me, with stories of heartache and inspiration. I realized that it gets better. I realized that you could be yourself and live a fulfilling life and be accepted by good people if you surrounded yourself with positivity and people who were accepting of you.

As the years passed, the questions about “boyfriends” and “grandchildren” dwindled from my parents and were replaced by pronouns such as “girlfriends”. Parents became more willing to meet my girlfriends that I deemed serious relationships. I went through many girlfriends that I thought would be serious but ended up being short lived relationships which was hard on my parents who thought that I would never find happiness.

I have learned so much in the six years that I’ve been out of the stuffy closet I called home for many years. I learned that I don’t have to adhere to gender roles (no one should really but it seems more prevalent in heterosexual relationships). I learned to accept that people would hate or dislike even if you kept your mouth shut and they didn’t know you personally. I learned that my love was different but that didn’t make me less of a person. I learned that I can dress however I want to be portrayed by how I view myself. I learned that I love short hair (not every lesbian does, but I do). I learned how to smile at people who scowl at me when I hold my girlfriends hand in public. I learned how to stand up for myself to people who would say rude things about LGBTQ or people in small minority groups. I learned that I want to be an advocate for LGBTQ rights even though I live in a country that allows things like same-sex marriage and equal spousal support because many countries still struggle with these basic human rights. I learned to speak about my experiences to others who struggle with theirs in attempts to let them learn that they are not alone, and that “It does get better”. I learned to flirt with women-flirting with men was easy-it’s a whole different thing when you suddenly have to flirt with women and you are attracted to them. I learned to become comfortable in my own skin while having sex which was never really discussed while I was growing up. I learned and developed a positive body image (in high school and part of college I had eating disorder issues)-because when you’re happy with how your life is going- you feel more comfortable in your own skin. I began writing a memoir detailing my life in high school, my mental health and sexuality and I hope to publish it to help others deal with their own issues. I learned that if I want to change the world into something more positive, I have to be someone to stand up and do something – volunteer, share links on social media, and talk about things that need to change.

I have learned so much in six years about myself, my hobbies/passions, my career, my friendships and relationships. My confidence has grown and I am starting to shine as an individual. I don’t think that would have happened had I not accepted myself, taken a risk and come out of the closet. It’s a scary thing to admit to the world-let alone yourself.

Just remember, “It Gets Better”. Happy Easter/long weekend for whatever you believe in in this world.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi

EmptyClosets Forum
It Gets Better – Youth LGBTQ
Human Rights Campaign
The Trevor Project

My 5 Year anniversary

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… of being out of the closet has rolled around.  I remember it well. How could I forget a significant period of upheaval,  emotion and life changes?

I remember speaking with one of my friends whom at the time was very close with me. My mom overheard our conversation,  tempers flared and the news was out. Rather than blatantly tell everyone I let my mom tell my sister and dad. I wasn’t able to face other horrible reactions.  But they came nonetheless. My mom and sister who used to hug me while saying goodnight suddenly stopped hugging me. Because of ignorance,  they worried I was suddenly attracted to them. I fought daily. Mean insults were hurled. Our relationships became more toxic. I took up smoking cigarettes regularly at work.

Fast forward to now. My family knows and I believe accepts me for being gay. At times I wonder what life would have been like if I had waited to tell my family till I was out of the house for good. When I came out years ago, I did so on Easter. I had been attending college and I went to live with my family every summer in between each school year.

The first year was definitely the hardest. I chopped my beautiful wavy hair off a few weeks after I broke the news to a shaggy pixie cut. I loved it. I felt so liberated.

I started dressing more comfortably.  This involved experimenting with different clothing styles. I tried out dressing like a butch and found it wasn’t quite my thing. But I realized that I enjoy cross dressing and rocking a tie some days.

I loved my short hair. I played with my hair and started doing more funky styles. When my hair was longer I kept it in a ponytail most of the time because I didn’t want to bother with styling it. With short hair I felt free, fun and spunky and I enjoyed styling it.

I stopped trying to be uber feminine and fit the circular mould that I as a square would never fit in. This caused conflict with my parents but I was an adult now and as time progressed, they realized I was my own person and they couldn’t make me do anything.

I learned that what I looked like on the outside by not conforming to the standard of feminine beauty most women do makes one an outcast. People look at you differently when you have short hair,  don’t wear much makeup (or any) and you wear comfortable/slightly masculine clothing.

It was a wakeup call. I don’t think I’d been terrible to people before coming out, but I definitely began becoming more empathic to others afterwards. I now knew what it was like to be an obvious minority. I knew what it was like to be judged for something many knew nothing about or didn’t understand. I knew what it was like to feel hurt and have friends and strangers alike be disgusted with me because I made a choice to follow my heart.

As the years passed, my family has come around. I have made new friends. Many of my old ones have stuck by me, and funnily enough they ended up being gay too! A couple friends who appeared to temporarily leave have also returned and apologized.

I have had a few jobs since.  I have settled into a long term career that may last awhile till I can think of something I may wish to pursue after furthering my education.

I have had several same sex relationships in the five years I’ve been out. I have had long and short ones. I learned how to be a better partner. I continue to learn how to communicate more effectively instead of shutting down or running away as those are my default settings it seems. My girlfriend seems to be an expert at communication even though she assures me it’s taken her a long time to get where she is now. I believe she is my soulmate and I want to marry her some day.

I’ve become involved in the gay community. I attend local events, and Pride every year. I feel so great every pride being able to live freely from discrimination or the thought of it for a day/week/weekend.

Life has definitely changed in 5 years. Some of it was an uphill battle. But I didn’t stop working at it.  I’m grateful to those people who stuck by me through the years. But now I can say it does get better. It did get better.  Life is better now.

Are you two friends? Roommates?

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The other day, I crossed the Canada/US border with my girlfriend. Something I’ve noticed is that the US border agents are pretty serious. I mean they have a serious job of making sure terrorists, traffickers, drug runners and other criminals don’t enter their country. And that makes sense… but I am not trafficking or a terrorist.

When we were speaking with the US border agent, we were asked the usual questions. “Where are you coming from? Where do you live? Where are you headed?  Why are you headed there? How long will you be?” And… “Are you two sisters? How do you two know each other? Just what is your relationship? ” Wait. What??

Is it because I seem close with my girlfriend?  I mean when you’re dating someone of course you seem close to them. You’re best friends. You laugh, cry, love and support one another. How would you not be close?

But these questions and the manner of questioning were said in a malicious and probing manner. I looked to my girlfriend and the border guard.  “We’re friends.” If there’s something I’ve learned upon coming out and being true to yourself is that sometimes you have to lie and sacrifice the truth in order to remain safe. Is it ideal?  No. Does it hurt? Yes. Is it upsetting? Of course. Who wouldn’t want to live a life of just being able to be honest (not just when asked) and tell everyone you meet that the love of your life is the person you’re with no matter what biological sex they are? But it seems to be a problem even in the 21st century even when world countries and states (in the US) slowly pass Same sex marriage laws.

Silent vieled bigotry in the form of questions such as “How are you two related?” Are things we face. Had we answered honestly who knows what the border agent would have done of said.  Would we have been turned around and told to stay in our country and denied entry to the US? It’s possible. As a border agent who has powers of deciding who enters her country, who knows what she could have said to deny us the power of entry simply because she didn’t like the look of us.

Anti-hate laws aren’t exactly formed into the US constitution or laws like they are in Canada. And even if they were, from my experience, I’ve found homophobic or ignorant people find other excuses to use in order to spread ignorance and homophobia. Is it fair? No. It reminds me of the closet door I have come through and tried to keep open. It reminds me that sometimes it’s safer to lie because I am different than the majority. It reminds me that some people will never approve of who I love and I try not to let it reflect on me because I know in my heart that I’m not a bad person. But this is why we continue to fight for human rights and stamp out bigotry and ignorance. We do so one person at a time, educating them about ourselves to show that the only difference is that we love someone of the same sex. Our love is otherwise the same. We still want the same things that other couples want: health, happiness, love, support. Maybe one day ignorance will die off or at least be a distant,  faded memory. I hope I get to see such a day.

Coming out of the closet as bisexual

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That is what I originally did.

I originally tried to deny the fact that I was attracted to women altogether for several months after finally piecing together some pieces the summer after I graduated from high school. When I went to university, I could not deny it. I had female crushes on professors, and a few of my classmates and females in my dorm. So I attached the label of bisexual to myself because I thought it would somehow be more acceptable if I did so for when I eventually came out to friends and family. I still dated boys, and crushed on girls. Guys appealed to me because I understood them, their moments of immaturity, their love of things nerdy (not as many females like nerdy things). Guys didn’t appeal to me physically, but their personalities did and that’s why I held onto that label still despite fully feeling my head spin whenever I crushed on a female.

Years later, when I decided to come out, I came out as a bisexual woman because I thought that dipping my toes in the heterosexual and homosexual world at the same time (metaphorically speaking), would somehow be more accepted than being lumped into the homosexual category. It was easier in respects to most of my friends. But it wasn’t as well thought of by my family. My family didn’t take me coming out [of any closet] very well. One of my coworkers called me a fence sitter. Uh… ouch? He was a jerk and just jealous that I wasn’t attracted to him though.

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(Photocredit: Deviant art)

I was called me a slut by a family member. That was lovely. When I told my family I preferred women (still trying to get closer to the truth without giving up the label that I might be slightly straight), I was told “You are disgusting and you would be perfect if you weren’t gay.” I couldn’t win either way. So I finally gave up and came out fully as being a lesbian.

I don’t think some people truly understand what bisexual means. It does not mean whoring around and sleeping with everyone. Anyone can do that whether they are heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, transexual, pansexual, intersex etc. Sexual orientation does not determine if someone will be promiscuous. Unfortunately when some people think of any sexual orientation other than heterosexual they immediately think of sex and somehow think we have wild sex lives. Wouldn’t that be nice? 10 STD’s, a messed up heart and plate of drama for 1 please. *sarcasm*

So I apologize to the bisexuals out there. I did use that sexual orientation label as a metaphorical stepping stone for fully coming to terms with admitting I was gay to myself and to the world. I apologize. I didn’t mean to make it harder for those who are truly bisexual. I know that some people don’t even think that your orientation exists. That is really unfair and I’m sorry that some of you have to face that. I know that you face scrutiny from the heterosexual and homosexual sides of the sexuality spectrum. You may be scrutinized by the heterosexuals because they don’t understand why you enjoy the same sex. And the homosexuals might judge you because they think you can enjoy perks of hetero normative society while batting for the same team. That is not fair. However you love is how you love and you should be allowed that right. I mean don’t go crushing hearts for the manipulative pleasure, that’s just plain mean. But whomever you fall in love with good for you. Don’t let go.

I thought it would somehow be easier to categorize myself as such while denying the fact that I was truly gay all along and this wasn’t right of me. I let homophobia damage my self and that is never a good thing for anyone of any sexual orientation.

My favourite gay websites

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Today’s post is about my favourite LGBT websites, vlogs and blogs that I have come to enjoy for the past several years since before I officially came out. 

Pop culture:
Dorothy Surrenders: It’s written by (I’m guessing, a lesbian or bisexual woman), who has the penname of Dorothy Snarker. It’s a blog about all things women, pop cultures, gay or otherwise. Definitely check this one weekly. This blog with have you laughing or attempting to print out some of the photos she posts.

After Ellen: A blog about all things gay (though mostly lesbian)

AutoStraddle: A blog about pop culture and all things Lesbian related.

Support:
Empty Closets: A great forum for discussion on anything gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans related. There’s even a support area for family of LGBT people. It’s a great resource for preComing Out and post Coming Out. It really helped me in the past.

PFLAG (Parents/Friends of Lesbians And Gays): Support for anyone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning or their families having a tough time.
PFLAG Canada
PFLAG USA

Human Rights Campaign: A nonprofit organization that has been working on helping LGBT people have equal rights across the world. They are usually recognizable as the blue square with the yellow = sign.

The Trevor Project: A crisis line and website for LGBTQ youth who might need support.

Facebook Pages:
Have a Gay Day A site supporting LGBT people.

YouTube:
The BeaverBunch: Some of the sweetest queer people on life as a gay, bi, lesbian or trans person. They have a topic each week, and every day of the week, one of them uploads a video speaking on the weeks topic.
GaysoftheWeek: Each week a topic is chosen. Every day of the week a gay man speaks about the topic.

Hope you had a great weekend. If you have anything you want to add to this post, just post in the comments section.

Another celebrity comes out as LGBT in a moving speech

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Another celebrity comes out as being part of the LGBT spectrum. In a moving speech that speaks of how insidiously our society strangles us with ideals, and that the media and society attempts to box and categorize us into how we should be as people, Ellen Page comes out as being gay.

(PhotoCredit: DailyMail)

I have been following the young actress since her early days in film. Although I try not to focus on celebrity gossip too much, I did find it interesting that she insisted on keeping her life private through dodging questions and not fully answering questions about her private life in interviews. But then again we all have a right to keep our private life private so who are we to judge? For those of you who are reading who may identify with the LGBT spectrum, you will likely understand why someone chooses to remain in the closet for reasons not understood by those who tend to identify as heterosexual.

For those of you who don’t understand, I would like to explain it. Imagine putting pieces together of yourself, your likes and dislikes that you realize make you different from others. Now imagine that you don’t fit the mould on what society says, that you should get your opposite sex partner (girlfriend or boyfriend), raise a family, have grand kids, grow old together. But… you find yourself attracted to your best friend of the same sex. It’s not because you choose it. It is the same type of bond that your friends seem to be having with their partners of the opposite sex. They just want to hold one another, kiss, grow, learn, laugh and love together. And you do too, but you’re just different. You might try denying it, but that makes it worse. It can bring on depression, unhealthy coping mechanisms in order to cover up the fact that you think you’re flawed and society says that people like you are disgusting and invalid. How low would you feel if you faced that every day?

Coming out takes courage. Some of us have the luxury of living in countries where we don’t have laws condemning us to a life of abuse by society, family, friends, strangers, and imprisonment. Some of us don’t and I feel saddened knowing this is a reality for some people out there. For some of us, even though the laws are on our side, the people in our lives aren’t and we are disowned, threatened, and harassed, even today in first world countries. And I believe that until we are all equal we should attempt to make this world a better place for those who are not considered equal.

I will leave it at that. Ellen Page’s speech is worth the read (or watch). Human Rights are everyone’s priority (or should be). What courage. I hope things just keep getting better for her. The video of her speech gave me shivers and caused tears to flow. I hope you enjoy it.

Ellen’s speech is on You Tube.
Other References:
Just Jared: http://www.justjared.com/2014/02/14/ellen-page-comes-out-as-gay-read-her-speech-here/
CTV (Full text of speech)http://www.ctvnews.ca/entertainment/ellen-page-comes-out-as-gay-maybe-i-can-make-a-difference-1.1687811

Canadian Cities showing solidarity and pride

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VancouverCityHall_5

(Photo Credit: The Straight)

Several Canadian cities have started flying the LGBT pride flag outside their city halls in a stance of solidarity for Pride and human rights. For those of you who might not know, Russia is crunching down on human rights and adopting stone age homophobic laws, rules and regulations towards anyone who is, appears to be, or helps advocate for LGBT rights. Gay and lesbian people have been beaten, bullied, killed and raped while the government turns the other cheek. President Putin and other government officials have been behind the laws that discriminate and incriminate people who advocate for LGBT rights. The anti-gay propaganda law states that those who are gay are negative influences on minors. Fines are being passed out. Protesters have been beaten and thrown in Jail. These are scenes caught on cameras from journalists around the world. Some Russians have sought asylum and assistance elsewhere in the world.

Enough of the negativity. The cities in Canada have decided to show their solidarity for human rights and LGBT people in Russia. Toronto may not have (due to Mayor Rob Ford openly declaring his homophobia), but cities such as Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and St Johns have flown pride flags that will fly till the end of the Olympic games. The Canadian way of showing solidarity and pride isn’t very aggressive. It shows that Canadians stand for equal human rights no matter their sexual orientation. Some may say that sexual orientation has no place in the Olympic games. Back when the Olympics started they also may have said that different races never had a place in the Olympic games either. I think we fight against one another too often as is in this world. Stand in solidarity for human rights. We all deserve a place in this world.

Reference: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/02/06/canadian_cities_to_fly_gay_pride_flags_in_olympic_protest.html