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.

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(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

Green with envy

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The lead performer and host for the local Disney drag show that I photographed last month was invited to dinner at our house last night. Cee made a delicious manicotti, baked chicken, salad and appies.

We had never met Dee in person as a male. We’d only ever met Dee as a performer when he was dressed in drag as Aly so we weren’t quite sure what to expect upon meeting him. He had just finished work as a makeup artist and he came right over after his shift. Last night, his coworkers all did makeup according to the seven deadly sins. Dee’s deadly sin was envy, he was quite literally ‘green with envy’ in his appearance. Dee sprayed his hair green, covered his face with green makeup and designed spider webbing up his neck.

Upon entering our house, I welcomed Dee with a hug and was given a big hug. Cee’s youngest daughter was scared at first and retreated to her tablet. The other two oldest kids easily introduced themselves and familiarized themselves with Dee. Cee’s youngest soon warmed up to Dee. We had a lovely dinner with wine. We had bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate Cee’s son’s football teams undefeated game streak. It was a lovely evening filled with love, laughter and acceptance.

Family_Portrait_(Photocredit: Teaching Kids News)

Dee made a comment on his Facebook page about feeling so welcome in our house which made Cee so proud. Dee mentioned that he had completely forgotten he was different in our house which was so accepting of him, makeup and all and that everyone treated him with respect and kindness. Cee felt slightly sad that she hadn’t recognized it in the moment that her kids carried on easily with Dee without hesitation despite his differences as a person. Cee mentioned that we’d had many different types of people through our door as guests but to have such a wonderfully unique individual in our house and have her kids have such good rapport made her quite proud as a mother. From my perspective, I’ve been the odd individual who has always been quite aware of my differences my entire life (for a variety of reasons) and I see it as always being the outcast until proven otherwise. I also felt quite proud of Cee, her parenting skills and our kids because this just proves that the kids will be quite the allies in the LGBT community, able to accept everyone not despite their differences, but because of their differences without question. Acceptance of others no matter how different they may be should be something any parent should be proud to have taught their children and I hope that one day this will become the norm.

Let It Go, Let it Go…

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I watched Frozen with my girlfriend’s youngest daughter today. I had heard good reviews from a few friends, gay and otherwise. I had read reviews online that either praised or dragged the movie through the [metaphorical] mud. It seemed that there are underlying themes that some people find horribly disgusting. Some of the themes I read about made me snort in laughter. After the laugh was over, I shook my head in disbelief because I really didn’t think Disney/Pixar had some of those things in mind when they made the film.

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Photocredit: http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20131103205459/disney/images/6/66/Frozen_castposter.jpg)

So I decided to find out for myself. This is my review/opinion of Frozen. Spoilers included (for those who don’t like to be spoiled, look away).

This movie doesn’t exactly involve the typical Disney story of Princesses where boy meets girl, falls in love, someone disagrees but true love prevails and they go happily ever after riding into a forest/sunset or living in a castle etc. I’ve liked that the past decade or so has shown Disney taking different directions in their most recent films by including people of different races, species (Finding Nemo), toys, heroines, and time periods. It has also started showing people from all walks of life and for that I am grateful. Life doesn’t exist in a set parameter or box. There is one large canvas and it’s a webbed mosiac and we are all a part of it while remaining individual within it.

Frozen starts off in a castle where we are introduced to Elsa and Anna. Elsa is the older sister who has special powers and it’s later asked if she was cursed or born with them (note: the famous question many people ask is if you are born or choose to be LGBT). When an accident happens, Elsa is told by her parents to not associate with her younger sister Anna. Anna grows up wondering why all of a sudden Elsa has lost touch with her. Their parents also shut the closet-I’m sorry, gates to keep anyone from knowing anything about Elsa or her powers.

Later on, when it’s time for Elsa’s coronation as Queen, she ends up exposing her powers to her kingdom of Arendelle due to being unable to control her powers (likely do her fear of them). Due to self hatred, fear and persecution from her subjects, and the neighbouring kingdoms, Elsa isolates herself after plunging her kingdom in eternal winter.

Anna seeks out her sister to put an end to the winter, reunite and attempt to understand her sister. Thus, an adventure ensues.

Themes like unconditional love, infatuation, self hatred, self love, friendship, and forgiveness flow and interweave throughout the story and are conveyed by the various characters.

I’m not saying that the story was meant to be a template for all LGBT people. I think people are allowed to pick and choose what they want to see from the story. To me, it was a story of misunderstanding, conflict of self and love. As a gay woman, I feel I identified mostly with Elsa. Not because I have special powers (but that’d be rad if I did!), but I feel that I know what it’s like to be shunned for who I am by family. I know what it’s like to feel afraid-terrified even-to be myself for fear of being judged by my family and society in general. I know what it’s like to know that there are parts so different about yourself, and feel so alone because you don’t know anyone around you who shares common ground with you. I know what it’s like to feel self hatred and choose to be alone than show your differences for fear of being persecuted. And finally I know what it’s like to be loved unconditionally for all the parts that make me me.  Conceal, don’t feel is something I don’t have to do anymore.

It’s the 21st century. Isn’t it time we Let It Go and just accepted that everyone is different, show some unconditional love and focus what’s really important? Learn tolerance, love yourself (and others), and practice forgiveness.

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Photo Credit: Nocookie net)

Interesting Links:
Official Frozen Trailer here.

Online Reviews:
Sydney Morning Herald
Polymic
AfterEllen

Well Behaved Mormon
Response to Well Behaved Mormon from a Gay Dad