Thursday, March 24, 2011

Coming Out Story?

It seems almost a given, that on a gay blog the writer would at one point or another chronicle their coming out experience.  And I don't think that this is without reason!  It is an important ritual, in our community, to share the stories of how we first acknowledged the truth that lay within ourselves, and exposed ourselves to the world.  Unfortunately, my coming out story is a little anticlimactic compared with most people's.  However, I will do my best with mine, as I understand that traditions are important.

The thing is, I was in seventh grade when I came out.  So I was, what, 12?  13, at the most?  I was young.  And the first person I came out to?  My step-mother.  Why her, I can't really be sure.  Probably, I was more comfortable talking with her than any of my other family members.  My Mom and I disagreed on a lot of things when I was younger (we still do, but I'm better equipped to deal with it now, and we have a much better relationship for it) and my dad has always intimidated me.  And so my step-mom was the first member of my family to hear me say the words.  Her response?





Perhaps not exactly a "Duh," but that's a little bit the way it felt to me.  I had worked myself into a bit of a frenzy, thinking about how life-altering the revelation was going to be for me, and about how I might be forever outcast from my family for saying what I planned to say.  And so, when my step-mom explained that she had known since I was six, I was more than a little stunned.

Looking back on all of this (this is more of a story than I thought I was going to get from this!  Go me!) it appears that there was a rather large gap in my reasoning.  I was scared to death of coming out.  And yet it never occurred to me that I could avoid coming out.  It never occurred to me to simply not say anything yet.  To wait. But I suppose I probably felt like I needed to say it.  And perhaps I did!  Probably.  And so it was done, and my step-mom was unfazed.  So far so good for me!  She even explained that I had gay uncles, which I had never thought to question before.  (It never occurred to me that it was odd for two men to live together in their 30's and 40's.  It was just the way things were with my uncles!)

And so I moved forward.  I told my Dad later on, but I think only by a few weeks.  It's a bit fuzzy, I don't remember the conversation well.  I remember it being very uncomfortable, but Dad didn't go into a screaming rage over the revelation.  I suppose my step-mom must have been preparing him for it, but this never occurred to me.  And as for the discomfort that came with the conversation, well.  Any real conversation of any depth that I've ever had with my father has had a similar discomfort.  He's not much for serious discussion.  And so it wasn't much different, if a little disheartening for my earnest little heart that wanted only to be loved.

I told my mom while we were sitting in a automated car wash together.  I had schemed for weeks for a way to get her alone, away from step-dad and the little siblings.  Grocery shopping?  Too many people around to hear.  Ask to talk to her alone?  Never would have happened.  I had to wait for just the right moment.  And it presented itself in the car wash.  And so I bared my soul to my mother.  And she told me, "Jermanie, you are only 13.  You have plenty of time to figure out whether you are gay or not later on down the road.  Right now you are too young.  I don't think it's something you need to be worried about at your age."

And maybe she was right.  But I was pubescent, and my hormones were telling me to figure it out, and do it now.  And all my poor little heart had just wanted to hear her say, "That's okay, son.  I accept you no matter what."  And not hearing that made me feel like it wasn't true, whether or not that was actually the case.

Finally, we come to my step-father.  I probably would have gone the whole of my teenage years without telling him, at least until he made me really, truly angry, and I threw it in his face.  We never got along, but when he found out because he was snooping through my room and read about it in a note a friend and I had been writing to one another, it infuriated me.  And when he grew, to my eyes, colder and more distant, I assumed I had been right about him all along, and that he hated me because of my sexual orientation.

To this day, we don't really speak.  We've learned to be civil so that my mom and I can have a relationship.  And if that is all that ever happens between us, then oh well.

Do you know what?  I've lied to you all.  Not on purpose, mind you.  I've just realized that I came out to one other person before I started coming out to my family.  My seventh grade girlfriend, Jill.  We dated for all of two or three weeks, just long enough to kiss sloppily in the halls and giggle about it.  We broke up when we simultaneously came out to one another- I was gay, and she was most definitely a lesbian.  People have joked ever since that we turned one another gay.

Jill and I remained best friends for many years after our brief stint as boyfriend and girlfriend.  We are not as close now as we once were, but I still consider her one of the best friends I have ever had, and I hope that we never lose touch entirely.  After so many years of supporting one another through life, I find it hard to imagine what life would be like without her in it. 

My coming out story could probably go on and on forever.  I could list every family member that I've come out to, and the best ways I've found to do so (and also some of the worst ways, I was certainly not always tactful about it).  But the thing is, coming out is a daily occurrence.  It is a never-ending process, for with each person you meet, you are forced to come out again, and again, and again.  And each time, it comes with that instant of trepidation, that flash of panic when you realize that you have no idea how your coming out is going to change the perceptions of the person you are shaking hands with.  And some of the time, that moment of fear is immediately over-shadowed by acceptance and friendliness.  And other times, no matter how much we might wish it otherwise, that fear is confirmed by the instant rejection, dismissal, and judgment of someone who hardly knows us.

To any one out there coming out, I wish you the best of luck.  It is always hardest the first time, and it never becomes truly easy.  However, the amount of love and acceptance you may find upon leaving your dark closet may surprise you, and I hope that it is so.

And so, for now, I bid you all farewell.  See you next time!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lack of updates, sorry

For the three subscribers to this blog, I apologize for the prolonged absence of updates.  I guess I'm not very good at keeping up on this blog thing.  However, a few updates, in case anyone is seriously missing me.  (Or whatever.)

First and foremost, my best friend, Zane, has started a blog chronicling his life as a trans-man and his transition process.  I've been helping him to get the blog set up, as well as a couple of other internet things that he'll be using to chronicle his journey as time goes on.  His url is TranZcendingTradition.blogspot.com, and I encourage anyone who is interested in learning about transgendered individuals and the hoops they have to jump through to check out his blog.  It's going to be quite the adventure, and the whole internet should feel privileged to be able to share in it with him.  So go and read it, and show him your support!

Next on the list is my continued complaint that our higher education system is broken.  I am 22 years old, and my parents don't pay for me to go to college.  The policy our nation takes on education is that, "The federal government and the schools consider it primarily the family's responsibility to pay for school. They provide financial assistance only when the family is unable to pay."  This would be understandable, even forgivable, if this situation worked for everybody.  However, it seems that for a great many of us who want to go to school and whose parents don't want to help us, this policy leaves us hanging.


The thing that really bothers me is how we classify dependency.  I live on my own.  I barely speak to my father, and my mother lives in Mississippi.  I am dependent on nobody.  And my parents, my father especially, prefer it this way.  My dad would no more pay for me to go to college than he would willingly quit drinking.  And yet, though I am 22, a fully grown fucking adult, the federal government expects my family to put me through school.  I am responsible for myself-- can't I also be responsible for my own education?  


Before 1998, dependency was based on whether or not children were claimed on their parents taxes.  So long as you were claimed on taxes, then your parents were responsible for your education.  Now, we have so many more people going to four year colleges that the government has changed this.  Now, you have to be 24, or married, or have children, or be in the armed forces before you can be considered on your own.  And this has freed the federal government from paying for a lot of schooling, I am sure.  But we're entering an age when a high school education gets you as far as being a high school drop-out would have gotten your parents.  Not having at least an associates degree places you almost instantly behind the counter at McDonald's, or checking groceries at the local Safeway.  A bachelors degree is even a common thing now, and gets you hardly any recognition.  Hell, even having your Master's isn't a guarantee of a good career.  And yet, for people like me whose parents can't or won't help, we are left helpless because the Federal government doesn't want to acknowledge that we are on our own?


Bullshit.


This year, my issue is my father's irresponsibility with money.  He bought a 52" flat screen last month, and now he's putting off filing his taxes until April because he realized he'd have to actually pay this year, rather than receiving a refund.  I've had my taxes done since early February, hoping that I would get FAFSA done as well and receive a better financial aid package this year for having everything done early.  However, because my father doesn't understand the concept of being responsible with one's money, I've been fucked out of this, and will probably now be offered only loans.  Thanks Dad.


My Mom, who lives out of state, has agreed to give me her tax information this year so I can complete FAFSA this week.  I don't know if this is strictly allowed, as the government wants you to use the information of the last parent you lived with.  However, I contacted my school, and they could apparently care less which parent is providing information, so long as somebody does.  So I am getting things figured out.


The thing is, though, even though I am getting things figured out, why should I have to put up with all of this stress just because my father is an idiot?  I am on my own.  I am independent in every way except in this.  Why should I have to depend on him for this?


I dunno.  I'm going to go and write a letter to my Senator, or something.  It's time the system was changed for the better.  If kids want to go to college, they shouldn't have to depend on their parents to get them there.


Anyway, that's all the big news right now.  See you when I see you, I guess.