So I’ve been casually dating this girl who isn’t entirely out to friends, family, and colleagues (understandably so). Recently, we were supposed to go on this date to a cool event that was like three or four hours long. I was really looking forward to it, but was tentative as I have been the whole time I’ve been seeing her. It really is not a good feeling to be somebody’s secret, something they’re ashamed of. As much as you try to understand and support them, it’s still pretty erasing and painful for you, too. Anyway, so right before going to this event she texted me that her friends were going too so she told them she was bringing a work colleague from her tech company. I immediately felt anger overwhelm me and heard this resounding “NO” inside me. “How dare you?” I said out loud to myself. I did not want someone to make a liar out of me. At first I thought I couldn’t imagine sitting there, for four hours, having to lie about literally everything about me — my job, my identity, who I was to her, my interests, what I studied, my friends, my family. I might as well have taken on an alias at that point. But the sad thing is, I could imagine it. Because I’ve done it before, made up imaginary straight lives I didn’t really exist in to make other people comfortable since I was a child. Which, let me pause and say that I am willing to do that whole-heartedly in a situation in which I’m in love with someone, committed to them, and, most importantly, have agency around when and how I decide to do that. But in this case, I had no agency, no choice.
I thought back to one of our dates, how she kissed me confidently and quietly on the sidewalk. We sat down on a bench outside some restaurant, the quiet clamor of dishes and laughter in the background of that moment. I tried, desperately, to enjoy it. But I just didn’t. I didn’t because I was completely in my head the whole time, wondering if the people walking by were disgusted by seeing two women kiss, if the group at the restaurant set their beers down, disturbed. I was so surprised at myself about this, because I’m not one to be embarrassed about PDA. And again, later, as I settled into my Uber after she kissed me goodbye on the corner, my mind immediately shifted to the driver and his thoughts on that exchange, wondering if I was safe. Each passing second, a knot growing in my chest, my breath quickening, my awareness heightening, like my heart was training for the Boston Marathon and just now realized it was a fucking horrible idea.
And it’s this feeling in my chest, like I was running, that returned to me when I got that text.
Shame is a dangerous emotion — it only duplicates and duplicates until there is no space left for you to exist in with your shame there with you. And being around someone else’s can be toxic. I realized, then, how quickly I let shame in, and then I’d begun to feel ashamed about my shame. Homophobia is one slick motherfucker, and it struck me how easily it snuck itself into my very body, as such a proud person. Made me feel like I had to run away from myself, split in half, choose which parts to bring with me and which to leave behind. I don’t want to leave any of myself behind.
I have never identified with the coming out narrative. But I do identify with the feeling of people trying to force me into a closet I’ve never been in, building a cage around me, covering me up until I’m invisible. I’ve been thinking back, now, on all the times I’ve lied about my identity and my family — in the backs of soccer moms’ vans, in classrooms, on barstools, at work, first greetings, and car rides.
These days, I try really hard to live an authentic, honest, and proud life, and I never want to put myself in a position where the things that define me are compromised. For anyone. I try to transcend every facade I gravitate towards. I’m scared that the things I run away from will consume me.
How many times can I tell a lie before I become it?
If I shout out who I am does it make me more real? Safer? Stronger?
I’m not sure. But I refuse to live again in the moment my mouth closes and my eyes look away. I want to exist forever in the feeling of looking someone in the eye, as nothing but my whole self.
And I hope I can get there; I hope I can bring people along with me into that. It was easy for me to break things off with her for good, but harder for me to have said no to someone, even once. I hope, maybe, that that’s how it starts. Simply, by saying no.