I have never been the girl that thrives being the center of attention.
This feeling of uncertainty followed me throughout my childhood and early adolescence. I kept trying to find myself in different activities. When that didn’t work, I tried to find myself in dating. I managed to pull it off for awhile. Right before I graduated high school I was proposed to. While we got along great, he never really knew me. I hid so much of myself not just from him but from everyone around me.
This quieted side of me stayed hidden throughout college. Anytime self-doubts would bubble up, I would force them deep down into a forgotten place. The coming out process was a beast that took 25 years of feeling wildly uncomfortable with myself and my sexuality before I finally acknowledged its presence.
While I swore off dating and marriage in college, I tried again in my masters program. I failed at it. I assumed that I was broken, different in a bad way.
I think a lot of people in my life guessed before I even allowed myself to question. Finally, it happened, someone asked me why I didn’t consider dating women. I was with two friends on a Friday afternoon. We were drinking cocktails and talking about life. The man that finally broke the spell of suppression was a pastor, he was also gay. He listened to the dates that I had planned that week and noted that I didn’t sound excited about any of them. I wasn’t. I think he kept waiting for me to realize myself, but after our second round he finally said, “Have you ever considered going on a date with a woman?”
I couldn't sleep that night. I played our conversation over and over again thinking back on my life. Yes, I emotionally connected with women far more often than men. Yes, I could picture myself happily cohabitating with my best girl friends? But could I actually be romantically or sexually attracted to women? After a brutally honest self-inventory, I realized that yes, yes I had been, time and time again romantically attracted to my female friend after friend. And while I was unsure about being sexually attracted to women, I had tried to be sexually attracted to men for the majority of my life and no matter how hard I tried it just wasn't there.
Within hours that night I realized I might be bi. By morning I knew that I was actually gay. That night was the first time in my life that I spent time with myself. It was the first time I felt I had ever tried to figure out who I am.
Nothing about me had changed. I simply realized how I experienced and expressed love. I was coming out as same gender loving. My new identity wasn’t a political statement or a theological stance. Rather, I was opening myself up to this profound expression of love.
I held this revelation in for a few days. I let it steep like tea as I continued to ponder. I kept expecting myself to waffle, but if anything it kept becoming more clear and making more sense. I experienced unwavering certainty until I was ready to let others into my story. While I hardly understand anything about myself at that time, I knew that this was my grounding truth. It was the most authentic part of my soul that I had ever held and I wanted to share myself in this new way. I was finally ready to be seen.
I texted my three friends and told them I had something to share with them. I was so damn eager to tell them. I also knew they would ask the least amount of questions and trust that this was something I had figured out even if it was unexpected.
While I expected their acceptance, I didn't anticipate the tears, laughter, and utter joy. One cried from happiness. They said, “You’re eyes lit up as you were telling us this. We’ve never seen you look this comfortable or confident, even happy before.”
Talking with them cemented everything."Love is the most beautiful gift that anyone can offer someone else," one friend said, "You can know finally offer your full self and all of your love. I'm so, so very genuinely happy for you."
After processing my news the final friend said, "We need to celebrate!" And for the first time in my life, I wanted to throw a party.
I grew up in a conservative household. My church reinforced fear and hate of the gay community. I knew that my coming out experience would mean a loss of loved ones. I knew that the first time I came out to people in a public way, I wanted to celebrate. I wanted to hold on to my happy memories, before experiencing the painful ones.
So, within minutes I was planning a party to celebrate love and self-discovery. We named it a "A Pink Lady Party,” and agreed upon a black dress code. We wanted champagne, dancing, and lots of pink and glittery things. And it was going to happen within the next 24 hours.
The next morning I sent a FB invite to the people in my life that were affirming of all expressions of love regardless of its form. I came out to friends that day over Facebook. On the party invite, I simply wrote: "I'm tots gay guys, let's celebrate!” I
Classes moved quickly that day. Everything felt right somehow. I was happy in a way that made me ugly cry over and over again. I wasn’t uncomfortable with people knowing or approaching me with their questions. I was ready to finally be seen. I was the girl that was no longer swearing off marriage or dating. Now, I was the girl that desperately wanted to hold hands with another girl.
Within 24 hours my friend had transformed her house. Confetti balloons, streamers, gluten free delights, and pink champagne were everywhere. It seemed surreal. I had thrown my own coming out party. And my friends and community showed up in swarms and made magic happen.
Once everyone arrived I popped champagne to start the whole affair. “Speech,” someone yelled. And I happily cried out a watery gurgle thing resembling something like, "I'm just insanely happy to be here with you all, celebrating this new part of myself and I’m so excited to give love another try." Once flutes were passed with sparkling champagne, toast were had, gifts and cards were exchanged, dancing ensued.
Everyone showed amazing support and love that night. Those who couldn't attend reached out in astonishing ways. For the first time in my life, I was the center of attention and I felt content.
~ ~ ~ ~~~ ~~~
My love is not my shame. My years closeted were not a deception. My love was just waiting for me to acknowledge it and to invite others in. My love demanded celebration, not condemnation.