After the session, my girlfriend at the time was waiting outside the building. She was an athlete, so she had on a baggy sweatpants and her hoodie that had our university’s name written in bold letters across her chest. She had finished basketball practice and seemed to have been waiting in front of the youth center for a while. I was exiting the building with a few of the women I was in the circle with when I saw her. The women were still talking when their words turned to a hushed whisper. “Is that a boy or a girl? You just don't know who is what nowadays...” They were shaking their haeds and looking at the person standing by the car, who I realized was my girlfriend. She was leaning with hands buried deep inside the pockets of her baggy sweat pants, chest hidden beneath the large sweatshirt, and hair braided in a neat set of cornrows. When she saw me, she waved. This sent a hush among the women who watched closely to see how I, the nice young woman they just sat with, could have any affiliation to the person—“a young man? A young woman?”—waving. I parted ways with the women without answering their questions, walking slowly toward my girlfriend. She met me halfway and gave me a peck on the lips like any other couple would do when they are glad to see their other half. As our car drove off, I looked behind me to see the women still staring,their faces darkening like the dusk outside.
Incidents like these never prevented me from coming out to others, whether directly or indirectly. I say incidents plural because they happen all the time. Even now when I'm married to my wife and have to let people know that the ring on my finger was given to me by a woman, not a man. I figured that by coming out femme I became instrumental in showing people that anyone can be gay or lesbian; that we do not have “a look” or “a uniform”—something that has been used in the past and even now to stereotype same-gender loving people. For femmes, the preconceived notions have always been that we’re one heterosexual encounter away from “straightening out”. These comments are often made by men and to some extent, whispered among straight women. “Who faulted you?” Women would ask, curious as to why a high femme like them would rather another woman than a man. Meanwhile, their male counterparts bristle with their wishful thinking commonly referred to as the “savior mentality”—a common phenomenon among some men who seem to have the inability to acknowledge that not every woman would want them and thus see every lesbian as a potential conquest to salvage their manhood.
In fact, the veils of darkness that descend on the faces of those who were enlightened by my sexual orientation often lift when I see them again. The second encounters, in my experience, are often filled with muted questions visible in the eyes and body language. Eventually they become audible, starting off with pauses and fillers that eventually lead to the inevitable question, which gets blurted too loudly: “So…are you really…?” The last word often gets stuck, or rather left for me to say, which I never succumb to doing. “What?” I would ask, daring them to finish their sentence. I liken these moments to a game of soccer. The word they fear saying out loud becomes the ball. They dance around it, exerting themselves as they try to kick it inside the goal post. And when they eventually do, it’s a moment of reprieve rather than victory. For my confirmation seems to ease the pressure that was built up inside them; and in that same moment, blight everything they were led to believe about lesbians and what we look like. “Yes, I am a lesbian.” I would look them in the eyes when I say this to make sure that this fact is sealed within their pupils and hopefully tucked away in a part of their brain.
Unfortunately this does not happen. I am often faced with coming out again and again to the same people until they get it; until their awe turn into shock or disbelief, to denial, to anger, to bargaining, to guilt, to depression, to acceptance and hope—hope that I would repent my sins, change, or maybe swing their way—whatever the case may be, people tend to go through these stages of grief. For in truth, they are grieving the loss of their ignorance, their assumptions, all of which were like a comfort blanket to help them cope with the fact that not everyone is like them and not everyone will fall inside the box they designed to put them in with their own labels.
Therefore, I imagine that every time I come out that an angel gets her wings, figuratively and metaphorically speaking. For every confirmation, a bell jingles and a rainbow arches across the sky, letting the person who is too afraid to come out because they may not fit the sterotypes of gays and lesbians fed to them by the media or their immediate environment, know that they are not alone.