6.0 Editor's Pick
May 14, 2019

My Coming Out Story isn’t just One Story.

Whilst writing this sentence, I’m sitting on a private beach watching my nieces build, then immediately destroy, sand castles.

I feel undeservingly refreshed.

I love a good fall trip to my sister’s in-law’s condo in Florida. It’s 88 degrees, a comfortable breeze is making me forget that I haven’t reapplied my sunscreen, and I have a large cooler with several ice-cold Miller Lites in the wings awaiting my cue.

This relaxing procrastination has me reflecting on things.

I’ve had a big year.

It’s hard to explain the sensation of the love line on your palm splitting into two.

Imagine you’ve spent your whole life thinking you’re supposed to be going in one direction, though it feels like you’re hiking with your boots on the wrong feet, and you don’t have a coat, and you didn’t bring snacks.

Then that path is intercepted by the one you were supposed to have been on all along. For some reason, you veer into the other lane. Suddenly, your shoes fit better, you’re warm in a big flannel, you have plenty to eat (which is your favorite pastime anyway), and you know you’re on the right road.

The only thing is, you don’t have a map and the path is not well lit. But knowing it’s your path, you happily keep snagging your feet in roots and getting caught in sticky things. And although sometimes you go backward, you’d gladly take the bumps and bruises and the mud in your eye to know who you are.

And that’s why I’m writing this, I guess. I want to leave a little plaque on my road to say “I wuz here.” I want to celebrate this big year, and to maybe leave a rainbow breadcrumb or two for anyone hiking up behind me.

Plus, I just that I love a good “iversary.” I celebrate my Paniciversary every year. I’ve forced my exactly one gay friend into having a Lezstieiversary. Maybe it’s Catholic thing with all the feast days and memorial masses and obscure holidays where you can’t eat meat. These things stick with you.

Last Saturday was my one-year Gayiversary. That makes me a gaybie, as they say. Whomever “they” is.

The thing about being gay (the first of many, many things) is that it’s not enough just being who you are, being gay is also a time frame. As in, “Well how gay is she? Oh she’s just a gaybie? Oh I’m not touching that with a 30-foot U-Haul.”

Or maybe it’s like military ranks. You start out a little private, then gaybie, working your way up to militant, then to corporal, sergeant, then Indigo Girls fan.

Depending on how many gold stars you have on your flannel, you can go up the officer track: lieutenant, captain of the rugby team, colonel, “The L Word” box set owner, five star general, and finally, “Owns More Than One Cat/Drives a Subaru.”

I didn’t grow up in the gay community, so I sometimes sort of feel like I’m investigating this world like Jane Goodall did with apes. Well, if Jane Goodall found out she was an ape too, then tried to go to an all ape club the next week.

This year, I’ve been asked how I “knew” I was gay. I mean, how did you know you weren’t? The only difference between your story and mine is that it seems to be necessary for the State of the Union for me to have to explain mine.

Also, I’m surprised how I’ve been asked for my coming out story. Not that I have been asked, how I have been asked. Like it’s a demand. Like it’s other people’s right to know. Like it’s one story and it was over. And I honestly never know what to say.

Which coming out story would you like?

The one when I looked at someone I loved and felt something other than friendship and it freaked me out?

The one when I told my best friend that I was thinking about going on a date with a girl and she burst into tears?

The one where I told my parents as anticlimactically as possible to reassure them that I’m fine?

The one where I kissed a girl for the first time exactly one year ago and my world changed?

The one where my grandmother still hasn’t said a word to me about it?

The one where I subjected myself to heartache for months and months just because it felt immeasurably more like home than living in a skin in which I didn’t belong?

The one where I fell in love, and the one where I was fallen in love with, but not necessarily at the same time?

The one where I still have no idea what I’m doing even though they tell you that coming out is supposed to make things easier?

As if saying two words would be the balm that would heal a lifetime of little cuts. It’s like expecting bliss once we lose that weight, or get that job, or get famous, or get that girl.

Making values into obsessions and expecting them to build you a heart that was never broken has been the most dangerous expectation I’ve ever set for myself.

What I’ve learned after saying those two little words may be the only thing I know for sure: a bruised ego is not a broken heart. And with that, I’ve also learned that it’s impossible to soothe yourself with the very thing that has burned you.

My addiction to being loved and affirmed needed detox, from which came the withdrawal symptoms that looked like a little too much like obsession. Love is natural, but the clawing and clinging and desperation that comes with putting your okayness on someone else is anything but.

I’ve moaned about being sick of a process; how exhausted I am from growth. All I freaking do these days is grow (seemingly in every direction), and I feel it’s time now to really heal those stretch marks. To wear them as a badge of honor whilst still allowing them to rest.

In order to find the glitter paint to put my stripes on my little lesbian uniform, I’ve needed to find that although I have a very clear identity and persona, I have no sense of myself.

This year, I learned what it felt like to live with that chronic bruised ego. One that has taken exactly one year to stop poking at. Like a lot of bruises, it looks worse than it is. Now that my bruised ego has turned that yellow jaundicey tinge that tells you that the healing process is working, I’m seeing that the feeling that I misconstrued as love was more likely anxiety stretched to its limit, desperately trying to hold the fragments of my mind together as I switched trails, and let my love lines split.

What love feels like now is less like a list of things in common, and more like the trajectory of two souls moving in the same current. It’s not reaching certain benchmarks, it’s being in the same flow, and knowing someone is there for the ride with you.

Love—real love—seems to look a lot quieter. Less sweaty. Warm, with the occasional hot pocket of lust. There’s no clawing, and no begging, and far less questioning of the self.

And, oddly, that has nothing to do with the label of “gay.”

The gay part of my story only matters because it’s one of the many strands crocheted into the thing that is me.

And that is breaking news. Of all of the identities I’ve tried to mold my “self” into, being gay has been the hardest to pull off. I’ve been trying too hard.

As I apply a solid inch of aloe all over my pink undersides, I’m going to ease into 2019. I’ve done enough work for The Community, I think. It’s time to focus on the point of all of this year’s work, and let the waves take me where they may.

~

author: Erica Leatham

Image: Author's own

Image: Genessa Panainte/Unsplash

Editor: Naomi Boshari

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Kristy Reesor May 15, 2019 8:29am

Beautifully written!! Thank you for sharing. ?

awr817 May 14, 2019 9:01am

Awesome piece!! You are amazing!

loumcgrath May 8, 2019 9:17pm

Great read! ???

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Erica Leathem

Erica Leathem, the self-proclaimed Baby Broad, is passionate about sharing stories. She is a writer, cohost of Not Another Anxiety Show on iTunes, Postpartum Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, and a car seat installation guru. On her path, The Broad came upon her own fork in the road, and has chosen to take the road less taken and discuss her discoveries through anxiety, depression(ish), and the stigma of helping yourself.