My facebook status (since yesterday morning) is: "Elizabeth is a bisexual/queer libertarian vegetarian Christian. In case you didn't know. (Happy National Coming Out Day.)"
When I told Althea last Sunday that this Sunday was National Coming Out Day she looked confused and said, "What, like coming out as a Republican?" and I laughed and said that I prefer a more inclusive version that includes lots of our identities but that it's focused on GLBT identity.
In junior high, if pressed I would have identified as asexual, because I wasn't attracted to ANYONE. I first had a crush on a boy in 9th grade. I felt like, "Oh, this is what people were talking about." In I think 10th grade, I did research on what the Bible says about homosexuality -- I think through either zining or penpalling, people asked me (since I was really obviously Christian), and it had never occurred to me that there would be a conflict (I grew up in a fairly apolitical church) and so I did some research and wrote an essay. Then when I was in like 11th grade, the pastor who'd been at my church since I was like 9 (and whose sermons I usually slept through -- or straight out skipped to help with child care) gave a "homosexuality is a sin" sermon. I was sitting in the back of the church because I was ushering that Sunday, and I was furious. My mom told me he recycled that sermon every few years -- and she hadn't told me because I didn't need more reasons to dislike the pastor ... which I have a lot more sympathy for now that I'm not a 16-year-old. That was the moment UCN stopped being "my" church, though. (I was in good company, since the church had essentially schismed in recent months.) And then when I was in 12th grade I had a crush on a girl and was like, "Oh, okay, I'm queer*/bisexual."
*I had recently read Lauren Martin's "The Mixed-Race Queer Girl Manifesto" (which I read in her zine Quantify #1 and which has apparently vanished from the Internet).
I didn't Come Out initially. (The girl in question had a serious boyfriend, so there was no point in coming out to her.) The summer before I started college, my (lesbian) roommate-to-be told me I should tell my parents before I left for Smith. I think so they wouldn't blame Smith for my being queer. I knew my parents would be totally fine with my sexuality, but it still took like an hour sitting on my bed with my mom for me to blurt it out to her. C'mon, I could barely tell my parents that I'd decided to become a vegetarian a year or two prior. Have I mentioned how much I hate things that resemble confrontation? Blessedly, she offered to tell my dad for me.
I spent four years at a super-queer women's college and didn't get to so much as make out with any women until a fan con a couple summers after I'd graduated. I have always thought that attraction, more than experience, is what's useful in defining sexual orientation. However, I often wished I had a girlfriend because it would make it so much easier to Come Out to people without feeling like I was making an Issue of my sexuality. Admittedly, partly I was just a coward -- like, people at the library would ask me when I was home from college on break, "Do you have a boyfriend?" and I just said, "No," despite wanting to say, "No, and I don't have a girlfriend either." I'm not sure I've gotten any better at Coming Out -- though I've at least once in recent years been mistakenly read as a lesbian (which makes sense given that I'm more likely to comment on how attractive some woman is than some guy). I spend most of my time in liberal circles, so it feels much easier and more comfortable to mention that I'm queer.
Last night, Laci preached about how coming out meant taking her body seriously and taking other people's bodies seriously and how that pushed her toward radical work for justice, and she talked about protesting the Columbus Day Parade in Denver and etc.
I forget how, exactly, but this got me thinking about all the radical zine stuff I read when I was an adolescent and what stuck and what didn't. And that related to Coming Out in some way that has apparently escaped me in the last 24 hours.
Laci also talked about being Queer meant being Different and that she thinks that difference is really valuable -- that queer people are not "just like straight people." Which I know is true for lots of queer people ... but which isn't so true for me. I talk about how I inhabit a liminal space and how I'm often translating parties to each other. But what I think of first when I'm talking about that is the political (and theological) divides of liberal vs. conservative, and I also sometimes mean it in interpersonal situations (esp. when I know information that one party doesn't -- and that I shouldn't let that party know that I know -- and I'm trying to finesse an interaction). I'm an essentialist in some ways and not in others, but one thing that I am personally is an assimilationist. Which I think is okay.
sineala linked to "Greeting Card Emergency Episode 6: Four Coming-Out Cards."
Near the end, GreetingCardBoy [who's straight] thanks his friends who came out to him, saying that it saved his life, because he was raised in a Christian faith that was "cramped, ugly, and territorial ... against a backdrop of fear of doing the wrong thing, loving the wrong person," and that would have killed him. (My instinctive response was to hope that he had found a way to follow Jesus in way filled with love and abundance and welcome, but I digress.) In a dinner conversation last night, Laci said to someone that while straight people have the luxury to decide whether or not to Come Out as Allies, for queer people, Coming Out is a matter of Not Dying. I silently reacted against this some, because for assimilationist queers (especially us bisexuals who can access so much privilege**) Coming Out isn't a necessity. (Though yes it is so important for me to be known and understood.)
** "Why is the possibility of 'passing' so insistently viewed as a great privilege ... and not understood as a terrible degradation and denial?" -Evelyn Torton Beck, Nice Jewish Girls
But the ending of this YouTube clip made me think. About the power of modeling.
My first year at Smith, a housemate was queer and poly and kinky and had no TMI filter. And so kink and poly feels just par for the course to me -- that these are just other ways of being. I first really encountered trans people at Smith, and Toby Davis'
I used to talk a lot about being That Girl, demonstrating by my very existence that Those People (Christians, liberals, conservatives, bisexuals, whatever) weren't as scary as you might have thought them to be, and I continue to believe that that is so important.
Uh, that was way more typing than I had really planned to do re: NCOD. I think I'm done for the night.