Being Out and Staying Out

When I started coming out seven years ago it was terrifying. How would people react? Would I lose friends and family over it? I obviously survived all of those encounters. The awkwardness and fear felt so strong back then- I’m glad that I have put most of that behind me.

I know its cliché, but I just stopped caring. Obviously having the love and support of friends and family was extremely important, but after that I realized that I didn’t need to have an emotional investment in the insurance guy’s or my dentist’s opinion.

Now, I just want people to assume that I’m hella gay. I get annoyed when people think straight until proven gay. Like, I have an undercut, and wear plaid and beanies… do I need to be making out with my girlfriend all of the time for people to get my queerness?

For being out all of the time isn’t telling one that I’m a lesbian. It doesn’t come up in most day-to-day conversation. Being out is about my state of mind. I used to put on my ‘straight’ mask whenever I had to interact with a new person or go to a new place. That shit is exhausting. I realized that I didn’t need to ‘act’ to make my way through social unknowns. I know that in certain places that I’m probably not going to bring up my girlfriend unprompted, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less out. I’m still going to have my undercut, my plaid, and my girlfriend. The gayness is still being projected, even if I’m not hitting people upside the head with it.

Everyone’s journey is different, but it’s absolutely fantastic when you get to an emotional and physical place where you can just be gay all of time.

It’s absolutely freeing.

You’re Not Welcome Here

I’ve been trying to write this post for the better part of the month, but every time I tried I felt like I was being over sensitive and mean. I’m always grateful for the help that our allies have given in the fight for marriage equality and equal rights. But, when straight people start to complain about not being welcome in queer spaces, I wish that they would all go away.

Let me back up a bit. A month ago I was at a party hosted by a former professor and her wife. A lot of former students go, and not coincidentally these students are mostly part of the LGBT community. Naturally all of us migrated toward each other and hung out on the porch.

Afterwards, a straight colleague of mine mentioned that one of the lesbians in the circle joked that her and her new husband weren’t welcome in the group. She was very offended by this, and I really didn’t know how to respond so I kind of shrugged it off and said she was probably kidding. Which she most likely was, but my colleague was having none of my reasoning.

I just didn’t feel bad for her at all. She was jokingly ‘kicked out’ of a space full of queers, when the LGBT community is regularly pushed out of homes, jobs, and businesses. Not being welcome in places and getting pushed out of heterosexual spaces is a common event for queer people.

Also, the LGBT community needs queer only spaces. “Straight only” spaces are everywhere. You can see it walking down the street with a couple holding hands, or at a restaurant exchanging kisses. I don’t get to feel comfortable in public showing any signs of affection toward my girlfriend.  I don’t get the privilege of people assuming that my girlfriend and I are a couple. I don’t know when it’s safe to introduce my girlfriend as my girlfriend, but she has the opportunity to introduce people to her husband all of the time.

So, I honestly don’t care if straight people don’t feel welcome in queer spaces. Because they shouldn’t have to, and I don’t want them too. This is where I start feeling like an asshole. I preach inclusion but at the same time want to kick people out. But in reality straight people don’t need to be included in queer specific spaces, they’re included everywhere else. It’s like asking why there isn’t a straight pride parade. There are straight pride parades every day, just look around you. Straight people get to live open without assumptions or fear because of their sexuality.

Like I said, I’m grateful for the true allies that continue to fight for equal rights for the LGBT community. But that doesn’t give you a free pass into queer spaces, and you don’t get to complain when you aren’t welcome.

Queer, Online, and Safe

Online spaces have fascinated me for a long time. Humans using technology to create a virtual space to interact with each other in a way that wouldn’t be possible without the internet.

There are many people who argue that the increased usage of the internet and technology is killing imagination, innovation, and social interaction.

I would like to call bullshit on this notion.

The idea of the internet itself exhibits imagination. We can’t touch, smell, or hold the internet, but yet creativity flourishes through vines, Youtube, and fan-art. We can collaborate with people half-way around the world. Innovation is happening every day, through new apps, fan-fiction, online fund-raising campaigns, and so much more.

I really want to focus on the social interaction aspect of technology and the internet.

I’m extremely tired of people saying that Millenials are depriving themselves of social interaction because we are all attached to our computers and smart phones. What people are ignoring is that some virtual spaces are in fact healthier and richer than any physical space that a person can access.

I went to Catholic school, and obviously conversations about sex and sexual health didn’t exist. There wasn’t a space to explore, learn, and ask questions. And then I found the internet. Obviously there is some terrible and false information that exists online, but it was no more false and terrible than the information I was receiving in ‘the real world’. I was able to search and explore at my own pace. There were sights that gave advice to teenage girls, run by women. It was like Seventeen magazine, only it solely focused on what the community and users wanted to talk about.

When I came out to myself at college, I was in a more supportive and open environment, but I really didn’t know that many LGBT people, especially women who I felt comfortable talking to about my queerness. What it meant to be queer, relationship advice, and sexual and general health. The internet had spaces like Autostraddle and Tumblr where I could once again explore how I could shape my queer identity, learn about myself, and learn about LGBT history that I never had access to before.

I was luckily enough to grow up in a fairly supportive environment, and I still needed those virtual spaces. Think of the 13 year old in the rural south who is figuring out she’s a lesbian and doesn’t know any out LGBT individuals. Would she be better off without the internet, living in the ‘real world’ where she has no access to a support network and community?

People are creating in ways they never could before in all of human history. People are sharing their stories and experiences that never had a voice before. Connections are being made worldwide, which are expanding worldviews and spreading information and ideas.

There are obviously downsides to the internet, but there are downsides to every new innovation. It is important to be critical of new technology and how it is being used. That being said, criticizing a medium should not involve completely ignoring all of the good it creates.

Online spaces are crucial for us to expand and grow. Without them, finding like-minded people and people who challenge us might difficult to impossible to find. And that can be a lonely existence. The connection formed online can be some of the most important ones we make. No one has the right to say that interacting with people in your town is more real that a  heart-felt conversation with a friend who lives hundreds of miles away.

The internet lets us shape and create a world that is not defined by physical boundaries, that lets us explore new ideas and talk with people that we never had access to before.

It’s human, and it’s beautiful.

I’m Thankful for My Non-Profit Community

Since it’s not that long after Thanksgiving, I wanted to focus on something I’m extremely grateful for – community. A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a non-profit panel hosted by my University. As an alumna, I was extremely honored to speak to former and current students about my experiences forming my organization and what it’s like to run a non-profit. Before I went, however, I wasn’t terribly excited. I had been dealing with some non-related issues and I just wasn’t feeling very passionate about anything in general. I had no desire to go, but when I make a commitment, especially when my organization is involved, I know that I have to suck it up and power through whatever I have to do.

I’m so glad I said yes to this opportunity, and that I went with an open mind. Speaking on of panel of former students, all of whom were women, was inspiring to say the least. We all come from different backgrounds and experiences, but we all have passion for what we’re doing, and know that despite all of the ups and downs, that we wouldn’t want to choose anything else.

It was comforting to hear that so many people struggle and overcome the notion that we need to work ourselves to the bone and without any compensation. I needed to hear how I wasn’t the only one who dealt with guilt over the idea of being compensated for work. That taking care of ourselves is taking care of our organizations and our constituents.

Without this experience I would probably be stuck in my angsty rut, forgetting that taking care of myself is jst as important as the work I’m doing. I’m so thankful that I have access to a supportive community which is passionate and willing to make sacrifices for those passions. I would not be able to do the work that I do without having the chance to voice my success and my frustrations within an open and understanding space.

We need community. I think sometimes I forget that I have this fantastic network, but I’m so grateful that I’m constantly reminded of its existence.