Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Psalms 51:5 (NIV)
I spent actual time in front of an actual mirror practicing the following:
NEW FRIEND: I have this awesome girl I want to set you up with.
ME: As long as she’s cool with the fact that I also date guys.
NEW FRIEND: I was wondering… Are you gay or straight or -?
ME: I don’t like labels.
NEW FRIEND: What are you gay or something?
ME: No. [clears throat] I AM A BISEXUAL.
I had just moved to Georgia, fresh off my separation from Nicole, with the knowledge that I am queer – down to the literal definition of that word. I was different – uncomfortable with the label of gay as I knew I had a true love for Nicole. But a traditional heterosexual relationship – the dates, the courting, the normalcy – was out of the question.
So I needed to start this new journey off with the right language for identifying myself. Closet cases tend to dig themselves into a hole of ambiguity with gender neutral language (“I dated this person”), casually homophobic jokes (“And I was like, dude, why are you hugging me so long?”) and the occasional comment to throw suspicious listeners off kilter (“Oh my God, Rachel McAdams is my dream girl. #wcw). Then, coming out requires so much energy that it slowly becomes insurmountable.
I was doing it right this time. I was starting off this new state with no confusion. When someone asked, I would tell him or her. Simple. My honesty would be staggering, my confidence blinding.
A week into my residence in Georgia, I found myself at a theater party mingling with strangers that I hoped would become my new best friends. I had scored a job as a stage manager for a community theater on my second day in town and had not yet broached the subject of my sexuality with anyone. I figured, “Let it come up naturally, and then deal with it appropriately,” just like in one of my previously practiced scenarios. I holed myself in the kitchen as everyone moved about, sitting in the corner – noticeable, but comfortable. A bottle of cheap family-sized wine sat out on the table, so I poured myself a glass. As soon as I replugged the cork, a boisterous young woman snapped to attention in front of me.
“Are you drinking my wine?” She demanded.
I looked down into my cup.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize it was yours. I thought it was for every-“
She interrupted me.
“Are you gay or what?”
I blinked a couple times, took a deep breath, and:
“Umm… Sort of.”
Damn it! You practiced!
“Ugh,” she said and then walked away. And by the way, I did not mean to imply onomatopoeia with the word “ugh.” She did not sigh aggressively. She verbally said, “ugh” and then walked away.
A week into my new life, and already, this whole “pure honesty” thing was proving to be more elusive than I thought. Why was this so difficult?
And why, in that moment, was I so sure that this would keep happening?