It's National Coming Out Day in the US (Turkey Day for us Canucks), and I thought I'd post something more relevant than "Happy Thankgiving!"
For me, coming out as a bisexual was kind of easy. My parents have always been supportive and accepting (even of the stupid things I do), my sisters, kids and extended family are pretty liberal-minded, and frankly, half the strangers I encounter would probably suspect I dig women, anyway (the short hair and comfortable shoes give me away, lol). There was no drama in me going from closeted admirer of girls to open admirer of girls, no cutting me from any wills, no shunning or freak-outs (at least not where I could see them), and if there was any Othering or bigotry going on in regard to my being attracted to both men and women, well, most if it hasn't been directed at me so much as the concept of bisexuality, and what I've encountered has come from within the GLBT community at least as frequently as from the wider population.
Coming out was easy-peasy, all things considered. Gotta love Canada and our progressive ways of thinking.
But I've recently had kind of a light-bulb moment in regard to my gender identity. I've always considered myself a bit queer in that regard. Kind of an amalgam of male and female squashed together in my psyche and heart and not exactly getting along most of the time. My sexual feelings for men have always been very yin, and my sexual feelings for women have always been rather yang, so to speak. And like Lianon, the protagonist of some of my books, I've always felt like the trappings of femininity--jewellery, dresses, floral prints, long hair, lipstick, high heels, pretty much anything girly--are not just a costume when I wear them, but a misrepresentation and an undermining of who I am.
So there I was at [insert franchise name here], picking up an application, and I'm looking at the servers--all of them in tight, short, low-cut dresses, heels, and tarted up to look like "Escort Barbie"--and I'm thinking, "I can't work here! Shit, even if I could trick myself out to look like a 20 y/o hooker (and I probably could), I'd feel ridiculous. Beyond ridiculous. I'd feel like I was wearing a sandwich board that said, 'I'm pretending to be something I'm not!'"
More than that, I'd feel weak. And oddly sexless, if you'll believe. I love being a woman--wouldn't trade it for anything--but my femininity is best expressed through a masculine screen. I show off my female curves, but wear clothes that emphasize my female body from within a masculine context. My hair is short, but pixyish--if it looked butch on me I'd find another style. I wear make-up that emphasizes the femininity of my face, but in an understated way.
I feel my strongest and sexiest and most sensual and most confident in that uniform. And yet, I've always been left with the feeling, insidious and disheartening, that this being, this...ME, is somehow not a proper woman.
It comes from a lot of different places. From my (soon to be ex) husband, who told me that my short hair made me look like a man (it doesn't, but long hair is a strong enough icon of femininity that it mattered to him). From men on dating sites who ask if there are any pictures of me with long hair, or wearing a dress. From men who tell me I'm hot, but man, if I only put on a tight skirt and heels, I'd stop traffic. From lovers who've purchased lacy lingerie for me and then complained when I didn't wear it. From men in bars who look at me with open admiration and desire, then hit on the less attractive girl in the lacy purple camisole with the teased hair and ballet flats. Even from well-meaning friends on shopping trips who pick out floral-print, empire-wasted tops for me to try on.
The implication has always been that what I am at my core--and what I love most about myself--is somehow defective. It's like a black person constantly confronted with people who say, "If you can present as a little more...ah...white, you're hired," or, "I love you, and because I love you I'm willing to accept that you're not a blue-eyed blonde--you don't mind if I imagine I'm fucking Jennifer Aniston when we do it, do you?" or, "you'd look a lot more attractive if you de-emphasized your African features."
In the past, I've sought out very masculine men for relationships, because they make me feel feminine in comparison. I've resisted relationships with women because of my fear that my masculinity will take over somehow, and I'd lose sight of my femaleness altogether. And I didn't even really realize I was doing it.
Until I walked into IFNH and saw those botox girls in their stilettoes and little black dresses, and thought of the one man who didn't make me feel like I was not a "real woman". It was a brief relationship, but one that helped me learn all kinds of things about who I am and what I want. And what I want is for a man to tell me, with his words, with his actions, with his eyes: "You turn me on." Full stop. None of this, "You turn me on, but you'd turn me on even more if you put on this frilly bit of something and some thigh-highs. I know it makes you feel silly and inadequate, but it would make you more attractive to me."
That man told me things like, "I love your hair, OMG, short hair on a woman just does something to me." "Those paint-stained jeans are the sexiest thing I've ever seen you in." "You're so hot, you're like a stalking cat, lean and strong and so fucking sexy." He even called me "hyper-feminine" once. Who knew! He never once asked me to wear a skirt, or if I owned anything lacy. Never once implied, through word or look or action, that he might be more attracted to me if I presented myself in a more feminine way. He wouldn't have changed a single thing about how I express who I am at my core.
And for that, I'd like to thank him here. And I'd like to come out to everyone as ME, unusual, a little queer, somewhat extraordinary, but at my essence, a real woman.