I’ve always been garbage at coming out. Always. The first person I came out as a bisexual was my boyfriend Brandon, and when it happened, I laid in bed crying because I was afraid he’d break up with me over it. (There are a shocking amount of people who would dump someone on the grounds of being bi or pansexual, not kidding.) Lucky for me, he did no such thing (nor did he break up with me over being demisexual), but I stayed closeted to just about everyone else for a long time.
That was my only real “serious” sit-down-and-come-out story. Everything else has been me going “oh, wow, they’re really cute” to anyone I find aesthetically pleasing walking down the street and people eventually going “…are you gay or something?”, and looking someone dead in the eye and going “you know I’m not straight, right?” when they say something homophobic and/or something that assumes I’m straight, simply because I look female and I’m dating a male.
My coming out to my mom was similar. She said something in the car, I can’t remember what, that assumed I was straight, and I just turned and said “you know I’m not straight, right?” And she was taken aback for a moment before backtracking and saying that was fine. And rather than asking what Brandon thought (which many people did, please don’t ask this), she asked “does Brandon know?” which was a perfectly valid question, so she wouldn’t accidentally out me to him.
And, from that moment on, she was a proud parent of a queer kid. Every time I came out (“hey, I’m not bi, I’m pan, hey, I’m not a girl, I’m agender”) she took it in stride. I was still her kid, and she loved me. She isn’t the kind of mom who has “I love my gay kid” stickers, shirts, bumper stickers, etc., but instead has this quiet, fierce sense of pride and acceptance. And that’s exactly what I needed, and still need.
Quiet and fierce, at least, when I’m not faced with a problem.
Recently, a patient came in to our office and started talking politics with the doctor. They were the only patient in the office, so I guess they didn’t think they had to worry about offending anyone. I’m half tuned in, because the office I work in is very open, and you can hear just about everything that happens in the adjusting room from my desk, and this woman says, “Politicians shouldn’t be supporting abortions or homosexuals. Those people need help, not encouragement.”
Before that moment, I had been lucky enough to never have experienced homophobia in my real-life, day-to-day. It had happened on the internet, sure. And I’d heard about it happening through friends. But this was the first time I was faced with it in the real world, and I was not angry. I was terrified. I felt like a tiny bunny trapped in a cage, knowing there was no way out, heart beating a mile a minute.
My boss didn’t agree or disagree with her. I’m certain this was a tactical move on his part – no need to argue with a paying customer – but it made me sink farther into this absolute terror. This was the kind of woman who would likely kick out her child for being queer, or worse, send them to conversion therapy. If she ever found out I was queer, how would she react? Would she refuse to interact with me, making me unable to do my job? Would she try and get me to lose my job? Would she be verbally abusive to me, would she tell me my “way of life” was awful, that I needed to get help, that I had no place working in a place like this, that I was a pervert, literally anything else of the sort? This is the same woman who would sometimes come up to my desk after she was done getting adjusted and talk to me about God and Jesus for a good ten minutes, not allowing me to get a word in edgewise, so I would just smile and nod and hold my agnostic tongue.
Worse yet, I’m not out at work, not really; there are no anti-discrimination laws in PA for people who aren’t straight, or aren’t on the gender binary. (Though, it seems the county I live in does have an anti-discrimination ordnance in place that I didn’t previously know about. Thanks, Wikipedia!) And, since I was the only other person in the office, I couldn’t bring it up to my boss; if I told them I found it offensive because some of my closest friends are queer (I can count my heterosexual friends on one hand), they’d brush it off as “she’s old, she’s just going to think that way.” The only way to get them to take it seriously would be to probably out myself.
During this whole ordeal, my mom texted me. “Hey, rabbit, how are you?”
And I told her the truth; I was under a lot of stress, I felt sick, and I wanted to go home. I was about to hide in the bathroom and cry because of how uncomfortable and scared I was.
My mother was livid.
“How dare she call herself a Christian. Pope Francis just came to Philly and defended gay people. If she is going against the word of the Pope, she isn’t a Christian. She’s hiding behind the bible for her own agenda.” On and on and on she went, absolutely seething with anger. Looking back, it’s a conversation that makes me feel super warm inside because my mother, the Christian with a queer kid, could have taken everything so much worse. Even if she wasn’t a homophobe, she could have elected to ignore my identity to make things easier for her. But she didn’t. And more than that, her protectiveness of me extended to her protectiveness of my identity.
But at the time, I was just scared. I was grateful for her protection and her talking to me while I holed up in the bathroom, but every one of her plans for me to fix the problem seemed impossible. I couldn’t confront my boss about it without outing myself. I certainly couldn’t confront the woman in question. And the thought of looking for a new job scares the ever-loving shit out of me. So, once she ran out of avenues to help, she just started going off about this woman again (and my boss, for not keeping hate speech out of the office.)
Eventually I pulled myself together and went back to work, stiff as a board for the rest of the day, but any time I thought of the incident, I thought of my mom; my wonderful, quietly, fiercely supportive mom.