The other night my girlfriend and I were lying in bed and she said, “You know, sometimes I forget you’re gay. I mean, you just look so straight.”
“Crap,” I thought, “her too.” Then I rolled over so my back was to her and attempted to compose myself, to figure out how to explain, for the millionth time, that I have thought this over enough times to be fairly certain that I’m into women.
When I first realized I was a lesbian and started coming out, I worried about a lot of things. I was afraid some people wouldn’t accept me. I thought a few would be shocked. And I figured many would ask me a lot of awkward questions that I didn’t want to answer. But, instead, something very different happened.
No one believed me.
Almost everyone I’ve come out to – except my grandmother and my friend, Sara – has met the news with an eye roll or a shrug. Not because they don’t care or knew all along, but because they don’t buy it. Why? I was with guys until I was 18. I don’t fit into the lesbian stereotype. I like wearing dresses and makeup. I’ve been known to enjoy shopping. I can admit when guys are attractive. I have long hair and loads of female friends. I’m just being me. I’m not trying to fit in or conform. Unfortunately, because of my past relationships and the way I look physically, I am, in the minds of my friends and family, forever straight.
This bothers me a lot – probably more than it should. Coming out was a huge, long, drawn-out process that required a lot of thought and anguish. To dismiss it is more than hurtful. When I was 14 I realized that looking at women turned me on. It was super scary, as being different usually is. Later, I endured a lot of agonizing sex with men. Sometimes, I felt like I was being raped. I wondered what was wrong with me. When I was a senior in high school I identified as bisexual. That didn’t cut it. In college I started dating girls. I thought about my sexuality more. Eventually, it was all I could think about. It consumed me for months. I wrote about it in my room while I cried. I complained about it to my friends over drinks. I talked about it with my mom and my sister and just about everyone else. To be honest, it was really awful.
But when I finally figured it out, I felt liberated. No more unpleasant sex with men! No more thinking about it constantly! No more questioning and confusion! I was so, so proud of myself for solving the mystery. I wanted to share my new-found self with everybody. I wanted my friends and family to feel the same relief and joy that I felt.
It didn’t happen that way.
I’m much more cautious now. I don’t feel as exuberant as I once did about my sexuality. I sort of shy away from telling people because their disbelief stings. When I come out, I brace myself. Not for looks of disgust, but for the inevitable brush-off. I wait for the sympathetic pat on the hand. The blank stare. The story about the woman who thought she was gay only to find herself married to a man 10 years later. The discussion about my ex-boyfriends with the implication that I just haven’t met the right man yet.
I guess I should be used to it by now, but I’m not. It hurts. That night my girlfriend told me that she sometimes “forgets” that I’m gay because I “look straight,” I was pretty upset. This is a woman I have sex with, the one I talk to on the phone every day. She’s my girlfriend. She knows me pretty well.
Unfortunately, all this doubt from other people is starting to get to me. If my parents and straight friends don’t believe me, well, that sucks. But if even my girlfriend forgets, I can’t help but think that maybe I’ve made a mistake. Now, I often worry that I am, in fact, going through a phase. I’m afraid that all these people are seeing something I don’t. I’m terrified that maybe I devoted years of thought to this and got it wrong anyway. I thought I had the answer but now I’m not so sure.
It makes me angry that people can’t makes sense of me unless I conform. Why can’t they just accept what I tell them? I don’t know why everyone had to start throwing their opinions around. This isn’t something that’s open for discussion. I’m telling you about my identity. Something I’ve thought about a lot. Something that’s really, really important to me. Don’t cast doubt on who I am with your uneducated opinions and condescending comments.
Just … listen.