Coming Out ~ My Never-ending Story
It began with my sister, Fionna. It was pretty easy coming out to Fi. She actually figured me out way before I was ready to tell. I think I gave myself away when I told her I was watching this fun new show…The L Word.
Then I came out to Mom. Another easy telling. I made it super hard on myself – expecting the worst. But Mom came through with flying colours – all the colours of the rainbow. Our relationship didn’t miss a beat.
Next, Mom told my little brother, who was certain I was just going through a phase. But I knew, no matter what, his love for me would never change.
And then came my kids. Coming out to my children was, by far, the hardest thing I’d ever done. That little voice in my head whispered without mercy. You’re horrible. You’re going to ruin their lives. How can you be so selfish? You’re supposed to protect your kids, not hurt them. But I did it. And I hurt them badly. And then I sent them back out alone to face their friends; the teasing, the whispers, the ridicule. And in the village of Greenleigh, the news that Maisie Duncan, wife of 20 years, mother of 3 and local daycare provider to all, was suddenly gay, swept from one home to another like a grassfire on a windy day.
Dad was next on my list. But I lost my nerve. Afraid of his disappointment and the inevitable disownment, Fionna made that phone call. But I underestimated Dad. He accepted my revelation; no questions asked.
Then I worked up my courage to tell my boss and co-workers. I practiced during my drive to work, people at each stop light peering oddly at the weirdo talking to her steering wheel. My boss took my news reluctantly and urged me to keep it to under wraps only to ‘spare myself the embarrassment and need for explanations’. And so I did. I pretended Jess was my roommate; just my friend. And every day I lied. And every day it got a little harder. Sitting around the lunch table, sharing our weekends, our lives; my fake life. But then my boss hired a lovely new lady. And we got along famously and confiding in her seemed the natural thing to do. And she didn’t look at me differently. And I didn’t feel embarrassed and there was no need for explanations. I was just me. And with that, the weight lessened and I stood a little straighter. And the rest of my co-workers were just as supportive.
Even my sweet little grandmother guessed my secret. “Jess is a very special friend to you, isn’t she?’ she asked with an innocent smile, her snowy hair framing her angel face.
Along the way, I lost a few friends and hurt a few more. My focus was on my family – my children – and in the process, I didn’t have faith most would care for me and Jess no matter what.
And, after a time, I was done. I had come true and clean to my entire family – near and far, to my friends and co-workers. And those I didn’t tell personally, heard through the ‘broken telephone’.
Then the rumours started, as if the mere truth wasn’t entertaining enough. Perhaps having a stern father had turned me off men. Perhaps I’d switched teams because of my failed marriage.
But the actual truth was, I didn’t know why I became ‘gay’ at 40. I just did. And bless those who met me head on with humour and understanding.
One of the more memorable responses to my coming out, was when I met up with an old friend at Greenleigh’s annual softball tournament. I sat in the bleachers, watching my son play ball. I sat apart, still afraid to mingle with members of my community who had last seen me as ‘straight’. The sun stood high in the cloudless sky. I shielded my eyes against the glare and immersed myself in the familiar cheers and laughter, the ring of the ball connecting with the aluminum bat as I breathed in the tang of barbecued wieners and sun-warmed beer. I heard Loni’s gravelly voice before I saw her wide smile. “Hey Maise, ya big fag! How’s it going?” she grinned up at me, squinting against the sun. Horrified, yet amused beyond understanding, I choked back my giggles and hollered, ‘I’m great Loni! Thanks for asking!”
Another dear friend from college, one of my biggest supporters, told me I’d picked the perfect time to come ‘out of the closet’. Ellen DeGeneres had made gay ‘cool’. And now everyone would want to be gay. Bless her heart. She made me laugh.
And, so it went. Some accepted my coming out and praised my courage. Some asked a ton of questions; questions I welcomed. The more questions I answered, the less fodder for rumour.
Once Jess and I exchanged vows and publicly committed our lives to one another, I mistakenly thought it was a done deal. My coming out was complete.
But the reality is, I have to ‘out’ myself regularly; to co-workers at a new job, to new teammates, to parents of my children’s friends. And each of these encounters has taught me to choose the long explanation or the 5-second version. And I have learned to accept the narrowed eyes, the blank stares, the second looks. But I’ve also been met with respect and shared stories of strength and humility. And though I never thought I’d have a wife, I do. And I love my wife completely and I am proud to be her wife. And so, I’ve learned to say the word ‘wife’ instead of partner. Because no one misunderstands the word ‘wife’.
My coming out story has taught me to take a closer look at my own prejudices. And to value the times I have been met with love and admiration when I expected nothing.
Staying hidden is the safe way out. The fear of rejection makes my stomach flutter every time I ‘out’ myself, but living my true life is what I need to do, for myself and for my family. And hopefully, sharing my story, will give others courage to do the same.