One of the most poignant moments in the sweetly earnest, Canadian web series, “Out With Dad,” is when Rose, the newly-out, introverted, 15-year old lesbian, realizes that she is going to have to come out over and over. Every day. For the rest of her life.
I’m 53 years old and have been out for about 25 years. And every day, I come out again. And again. A lot of the time, I don’t notice, or it’s just a little hiccup in my day, but this past week there were two outings that have stayed with me.
Friday, I went to the nail salon I frequent, in a pretty conservative nearby suburb. I was feeling extremely nervous about that evening’s launch party for the grassroots organization I’m part of (Mystic LGBTQ+ Youth Support Network, queermystic.org), and needed something to do other than keep tinkering with my speech. Rainbow nails were in order! I burst into the salon on a femme mission, needing girl power friendliness, just like Elle in “Legally Blonde”. When I told the entire room that I needed the gayest nails possible, two employees immediately sprang to my aid, figuring out the best way to ROY G. BIV the hell out of my mani. I queered that salon to the max – everybody there became part of my gay mission. And my technician, who did an amazing job, found herself telling me about her cousin, a painfully shy butch, an amazing artist, who’s not out, but everyone knows. Because I went in there all gay and loud and proud, a straight family member was able to share a little pain and worry and love she has for her queer cousin with someone who understands.
On Tuesday, I dashed into a local convenience store to stock up on snacks before the homeschool QSA meeting. The cashier, who I think may be from Pakistan, asked me something I couldn’t understand, so I asked him to repeat it. “What is butch?” he said, pointing to the “Life’s a butch” button that I’ve been wearing on my jacket ever since I got home from a Provincetown retreat. I was glad as hell to be wearing it recently when I chatted with a butch gardener in my neighborhood, but now I wasn’t sure how to respond. I forged ahead, gamely explaining about masculine lesbians and feminine lesbians like myself and by the time I’d said “lesbians” a couple of times, the poor guy was looking rather horrified at himself, as if he’d made a terrible faux pas. “I don’t speak English very well!” he apologized, “When I don’t know, I ask! I’m so sorry!” I assured him that it was ok, absolutely ok, and even tried to give him a Queer Mystic card, but he politely declined. He was awfully sweet – “God bless you!” “And you!” — and I did my best, but I think there was quite a large cultural gap remaining when I walked out the door with my gummi worms and potato chips.
The event Friday night went swimmingly, and I killed my speech. Got compliments on my nails. Continued, with my amazing colleagues, to open more and more queer space for queer youth in these lovely, liberal suburbs. It’s going to take all of us and we surely do need each other.
I wish for my nail technician’s cousin that she finds the support she needs to come out one day. I wish for the convenience store man that his generosity and respect in asking for information be met with the same, and I hope that he’s a little more open to seeing that being gay isn’t something to be ashamed of. And I wish for myself, and for you, dear reader, the strength to be as out as is safe for us to be, because even a little goes such a long way.