It Gets Better

Dear Dr. Darcy:

I’m really struggling with my sexual orientation.  I’m 20 years old and I’ve known that I’m not attracted to men and attracted to women since high school.  But I’m really uncomfortable with it.  I mean, REALLY uncomfortable with it.

I come from Connecticut and it’s not even that conservative a town, meaning, no one says the word ‘fag,’ but you don’t see gay people walking around the way you see heterosexual couples walking around.  I don’t want to have to live in a big city.  I don’t want to feel uncomfortable when I’m invited to weddings or black tie events because the person who I’m taking is also going to wear a dress.  I can’t imagine (no offense) calling my spouse ‘wife.’

I guess I just see life as being so much more difficult as a gay person.  I’m not sure I have the energy to battle my ideas of what life should look like.  I’m not even sure what I’m hoping you’ll say.

ANSWER

I don’t have to imagine what you’re struggling with because I’ve been there.  I had the house on the hill, the handsome husband, the approval of the world and all the privilege that comes along with heterosexuality and living the American dream.  When most people come out, they are told by those they love that everyone already suspected or knew... No one suspected that I was gay, so I had the added bonus of watching the shock and disbelief on the faces of my loved ones as they tried to process my inconceivable news.  Though most of my family fancies themselves progressive, they struggled.  The idea of me attending a family function with a woman instead of with a man prompted a family member to disinvite me from my mother’s 75th birthday party.  That was only 5 years ago.

For me, that marked the lowest point in my exit from the closet.  Since then, there have been enormous attempts by my family and friends to embrace me as a gay woman.  Passover dinners suddenly included a feminist version of the Haggadah (Passover text).  Invitations included my girlfriend’s/fiancé’s/wife’s name, and although that was exactly what I had hoped for, I remember feeling very uncomfortable the first time I walked into a function with a woman on my arm. And with each subsequent event, the discomfort ~ my own discomfort, that is, diminished.

When it was time for my wedding there were no absences due to homophobia, and my mother, who is not an over-the-top ‘gusher’ told me it was the best night of her life.  It certainly was for me.  I had intentionally had a 2-year engagement so that I’d have time to adjust to calling my spouse ‘wife’ because similar to you, the term didn’t come naturally to me.

I’m not going to say that I don’t miss the privilege of walking down the streets holding my spouse’s hand without a care in the world.  There will always be a level of awareness regarding safety that I didn’t have when I was with a man.  And yes, I live in a big city because, well, it’s easier as a gay person.  But my life is one of my choosing and design.

I, we, have great friends.  We live in a wonderful community.  Every weekend our home is overflowing with friends and family who love and accept us.  In all honesty, we don’t experience homophobia today.

My life looks very different from what I imagined it would look like when I was 20 years old. The thing is, you wind up making these choices regardless of your sexual orientation because we can’t have everything in life.  The way I see it, there is no easy road through life.  But there is an authentic one, and I believe that living an authentic life is the most important decision that a person can make.

You’re scared, and it makes sense.  There aren’t a billion role models for us the way there are for heterosexuals.  But there are millions of people who have made the decision to live an authentic life.  You can watch their stories on an amazing website called ItGetsBetter.org

I hope my own story can provide you with a little hope and I’m happy to speak with you privately if you’d like to continue this conversation.  You know how to find me.