Just For The Music ~ a belated coming out story

I never was a full out girly-girl. I preferred my teddy bear to my sister’s baby dolls. I did like my Barbie’s, though. I recall having a crush on my blond-haired crossing guard from the sixth grade, when I was in first grade. I told everyone I would marry her. I remember making a game out of trying to hug & kiss her every chance I got. But doesn’t every kid do that kind of stuff?

I grew up pretty gender stereotyped, though. Wearing dresses, even pink ones, as long as they didn’t itch. I do, however, remember wanting more than anything to be a Tomboy. I dug for worms, made the neighbour boys eat them, and I built outdoor forts in the trees and snow and raced my bike fast! And yet I played Barbie’s, did my own hair in the morning before school and always wanted to look nice for school.

Boys were mysterious to me. I considered them aliens and believed they dropped from outer space because they were so different, gross and stupid. By sixth grade, boys still weren’t as smart as me, but they made my tummy feel funny when I thought about them.

I was 14 when I first heard the term “lesbian.” My best friend & I at the time would jokingly pat each other’s arms and say, Lezz-be-friends. I had to ask her what that meant. I had heard of gay men before, but didn’t know women could be gay too. I couldn’t imagine how women would have sex.

I was taught in my Christian school that sex was for procreation and that a penis went with a vagina, not a penis and penis or a vagina and a vagina. It made sense to me at the time and was something I never really questioned further.

I felt ugly and nerdy when I was 14 & 15, but at age 16 my glasses and braces came off, and overnight I turned from an ugly duckling into an elegant swan. Boys wanted me and I wanted them. I had a few boyfriends, got pregnant at 17, kept my baby & lived with my parents, then married a different man 3 years later and then had my second child with him.

We created a pretty fun & amazing family life for 23 years. That whole time, I was firm in my beliefs that homosexuality was a sin and simply unnatural.” Hate the sin but love the sinner, was a motto I adopted without thinking so much about it. I truly enjoyed my husband’s body & having sex with him. Being with a woman was the furthest thought from my mind.

Until, the last year of my marriage, everything changed. My husband changed. He wanted to have an open relationship and I didn’t. I felt threatened by that. Looking back now, I see that his interest in exploring different possibilities opened a door for me to do the same.

At that time, I was a dance instructor, and one day I noticed one of my female students in particular. Sabine & I got talking after class and I invited her to an event at my cottage. She asked if she could bring her partner, and I asked, “You mean your business partner?” And she said, “No I’m gay.” I stuttered and said, “Well, bring her too!” Silently ashamed that I was so naive that I thought partners were only in business & how dumb was I that I didn’t even consider she could have been gay? (blush)

The next weekend Sabine and “her partner” came to our cottage with a few of our friends for a barbecue. By the end of the evening, around the fire, Sabine and I were animatedly talking with each other when everyone else was mellow. Later on I learned that my husband and her partner, saw the spark between us already then. I was however, clueless.

Somewhere in the timeline of events that summer and fall, I went to my first classic lesbian event with a straight friend of mine. It was at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, a gathering of women all ages at a farmer’s field. Tara and I drove about 8 hours in my car to attend this reportedly amazing event that she had always wanted to attend. I was simply feeling adventurous and was going just for the music.

We pulled into the festival late, found our campsite on a winding path named Vagina Way and set up our tent. I saw all kinds of women. Some with beards and full side-burns. Naked women of all shapes and sizes. Handicapped women. Athletic women. Women with long brown nipples with ribbons decorating them, strutting in a parade. Thousands of women. It was a glorious array of diversity! Jaw dropping for this Christian gal. I was truly a Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival Virgin in every way.

Tara and I went about doing our own thing most of the time and then met up with each other in the evening for concerts. On the first day, I surprisingly bumped into a gay woman from my hometown. I felt pretty discombobulated upon seeing her. I recall imploring her to know I was there just for the music. I wasn’t gay or anything. She affirmed, “no of course you’re not…. you don’t have to be gay to enjoy this place.”

During the first evening concert, Tara confessed that one of her goals of the weekend was to kiss a woman & see if she liked it. Long silence. I said, “If you want to kiss me, I’d be willing.”

Silence. Just not right amongst friends. We didn’t share physical chemistry in that department. And in my mind it was evidence that I wasn’t gay. Later we parted and I really hoped she’d find someone. I asked myself if I’d want to kiss a woman and I couldn’t even let myself indulge in the fantasy.

On the second day in the afternoon, I was feeling weird. I went to our campsite, cocooned in the hammock, eager to be away from all those women. While trying to relax in the hammock, I started breathing really hard. I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs.

I started gasping for air in the forest. I couldn’t breathe! NO ONE was around. Freaking out, all I could think of was, “I have to get out of here!” I started running through the camp trying to find Tara & let her know I have to leave NOW!!!! “What’s wrong with me? I can’t even breathe with all this space and nature around?”

I never had a panic attack, but I think this was definitely one. I couldn’t find Tara, so I wrote her a note, (we didn’t have cell phones) packed my stuff, took the car and left. I worried that I was a terrible friend leaving her without a ride, but I was so freaked out, I didn’t care. I knew I had to leave ASAP or die.

I drove back home like a bat out of hell and told my family that I left early because the music wasn’t that great. I was shaken to the core. There was no one I could talk to about this. I didn’t know what happened. I just went on as best I could with my now stranger yet ordinary life.

By the way, my friend, Tara, made her way home just fine. She had a great time. Got her kiss in, but decided she was definitely straight and happy to be home with her husband and kids. I wished it had been so clear for me.

As time went on, I got to know Sabine more and more. She was a life coach looking for someone with dance knowledge to do workshops with. I was looking for someone to co-facilitate movement workshops with. We planned our first workshop together in the space of 2 hours. We had the title, the colors, the brochure designed within that short time frame!

We created together at the speed of light! There was one moment where I muscled up the courage and asked her if there was something “sexual” between us. She smiled enigmatically, and I was left feeling unsettled whenever I was around her. I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on!

It was sometime in early November when my husband planned to go on a “retreat.” I knew he was going away to play sexually with other people. I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t stop him. And I had to find out for myself how I truly felt about Sabine. While my husband would be away, I let him know that I invited Sabine to our cottage. I couldn’t promise him anything except that I was going to try and see what spending time with her would create.

When he came back from his “retreat” I let him know that I was done with our marriage and ready to be with Sabine, however that turned out. And my relationship with my husband of 23 years was over. Knowing we couldn’t go back to our old relationship, we knew that everything we had been for each other was simply done. We were setting each other free to be new versions of ourselves, unfettered by any expectations or need of the other. Grateful for what we had created over the last 23 years. And ready to move on, whatever that meant.

Fast forward 5 months. Sabine & I were walking one Sunday morning in the woods near our rented house we’d been sharing together. I indulged in the pleasure of holding Sabine’s hand as we strolled with no one else around but the occasional bird and us. Suddenly we heard footsteps. Any sound of approaching people in those days would make me drop my hand hold like a hot potato and pretend we were just friends.

I let go, and as we walked further, we bumped into…guess who? The same woman from my hometown I met at the Music Festival a few months ago. She was walking with a group of other women on a Sunday walk known as Hikes for Dykes. My whole body relaxed…I proclaimed my newfound love to a small group of the “already converted,” openly in the woods with the sun shining.

Ahhhhh, I could finally take a full breath in the forest! Tears of knowing and laughter came from all of us at the irony that just a few months ago, I protested a bit too much that I was at the Womyn’s Festival just for the music.