The Beginning, Five Ways
As queer people, we come out over and over again. But in the beginning, we’re still learning how to tell our stories, who to tell, and what it all means.
- It’s been 20 years since I came out for the first time. I was 19, a college student in rural Idaho, and terrified.
- Out first apartment together was nestled in a grove of trees situated between the I-84 freeway and a busy boulevard. The complex was freshly painted a sad shade of beige, its landscaping scraggly and haphazard. Cars rushed by, their individual sounds combining to create a steady whirring of engines. Everything I owned fit into my Dodge Neon. We didn’t care much about the noise or the beige or the misplaced bushes. After all it was summer, we were in love, and the Oxford Hall II apartments had a swimming pool.
- My 13 year-old sister was the first person I told. “She’s not just my roommate you know…” Or maybe it was our mutual friend Bert, who was flippant and dismissive in response to my admission. “Of course you are.” Next subject, please. He would later come out himself, but at the time preferred to tell us about all the sex he and his girlfriend had in high school. My mom thinks she was the first person I came out to, which is sweet in a way, but also infuriating. She never seemed to do much with the Big Things I told her, and in fact didn’t speak to me for two weeks after I shared my secret.
- Our first kiss was on April 19th, 1998. I remember the exact date and place, maybe even the exact time: we had been pretending to watch Xena: Warrior Princess in one of our dorm’s student lounges. “The Stubby,” as it was called, was a short appendage off the main body of the dormitory building. This wing was home to three dorm rooms and a shabby TV lounge. The rooms lined one side of the space, their doors opening into the lounge. Nestled on the nubby and worn plaid couch, knees and hands touching, we could have been discovered at any moment. You may think that anticipation would have been an added thrill to the moment, but it was in fact dangerous.
- My stepfather liked to tell the story about working in the theatre in San Francisco just after college. He loved telling us all about the productions he worked on, the loose cannon of a director he worked for, the flamboyant fags who populated the streets of his neighborhood in the Haight. All he ate were steamed artichokes in his studio apartment, or big plates of garlicky pasta at The Stinking Rose. For a farm boy from Idaho, this time in his life was a jewel in his crown of life experiences, and he brought it back to his hometown glimmering with pride. Later, after I had told my mom about my girlfriend, he would go around town saying things like “Did you know my daughter likes to kiss girls?” to my old classmates. This didn’t surprise me, but it wounded me. Years later he showed up late to our wedding, drunk. Now he tells me he’s proud of me, my wife and the life we’ve built. We don’t speak much.