What It Feels Like To Be Gay Today

Before Tuesday, November 8th, being a lesbian was just one piece of who I was. At any given moment, if someone stopped me and asked me to define who I was, I might have started by saying that I am a teacher. I might have started by saying that I am a mom. I might have started by saying that I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a writer, a reader or someone who is cranky when I do not get enough sleep.

But the world changed for me on Tuesday, November 8th. Or more accurately, it began to change on Wednesday, November 9th.

In the early hours of Wednesday, I started to feel differently about who I am. I felt like suddenly, I was being defined by just one thing. Suddenly, the fact that I am a lesbian started to feel like it was defining who I was. I had never felt my gayness, my other-ness, so acutely. As I set off into the world on Wednesday, the fact that I was not a part of the majority felt shockingly and glaringly obvious. Maybe not to others, but to me.

To me, I felt like I was a target. To me, I felt like I was unsafe. To me, I felt like I was under attack.

Discovering (or maybe knowing all along, but finally seeing it out in the open) that half of the country is okay electing a man who ran on a platform of hate, is okay with electing a vice president who created one of the most anti-LGBT sets of laws for his state, is okay with wanting change so badly that they do not care about the millions of people who will put at risk when this change is put into affect, discovering all of that has a way of making those of us who are at risk feel unsafe.

For those of you who have not talked to a gay person since Wednesday morning or to those of you who have not, yourself, felt like a victim or a target, or to those of you who know and love people who are gay but have been struggling to understand what it might feel like, let me tell you a little bit of what I have been thinking about and feeling since Wednesday.

On Wednesday, I drove to home after work. I drove to my house. The house we have lived in and loved in for the past six years. The house that is located in a very diverse neighborhood and is surrounded by lovely neighbors who have never been anything other than neighborly. I parked in front of my house before I walked over to pick my daughter up from her school around the corner. As I pulled up to my house, as I parked, I looked carefully for signs of anti-gay graffiti. I had spent much of my ride home worried that I would find some kind of awful words left for us on our home. I had made a plan in my head already about how I was going to remove any hateful messages before my three-year-old daughter had a chance to see them. Every single time I have pulled up to my house since then, I have checked the house for vandalism.

On Wednesday, we heard from friends who were scrambling to find an affordable lawyer in order to complete a second-parent adoption for children that had always belonged to both of the moms in the family but had only been physically born to one of them. Feeling uncertain about how our rights might change, those of us in the LGBT community are feeling the need to take legal protections to ensure that our families are not ripped apart. That our families are protected.

On Thursday, we heard that those who are trans are also scrambling, trying to find the fastest way to complete paperwork that would allow them to change the gender on official documents before this is no longer an option.

On Friday, I began to worry that the way we felt this past spring as we drove across the sate of North Carolina (a feeling that I describe HERE) was soon going to be the way that we felt in our own state and in every state across the country. On Friday afternoon, my wife and I honestly had a discussion about what we would do if we were ever with our daughter and we were refused service because of the fact that we are gay. This is something we are planning for.

This morning, my wife sat at the end of our bed in tears because she was sharing about how scared she is to even walk into the women’s bathroom anymore. My wife, who fits more physical appearance stereotypes of a gay woman, had to tell me that she was afraid to take our daughter into the bathroom by herself in public right now. After reading stories of those who have faced anti-LGBT harassment in the days since the election, this fear felt more real than ever.

And on all of the days since the election, I have been too afraid to share these thoughts and truths with most of the people who love me because I know that their instinct will be to reassure me. To tell me everything is going to be okay. To tell me that our neighborhood is safe, to tell me that we are safe, to tell me that no one can change the status of our family.

But those reassurances, they have a way of making me feel worse.

To reassure me feels like a dismissal of my fears that feel very, very real to me. Because the truth is that the world has changed. Hate has just won. Those who hate feel as if they were just granted permission to allow that hate to spew into the world unchecked. We see it in the rise of hate-fueled attacks. The world feels different to those of us who are an “other” and the difference feels so scary. That fear is real.

So while none of my neighbors might harbor any hatred for me and for my family, I do not know what this new atmosphere of hate is going to bring our way. So when I pull up to my house and I look for signs of graffiti, I am not overreacting. I am reacting to the reality that we are now living in. At least that is how it feels to me. And when people tell me not to worry, it just does not help. I am worried. I have reason to worry. I do not need you to rush me out of my worry because it is uncomfortable for you or because you do not understand it.

Our rights, they are so fragile, they still feel so new. We made so much progress, so quickly, that we all still remember what it feels like to have fewer rights, to legally not be protected in the ways that other people are. We remember that feeling and we remember that fear. We remember that lack of equality. It is all too fresh, too raw, too scary to think about going back to living that way. And yet, here we are.

So to have people reassure me that I have nothing to worry about, that just doesn’t help. Often, these are the same people who tried to reassure me that Donald Trump would never get elected in the first place.

When people send me articles, written by lawyers, that tell me that I do not need to worry about the Supreme Court reversing the marriage equality act, I do not feel reassured. Just weeks ago, I was reading articles that people sent me, written by experts, that told me that I did not need to worry about Trump and Pence actually winning the presidential election. So excuse me if I do not feel comforted by experts. Everything that has happened in the last few days has made me feel as if I can never be too certain of my safety. Of my equality.

So what DO I want? If I am not looking for reassurance, if I am not looking to be told I have nothing to worry about, if I am not looking to be told we are going to be okay, what, then, am I looking for? Here is what brings me comfort:

When those I love reach out to me and ask me how I am doing. That brings me comfort.

When I am too far into my own fear and anxiety to reach back, knowing that people are thinking of me and will continue reaching out, that brings me comfort.

When people ask how I am doing and are willing to sit and listen to the truth of my answer, no matter how much discomfort it might bring, that brings me comfort.

When people hear my fears and acknowledge that there is cause for fear, that brings me comfort.

When people tell me that they know my rights are under attack and they tell me that they are going to be there to help me fight for them, that brings me comfort.

When people tell me that if and when someone comes towards my family with hate, they will be there to stand next to me and stand up with me, that brings me comfort.

When people do more than tell me they will stand with me in the face of hate, but instead look to their own families and their own classrooms and find ways to raise children with less hate in their hearts, that brings me comfort.

Walking into a home or a classroom and seeing books that have LGBT characters and LGBT families, that brings me comfort.

Hearing parents and teachers using the words gay and lesbian and transgender so that those words become more normal than words of hate, that brings me comfort.

Instead of hearing people ask me, “What can we do?” having people tell me, “Here’s what I have done because of what you have shared with me,” that brings me comfort.

And more than anything, being a part of the fight to help protect all of those who are at-risk and fearful right now, that brings me an immense amount of comfort.

Because there are so many people right now who are feeling what I am feeling, or much, much worse. And being able to listen to their stories, to acknowledge their fears, to lean in to the discomfort that their reality brings us all, that is one of the most powerful things that any of us can do.

And right now, I am not quite ready to fight. I will be. But right now, my fear, my anxiety, and my depression are winning out. They won’t win forever. But for now, they are. So I am relying on the rest of you for a little bit. I will be back out there fighting for what is right, but right now I need to be here, curled up in my hole for just a while longer.

I need to feel this grief now because, ultimately, it is what will motivate me to fight like hell to make this world better. I cannot be rushed through this sadness now, because later it is what will propel me to do the hard work within myself, within my classroom and within my own family. I need to feel the full weight of this injustice now because in a few more days it is what is going to spur me into further action.

Because as scared as I feel right now, I know that there are so many young LGBT people living in this country that are feeling all of this and much, much more. And if we do not start soon to make this world better for them and for everyone else who is feeling vulnerable right now, we are going to be in danger of losing so many beautiful and important lives.

And for them. For all of those people out there who are in their own holes of despair, we all have a lot of work to do. So for now, we can wear our safety pins, we can write our words of outrage, but soon we must pull ourselves out of our stupor and start taking actions to dramatically change the way this country thinks. Because that is where the real work will begin.

12 thoughts on “What It Feels Like To Be Gay Today

  1. Your fear is heard and honored. I’m a white heterosexual middle age public school in NJ. I hear you and will fight for you and your family with all my energy and commitment. Your family might feel alone but it is not. Love and support is heading your way and encircling your family. Thank you for sharing how it is to be gay in America right now. White heterosexual America let you down and we’ll work like hell to make it up to you.

  2. I am an English woman, Wife, Mother, Aunt, Grandmother, a sister and a daughter. We are middle class; if class is any sort of measure. Our niece is Lesbian and has been all her life, at eight she said it aloud and one by one we said “And” She is safe supported emotionally we make crude jokes together and laugh, and love, the same way I would with another neice . Privately
    I worry that she’ll settle and find love that true solid fart on your leg love, with no sides or shades love. But in truth I worried the same for my daughter. We see her with the same eyes and heart as we would any kind generous honest person gay straight trans gender and all the shades of sexuality. It sickens me to know that any human being may have to fall back in the shaddows to hide. We hope all your fears are unfounded and your life finds it’s rythm. 😇

  3. Jess…
    I hear you. I will listen to every worry, every fear, and I will not tell you it will be ok. You have every right to feel the way you feel for however long you feel it. On Tuesday night, all I could think about was you and your family as well as all of the other families and kids I know (and millions I don’t) who could become victims of hate and ignorance. I worry still about SCOTUS and how it will affect the lives of millions of Americans in so many different ways.

    You’ll fight back when you are ready. And I’ll fight beside and for you.

  4. Thank you for putting words so clearly to these thoughts and feelings. It lets me exhale a moment to hear these things described by another queer person. May I share your writing with others? I’d love to post it to the Pride Center (Vermont) Facebook page and send it to some educators I know who strive towards social justice and could benefit from hearing your specific points. Are you comfortable with this being shared?

  5. From the other end of the world (Hungary) your post is very brave and helpful to give guidance to others how to show solidarity. So if you can write such clear and thoughtful things from your ‘hole’ in depression what will happen when you are ready to fight?
    I hope it is gonna be ok and you get the support you need from those who are close to you. And thank you for sharing, your blog is always inspirational to me.

  6. Pingback: Post-Election Round-Up of Online Reading | the dirigible plum

  7. My name is J. Wesley Hill, and I hear you and feel your fear and pain. I live in the Seattle Metro area and I have seen hateful signs posted on store fronts. I’ve seen local news articles about violence committed in hate.
    I knew I was gay back when I was in high school. My family and extended family are all zealously christian. I was silent about my feelings throughout my childhood because of fear that I would be seen as “broken” and sent to a special place to be “fixed”.
    A few years ago, I was in the military when “Don’t ask don’t tell” was repealed. I was already out before that, but for the first time I felt safe when that went away. My comrades asked legitimate questions instead of spewing hatred then. Now, it feels like it’s coming back with FADA, and I don’t have the ability to hide anymore. I can’t go back into the closet where it’s safe, but I don’t want to.
    I don’t want to hide! I refuse to hide! I will match and I will fight with you to protect what we’ve already fought for. I will not be silenced! I will not be refused like a second class citizen! And, I will not run away to Canada. I will fight!

  8. I am so inspired by the work you are doing with your students, and would love to share it with teachers who are learning how to be race conscious teachers. If you’re willing to talk about your work at all I’d be so appreciative – I’m at saraepacetta@yahoo.com

  9. Pingback: Heading into 2017 Noticing Action | Crawling Out of the Classroom

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