Every day I thank my goddess, Oprah, that I live in Los Angeles, a place I often take for granted for being so progressive and accepting of queer culture. Because I live this charmed life, I tend to forget the extent of which homophobia hovers all around us. For me, coming out wasn’t the “big bang” of my gayness. What I've found to be excruciatingly worse are the little coming outs: When I go to the doctor and they ask if I'm sexually active and if I’m using protection, or when I'm buying underwear at Victoria’s Secret and the clerk says, "Your boyfriend will love these." When you're a femme-leaning lesbian, people don't expect you to be gay, and I'm scared I’ll be plagued with this for the rest of my life.
It’s gut-wrenching how LGBTQ go through life: They spend the first part of their lives scared of themselves and being forced to come to terms with a part of them that society says is wrong, a bad choice, a sin. That never goes away, either. Some people never accept themselves, never come out, or live with self-hatred for the rest of their human lives.
When you're a femme-leaning lesbian, people don't expect you to be gay, and I'm scared I’ll be plagued with this for the rest of my life.
The second part of an LGBTQ-person’s journey is living with it every day. Your sexuality is there forever, which means so is the stigma that comes with it. Those who do come out are constantly faced with everyday minutia that straight people take for granted, like holding hands with the person they love at a crosswalk. My ex-girlfriend and I almost never kissed in public. I hated that she didn’t like kissing me on a street corner, but I understood. Whenever we did, we’d have to deal with stares, catcalling, crushing pressure, and judgment.
When I came out to my parents, we were eating Thai food and I was like, “Mom, dad, I started dating girls. Pass the Pad See Ew.” Again, I’m super lucky. It’s a rare case to have such loving, open and accepting parents. So for me, it’s the little things that horrify me: When I signed the lease for my apartment, I realized that my landlord was wearing a giant cross around his neck and military dog tags. His shirt said “ARMY.” His hat said “VETERAN.” I was scared to be honest with him; I was worried he would retract the lease if he found out. Even now that I’ve been running a lesbian agenda campaign office out of his apartment for a year, I still worry…
Then there are acquaintances you haven’t talked to since before you were out, B.O. if you will. B.O-interactions come up all the time. Recently, a friend of mine from college was in town and we went out for dinner. Even though she follows me on social media and knows, we’ve never talked about it. I didn’t know I was gay when I was close with her, and dealing with it and confronting my sexuality was a part of my life that, quite frankly, she wasn’t there for. When she came to my apartment before dinner, there was this awkward elephant in the room that I felt pressure to make a joke about and glaze right over; I’m out now, and when you knew me, I was hammered and making out with disgusting men at bars. I started talking about the girl I was trying to hook up with, then casually dropped, “by the way, I’m gay now.” (Subtly isn’t my forte.) She laughed and said, “Wait, I know, can we talk about this?!”—but I didn’t want to talk about it. I just wanted to catch up with her.
Every time I see an old friend, I don’t want to have to tell my “gay story.” People are so interested in “When did you know? How did your parents take it? Who was the best friend you fell in love with? That’s what happens, right?” Newsflash: the people who ask these questions are a little gay and trying to gauge how hard it is to confront the giant Ellen inside of them.
Every time I see an old friend, I don’t want to have to tell my “gay story.”
Then there’s business. I’m fortunate to work in entertainment, where I can be out and proud and talk about my sexuality openly. But you never know who you’re in a room with: You don’t know how people are going to take it. You don’t know who you can talk openly with. You don’t know who was raised super Catholic or who’s secretly a staunch Republican. Even yesterday, I had a business meeting with someone about a podcast I’m launching about sexist and LGBTQ issues in entertainment. Obviously, someone who is interested in a podcast about LGBTQ content isn’t going to react negatively when I drop the “lesbian” bomb on him. And yet that slight shortness of breath, that buried hesitation still exists when I say, “I’m gay.”
I was scared when someone from high school liked my status about same-sex marriage. It felt like a pity-like, as in, "Good for you for being proud to be in an oppressed minority!” I know that’s the LGBTQ-self-loathing that’s driven deep into my skull, but still. I was scared for some of my family to find out. I wonder if my cousins think I’ve been sitting on this secret and lying to them my whole life. I wasn’t. Coming out was a journey to self-discovery that, for me, didn’t start until I was 21.
Life as an LGBTQ person is a constant trek through a jungle of homophobia. I feel like Tarzan sprinting through the jungle with a machete, whacking down weeds and vines, cutting through Westboro Baptists, and desperately trying to find my Mecca: a watering hole filled with Amazonian lesbians.
I don’t want to have to explain myself to people. I don’t want to have to come out every day. I don’t want to tell my “gay story.” And I don’t want to feel like I have to admit it to complete strangers just to make them more comfortable. But I have to—that’s the world we live in. Every day is The Voice, but instead of being singers, we’re gays, and judgey people are spinning their red chairs to look us in the eye and say, oh my god, you’re totally not what I expected. You get it. It's exhausting.