BY HELEN NIMBE Claustrophobia; is the fear of closed, tight spaces. I never thought I…
Was coming out worth it? Simply put, yes. The capacity to define yourself, as well as expressing your interpretation of self, is what validates your existence. Who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t want to exist and feel free to be authentic? I did, and coming out allowed for me to experience the freedom to exist. The freedom that comes with living emphatically and unapologetically is invaluable. I resolved that I would not ask for permission to be free. Waiting for acceptance of my sexual orientation would have meant I needed permission. If I needed permission, public opinion coupled with fear, were my oppressors, and by definition, I was oppressed by the secrecy of my sexual preference. After years of keeping my sexual orientation to myself due to the potential negative reception by others, I got tired of living in fear. I eventually decided I would not allow anyone to cause me discomfort, to shy from my truth, or shrink back from living a full and honest existence. No past, existing, or future ideology would I allow to rob my freedom to exist, as myself, again.
“I was ready to lose everyone. I was ready to start over. I had had enough of living a lie. I desperately wanted to be me, and unapologetically so”
Coming out, when I did, was strategic. Anyone who has “come out” is well aware that coming out isn’t something done impulsively. Even if your family and friends are tolerant, you still approach with caution. Identifying myself, as well as seeing others come out as queer, has shown me that even the strongest bonds can be affected by exposing one’s non-heterosexual orientation. Parents can become withdrawn, some going as far as disowning the same child they vowed to always love. Revealing that I was a lesbian would have put every relationship that I had at risk. Those were some high stakes, if you ask me. Fearful, it took me years to feel ready to reveal my truth. It took me years to come to a conclusion that only took a moment to decide upon. I was ready to lose everyone. I was ready to start over. I had had enough of living a lie. I desperately wanted to be me, and unapologetically so. I no longer wanted to live for the approval of anyone else. Just me.For me.As me. I threw my hands in the air, tired of the façade, and the decision was made.Abandoning the lies,I chose to live my truth. I needed to strip. I had to rid myself of the preoccupation with other’s opinion and what they had to say. I had to ask myself, am I really ok with living my truth out loud? Could I, even with threat of losing everyone? My answer was an emphatic,“Yes,” and I have never regretted that decision.
When I came out, something amazing happened! Everyone did not leave. I had friends who stayed.Some even told me that they suspected me of being a lesbian and were waiting on me to tell them! That felt so good! They knew and loved me anyway.
My biological family didn’t freak out either. They know and they are tolerant. While my orientation is known, it is not spoken about. I think they will acclimate eventually, to the point of conversation being possible, in due time. My adopted families took it well too.We talk from time to time,even discussing my sexuality. When it is the subject of conversation, I assert myself in conversations to let them know that this is something that will not change. I emphasize to them that I’m a lesbian, and if they really accept it as part of my identity, it means there has to be space for it to be discussed.
I have never been the one to be quiet about my sexuality, after I came out, of course. Make no mistake, I am not telling you that being out is “oh, so great.” If it was something that came with ease, I wouldn’t be writing an article about it. What I am saying is, be sure and be ready for anything.
As regards those who didn’t take my news well, one was my adopted father. He was the first father figure I ever knew. I thought him and I had a bond that couldn’t be broken. Me coming out as a lesbian broke that bond. He didn’t speak to me for 3 years. Prior to coming out, we spoke every weekend. He would ask me about school and I’d tell him I was excelling. He would ask me about track and field, and I would relay my successes. He was proud of me and it brought me joy to make him proud. That was me. That was what I did. I made people proud. I was, and still am, someone for which my family could have and express pride. Because I was a lesbian, I strove to excel in everything.I not only excelled, I soared. If I wasn’t the best and the brightest I was among those who were. I hoped that all these things would make me tolerable when I came out. Previously, I mentioned that it took me years to make the decision to ‘come out.’ When ready, the decision was instantaneous. In an instant, I decided I wanted to be me, overtly, the moment I knew who I was, queer. I guess I just needed all the years to put safety nets in place. The reason? Because when I told the people who mattered most, I could cushion the free-fall of responses that would follow.
“I made sure not to tolerate any disrespect”
I showed my adopted father patience. I showed him the same love and respect that I always had. I wanted to illustrate that me being a lesbian didn’t change who he’d always known me to be. While in my head I thought it would have been something easily understood, in reality, it wasn’t. I had to give him space and time to come to terms with it. As a result, I didn’t get mad. Yes, it hurt, but I wasn’t angry. He was socialized in a time when being queer was illegal, taboo and viciously condemned by the church. Considering the religious undertone of Jamaica, condemnation by the church translates to societal disapproval. I understood. While patient and tolerant of his expressed discontent, I made sure not to tolerate any disrespect. I take disrespect from no one. Respect is not negotiable. People might not like me, but you will respect me. If you forget to do so, I’ll kindly remind you and demand it. Every single time!
My sexual orientation is, quite frankly, a small part of my personal identity and the least interesting thing about me. I curate events, am athletic, draw, paint and am a boss bitch. It is others, who for some strange reason, only see my sexuality. If that’s the worst thing you can find about me to discuss, that speaks volumes about you, not me. In the spirit of self-acceptance, I encourage you to follow the admonition of one of my dear friends. “Live to satisfy yourself, first, and the rest of the world will learn to deal with it.”
Christina Mitchell is an Exercise Physiologist in the U.S.
Follow her on Instagram and Youtube: @diannamitchy