Coming out and ending bigotry
I AM proud to be bisexual, and today (October 11, National Coming Out Day) is my coming out day. Most of the people who know me will probably be confused since I have been out, at least to them, for the past five years. But I never came all the way out. I kept one foot in closet door because I thought that it was okay for me to be out and proud in San Francisco and Chicago and New York, but not in my hometown.
I was raised in an ultra-conservative evangelical fundamentalist church in Northern California. We went to church twice on Sundays, plus Sunday school, Thursday night prayer meetings, and, as I also attended school at the church, there was Tuesday chapel as well.
Everyone around me recognized, when I was very young, that I was a very bright child. My Sunday school teachers called me "Bible lady" because my hand was always the first to shoot up to answer questions. I outshone all the boys my age in school, never getting below a 98 percent on a spelling test. When I started the seventh grade, my school switched curriculums, and I was suddenly behind a grade level. I completed two years in one. I could keep up with the boys at recess. I preferred beating them at dodge ball and tether ball to playing house with the girls.
But none of this mattered. I was a girl. My destiny was to graduate high school, get married, stay home and start having children. I was discouraged from being independent and was taught that college was only for the boys.
I was socialized almost exclusively in this very small church community of about 150-200 people. We all learned at a very young age to conform, at least outwardly, or suffer the consequences. I knew girls who were kicked out by their families for losing their virginity. I used to babysit for someone who was forced to get married because she got pregnant.
It never entered my mind until I was in my early twenties that I could be anything but straight. That didn't stop people from taunting me while I was in my mid-teens by calling me a lesbian. I would scream and cry back, "No I'm not," but that didn't stop it.
My teen years were not pretty. I suffered from massive chronic depression. I would spend days unable to get out of bed. I would lay there and contemplate killing myself. I wondered if anyone would even notice. I still have scars on the bottom of my foot from where I used to cut myself.
When I was a sophomore, we left the church and went elsewhere. I got my first job at 18 working at the local public library. It was there that I met the first girl I ever had a crush on. I struggled with the feelings I had for years. She came out to me and a few other friends one night, and in the next breath told us she was in love with a girl she went to high school with. I still couldn't admit to myself what I was feeling.
When I was 24, I left my hometown to attend San Francisco State University. It was there that I met my best friend. He was the first person who loved me for who I was. He was also the first person I ever came out to.
Today, I am surrounded by an amazing group of friends who have through their unconditional love and support brought me to where I am right now. I am coming out completely today because I am one of the lucky ones. I'm still here, and it got better. No one should ever be made to feel ashamed or afraid because of who they are.
In 1978 on the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, Harvey Milk gave the following speech:
Gay brothers and sisters...You must come out. Come out...to your parents...I know that it is hard and will hurt them, but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth!
Come out to your relatives...come out to your friends...if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors...to your fellow workers...to the people who work where you eat and shop...come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else.
But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene.
I came all the way out today because we have to. I came out because the next generation is killing themselves, and we need to give them hope for the future. I came out because bigots feels safe telling us we are somehow less than normal, and we need to shine a bright light on them and give them nowhere to hide.
I came out because our community is being attacked, and we cannot afford to be silent.
Kristin Anderson, San Francisco