by Sarah C Jansen
Whether you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender we all have our own coming out stories which, at the time of coming out can be daunting, exciting, frustrating, exhausting, freeing and exhilarating. Life can be a little hairy at the best of times, curve balls fly from all directions, love throws a few rogue arrows and all this can temporarily render one slightly mad. Years later upon reflection the stories emerge, things start to settle and it all makes a little more sense.
This is an introduction to my coming out. It was never ‘One day I woke up and voila… lesbian!’ Like all great things a process ensued…
I have been attracted to women and inclined towards the feminine since I was a wee lass, around the tender age of 6 years old I became aware of the fact that I was a little different. Different in the way I liked the girls and not so much the boys. I didn’t chase them or tease them, want to date them or pretend to run away from them. Having brothers made it easy for me to understand ‘the man’ and being more attracted to girls allowed me to identify more with the boys.
I clearly remember my first teacher crush, I was 6 or 7 years old and she would have been around 30; a smoker with a husky voice, wild bushy hair, freckles, very friendly eyes and resembled that of a tall raven white-witch. I distinctly remember walking past the school incinerator where all the naughty kids went to hang out and melt crayons on top of the hot iron thinking: my mother is so going to hate me for this, I know this is going to be a problem, I just know it! I don’t think I am supposed to like girls, but I do…
This was my first crush on many women. I have very distinct memories of going on a trip with my family to Australia. I was 10 and my parents, my two younger brothers and I were on an excursion to an island off the coast of Queensland. In order to occupy and entertain the kids there were activities led by youth leaders and one of these Camp leaders was a dykey looking lady that I found strangely captivating. She was unlike any woman I’d ever met or come across and I found myself quite smitten by her quirky, outgoing bubbly personality and strong sense of self. She really embodied the outdoor woman of the wilderness, sporting one of those lovely iconic Australian cork hats.
By the time I got to those awkward teenage years I was astutely aware of what was acceptable, normal and traditional in regards to sexual attraction. I always felt as though I had to be someone I wasn’t, be attracted to people I felt it unnatural to be attracted to. I resorted to creating imaginary boyfriends that did not exist to cover up my attraction to my girl friends. I guess things didn’t help much when I ended up in an all girls’ school, surrounded by women and religious points of view that were driven by an Anglican lens.
Crushing in a small girls’ school is by no means fun and exciting when your sexual identity is ridiculed and frowned upon. The LGBTQ was definitely not supported; there were no support or social groups for alternative sexualities Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender; what we now often refer to as the Queer Community. Entering the peak of sexual identity coupled with falling hard for one of your really good friends makes for one heck of an interesting and intense journey, full of wild emotional roller coasters and inner turmoil. After all who wants to be rejected by their peers? Or be bullied, tormented and teased for being different?
Life does not come with a set of instructions, it’s not a standardized experience and at the end of the day you can’t control who you fall in love with or are sexually attracted to. It’s one of the hardest things that as a human being you have to do: to repress and suppress the most loving part of your self; the part that wants to express love, give love, receive love, experience love and pure intimacy with another person.
I would have loved to come out in my early teenage years around 12 or 13 years old, it would have helped me to establish myself in regards to my sexual identity and made my life more open, honest and true. Dating women would have been an option and a lot more fun!
Harboring my sexuality as a secret always made me feel guilty for withholding a vital piece of information from friends and family and the people closest to me. It made me suffer as a consequence and torturous experiences became a way to make me feel better, taking on pain as a distraction. I, like many other LGBTQ teenagers, was not able to express or experience the joyous and youthful romances that blossom around this age.
Instead I tried the normal experiences and drama fueled relationships with men and it wasn’t until I met my first ‘real’ boyfriend at around 18 when I felt totally accepted by a community that welcomed me with love and non judgment.
He was perfect: feminine, camp, walked with one of the most amazing postures I’d ever seen, a hairdresser, playful, fun, was a bit of a diva, ex drag, sang like Whitney Houston and was also questioning his sexuality. We lived with 5 other drag queens, all beautiful and perfectly queer in their own amazing way and it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. Experiencing the LGBTQ world was like heaven to me, they were my family, I loved them and even though those ties no longer exist I still hold a massive place in my heart for them all.
I finally met my first girlfriend at the age of 21 and it was no surprise, it was more a feeling of, finally! She was a chef with more balls than most men and our relationship was intense.
I never came out to my parents. I remember receiving a call one day from my mother asking, “Sarah, What sort of relationship are you in?”
“I’m not in a relationship mum.”
“That’s not what your brother said!”
Bloody brothers, can’t keep their mouths shut!
So before I had the chance to even get in to a relationship I was outed by my sweet younger brother. I felt robbed and betrayed; it was not his information to release, it was not his life and before I had a chance to experience it for myself or deal with it in my own way my sexuality was outed for me. Human relationships are never easy; worlds apart, very individual people coming together and no two points of view ever the same. Negotiating the spaces between can be a very difficult, chaotic and uprooting time of life.
It took my parents a while to come to terms with my sexuality. They were brought up in heterosexual families with traditional core values and ‘normal’ views. It took a bit of getting used to for my parents, especially my mother. Family gatherings were interesting, often tense and slightly weird considering ‘my friend’ was absent. It was hard to engage in conversation with people when my world included my girlfriend and I was told to not say anything. I felt left out, like I had some contagious illness and that the relationship I had was not as important or meaningful as that which exists between a man and a woman. It made me angry and frustrated and created a lot of resentment and tension within my relationships with my family.
I started to question the role and ideas and notions of family and began to create my own sub families amongst people who gave unconditional love and support. Eventually my parents grew to accept my lifestyle as a lesbian woman and over the years they have become a lot more accepting and open to alternative sexualities and lifestyles. They support my relationships and love me, I guess they only want me to be happy and live a healthy, fulfilling life.
No coming out story is ever the same and they are usually filled with juicy details, the one true love or that one that got away… or the one that didn’t. The human experience can be a strange and wondrous place, sometimes it brings pain but often it brings beauty and love. Through my last 12 years being out of the closet I have had my heart broken, mended, broken again, I have experienced hatred and have met some of the most amazing, beautiful people, laughed and cried over and over and I would not for one second take any of it back.
I have learned to love and accept myself and have found that even though life can throw some crazy stuff your way, it always gets better. Stay true to yourself, love who you are and surround yourself with wonderful, loving and supportive people, they are the most priceless of all.