My name is Jen Trudell, but many of my friends call me Ryan. I'll cut to the chase here -- I came out to my mother the Sunday after Thanksgiving, a little over a month ago. I had been expecting anger or tears, maybe a combination of both. Instead, I got a 15 minute lecture on adolescent sexuality and how it "tends to fluctuate", and that was that. We had a two hour argument about how short I could cut my hair last summer, if that puts things in perspective. She point-blank told me I was going through a phase, and that I would grow out of it. I asked if my 15-year-old brother was going through some sort of heterosexual phase, but she didn't catch the irony. I had agonized about coming out to my mother for over a year, and in the end she didn't even believe me. Is there a point here? Yes. You need to expect the unexpected.
I've come out to a lot of people in the last year. I've been told I'm not a lesbian, because I "don't look like a queer." Well, you've got to ask yourself, what's a queer supposed to look like? I remember all the stereotypes I had about lesbians before I came out to myself. And, because I don't fit most of these amazingly idiotic stereotypes, I had a hard time believing I was gay. To much of the straight world, lesbians are either -- women who look like men, women who want to be men, women who just "need a good man", or all three. Lesbian relationships are supposed to be all butch/femme, and the butch always plays softball. Lesbians all wear flannel shirts (I'll ignore the fact that last year on any given day a good 2/3 of the girls in my high school were wearing flannel). I could go on and on.
Since my first girlfriend and I were both ultra-feminine (most likely because we probably were trying to prove to ourselves that we were straight), we couldn't be gay. After all, who was the butch? Call me naive, but I honestly did not realize I was gay until I was two months into a relationship with this girl. Like many lesbians I know or whom I have read about, we thought our love transcended all labels. Of course we weren't gay! We weren't sick perverts. We were in L-O-V-E.
There's a point to all of this, too. If I were straight, I would still believe all these stereotypes. That is something you have to remember as you come out. Many people don't have contact with gay men or lesbians, only the stereotypes. They aren't necessarily all hateful people, just brainwashed. It's hard enough to come out to yourself and erase all of the lies about lesbians that society and the media have been feeding you since birth, much less to have to try to get rid of them in the people you come out to. It isn't easy, either. I have some straight friends who still believe I'm the exception to the rule -- the only lesbian on earth who doesn't fit in their neat little boxes. But, at the same time, they also believe that everything I say is what every lesbian believes. If I dye my hair blue, they'll probably think every lesbian has blue hair.
I'm out to most of my friends, but I'm not completely out at school. I'm working on it, though. It's rather intimidating when the put-down of choice is "fag," and where any girl who won't go out with any guy that breathes is automatically referred to as a dyke. I attend a school where the health class text book refers to homosexuality as a mental disease which can be cured with psychiatric help. I took that class last year, and wondered what would happen if I called into school sick for being homosexual. I can look back on it now and find it humorous, but there was nothing funny about it then.
If I did come out, I'd be the only out lesbian in a school of 1,200 students. A lesbian friend of mine claims that as soon as I come out, others will follow. I don't know if I really want to be my school's answer to the lesbian Pied Piper. However, coming out completely seems to be my next logical step. I don't intend to announce my sexuality over the P.A. system, I just won't pretend to be straight, or lie when asked if I'm gay. I know I may be harassed, and I know it won't be easy. I think I'm ready, though, because I'm comfortable with myself. The point to all of this? Don't do anything until you are ready to, and until you feel comfortable. Coming out is great, and it's definitely a liberating experience, but if it will bring you a myriad of problems that you aren't ready to handle, it's just not worth it.
Expect the unexpected, but be prepared to fight what is expected of you--you are not a stereotype, your are not a phase. You're a lesbian, you're bisexual, you just aren't all that sure what exactly you are...hey, at least it makes life interesting!