My Coming Out Story
Perhaps one of the most common kind of emails/Tumblr Ask’s/Instagram direct messages I’ve received since my time on Big Brother are questions from you guys wondering how I came out to my parents, or how I knew I was into girls.
When I say perhaps, I mean this is by far and away the most commonly asked question. That and, “Hey I was just wondering if you could promote my product on your Instagram! We LOVE your style! ;)”
Some of the emails are gut wrenching. The confusion and fear felt by some of you guys makes my heart hurt. Sometimes I just want to reach out through the computer screen and tell you it’s all going to be okay.
Some of them scare me. I’m by no means qualified to give this kind of advice, especially to those of you who have thought about hurting yourself. In those circumstances I cannot reply fast enough, trying to express through little black letters on a screen how much you are loved- even though you may not feel it. Even though I may not know you.
Honesty has always been my policy so I’ll be frank about this- at first, the emails made me feel ashamed.
I have thought about writing a blog touching on my ‘coming out story’ and answering some of your questions for quite a while but the shame and guilt I felt for my actions during my time on Big Brother prevented me from being able to put any of it into words.
After all, how was I supposed to answer your questions about your confusion regarding your sexuality when I was clearly one of the most confused out there?
After six years of dating predominately females, I found myself in love with a male.
Although I had always classified myself as ‘bisexual’ when pushed for a label (and trust me, I avoided this like the plague), the social media blacklash and media response to my ‘cheating scandal’ had made me feel horrific about suddenly ‘switching’ sexes.
I felt like a failure and let down to the lesbian community, who had (apparently) huge hopes that I would change the Australian public’s perception of lesbians and show them that we come in all shapes and sizes. Being open about my girlfriend on the show had (unknowingly) made me some kind of poster-child for lesbians everywhere.
I felt like my worst crime was the fact that I had fallen for a boy, when really the fuck up was that I cheated on my partner. The sex of the person or my sexuality should never have come into play.
That being said, I’m not an idiot. “Big Brother lesbian cheats on girlfriend with boy” and “Lesbian cheating scandal” all make far more interesting headlines so I did what I felt I needed to do.
I shut up. I took it. I apologised as much as I could to the people that mattered and I tried to move on with my life.
Almost two years on and I think I’m ready to fill you guys in. I’m proud of who I am, I’m more than happy to walk down the street holding the hand of a women as I am to hold the hand of a man. I’ve been a part of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade for almost 5 years and feel very strongly about marriage equality and the rights of the LGBTI group as a whole. So here goes…
To make sure I cover off the two most commonly asked questions, I’m going to break them down into “How/when did you know you were into girls” AND“What is your coming out story/how did you tell your parents?”.
(Before I get into this I wanted to say that sexuality and how we deal with it and feel about it is such a personal, subjective thing. How I feel about my own sexuality, how I decided to deal with it or talk about it is by no means the ‘right’ way to do it. This is just my own personal story and if it helps, great. If not, there are plenty of resources available on fantastic websites such as ‘Same, Same’ and ‘AutoStraddle’- one of my favourite websites. Also, all names have been changed for obvious reasons!)
HOW/WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WERE INTO GIRLS?
This is a tricky one. Looking back with hindsight, knowing what I know now there are definitely a few instances throughout my life that stick out.
In Kindergarten, I quickly made best friends with a cute little cherub faced blonde- lets call her Karla*.
Except what started out as a “lets hold hands and skip through the playground!”turned very quickly into “NOBODY ELSE CAN TALK OR PLAY WITH YOU, YOU ARE ALL MINE.”
Now, if you know me personally, you’re probably laughing right about now.
Yes, it’s true, I can be a touch possessive when it comes to the people I love. So maybe this isn’t that weird or important of a memory.
HOWEVER, there is also another memory I have of one afternoon whilst jumping on my trampoline after school.
I remember thinking to myself “I really love Karla. I’m so glad she’s my best friend” and then almost immediately afterwards “But..I love, love her. Like I love her more than a friend. Don’t I? No. No I don’t. You’re supposed to love your friends. It’s fine!”
Now, even now as a 27 year old I think “Fuck me, that’s insightful and deep for a 5 year old!”
How I even managed to grasp the concept of loving someone as a friend vs. romantically is beyond me. But I remember the conversation in my head clear as day.
Then came *Alison in year 10. She was a friend of a friend at high school and used to do weird things like get really drunk and have competitions where she’d try to make out with as many people at a party as possible. Looking back, she clearly just wanted an excuse to make out with a bunch of girls but hey, I wasn’t going to argue.
She was the first person to really fuck with me, mentally. It took our mutual friend (who, it’s worth noting was already out of the closet) to one day point out“I think you might like Alison and I think she might like you too”.
I fought it at first.
“What? What the hell are you talking about? NO way!”
But the more I thought about it, the more I realised she was probably right.
We would spend hours upon hours on MSN talking after school, on the phone before bed… swapping Dashboard Confessional songs and pretending we didn’t want the other to go through the lyrics with a fine tooth comb so that she could realise it was actually a love ballad written specifically for US.
But I wasn’t ready. She was. I think she would have been quite happy to come out and announce ourselves as a couple but I couldn’t do it. The scenario was too far removed from all the big plans I had for myself.
Ever since I was a little girl I had wanted a big wedding. Back then it was a scrapbook with hundreds of photos of pretty girls in white dresses clumsily glued in alongside notes like “This dress, but no veil. Gross!”. These days it’s a hidden Pinterest board.
However none of those photos featured two women. And I wasn’t sure I was ready to pass on that dream just yet.
So we kept it on the down low. Her friends knew which made it easier but I would continually lie to my own. I would only kiss her in dark corners at parties, in bathrooms, in car parks before school.
I even kept dating guys during this time which (quite understandably) was killing her slowly on the inside not to mention confusing the poor boys I was dragging through this mess. Eventually it got too much. She ended up in tears at a party and my boyfriend at the time called us out on it in front of everyone.
Stubborn as a donkey, I kept to my fool-proof plan and denied, denied, denied. In fact, Alison and I only ended for good when it became apparent she had secretly been dating one of my OTHER best friends for quite a while.
I was outraged. Shocked. Hurt. Disappointed. Heartbroken.
But who was I to say anything when as far as my friend was concerned, nothing had ever happened between Alison and I?
If my friend was brave enough to come out and go public then who was I to ask Alison to stay with me in the closet?
The next girl who stole my heart ended up being my first girlfriend, my first love (and heartbreak) and longest relationship to date.
I first saw Sarah* skateboarding to class at the university we both went to. I was a first year, she was a second year. She was wearing ripped jeans and a t-shirt that said “Saturday Night Beaver”.
She confused me greatly.
She was so fucking cool. She shaved her head for cancer. She’d go nude streaking just for fun and write anonymous messages like “You look lovely today” in chalk around the uni campus just to make people’s days.
She didn’t give a fuck about what anybody else thought of her and she just so happened to be dating a girl in the next dorm.
Sarah and I started off in a similar fashion to Alison and I. Long nights spent talking on MySpace, making mix CD’s for each other… I fell hard and fast but I still wasn’t brave enough to go public. I could barely admit it to myself!
I remember some really fucking awful nights in my dorm room. Crying, banging my head against my desk wondering “Why me?”, “Why can’t I just be normal?”It seemed like I was about to embark down a path that was far harder, more painful than the one I’d been on thus far.
I didn’t want to let my Dad down. I didn’t want to embarrass my brother’s or humiliate my ex-boyfriend’s. I definitely didn’t want to lose or alienate my friends.
Sarah was supportive at first but eventually it ended in an ultimatum. Either I tell the world we’re together or I lose her forever.
Losing her was not an option so I made the decision to get some balls. To take a page out of her book and say “Fuck what everybody else thinks”. As long as I had her, everything would be okay.
And it was. We were together almost three years.
WHAT IS YOUR COMING OUT STORY/HOW DID YOU TELL YOUR PARENTS?
Okay so here is the thing that might let some of you down.
I don’t exactly have a coming out story and I never exactly told my parents I was into girls.
Basically, this is how it happened:
One day, I brought Sarah home and told Dad she’d be staying the night. She had a shaved head at this time and was carrying a skateboard so who knows, maybe Dad knew but if he did, he didn’t say anything.
From there, Sarah began spending a few nights a week at ours. And if she wasn’t there, I was at hers. This happened for almost three years.
Apart from one horrendous time where my Dad walked in on us making out – which I will not talk about because it’s a memory I have pushed so deeply down, it’s fuzzy around the edges like a bad dream- my relationship was Sarah was never addressed or discussed.
She still came to all the family birthday’s. She was at the table at Christmas. In fact Dad treated Sarah as if she was his own, often changing the oil in her car or surprising her with a full tank of petrol.
It wasn’t until Sarah and I broke up that Dad even acknowledged our relationship.
I had been dumped. I was a mess. I hadn’t eaten in days and was shuffling around the house like a zombie.
Eventually Dad came over, pulled me into the hug as I crumbled into fits of sobs. I was a mess. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to be without her.
“I know Pumpkin…I know. It hurts but it will get better, I promise.”
That was it. That’s all he needed to say. I knew he loved me no matter what, no matter who I was dating.
Now, I know I’m very lucky. It could have gone very differently for me- my parents are both a bit older than most of my friends parents. They’re from another world, they’re quite traditional and old school.
I am also the first person in my extended family to love someone of the same sex. So I really had to cover some unfamiliar territory with every family gathering, especially when it was announced I’d be going onto Big Brother. (Dad felt I should probably come completely clean with everybody, although their reaction was “We figured. And we love you regardless.”)
I know it’s not always this easy. That sometimes parents can say all the wrong things, get angry. Or worst, they can disown their own children.
I’d like to think that society itself is continuing to be more open minded and better educated on LGBTI issues. Gay and lesbian characters are popping up in almost every great television show or movie. Musicians and sports people are starting to no longer be afraid to be themselves.
And you shouldn’t be either.
Be honest with yourself. The heart wants what the heart wants. Tell the people around you if you want, keep it private if that feels right for you. You can’t do anything else but be yourself.
The people who love you, who support you and who stick by you are the ones that matter.
As somebody very close to me once told me: “Everything is okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”