One foot in, one foot out.
I can’t help but feel that it might always be like this. I have not reached the point where I feel ready to come out just yet, or that I am as comfortable with myself as I claim to be. It is all kinds of uncomfortable, to have one foot jammed in the closet while the other lingers in the dark. But, still. I lie in wait. I count my chickens and wait until they hatch.
Sometimes, it feels like they’ll never hatch.
I came out to my parents when I was thirteen years old. It wasn’t so much as a choice as it was a discovery, as they had found my secret Tumblr blog preaching LGBTQIA gospel. A post entitled “I’m Bisexual and Proud”. Another wondering, “How Will I Come Out?” I got the edgy, awkward questions of “How do you know?” and “Are you sure?” I could only answer with equal trepidation, having only just recently been brave enough to voice it aloud to myself. It was just as much of a surprise to them as it was to me, and so I came in the conversation unarmed, unprepared. Let me tell you, it wasn’t fun.
Afterwards, I began to get second glances every time I so much as spoke to a girl. Every friend would be talked about with a faked casual “Do you have a crush on her?” and every hang-out became “Is it a date?” I began to receive makeup all the time, as if my sexuality somehow denied or defined my femininity. I would be pelted with questions from family members left and right. “So, are you going to give me grandchildren or not?” All the time I had been looking forward to to figure out my place in a community I cared so much about had been taken from me, without my consent or approval. I was looking forward to a least a little time in the closet, if only to scope out for myself who could be trusted and who couldn’t, and even enjoy the faked privilege of seeming straight. Now, I didn’t even have the chance.
So, in an act of self-righteous anger, I decided that I wouldn’t come out in high school. I had plenty of opportunities– a lot of my friends started out pretending to be straight as freshmen, and then came out one by one gloriously and with deserved pride. I had guys ask me, hopefully, if I was bi– because their last girlfriend had been and it was “crazy”. I’d wear dresses and lipstick in the hopes that maybe I could just remain a friendly ally in the years to come. That maybe I’d find some relief in the “friend” closet, if I couldn’t in the family one.
But remaining in the closet has its own pitfalls, as you’ve undoubtedly heard time and time again. Watching others enjoy what you crave for your own life is mostly hopeful, but at dark times can induce quite a bit of envy. I was straight at school and gay at home, which became incredibly tedious for several reasons but mostly because both realities were false. I was no longer allowed to wear combat boots or sport rainbows for fear of others sensing something ineffably queer about me, but was asked why I’d stopped wearing dresses and seemed so very uninterested in dating. I distracted myself with other issues– being a woman of color, being a feminist, being overweight– but all in the closet. Until, of course, I got home.
Then, of course, came senior year. College decisions, essays, and choices were before all of us, and my peers and I approached them with a newfound relish that I found both exhausting and exhilarating. With college would come freedom– from both my home and– perhaps– the closet. I looked at my options– beyond my GPA, SAT scores, and so on. What would be the best place for someone like me to thrive?
After years of confusion, of simultaneously embracing my sexuality and wholeheartedly denying it, I felt a surprising wave of fearless reason that I couldn’t help but chase. A decision that perhaps I would have never made had I not spent years in this awful, heart-jerking dichotomy.
I chose to study at an all-women’s college.
And although my family is still unhappy about this, I think it’s the only place I’d ever be able to escape this little room of mine, to see the world in the bright, prideful eyes I know I possess. In the light of my efforts and my choice, I am edging my way out more and more. I have started wearing clothes I am more comfortable in, things like plaid and muscle tees and Birkenstocks. I have started to get lesbian jibes from my friends, which I only meet with a coy wink or a neither unaffirming (nor denying) shrug, just to put the question in their heads. I’m not quite ready yet. After hearing of Orlando’s tragedy and its mostly queer Puerto Rican victims, I know that as a queer Puerto Rican I may never be safe from the hands of hatred– but I’m getting to a place where I won’t be so afraid of that. Soon, I won’t be afraid at all. This, I know. Nowadays, there’s light flooding in this closet of mine. Only this time, I can see the way out.