Tuesday, October 13, 2009

National Coming Out Day

I didn't particularly observe this occasion (yesterday) in any planned sort of way. But as I heard others mention it towards the end of the day, I got to thinking I should mark the day somehow, even if a bit late. This seemed like a good way. I'll leave coming out to my Old German Baptist friends for a day in the future when we've had more time to learn to know one another. That is a process that I will leave to God to guide; it's an odd journey I'm being led to.

On one of the spiritual listservs to which I belong, someone posted about his experience at church. He mentioned that he'd come out more than a decade before "National Coming Out Day" was established. Someone in the congregation approached him later in surprise, and said that they hadn't known. My friend was surprised--he thought everyone in the relatively small congregation knew. Someone else responded, "It's a never-ending process that we do day by day."

I resemble those remarks. You would think that wearing a rainbow on my head at all times when in public would sort of clue people in, but it often doesn't. They can't reconcile the rainbow message (fringy radical "out" non-heterosexual) with the prayer covering message (conservative Christian "women are to be submissive" heterosexual), so they dismiss one or the other...and it's generally the rainbow that goes unseen.

But bisexual/Christian isn't an either-or situation, for me. It's both-and. I don't know why. It's just where I've ended up. It's not an affectation, a pretense, a chosen self-image. Certainly not anything I've specifically tried to be. I looked long and hard at my experiences, my actions, my relationships, my values, my beliefs of 30+ years--and the rainbow covering pretty well summarizes who I am, through and through.

The most amusing situation was a couple years ago when I took a short break from the driver's seat of the bus, leaving a couple passengers waiting to resume our trip. When I returned, the woman (whom I'd chatted with on many occasions) came to meet me, obviously concerned. "That man said your covering means you're a lesbian, but I told him it means you're a Christian." She seemed proud of herself for having had the courage to defend me, and wanted me to know she wasn't going to let anyone insult me. I laughed lightly, and gently told her both of them were correct. She looked startled for a moment...I could see her re-evaluating all our past interactions, and everything she thought she knew about me. Evidently the equation worked out ok--after a few moments she shrugged, smiled, and said "Not that it matters".

But this can certainly be a lonely place. One day at work, I listened with a long sinking feeling as co-workers went on and on about lesbians they had known, evidently not recognizing my identity. Not that they were being negative or discriminatory--just that they kept talking about "those lesbians, they..." as if they were "other", as if lesbians (etc.) were foreigners or zoo animals, not the co-worker standing there listening to the conversation. Within 10 minutes, I was walking into the "women's" Valentines Day dance. I visited with some women I'd never met before, and they quizzed me about the covering. "Oh, Mennonite! I knew some Mennonites once, they...." and she went on and on about "those Mennonites". Not bad stuff, just as if they were "other", as if Mennonites (etc.) were foreigners or zoo animals, not the woman next to them at the lesbian dance.

I've learned to take such things in stride, to trust that people are not trying to be rude, that really their clumsy interest is a positive thing. But it's a struggle to not feel like a bug on a pin.

At times like those, it's a relief to get home to the dog and the cats and the woodstove, the untidy kitchen and the beckoning chores, and just be a farmer and simple-liver. I can relax and be all of me, in my comforting little world that doesn't need to name things and put them in boxes.

Or, at least, if I AM naming things and putting them in boxes, it's fleeces from a dozen sheep being labeled and packed to send off for carding and spinning!


Catlady said...

Well, never forget that I love you just the way you are - all of you. The whole package :)

And always remember - it doesn't matter what "those other" people think - you aren't responsible for their thoughts and opinions, and you certainly aren't defined by *them*.

There is a little quip - the people who matter don't mind, and the people who mind don't matter.

Sending love and BC hugs from cold and slightly snowy (though the leaves stayed green until after the first snowfall here!!!!!!) Canada.

Wandering Coyote said...

I'm proud of you that you're still very proudly wearing the head piece, Natalya! I remember when you made it and first started wearing it, and you explained it to me when I asked what it's all about. That's a good memory from that summer!

Natalya said...

Hi there, Canadian friends! If no Americans respond with comments or at least e-mails, I may be tempted to draw some conclusions about cultural differences around comfort levels for talking about the covering and what it represents.

Hugs to you both,