Content warning: The following story chronicles a survivor's exploration through their coming out process of being an out-lesbian.
“What Took Me So Long?” Amanda Myers
Where do you begin telling a story that has taken your entire life? A story that is impacted by small moments, minor events, long nights, and many, many hours of thought? That story isn’t an easy one to begin, or an easy one to tell. My story, specifically the part of my story that has to do with my sexuality, isn’t linear, or crystal clear. It is also a story that only a few people know.
I came out as a lesbian a few years ago, as an adult in my late twenties. I said the words, “I’m gay” for the first time out loud, and then cried (more like sobbed). I cried for what it meant to be able to say it out loud, the relief at acknowledging myself, and for the anguish it caused me. I only told one person. Over the next several years, I told a handful of people. Truly a handful, only five people knew I was a lesbian for more than 3 years.
I kept quiet because my coming out is destructive, and it is against my nature to be destructive. I am also not a quitter, and I am fiercely loyal. So to say that I am gay means that I am acknowledging myself, and I can be who I am, but at the high cost of quitting. Breaking loyalty. Being destructive. Because I have spent the past 15 years of my life with a man, 8 of which have been in marriage. A man who I still care about. A man who I have had a beautiful child with. But a man I can’t be with and be myself at the same time. I sure hope it gets better, as the phrase goes, but this has been an incredibly difficult path with very high costs.
So what took me so long? When did I know? Have I always known?
These are questions I have been asked as I have come out to more people in the past six months. I don’t really have answers. I know that I was able to ignore what I thought and felt for a long time because I was in a committed relationship, then married. I have had to deal with a lot of other issues, including the loss of my sister, which I’ll write about for August’s theme for the Art of Survival, and I think I had a lot going on for a long time. I know that there were signs and experiences I didn’t pay attention to. I know that the idea of attraction, love, and sexuality is complicated and difficult stuff.
One thing I do know. I remember going to a gay bar for the first time when I was 22 years old. It was a Hamburger Mary’s and besides the pretty tasty food, I loved the drag show. I loved being around the LGBTQ+ community. I remember thinking that it felt like home. Like I could be myself, and I was around people that I wanted to be around. I didn’t realize for a lot of years the weight of that thought. But it is one of the things that sits most solidly in my brain when I reflect back.
A few months ago, I started the process of changing my life to live more authentically. I told my husband. I started telling a lot of people, including my parents, whom I was terrified to come out to. I am still engaged in the difficult and heart wrenching work of ending my marriage and my partnership with my husband while at the same time trying to figure out what life will be like as an out lesbian.
I don’t know. I haven’t been in a relationship with a woman. Hell, I haven’t dated since I was 15 years old. I’m terrified. I’m tired. I’m scared. And I’m ready. Well, maybe not so ready, but I’m living my story. A story that needs to be shared.
About the art:
The inspiration for this piece came from the relief that Amanda described from when she first came out. The black, grey, and white dots represent the life that she's leaving behind and the color splash represents her lesbian identity and future as she discovers what life will be like as an out lesbian.
Her future is full of possibilities and new experiences as well as the peace that comes from being true to yourself. I picked this quote for Amanda because by being authentic to herself and to the rest of the world, she is able to shine a light to the world that she had been hiding before. I'm so glad Amanda felt compelled to share her story and I hope it inspires others.