Flash back to sophomore year of college. Anxiety and identity and burgeoning politics. And academics, every now and then. This particular night, I’m volunteering at a fundraiser with a friend, a senior with Audrey Hepburn’s looks, grace, and disarming innocence. I feel elegant just being with her. Protective, too. Some sleazy older guy (he was probably no more than 26 but seemed ancient at the time) Just. Won’t. Leave. Her. Alone. I talk to our volunteer supervisor and get her transferred to behind the scenes tasks.
The guy turns sharply to me. You’re not gonna let me near her, are you.
Nope. I answer, gaze firm.
What are you, he pauses for emphasis, then spits out, lesbians?
For once, I have a timely comeback. We don’t have to be lesbians to not be interested in a guy like you.
But as I spin on my heel and walk away, the answer in my head is different. Well, yeah, maybe. But you’re sure as hell not the first person I tell!
The idea gnawed inside my brain, somewhere down toward the back, over my left shoulder. Within the year, I sat in a therapist’s comfy chair, answering that standard opening question – so tell me why you’re here – this way: I think I’m bisexual and I come from a traditional, religious family so I need some help figuring this out.
National Coming Out Day (NCOD) started the year I entered college. My coming out story is unremarkable for the time. Family rejection and reconnection. Finding a spiritual home in a christian church then on the cutting edge of inclusion. Marriage before marriage was legal. Separation before divorce was necessary. The personal as political and the practicalities of living as a both-and person in an either-or world.
A quarter century (gasp!) later, I love who I love and connect best with those on the banks, not in the mainstream. I slip my sexual orientation into getting-to-know-you conversations with new neighbors or parents at the school potluck, mainly through referencing my first marriage to another woman. At this point, it comes up more than comes out.
Coming Out Still Matters, this year’s NCOD theme, strikes a chord. Particularly as a bi woman married to a man, people see who I am with, not who I am.
I’m here! I’m queer! I love my husband!
This year, my coming out has more to do with vocation than orientation. After a 20-odd year activism career, I’ve spent 5 equally odd years “home” with my son. (We rarely stayed home.) Policy consulting gigs left me feeling dry, frustrated at producing copious words with little impact. Instead, my passion dove deeply inward, toward spiritual awakening and exploration through my body. I found I love teaching others to release stress and find ease.
Recently, I logged in to my LinkedIn account intending to update my professional credentials as Yoga Instructor and Reiki Practitioner. On my screen were advocacy colleagues’ names and titles, accomplishments and updates. I quickly logged out.
My internal movie screen projects imaginary reactions, You’re doing what? A stay at home mom? A yoga instructor?
My defensive inner voice shouts back, I led marches! I organized boycotts! Started organizations from the ground up! Testified before Congress – twice!
In my fantasy, they dismissively return to their Work Of Great Importance.
The pride of title. Shadow of identity.
Open that closet. Let in light.
I believe our bodies are moving energy. I believe there is more to us humans, and to this universe, than the human intellect can grasp. I believe we can access profound energy currents of love and life through inhabiting our bodies mindfully. I believe doing so – and teaching others to do so for themselves – can ease suffering. Restore wholeness. Change the world.
Say it loud! I’m a yoga instructor and I’m proud!