Before I tell you my ‘coming out’ story, I want to make mention of the fact that I come out essentially every single day. Why? Because of my gender presentation. I pass as straight (which some find beneficial).

 

“Neither straight or queer people believed that I was a lesbian”

 

I am very feminine presenting externally, which makes me more invisible to my own community because of societal stereotypes. This makes me a minority within a minority. Neither straight or queer people believed that I was a lesbian and that has been a deep wound my whole life.

Most of society equates our gender to our biological sex & those are two very different things. One of my favourite gender theorists said: “sex is to raw as gender is to cooked.” Essentially meaning that gender expressions are more performance-based versus the biological sex you were born with, i.e. a penis or vagina. However, we also need to also integrate transgendered individuals into the equation!

When I was 23 years old, I ‘came out’. I am from a small suburb of Chicago where words and judgements fly fast. My parents were extremely shocked at first and said things like “but you were a cheerleader” & “but you had so many boyfriends”.

My Dad said he’d always love me but never accept that part of me. Ironically, he now works with lesbians and loves them. My Mom eventually started watching ‘The L Word’ and began continually asking me why Shane (one of the characters) was such a ‘player’. That made me laugh!

When I came out to my college friends at Ohio University, most of them were 100% supportive but there was also some confusion. I had been dating a man very seriously for three years and wanted to marry him.

 

“I had so much loss when I came out”

 

I was so sad and extremely confused so I ran to my human sexuality teacher’s office, and said: “how do I know if I am gay?!” He asked me what I fantasized about during sex. Uh oh, I thought. All I see are boobs! That was genuinely my ‘aha’ moment. I broke up with my boyfriend of three years (which was terrible because even though I was gay, I still loved him). I had so much loss when I came out.

I think the hardest part when I came out was when I began dating a ‘popular’ lesbian on campus. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as ‘popular’ lesbians. The woman I was dating was so beautiful but oddly insecure about being queer.

She’d ask me questions like “how do you like my dyke truck?” or “don’t you think it’s gross that I don’t shave?” Again, I was so confused by her (what I now have come to understand) internalized homophobia.

After 6 beautiful months of dating, she dumped me out of the blue. When I asked her why she said: “because you’re not a real lesbian”. I was in shock and tears started streaming down my flushed cheeks. I started stuttering “but, but I have been writing you love poems and going down on you for months… what do you mean?”

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“I was too pretty, too thin and my hair was too long for me to be a real lesbian”

 

She went on to explain that I was too pretty, too thin and my hair was too long for me to be a real lesbian. My heart was shattered. I began listening to Ani DiFranco & The Indigo Girls on repeat while chain-smoking American Spirit Cigarettes after the breakup.

My buddies dragged me out of the house a week later to get me out of my funk and grab a beer. I was excited to be out and not thinking about the breakup. Then, I turned around, and there was my ex. There she was, drinking away and kissing a girl that looked just like me but with short hair.

My heart dropped into my stomach. I told my friends that I wasn’t feeling good and went home. When I got there, I was so sad & upset by what I had just seen, something inside me snapped (so to speak).

 

“If your own community doesn’t embrace you, who will?”

 

My whole life, I’d been trying to get the courage to come out. When I finally did, I was so proud of myself and of being queer. But then to have someone that I not only loved but from my own community trying to put me back in the closet was one of the most painful things in the world. If your own community doesn’t embrace you, who will?

I went to the bathroom and put my hair in a ponytail and stared in the mirror. All I could think about was the hair. Had I just had short hair… I then grabbed the scissors and hacked off the ponytail and threw it in a ziplock bag, drove it to her house, knocked on her door, handed her the bag and said “here, am I a real lesbian now?”

That was the last time I ever saw her. When I tell this story, people will often laugh and call me ‘crazy’, to which I ask “what is crazier? Cutting off your hair to drive a point home or telling someone else who they are based on a societal misconception?”

My hair is very long currently, but I am also still very much gay!

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Julia Pels

Edited by Ash O'Keeffe

LGBTQ+ Activist

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