There is no proper way to introduce my first guest writer, Reba Rose. She’s a dear friend, a warrior, and a talented wordsmith. When she first asked to write a post for COTQ, I was thrilled! We were both English majors in university (that’s where we met), sharing a deep love for the written word. She used to get behind her computer, and spill her feelings onto the blank, white screen…and I was honoured to be a person she shared those compositions with (I still have them!). I learned both through our late night talks, and her intimate pieces of writing, just how beautiful her soul is. I’ve learned over the years that, sometimes, those who carry the heaviest burdens, are some of the most down to earth, accepting individuals. She is no exception to this. And, just like those evenings, when she’d tap the night away madly on her keyboard, underneath that little black lamp in our tiny dorm room…another masterpiece has found its way to me. It’s heart wrenching, it’s inspiring, it’s universal. This is her truth…
Coming Out Twice Before Thirty is Tiring Work
A triggering Youtube spiral for me is ‘inspiring coming out’ stories. I was raised in a house where I was told that you love who you love. If the topic of one of her children being gay came up, my mother would insist upon her support and love. I would find out in a Walmart parking lot, when I was 18 years old, that this wasn’t true. I told my mom I was struggling, that I thought I was gay; I knew I liked men but I also liked women. She told me my father would be so upset because he had dreams of walking me down the aisle, she told me I was mistaken and confused, she told me I should go to therapy. My father told me he was happy for me, but soon his discomfort became apparent when he would refuse to engage in conversation with me about my identity. The whole incident was swept under the rug and the air around it felt like they assumed it was a ‘cry for attention.’ I turned to my friends at university in a different city, I thought I was ready to finally address these questions I had, to wonder aloud why razor commercials with women rubbing their smooth legs made me feel so confused.
But my little gay wings had been clipped. I was weighed down with shame and uncertainty. I pushed it away again, I left university, I met the coolest guy and we started dating. Eventually my parents and I were all too happy to move on like I hadn’t said anything. I shared my razor commercial feelings to C, my partner of now six years. He was encouraging, supportive and loving. He offered to give me the space to explore, but I heard my parents’ voices that I was wrong. I felt too scared to even try and I continued to push it down for the time being.
Looking the way I do, and having the particular long-term partner that I have had, allows me to dip in and out of my queer identity. Sometimes I have used this as an all too easy excuse to not confront myself, but it’s also put me in a position where I’ve been made to feel like I had to prove my queerness. I went through waves of thinking I could survive with never needing to take a peek at that side of myself; ‘you’re not gay’ I would chant. Then there were the waves of what I call the murky feelings; desperation, fear, regret, fear of pre-regret (that must be a thing). This all-consuming murk of feelings that I would always feel like a fraud. An imposter-queer.
What if I died and I had never allowed myself to find out who I was? This bone chilling panic would find me often, filling me up and spilling out into other parts of my life; it effected my primary romantic relationship, it altered the way I perceived myself, mostly making me feel dirty and demanding. “Why can’t I just want ‘regular’ stuff?” I pleaded with myself. I chose to actively fill my head with thoughts of a baby with my partner, contemplating getting married – knocking off the next milestones, because, what the fuck else were we doing?
Almost ten years later I came out to my parents again, this time with my partner, C, sitting beside me. In a diner I had been excited to try, I told my parents that C and I were polyamorous and before I could even say how wonderful it was going, my mother begins to cry pretty hard. My father, with a stern face, places his arm around his now audibly, sobbing wife. They tell us this is the beginning of the end of our relationship, they tell us this isn’t how things are done, they tell me to go to therapy … again (which is only hilarious because I have been advocating therapy to the rest of my relatives for years to no avail). Only this time their rejection didn’t seem to weigh me down so much anymore. I recognised that their refusal to accept me for who I was had been stopping me from trying to get a good look at myself for my own sake after all of these years. I was allowing their disillusionment colour my views of myself! How is that fair? And although I did make sure to eat at that diner again, that was the last time I saw my parents.
People often ask C and I whose idea it was to start this endeavour, the truth is we have been speaking about it since the beginning. We spoke about never wanting the other one to feel stuck in this relationship, mentioning that if you ever found someone you were interested in, to bring it up. Each time we checked in about this little asterisk in our otherwise monogamous setup, we didn’t feel ready. I could not imagine seeing him with someone else, or the thought of him lying in bed and caressing someone else’s hair, or even seeing him hold another person’s hand. We continued to only see each other, and to grow more codependent by each passing year. When the topic came up again and the once familiar stab of jealousy didn’t take over, I knew this conversation would be different.
Particulars have been sorted, conflicts have arisen and been addressed, tears have been shed, and in tandem, C and I have grown. (There is obviously more to this story, but it is best kept for another post).
That panic that used to fill me doesn’t come to visit anymore, I no longer fear the person I am suppressing inside of me, she is here. About a year ago I started some very new and uncomfortable work with my therapist; it involved accessing my aggression, role playing, and some serious and painful healing. This therapist and I would speak at length about the ‘freak wanting to wave her flag’ inside of me that I was desperate to let out. I look back on that girl, as the woman I am now, and I feel patience and love for her.
As an INFJ, cutting someone out of my life is not really something that is overly difficult for me. I have said goodbye to toxic friendships, but eliminating the people who brought you up in the world has been a very different experience. Society tells you that your family is everything, respecting your parents and what they have done for you is number one. But what happens when that isn’t your reality? What happens when you start to fall in love with your queer self and two people who promised to always love and support you, don’t know how to love the specific person you are? I am still finding answers to those questions, but I have had the support of my created family, my non-bio fam, people and community who are helping me figure it all out. Some of these people are romantic partners, some are queer partners, some are platonic partners. All surround me with love.
In about 6 months I have both lost and gained family. That is a mighty sentence for me to write. I felt shut out by people who swore to always be there to welcome me home. It’s shocking when you realise your childhood house is not your home, but I’ve been slowly building my own, and I will leave my doors open to anyone willing to accept and share in my love. And you know what? I’ve been to therapy since last speaking to my parents and I am still queer and still polyamorous.
– Reba Rose
If anyone has their own coming out fears, stories or advice, please share with the rest of us. You are never alone in this, and family CAN be made.
To get more of Reba Rose, follow her on Instagram @_rebarose!
Until next time… Fuck well, friends, and wave that freak flag high!