Today is the 25th anniversary of an event that few people have experienced; And that’s for the best, because every day of my life for the last 25 years has been full of fear. It feels necessary to put these feelings into words and the words on paper; but the decision to submit it for publication is extremely difficult and frightening. Will “they” be surprised? will “they” publish? Do I really want them to? What will happen if they do? Will I lose readers and followers like I lost so many friends and the respect of family so many years ago?
That day began like so many other beautiful spring days in Indiana. I took my kids to their piano lessons and took advantage of the wait time to hand over some papers to one of my Little League officials. I was the president of the Little League, but I didn’t Really I need to deliver those papers… I just wanted to. I still didn’t realize why it was so important to me.
After ringing the bell, an unknown woman opened the door. Suddenly I felt violently ill. The woman I was really hoping to see finally came to the door, invited me in, and made introductions that I never heard. My ears were ringing. My heart was beating. Nausea overwhelmed me. What was he feeling and why?
As I started driving my kids back, I replayed the above scene over and over in my head. What had just happened? Why was he reacting so harshly? When the answer finally took shape, I pulled my car to the side of the road. So I cried and cried and cried. What she was experiencing was jealousy, but jealousy of what? What did it mean?
Over the past few weeks, he’d spent a lot of time with the woman he’d gone to see to keep scores at Little League ball games. I already knew that he was getting a divorce and that the divorce had something to do with her interest in another woman. I had been surprised by her earlier revelation, but not repelled. In fact, I started looking forward to the games we worked on together. I started making excuses to see her.
The acknowledgment of the feeling she was experiencing as jealousy was too much to accept. How could he be jealous of a woman’s affection? As a woman, she couldn’t be jealous of another woman unless…unless I…unless I was “one of those” people.
When I was young, my mother would often point out “those” people (always men) and tell me they were going to HELL! My little brother wasn’t allowed to go into a public restroom because there might be one of “those” people waiting there to… I was never quite sure what they would do, but I definitely got the message that “those” people did it wrong . things and would be severely punished for eternity in HELL!
How could I be one of “those” people? I was 37 years old. I had a husband. I had two children about to become teenagers. I went to church every Sunday. My grandfather was a minister. This just couldn’t be happening!
For the next few weeks, I existed in a daze. I really wasn’t fully aware of what was going on around me. I cried often, lost weight rapidly, and reflected on my past. Yes, I had been the typical tomboy. I had always hated frilly dresses and loved climbing trees. I hated playing with dolls, but I loved playing basketball with the kids at recess. In high school, I paid little attention to boys or girls, but I had a crush on my physical education teacher. Back then, I hadn’t realized it was a crush (and it seems so stereotypical now), but it was a crush. In high school I had a “boyfriend” who was older, and in the army (he was from Vietnam); and therefore I was SAFE in the sense that I didn’t have to go on dates. me hated go on dates
During college, I dated a friend from high school; but he didn’t attend my university, so again, the number of dates was limited. I became close friends with a freshman who lived on my floor in the dorm where I was a student staff member. Her name was Barbara. She intrigued me because she was so different from the average “girly” girl, and we spent a lot of time together. We often talked for hours.
Before my third year in college, my boyfriend asked me to marry him. He really didn’t want to marry me, but it was what good girls were supposed to do. My family liked him and his family liked me. So I said, “Yes.” Before my senior year, we got married. I cried throughout my wedding. now I understand what those tears were about.
As time went on, I kept doing what I was supposed to do. I finished my bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, started a teaching career, got a Master’s degree in Psychology, and started a family: a boy and a girl. Life seemed perfect. When my daughter was about four years old, it crossed my mind that “someday her father is going to be very angry.” I didn’t have the right words to apply, but I was recognizing in her what I didn’t recognize in me.
As I looked into my past, I realized that I had always been “fascinated” by female couples I saw at the mall, that there was a girl from high school that I periodically thought about and would occasionally have fleeting sexual thoughts about certain women that I always “close” quickly. (“I wonder how she would feel…?” or “I wish I were a man so I could…”) At that time, I truly believed that all women had such thoughts.
Even with all that thought, he still couldn’t accept me as a… dare I say it? as a lesbian? I needed to talk to someone who could understand my confusion. All my friends and family were very religious people. In fact, everyone in town fit that description. There would be no understanding of anyone there. The person that finally came to mind was Barbara. She had moved to Colorado immediately after graduation, but since she visited her parents in Indiana and usually visited us at the same time, we stuck together. During our college days, she had always believed that she was a lesbian, but we had never discussed it. She knew for sure that she had a gay brother so I felt like she would listen to me without telling me that she was going to HELL! I called her and asked if she could visit, saying that she needed to talk.
Barbara thought I came to tell her that I was getting a divorce. When I finally mustered the strength to tell her why she was really there, she stood up and left the room. I didn’t understand. When he finally came back, he explained that the exact same thing was happening to her in Colorado. She had made room to reflect on why I had come into her life at that specific time and to consider telling me about her own struggles. We had both been attracted to unavailable women and wondered what to do about it. As we talked, it became clear that the lesbian label was undeniable. A new life, along with its set of fears, began for both of them.
We started looking for useful information in lesbian bookstores. I didn’t know such a thing existed. We discuss the ramifications. As teachers, we were painfully aware that if anyone found out, we would lose our jobs. I had the added complications of a husband and children. Could you stay married and pretend to be straight? If I decided I couldn’t, would my children be taken from me? At the time, lesbians were not considered fit to raise children.
I returned to Indiana with very few answers. My husband took care of the first question a few days after I got home. One night after we went to bed, he turned to me and said, “Are you a lesbian?” I was momentarily shocked into silence. I finally managed a shaky “Why do you ask that?” “I found this book,” he replied as he pulled out my recently purchased “Our Right to Love.” I thought you had so carefully hidden this book in a cabinet that you never opened. I remember looking up at the sky and thinking, “Thank you for your help!”
I had never lied to my husband. He was my best friend. So I told him the truth. “That depends on your definition. If you’re asking me if I’ve ever had sex with a woman, the answer is no. If you’re asking me if I now identify as a lesbian, a woman who prefers the company of a woman, then the answer is yes.” “. To his credit, my husband was wonderful. We talked well into the night. He understood that this was not something he could fight against. We discuss options and ramifications. I told him that I felt he needed to move to Colorado Springs both to be close to Barb and to get away from Indiana. He initially decided to move in with us and helped us move and settle in Colorado. In the end, he decided that he couldn’t stay in Colorado; but I will always be grateful for his help and support. I still wish we had stayed the best of friends like he had promised.
Life in Colorado has been more difficult and frightening than I ever imagined it could be. A bitter divorce, constant financial worries, raising 2 children without their father, building a new relationship with a woman, dealing with my partner’s issues related to child abuse, teaching in the fear of discovery environment created by Focus On The Family and Amendment 2, raising a lesbian daughter, raising a teenage son in a house full of women, learning to accept myself as a lesbian, learning to be being a lesbian, having no friends and constantly fearing for the safety of all of us were just some of the issues we faced; and all this will be the subject of another article.
Initially, the decision to write and submit this article seemed very difficult; But when I think of young people who are bullied at school, who question who they are, who are kicked out of their own homes, who feel hopeless and think suicide is their only option, the right choice is obvious. . . I will always feel very sad for my students who obviously, to me, needed help but didn’t get it because of my own fears. I still feel ashamed of myself for not being stronger then. Now I understand that we all must FIGHT FEAR. We must do it for those who will follow us. Hopefully one day, no one will have to live in fear of what is!
Am I afraid to press the SEND button? Absolutely! Barbara has seen me cry while writing and mentally reliving everything. She just asked me if I want to reconsider. Absolutely not! But when I ask myself why I haven’t written this before, the answer is that I’ve been afraid. Why can I write it now? I just have to do it. One of the magazines I write for chose FEAR as their theme of the month… and sadly, I’ve become an expert on fear!
NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO LIVE EVERY MOMENT IN FEAR OF WHO THEY ARE!