On Wednesday I went to a bar to meet a young friend. She had recently broken up with her girlfriend and wanted to talk. As we sat there talking non-stop for a couple of heartfelt hours she consoled an old hurt in me. Funny, I was the older, more experienced lesbian there to do the consoling! Who would have guessed that this young, strong, broken hearted woman in front of me was really there to enlighten the younger, seemingly forgotten, woman in me. It was like being smacked across the face. I was broadsided.
While I attempted to maintain my mature queer exterior, I felt myself slipping back in time. I felt that sting of a broken heart brought on by parents and family’s misconception of me and my inability to enlighten them eloquently and fearlessly. What she said that made all of those raw emotions come flooding back like a hot wave was, “Knowing and accepting are two different things.” She knew she liked girls a long long time ago, just like me. She knew that she couldn’t explain it to her parents, family and friends, just like me. She knew she was alone and so she just… didn’t talk about it. To anyone. Even herself. Just. Like. Me. But, UNLIKE me, she wasn’t going to spend the next 10 years living that way. She was going to accept herself and compromise for know one. Not even her family. That is a step I wasn’t ever able to make.
WHAM! Here I am: self-assured, confident, sexually outspoken, OUT, and married to a woman, and I feel like I’m 15 again. I remember feeling that I knew I was gay. Feeling like I had no one to talk to about it. Feeling alone in my knowledge, with no acceptance. I couldn’t even accept myself. Why..?
I had no examples of how to.
Role models in my teenage years were few and far between, and the ones I did have were coming out with fear in their eyes. They were borderline apologetic about being gay. Even my queer supporters made it seem like it was undeniable, but it still made me lesser, bad or wrong in some way. They knew I was gay, but did they really accept me. Nope. So, neither did I.
I listened to her talk about this break-up. I heard her plans for the future. I studied her eyes and saw so much more strength there at her age than I had ever felt like I had had. She is prepared to leave her family behind. She’s willing to choose her own truth rather than fight the resistance of an ignorant, racist and small-town/small-minded family’s idea of who she should be. Could I have even done that? I’m not sure. No. I don’t think so.
So, sitting at the bar, wrestling with my buried teenage feelings of love, loss and family, I finally understood what took ME so long to let go of past hurts and people. I understood that even though I had KNOWN long ago that I was unequivocally queer, I had had to learn the hard way how to ACCEPT that fact. To accept it meant to live it without an apology and without someone else’s permission. Without fear of rejection by those I loved the most. I realized that it hadn’t actually been that long since I accepted myself as gay. I was the role model I had looked for all of those years, even though I was faking it part of the time.
And here I thought I was such a strong example of Femme. Really, it was her.
I have known this lovely young woman for a couple of years. The same amount of time that she said she had felt that she accepted herself. I had been that fearless lesbian who was proud of who she was openly. Her role model. Wow. Little did she know about my own struggle to get there.
In her self-acceptance, I found my own on a deep deep level that might have actually healed old wounds. That young, scared, alone teen that I was so many years ago thanks her. My young friend doesn’t know it yet, but she will be some other young lesbian’s role model someday.
She already is mine.