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The following question has been slightly revised to maintain the anonymity of the writer.
Q: In recent years, I have become aware and comfortable with the fact that I am a lesbian. My family accepts me, my college accepts me, I accept me, and most all of my friends/people I know accept me.
In the last few years, I have won state and national sporting titles. In competing, I have made many friends. However, this is the only group who I have not come out to, mostly due to the fact that they are god-revering, slightly red-neck folks. I am afraid that they will take my titles away from me and completely shun me.
I am also afraid of running for a state title with the Miss America Organization, a dream of mine, because I don’t think that my state is ready for a “gay celebrity” representing them.
I have thought about just avoiding the subject, but unfortunately my girlfriend and sexuality are a big part of my life and myself. Please help me overcome this with some confidence and classy techniques.
A: Don’t underestimate readiness. Here’s a list of things people weren’t ready for…until they were.
- People weren’t ready for the iPhone, but we gave Steve Jobs all of our money.
- People weren’t ready for White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter, but — wait, did someone say White Chocolate Wonderful? BRB.
- People weren’t ready for sexy to come back, but Justin Timberlake made us wonder how we’d been living for so long without it.
- People weren’t ready for Beyonce to drop an unannounced, self-titled album, but let’s just take a guess at how many people spent their lunch money on it.
- People weren’t ready to be changed and inspired by selflessness, and then there was Mother Teresa.
- People weren’t ready for “fetch” to happen, but…well, that never happened. Sorry Gretchen Weiners. Forget that one.
You see? There were lots of things that people weren’t ready for until it got here. So, I believe the thing to focus on here is not the readiness of others, but the readiness of yourself. It seems as though you have a pretty strong system with the acceptance of your family, friends, college, and self; that’s half of the battle right there! Having a strong support system when it comes to anything that you do is important, but I know it is especially important for today’s queer folks coming out. It’s especially important because we live in a world where acceptance is growing, but just as acceptance grows, so does hate and I am sure that the “hate” part is what troubles you most. One of the most important things I have learned in life is this: People will love you and people will hate you for whatever reason, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide who and what is actually important.
If you enter into the pageant world worrying about what any and everyone has to say about you, let me go ahead and tell you — you will be eaten alive and spit out in pieces. I have seen the pageant world work wonders for many young women, and I’ve seen it do a horrible number on others. In order to survive, you must have a strong sense of self, know what you bring to the table and the legacy you want to leave behind. And right now, you have an opportunity to leave a beautiful legacy, but you could miss out on it by sitting around waiting for people to be “ready.”
So, how can you be ready? I want to pull a few things from your letter that show me the areas in which you are ready and the areas that you may want to re-examine.
“In recent years, I have become aware and comfortable with the fact that I am a lesbian.” Let’s go ahead and count that as a win. Self acceptance is so huge! Once you are able to accept yourself, it makes it that much easier for everyone else. Good shot.
“In the last few years, I have won state and national sporting titles.” You know how to compete and you are good at what you do…that’s a another win.
“In competing, I have made friends.” This is great! Another win. In competing, if a crown/trophy/medal is the only thing you walk away with, then you’ve lost.
“However, this is the only group I have not come out to, mostly because they are god-revering, slightly redneck folks.” Well…there is a lot of judgment going on in this one sentence. Not only are you preconceiving prejudices FOR them, but you are also projecting your own judgments on to them. Maybe they do love them some Jesus and maybe they fit all of the “you might be a redneck if” stereotypes, but you are robbing them of a chance to love and appreciate you for who you really are by omitting the truth and in essence, denying yourself for their comfort. I have some friends who are very deeply involved in their church and Christian faith. I know that there are things that we do not agree on because of their own personal, religious convictions. But, you know what? They love me. They love me because I gave them a chance to love me. And I honestly believe that just as much as I did not want to lose them as a friend upon coming out, they did not want to lose me as a friend for not giving them a chance to love me regardless of our differences. If these people are really your friends, they will love you regardless, and if that has to change because of who you love, ask yourself if those really the kinds of people you need in your life?
“…I don’t think my state is ready for a ‘gay celebrity’ representing them.” I have a couple of questions about this statement:
Are you the only gay/queer person in your state?
I’ll go ahead an answer that for you: no, you’re not. You have a girlfriend, so you know there are at least two queer folks in your state. Queer people need to be represented just as straight people do and VISIBILITY IS EVERYTHING. Think of yourself as a human being who represents other human beings —lots of different kinds of human beings. You could never be everything for everyone, so don’t try to be. You are who you are — gay or not. Next question…
Do you only want to be known for being gay?
This is a serious question. Do you or don’t you? It’s totally up to you. Right now, it seems that you are focusing in on one aspect of yourself and making it the end-all-be-all of what you are “allowed” to do. You’ve been competing. You’ve been making friends. You’ve been living your life. The world doesn’t stop because you are a lesbian — don’t forget that. Being a lesbian is a part of who you are, just like your eye color, hair color, favorite food, and obsession or aversion to Miley Cyrus.
“I have thought about avoiding this subject, but unfortunately my girlfriend and my sexuality are a big part of my life and myself.” SELF ACCEPTANCE. You have it. I cannot say it enough — IT IS THE KEY. If you have truly accepted yourself, there is no need to be avoiding “this subject”. You don’t have to wear a rainbow t-shirt to match your knee-high rainbow socks that accent the huge rainbow flag you wave every day. Oh, does that not apply to you? I didn’t think so. Everyone vocalizes differently. For some people, it is very important to them that people know how they identify right off the top so there is no confusion. For others, it comes up whenever it comes up, but they don’t go out of their way to say anything. I look at it like this: think of talking about your girlfriend no differently than someone would talk about their boyfriend. Talk about being a lesbian if the occasion calls for it. The way you identify can be as big or small of a deal as you want it to be, but just make sure it’s some kind of deal that is fitting to you. Avoiding and dancing around “the subject” gets frustrating and annoying, and you will soon find yourself eating a huge slice of self-resentment. You have to be true to you. And from your letter, I feel like you want to be true to yourself, but you don’t want it to be a big deal. If it’s not a big deal, don’t make it a big deal.
The last thing that concerns me was just one word: “UNFORTUNATELY.” Do you love and accept your girlfriend? Do you love and accept yourself? If the answer to each of these is yes, how is that unfortunate? I’m not going to lie, the placement of that word kind of broke my heart because it honestly felt like, “I could do this, but all my gay is holding me back.” Your gay doesn’t hold you back. Your gay makes you great. Your ability to accept yourself makes you great. Your willingness to live in your truth makes you great. Being who you are makes you great — and there’s nothing unfortunate about being great.
Think about all of the lives you could change and the opportunities you could encounter by competing. Think of how proud you make the people who know and love you and the people who don’t know you, but still love you. Think about the difference you could make in the way the world views the “beauty queen.” You have an opportunity here to not only step out of the box, but to kick a hole in that thing. It’s not about everyone else being ready, it’s about you being ready. I don’t have any fancy tricks or “classy techniques” to give you on how to tame your gay enough so that the heteroes don’t feel threatened. But what I can offer you, in conclusion, is this: You determine your legacy. You determine what is a big deal and what is not. You determine who matters and who doesn’t. You determine if self acceptance outweighs outside acceptance (I’ll, give you a hint: it does). You determine whether or not you will be great. And remember, there’s nothing unfortunate about being great.