Tag Archives: coming out

Outed by God

xx

Have you ever been here?

I’ve been in that hollowed out place in the earth this past week or so.

If you’ve ever suffered from depression, you know all too well the place I’m talking about.  It’s filled with shadows and spider webs and bone gray nothingness.  It’s the land of fatigue and apathy and why-the-hell-should-I-bother-anyway?

I just finished up my coming out chapter for my memoir, and my awakening came from a very serious bout of depression.  So, I’ve been slogging through the past.  Thanks, memoir.

Naïve me: Oh, why can’t I be a fiction writer like all of my friends?

Blunt me: Because your ego is the size Dolly Parton’s breasts.  Not just one, but both of ’em.

Girl meets girl

Girl meets girl

Now, most lesbians realize that they’re lesbians in a more organic way.  Girl falls in love with girl.  See Ellen and Portia.  Or, Ellen and Ann Heche.  Ok, skip that example.  But most of the women that I know who came out later in life fell in love with a female friend or a co-worker or a neighbor.  And there they were — head over hiking boot heels — dissecting diagrams on scissoring, becoming vegans, ordering flannel shirts by the dozen, following around a Melissa Etheridge tour, organizing potlucks for community events.

But Middle-Age Butch?  Yes, I was attracted to women over the years.  I sold myself on the concept that I was just admiring the beauty of the female form.  Because, damn, that soft flesh and those curves that seemed to roll for days. And anyway, didn’t all girls prefer the company of other girls?  And didn’t all wives at one time or another daydream about having a threesome with a hot blonde that was really a twosome because their husbands weren’t included in this fantasy?

I never really put it all together until I was in my 30s.  I was depressed.  Out.  Of.  My.  Mind.  What did that look like?  I wanted to hide in a tiny, dark, enclosed space like a closet.  Yes, for real, in a closet or under a desk or in some other place that would shield me from the rest of the world.

I had been dealing with depression for the better part of a decade, so I knew the slippery slope that I was sliding down.

And that’s when I started to pray.

Now mind you, I’m not a religious person.  I wasn’t brought up going to church or indoctrinated in any faith.

I'm a lesbian because of this dude.

I’m a lesbian because of this dude.

So, basically, I just cobbled together what I knew: the Serenity Prayer that I had memorized from tagging along with a friend to AA meetings and the Lord’s Prayer from Prince’s song Controversy.  I asked God to show me who he intended me to be.

I kept this up for several weeks and then one day it hit me like a ton of rainbow bricks or a boat load of flannel shirts or a truckload of Dr. Marten’s or …. I could keep this up all day, folks.  I was a lesbian.  It just popped into my head as if I was Horton and the word “lesbian” had been whispered into my ear by a very intuitive Who.

Me.  A lesbian.  Who would’ve thunk it?

And the rest is history.  But not herstory, because I hate when womyn do that.  D’oh!  (Note to angry feminists: You cannot just change the English language.)

So, the moral of this story is:

Be careful what you pray for.

Or maybe, God’s okay with gay.  In fact, he actually encourages it when you’re …. um, gay.

Rainbows can come from mud puddles?

Or maybe it’s that we all need to get really still sometimes and listen for that small, quiet voice that tells us what we already know.

* * *

So, let’s open this bad boy up.  Coming out … tell your story.

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Why my coming out was like the YA novel Divergent

DivergentI just finished reading Divergent, a young adult novel written by Veronica Roth.  It was sort of a cross between The Hunger Games and Harry Potter.

To summarize, Divergent is a novel about a dystopian society in Chicago whose citizens are members of one of five factions: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite.  Each faction is named for a human virtue.  At age 16, students undergo an aptitude test and are told the faction that they are best suited for (think Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter books).  However, the final choice belongs to the students and they reveal their decisions in a big ceremony that reminded me of the reaping ceremony in The Hunger Games.

Here’s the catch: If a student selects a faction that differs from the faction of his or her family, he or she can only have contact with family members once a year on visiting day.  It’s faction over family in this story.

The beginning of the book reminded me of my coming out.

xx

Are you certain I’m Gryffindor and not Sapphos?

When I came out, there was no Sorting Hat, although that would have been cool.

From the look of that flannel shirt and those sturdy shoes, you must belong to the House of Sapphos.  

Or, aptitude test.

You have racked up a perfect score for the faction Lesbian, a tribe of women with a fondness for potlucks, the classic TV series Xena: Warrior  Princess and cats.

But at a certain point, I came out and chose to live my life as an out lesbian.  The lesbian part wasn’t a choice, but I did have a say in whether I would stay in the closet or not.  By choosing to live my life openly, I strayed from the path that my parents wanted me to take.  In some respects, we live in different worlds, different factions.

Back then, their faction would have been called something like Discrete or Shhhh.

There is no yearly visiting day, but more often than not, our visits come on holidays or birthdays or other special occasions.  I’ve learned that I need tall fences and well-marked boundaries to maintain our relationship.

As I look at my paperback cover of Divergent, I notice the book’s tag line for the first time: “One choice can transform you.”

Oh, Veronica Roth, how very true.

The lesbian discount

W and I might be vacationing in Provincetown, Mass., in July.

We don’t get a lot of alone time, so this could be just what the Lesbian Doctor of Love ordered.  (Think Melissa Etheridge with a stethoscope.)

Initially, we had talked about going to Boston or Salem, Mass., but W texted me today and asked what I thought about P-Town.

I texted back that it is one of my life goals to buy something from the Provincetown Women’s Bookstore.

Cue flashback swirls and trippy music.

Flashback

The year was 2002.  A guy named Bush was president.  Later on, this will seem ironic or like heavy handed foreshadowing.

I am participating in a therapy group called “Married to a Man and in Love With a Woman.”  I am married to a man.  I can’t fathom the woman part even though I fantasize about it.

During one of these therapy sessions, a fellow participant talks about going on vacation in Provincetown with her family.  She is surrounded by hand-holding, rainbow flag-waving gay people but unable to tell her conservative family about her girlfriend.

She tells us that the Women’s Bookstore in town offers a 10 percent discount to women-loving women.  “You just have to ask for the lesbian discount,” she explains.

The bisexual in the group asks if she would get a 5 percent price reduction.

The moment that I hear about the lesbian discount, I want it.  It’s not about saving the 10 percent (even though I’m cheap like that) but about being able to identify as a lesbian.

At the time, it’s something that I can’t even imagine.  No one knows I’m a lesbian.  Not my husband or my parents or my friends.  How could I possibly tell a stranger that I’m one?

The Women’s Bookstore becomes a mythic mountain of sorts.  A challenge to train for and to conquer.

More than a decade later, I am ready.

I know that I can confidently ask for the lesbian discount.

Somehow, I suspect that they would give it to me anyway.

Butch and more butch

300h[1]I was reading the paper today and stumbled upon this quote by Pink:

“I was always considered butch.  Feeling beautiful to me is when I feel good in my leather pants and my husband grabs my ass.”

The word “butch” took me by surprise.

Hey, that’s my word.  My thing.  Me.  I am Middle-age butch, after all.

Why is a straight woman like Pink using the word “butch” in reference to herself?

Sure, Pink is an edgy, bad-ass rock star who looks hot in leather pants.  If a straight girl is going to use that word, it might as well be Pink.

I guess the flannel on my shirt stood straight up for a moment there because the word “butch” means something to me.

After I came out, I considered myself a “soft butch.”  Something like a tomboy with harder edges and more rigid views about my sexuality.

I transitioned to what I consider a regular butch a few years later.  The more butch I became, the shorter my hair.  I’m sure there’s an algorithm for that somewhere.

I hit my butch stride when I first started dating W.  I was rocking jeans and flannel shirts from the young men’s department.  Thick black belts and Dr. Marten’s boots.  I felt good in my body.  Like things fit — like I fit — for the first time in my life.

I carried myself differently.  With more confidence and purpose.

At the time, I was participating in a weekly therapy group related to coming out.  I used to leave therapy and head over to W’s apartment for a quickie.  Feeling large and in charge.  Taking her in my arms and kissing her deftly and with purpose.  (We later determined that there is no such thing as a Sapphic quickie.)

Lately, I’ve felt restless in this body.  In this butch body.  Stagnant.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t changed things up in awhile.

imagesCAYXS717In the past, there have always been firsts.  Neckties, tattoos, men’s vests and suits.  Chunky boots and thick leather bracelets.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still love wearing ties, Dr. Marten’s and studded bracelets.  They make me feel sexy and alive.

But maybe it’s time to stir things up a bit.  Butch up.  Be more butch.  Butcher.  Live butch.  Love butch.

Butch.  It’s not just for breakfast anymore.  And if it was, it would beat the hell out of oatmeal and OJ every single day of the week.

Maybe I should wear my hair shorter.  Trade in my Hanes Her Way for the ones on the other side of the store.

There’s still a lot of unexplored territory.

In the end, “butch” is just a word.  Like “femme” and “dyke,” “queer” and “queen.”

It only means more if you want it to.

To me, butch is power and comfort, sex appeal and swagger.  It reminds me of a young girl long ago who didn’t know who she was or how she would ever be anything other than scared and unsure.

To me, butch is more than a label.  More than a way of life.  It’s who I am and how I came to be.

So, if Pink wants to say that people have always viewed her as a butch, who can blame her?

Not this butch.

Why the Millionaire Matchmaker would have outed me decades ago

I have a thing for the reality show Millionaire Matchmaker, which airs on Bravo.

Matchmaker Patti Stanger

Matchmaker Patti Stanger

The show features Patti Stanger, a third-generation matchmaker who sets up millionaires with potential matches.

I’m not sure why I like the show, but I do.

Part of the reason might be that I only watch shows that are on channels 58 (A&E) through 78 (OWN), with the exception of sporting events and channel 50 (FOOD).  Which really limits my viewing options.  No real reason.  I’m just weird, and cable television presents way too many choices for me.

Anyway, there was a  Millionaire Matchmaker marathon on today.  I had it on in the background while I did a kazillion loads of laundry and continued to pack up Christmas.

I’ve always wished that the show was around back in the day when I was dating guys and sporting long red fingernails.

I’ll never forget one episode of Millionaire Matchmaker in which Patti attempted to out a suspected lesbian who was auditioning for a potential date with a millionaire.

She asked if the woman typically liked “pretty boys.”

Whoa.  That rang a bell.  I always had a thing for “pretty boys.”  Well, at least until I admitted my attraction to pretty girls.

Today, Patti talked about how a masculine energy female attracts a feminine energy male.  My dating history makes so much sense now.

Without further ado, here are Middle-age butch’s biggest male crushes of all time:

PRINCE (number 1 of all time)

I always liked guys with really cheesy mustaches and good bone structure.

I always liked guys with really cheesy mustaches and good bone structure.

JON BON JOVI

I had this poster in my dorm room.  Such nice long hair and pretty clothes.

I had this poster in my dorm room. Such nice long hair, pretty clothes and sexy eyeliner.

STEVEN TYLER

Dude looks like a lady.

Dude looks like a lady.

JOHNNY DEPP

Perhaps the prettiest of them all.

Perhaps the prettiest of them all.

Anyone else care to share?

The year in review: On blogging and looking back over my shoulder

2013The Flannel Files started on a whim.  My son had just left to live with his dad, and I was looking for something creative and productive to do to fill the void.

So, this blog sprung from a loss, as many creative endeavors do.

I didn’t know anything about blogging.  I didn’t even read any blogs.

But I stumbled onto WordPress, and the rest is history.

I wasn’t sure that I was doing it right (which brought back memories of early sexual encounters) or that anyone would ever read it, but hey, it was all about me and the writing and away I went.

I’ve been blogging for about half a year now, and it’s been a real joy.

I find that when I blog purely for myself, the words come easily and people seem to respond.

To date, I’ve written 65 posts.  The Flannel Files has received a whopping 6,600 views.  I have 181 followers.

I peaked in late October when my post about a really bad fish sandwich was Freshly Pressed.  More than 1,000 people read that post, and it made my day.  Ok, year.  It was such a thrill to watch the views increase by the hour and my e-mail in box to fill with “likes” and comments and new followers.

I’ve found that readers seem to like stories about my life struggles.  Like coming out and my never-ending quest to let go dammit.  Coming out certainly isn’t a universal struggle, but everyone can relate to trying to fit in and searching for one’s place in the world.

My favorite blog post was Of Mice and Lesbians.  Probably because every word, believe it or not, is true.  After I wrote it, I had one of those gee-this-is-really-my-life ha-ha moments.

I hope to blog in 2013 about letting go — still — and forgiveness and my cats and hopefully some new adventures that I’m planning.  I would love to find a way to cobble together some of these posts for the beginnings of a memoir.

Anyway, I hope you’ll come along for the ride.  When I started this project one day last summer, I never knew that one person (well, except for W) would be interested, let alone 181.  And as much as this whole thing is for me and about me, it just wouldn’t work without you.  Without you, dear reader, there would be no “likes” or comments or give and take or community, which is what makes a blog much more than just a bunch of words on a screen.  Thank you for all that you do to inspire me to be a better writer and a better person.

Happy New Year!

It does get better — and easier to buy lesbian erotica

With National Coming Out Day hitting last week, I read a lot of blogs that talked about coming out and found it interesting that a lot of bloggers chose to end their blog postings with comments about how it gets better.

Even Middle Age Butch commented In Celebration of National Coming Out Day “that it does get better and easier.”

With that said, I thought I’d explore some of the ways that things have gotten better for this butch lesbian since coming out a decade or so ago.

ONE.  I can carry around a copy of the Philadelphia Gay News in public without shame.  I knew that I was becoming more comfortable with being out when a gentleman approached me in Borders, pointed to the newspaper that I was carrying and asked where he could get a copy.  I didn’t blush or stammer and eloquently directed him to the upstairs news rack.

TWO.  I can buy lesbian erotica from a bookstore without turning 50 shades of red.  I remember buying a lesbian erotica book in the early days of my coming out.  Another “research project” for this fresh-out-of-the-closet butch.  I’m not sure who was more embarrassed, me or the female bookstore clerk.  I had wedged the erotica in between a stack of unassuming books in an attempt to camouflage it.  The Canterbury Tales, Best Butch Femme Erotica, Little Women, The Essential Wok Cookbook.  The clerk wasn’t falling for my well-planned ruse.  She took one look at the canoodling women on the front cover of the erotica book and turned as red as the freshly spanked ass on page 73.  Which, in turn, made me blush.  I think I threw a couple of twenties at her and ran for the door.  Or at least that’s what I wanted to do.

I like that I have enough swagger and confidence these days to buy an erotica book without turning  colors like a lesbian chameleon, losing consciousness or  pretending that the book is for my pretend lesbian friend, Ronnie.  “Oh, she’s such a raging lesbian.  Big, strapping bull dyke of a girl.  She is really going to love this.”

THREE.  I’m not fazed when someone mistakenly refers to me as “sir.”  I usually just deepen my voice and go with it, unless the person realizes his or her mistake and begins to apologize profusely.  “Not a problem,” I’ll say and mean it.  I used to look over my shoulder and wonder who the rude guy was who was ignoring someone’s question.

I could have been just like Sandy West of The Runaways

FOUR.  I can do what I want these days without stereotypical gender restrictions.  For example, my mother never let me take drum lessons when I was a kid because, apparently, drums are for boys.  These days, I can pay for my own lessons and become a rock star in a kick-ass all-girl rock band.  Except that I’m 45 and way too old for late-night gigs and really loud music and being on the road for prolonged periods of time.  But I totally could if I wanted to.

FIVE.  I pay for my own clothes these days, so I can shop in the men’s department for all of my apparel needs.  I can buy and wear ties and pinstripes and sleeveless T-shirts and suspenders.  Whatever floats this butch’s boat.

So, it does get better.  A lot better.  It’s all about liking the skin that you’re in.  With that comes confidence and on the really good days a little bit of swagger, especially when I’m wearing a necktie or maybe a really thick leather wrist cuff.  On those days, I’m a rock star, even though I never learned how to play the drums.

Coming out to an old friend

We went to a wedding yesterday.   Me and W and all three kids.

One of W’s second cousins once removed or something like that got married.

When we walked into the church, I saw a woman who looked like someone I had played softball with ten plus years ago.  So, during the church service and the reception festivities, I stared at her, trying to figure out if wedding attendee was former softball teammate.

She probably thought that I was going to hit on her or that I was a creepy stalker.  I get that a  lot.

W did some detective work at the reception, but no one seemed to know the name or identity of this mystery woman.

“Maybe she’ll recognize you,” W said.  I knew that wasn’t remotely possible as I look nothing like the superstar softball stud that I was in the 1990s.  I certainly played ball like a butch back then, but I was still sporting longer hair and shopped in the ladies department for about 50 percent of my apparel.

I told W to get a good look at her face so that when we got home she would be able to identify her using a softball championship photo that I have.  I wanted W to be able to spot this woman in a police line-up or pick her out from the pages of her own Where’s Waldo? book, if she had one, of course.

Did you ever play softball?

As you can probably tell, I was way too embarrassed to just approach her and ask if she played softball back in the day.  That’s fine for people with average social skills.  Middle age butch does not boast average people skills.

However, when we were getting ready to leave, I got up the nerve to ask her if she used to play softball in a league.

Turns out that she did.

We had a nice chat about the old days — good times, good times — and she filled me in on our other teammates.  Most are now married with kids.

At one point, she said that she never would have recognized me with the short hair.

“Yeah, short hair.  And I wear ties now,” I said, touching the black striped one peeking out from under my vest.

The tie comment, of course, meant more than, hey, I started wearing men’s clothes and accessories since the last time that I saw you.

“It’s all good,” my friend said, “as long as you’re happy.”

I never get tired of having people from my past give me their stamp of approval.

It sounds pathetic.  But it’s comforting to know that people still like me, regardless of who I’m sharing my bed and life with these days.

In celebration of National Coming Out Day

In honor of National Coming Out Day, I thought I’d share a few highlights from my own coming out.

I’ve touched on the subject in this post.

But I thought I’d offer these random tidbits:

Oh, Blockbuster, I’ll never forget you

* Our local Blockbuster clerk was the first person that I came out to.  I didn’t exactly say, “Hey, buddy, raging lesbian here.  I’ll need a copy of Show Me Love, Ellen’s latest stand-up special and The L Word Season 2.”

I was much more subtle.  Renting every lesbian movie that Blockbuster had using some list that I procured from the Internet.  Go Fish, check.  When Night Is Falling, check.  But I’m a Cheerleader, check.  Strictly for research purposes, of course.  See all of my favorite lesbian movies here.

* I saw Kissing Jessica Stein days before I came out, which is probably why that movie holds a special place in my heart.  That and Jennifer Westfeldt is super cute.  I can remember watching the movie and feeling like Jessica, Helen and I were learning the ropes of lesbianism together.

Me, Jessica and Helen — beginner lesbians

* My best friend was the first person who I told that I was a lesbian.  I informed her at the tail end of a phone conversation.  Five minutes later, she called back.

Me: Hello.

Friend: I have a question.

Me: Yes?

Friend: Were you ever attracted to me?

Because this is what straight girls want to know when you reveal that you’re a lesbian.  Did you ever want to fuck me?

* I came out to the bulk of my friends and family in a Christmas letter.  Son turned 5 this year and built the Millennium Falcon out of Legos, and oh, by the way, I’m gay.  This is why you should always read every word of those holiday form letters.

I once heard Kurt Vonnegut speak. He was brilliant.

* “I’m gay.”  It’s two words.  They are the hardest words that I ever had to say to my parents.

I love this quote from Kurt Vonnegut.  “If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts.”  I did both.

* My mother had suggested that I stay in the closet until my son turned 16.  He was almost 4 years old when I came out.  Because that would have been so great for his development.

“Son, you know that I like softball.  Well, your mom really, really, really likes softball,” I imagine myself saying.

* * *

If you’re already out, fist bump.  If not, know that it does get better and easier.  It’s certainly a step that you should take when you’re completely ready and not a minute sooner.

Until then, maybe rent some gay or lesbian movies on Netflix.  Tell them middle age butch sent you.

Any coming out tales you’d like to share?

Of college and closets

This weekend, I’m heading to the Pocono Mountains for a birthday party being thrown by one of my friends from college.

She’s footing the bill for food and lodging at a fancy resort for 100 of her closest friends and family members.  Note: College chum majored in industrial engineering.  And here I am typing up this blog entry in my PJs.  Can you say liberal arts degree?

The upcoming weekend got me thinking about the good ol’ days.  You know, cheap beer, cheap dates and more cheap beer.

For some reason, I can never think about those days without recalling three incidents in which I was smacked in the face with my budding lesbianism.

ONE. The first incident took place in the dorms, so I was a freshman or sophomore.  My roommate, who became my best friend, played the Kate to my Allie.  Or, vice versa.  I’m not sure if the better softball player was Kate or Allie.

Anyway, I’m guessing this happened on a Sunday morning.  We had probably just come back from a Sunday morning dining hall brunch of reconstituted scrambled eggs, doughnuts and chocolate milk.  Chocolate milk is hangover antivenom, if you didn’t know.  I most likely played REM’s Superman a million times in a row.

You don’t really love that guy you make it with now do you?
I know you don’t love that guy ’cause I can see right through you.

At some point we laid on her bed and talked.  Boys.  Parents.  The party last night.  Classes.  The annoying girls next door.  Grades.  Religion.  God, we could talk for days.

I fell asleep.

And woke with a start.

It was one of those dreams that was so real.  Did we or didn’t we?  I looked down.  I had my clothes on.  But, we were just naked and going at it like, well, a couple of lustful co-eds.  Bare skin and curves and entwined limbs.  The taste of her mouth.  It was all so real.

I wasn’t sure what to say.  Where would we go from here?

“What happened?” I managed.

She was at her desk with a book in hand.

“Oh, you fell asleep,” she said.  “I’ve been studying.”

I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that it was all a dream.  It was just like that season-ending cliffhanger in Dallas.  But it really wasn’t because this was my life.

I felt a huge sense of relief.  I wasn’t ready for girl-on-girl anything.  Not even in my dreams.  I told myself that such a thing — a longing, a desire, one simple thought — could never happen again.

That was the last Sapphic dream that I had until I hit my 30s.  Talk about self-discipline.

TWO. The next incident took place in a back alley in town.  Calder Way.  This would have been my junior or senior year.  Technically, senior year number one or senior year the first as I was on the five-year plan.

It was a cool day.  Late fall or early winter.  A group of us were huddled outside a store.  I was laser-focused on a tight ass in a pair of Calvin Kleins across the street.

“Do you think you can stare at that girl’s ass any harder?” my friend asked.

Shit.

“I was looking at that,” I said, pointing to lord knows what.  A store window, a stop sign, a rock, a piece of lint, any-fucking-thing besides that perfect ass.

“Uh huh.”

Shit.  Shit.  Shit.

That was all that was said.  The subject was dropped.  When I bring it up now, my friend says she doesn’t remember.

The memory is seared in my brain, though.  “It’s not safe to go there,” I told myself.  “Not safe, not safe, not safe.”  I didn’t even know where “there” was.  Or, how you got “there.”  Or, what you did when you were “there.”  The only thing I knew for sure was that I couldn’t let my guard down, not even for one second on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

THREE. I’ve graduated but have come back to visit a friend at college.  A bunch of us are getting together for a night of partying.

I had just lost a lot of weight.  I show up wearing a pair of brand new black button-fly Levi’s, black Nikes and a satin jacket emblazoned with our university’s name and logo.

“Are  you sure you’re not a lesbian?” my friend asks.

I protest way too much.

*  *  *

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to be out at college.  To go to the gay bar and make out with girls.  Lots of girls.  A different one every night of the week.  To try them on like the Benetton sweaters that we loved so much back in the day.    

I know now that I wasn’t ready for any of that.  It’s not that my friends weren’t.  It’s that I wasn’t.

My 18-year-old head would have probably exploded.  And, that would have gotten me a big bag of nothing.

So, this weekend, we’ll all sit around and tell stories from the day.  “Good times,” we’ll say.

And, I’ll recall the ones that resonate so deeply with me and be thankful for the simple fact that I can finally be out amongst friends.