So I wanted to venture away from my usual neurodivergent topic and talk a little bit about being queer.
Although! I have noticed an interesting amount of queer folk turn out to be neurodivergent as well. Whether that is from the difficulty of being gay in this society, so the neurodivergence is more trauma based- like Attachment Disorders, PTSD or BPD. Or just that our wiring makes us more open, not sure. It’s a super interesting topic that I want to follow up with but that is not what I am writing about.
I am here to tell you my “coming out” story.
Like most gay people, technically I have come out more than once. Probably four or five times? This is probably a sixth. The first time I told ANYONE, it was my husband. He wasn’t my husband then, we had just started dating. And I knew that I could trust him. So I told him that I was bisexual, and that he was the first person to know that about me. He has always been an ally, and I wasn’t even his first bisexual girlfriend, so it was probably the least dramatic coming out ever. Which of course, is the best kind of coming out.
I told very few friends after that. And usually only when I recognized the safety that I had with John. I honestly regret not trusting more people with that information, but because I hadn’t told my family, I just couldn’t be TOO open.
When I finally told my parents, it was actually a little bit by accident..
First you have to know, that my mother really is my best friend.
Here is an excerpt of a post I wrote about her on mother’s day a few years ago:
She was the first person to laugh at my jokes. Even when they weren’t funny. The person who always forgave me my behavior when I did things that were hurtful or didn’t make sense. Allowed me to think my silly mistakes were correct, except when it mattered. Pushed me to be better, and provided the resources to pursue every dream. Supported my husband too when he became her first son. My partner in crime for the last fifteen years of theatre and writing.
It’s pretty simple actually, if I have the courage to say something so corny…
I’ve said that my Dad is my hero. We share a lot of the same problems, and through his perseverance and hard work, he has led my sister and I through some of the the darkest parts of the storm.
But my Mom…. my Mom is my best friend.
You’ve probably unwittingly seen a few pictures of her in the design of my blog. I have a collection of her vintage snapshots that have become a kind of mythology of her in my mind, especially the one where she is repelling down a building in knee high leather boots and flipping my father off as he takes the picture. She also had a badass perm for that one. Suffice to say, she’s a very cool person, and very, very important to me.
So, when she kept saying these complicated things about bisexuality, it kind of drove me back into the closet. I want to be very clear here, this idea of bisexuality being just some state of confusion between gay and straight is not unique to my mother. She was only saying things that our culture is constantly repeating. Bi-erasure is actually a huge problem within the LGBT+ community, as well. Same with the delegitimizing of asexuals. Growing up, I knew that if I was gay my parents would accept me, but I also knew they didn’t want me to be gay, because that would make my life so much harder. So they were accepting, just maybe a little fearful.
And to be fair to my mother, she is a super liberal women that happens to be conservative about ALL openly sexual conversations or movie scenes. To this day, anytime there is a sex scene on TV she yells out, “ACK!” like the cartoon character Cathy. Or “That was unnecessary!” It’s pretty entertaining mostly. When I’m scrolling through Netflix to watch a movie with her, I will usually say, “That’s not a Mom movie,” meaning someone, somewhere is having sex.
Sidenote: There was an infamous visit to my grandmother’s house where my very quirky grandmother made my mom watch The Crying Game. There is a notable sex scene where a woman reveals that she is pre-op trans, or in other words, a women with a penis. I won’t get into how unhelpful the man’s reaction in that scene was to the trans community, but I heard my mother’s shriek from three rooms away. Don’t worry, she had the same reaction to Harvey Keitel’s full frontal in The Piano. Also presented by my grandmother. I’m realizing now, Grandma was probably why my mother was so uncomfortable with openly sexual talk or movies, she kept springing all these penises on her!
So all this squeamishness about sexuality lead to a seriously awkward moment when I finally blurted out, “But I’m bisexual, Mom. I am bisexual. That’s me.”
To which she hilariously clutched her invisible pearls and asked, “Does John know?!”
Which, of course, made me laugh since he was literally the first person I told.
My Dad was nearby and she called out, “Are you hearing this? Did you hear what Holly said?”
And he yelled back, “I did. Who cares?”
Interestingly, that was the worse response for me. I know very well that my Dad meant it as a positive thing. Straight people, especially parents, always think saying “Who cares?” is the right thing to say. (Jenny Lawson actually has a great post in her blog about downplaying her daughter’s coming out at the breakfast table. Check it out.)
Because of that “Who cares?” But also mostly because of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, a little bit of a wall went up between my parents and I. Again, I knew they accepted me. But part of me thought they didn’t want it. And that meant they didn’t want to hear about it. So I basically went back into the closet.
Like most coming out stories this one has twists and turns. And you’ll often find that for things to come together just right, many things have to happen first… so bear with me a moment…
Cut to a year or so later, this year, 2020, and the political divide is unbearable. Worse than that, the political divide has come to my family. My father, once a moderate Democrat, is now a very conservative Republican. While I am not always lockstep with the Democratic party, I am most definitely not conservative.
I respect my father’s politics now, even if I don’t like them. But at the time, they were the biggest thorn in my side. I kept trying to explain that the people he was now quoting and following, were the same people that used gay rights as a wedge between voters. That the men he now supported, were the same men that made me afraid to come out as a little girl.
At the same time, I started listening to “Nancy.” A podcast from WNYC that has to do with everything queer. (It’s wonderful, I urge you to check it out.) And they had an episode where they gave some coming out advice when it comes to Asian “Tiger moms.” Now my mother is not a Tiger Mom. But she’s basically a quirky WASP equivalent. The woman they spoke to suggested that you write a letter, explaining when you knew you were gay, what that means for your future, and how you feel about coming out. So in my head, I started writing a letter.
THEN, I got into a very loud political argument with my father. And I tearfully explained, “You frighten me because I don’t know when your new political leanings are going to start hating me because I am gay.”
And at the very same time my father shouted, “Who cares?” and my mother, trying to help, said, “What does that have to do with anything?”
It was like a slap to the face. I thought maybe they forgot that I had told them I was gay? Or worse, it really didn’t matter to them. And my life, my experience, should matter. It should matter to them.
But I still didn’t write the letter. No, instead, I got kind of weirdly depressed. I was having a weird time dealing with a problem I saw with my Dad, still having that one wall in between my mother and myself. The one person beyond my husband, who I was always able to lean on…
AND THEN, now, don’t laugh… but Frozen 2 came out on DVD. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that Frozen 2, an animated movie, a sequel no less, had a huge impact on my life, but it did.
(There are some mild spoilers ahead, but seriously, if you haven’t seen it already, do so. Get out from under your rock and watch like literally the highest grossing cartoon of all time. Then come back to me.)
Our son, the little prince, loves Disney movies. So we automatically downloaded it for streaming. And he fell in love with the soundtrack, which meant that as I drove him to school every morning, we played the Frozen 2 soundtrack.
And that’s when I really started to listen. Without the beautiful images, you can really focus on what the lyrics are saying. And the song “Show Yourself” slowly began to tear me apart.
It was a good kind of destruction. I suddenly found myself weeping behind the wheel, knowing that I had to do something about this. Especially when it comes to the part where her mother is singing to her and Elsa says “I am found!” MAN, that was killing me!
It was so much more than being gay too. It was about being seen. I knew that I was different. I hadn’t had my official autism diagnosis yet, but I was tired of pretending to be someone else. Straight, normal, it was all the same. It was just another barrier to being my true self.
Which got me thinking about the controversy about Elsa’s sexuality, and the importance of representation in children’s movies. I think there is no question that Elsa is at the very least queer, (I know, she’s a cartoon) but can you imagine how important that would be? If her song meant so much to me, a fully grown woman- what would it mean to a young gay girl? Would it give her the same drive and hope it gave me?
Seriously, look at these lyrics. Tell me they aren’t about coming out.
Every inch of me is trembling
But not from the cold
Something is familiar
Like a dream I can reach but not quite hold
I can sense you there
Like a friend I’ve always known
And it feels like I am home
I have always been a fortress
Cold secrets deep inside
You have secrets, too
But you don’t have to hide…
I’m dying to meet you
It’s your turn
Are you the one I’ve been looking for
All of my life?
I’m ready to learn
I’ve never felt so certain
All my life I’ve been torn
But I’m here for a reason
Could it be the reason I was born?
I have always been so different
Normal rules did not apply
Is this the day?
Are you the way
I finally find out why?
I’m no longer trembling
Here I am
I’ve come so far
You are the answer I’ve waited for
All of my life
Oh, show yourself
Let me see who you are
Come to me now
Open your door
Don’t make me wait
One moment more
Oh, come to me now
Open your door
Don’t make me wait
One moment more..
(Elsa’s mother sings) Come, my darling, homeward bound…
I am found!
Step into your power
Into something new
You are the one you’ve been waiting for All of my life
Man! That just gets me right in the feels. Seriously, I was driving and crying happy tears all the way to my son’s school and all the way back.
That day, I wrote my parents a letter telling them everything and how I didn’t want it to be a thing that came between us. For my mother, it was perfect. It was exactly what I needed to be able to talk to her about these things, and she was so supportive.
For my Dad? It didn’t work out so great. Not because of the gay thing, but the politics thing. We quickly figured out that we were just having a communication issue, which lead us down a path that resulted in my Dad admitting his own spectrum issues. Which lead to my diagnosis, and another coming out letter, this time about my autism. So even though I hate that I was fighting with my father, it still lead me to a very important breakthrough. And I will always be grateful for that.
What’s my point? Is it that Elsa is totally gay and I will fight anyone that says otherwise? Maybe. But it’s also that your “coming out” story is never what you think it’s going to be. And it’s not a one and done kind of thing. If it doesn’t feel right the first time, try again. And if you are still in the closet, start looking into resources like “Nancy” for support. It will give you courage, just like it did me. And that’s what it takes, you have to be brave. Like Elsa, like my mother repelling down a wall in her fabulous big sunglasses.
So, in the immortal words of Queen Elsa of Arrendale-
Or, if that’s too cringey- in the mortal words of my mother-
“Enough with the penises already!”