The more I got into this, the more it became a coming out saga, so just be forewarned.
I suppose my coming out story really begins back in junior high. That's when I first started to notice that I wasn't like the other girls my age. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was, but I knew that I didn't have the same interests, the same day-dreaming about whichever guy was most popular that day, that sort of thing.
In high school, I didn't go on very many dates. I believe I went to four dances in three years of high school. I just saw guys as pals and not as much more than that. I had a boyfriend for maybe the second half of my senior year. When it came to him, we hung out a bunch and were buds. I didn't mind cuddling with him or even kissing him, but going anywhere beyond that was out of the question, because I just wasn't comfortable with that. I assumed it was my rigorous LDS upbringing that had instilled that in me.
My first year of college was spent at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. Once a Presbyterian school, it is now a non-denominational college, and attracts quite a variety of students. Coming from a high school where 95% of the student body was enrolled in LDS seminary, this was an eye-opening and refreshing experience for me. I took a philosophy class and I remember a discussion we had one day about gay marriage. This was in 2001-2002, so I'm not sure if something was going on politically with that platform or not. At least at Westminster, there were differing opinions on the subject, and the finer points of that debate still linger with me.
I remember sitting in my car in the parking garage after class that day, and that's the first time I wondered if I might be gay. Actually, I wondered if that might be what was wrong with me. Being a nineteen year old with minimal life experience, I immediately shut down that thought. It couldn't be possible, because that would be the end of my entire world as I knew it, and I wasn't about to let that happen.
The next year I met my future husband. He was kind of a dork, but I'm kind of a dork, so we hit it off. I remember the very first day that we met, I had the impression that he would be my husband. We dated for six months before we got engaged and were engaged for five months before getting married in the Salt Lake Temple.
Marriage was a HUGE eye-opener for me as far as the intimate details go. At first, I assumed that my discomfort was due to my background. For your whole life as a girl, you are told that guys only want one thing, and so it's up to you to stop things if they are progressing in that way. The minute before you are married, it's still not okay to have sex. Then you say one word and sign a document and magically all the restraints are lifted and it's supposed to be the greatest thing in the world. Yeah right! My mind doesn't shift that easily and I struggle with change, so it was kind of natural to assume that my mindset was the problem and that sex would get better with time.
But it didn't. I honestly can't remember a time where it wouldn't make me cry. It felt very wrong and I dreaded it with every fiber of my being. I would volunteer to stay late at work in the hopes that my husband would be asleep when I got home, or that he would be too wrapped up in a video game and I could sneak away and pretend to be asleep when he wasn't paying attention.
And that, as you might have guessed, didn't help our marriage. There were other factors too, but I think that was a major one. Our divorce was finalized about a month before our second wedding anniversary.
It took me a long time to recover from my divorce. I placed the blame squarely on my shoulders. I swore that I would never get married again, because I knew I couldn't go through the "trauma" of being intimate with another man. It kind of surprised me how easy that decision was to make and how much peace it brought me.
Fast forward about four years. After years of practice, I finally found a therapist and a program that worked. I got my head on straight (so to speak) and took care of some emotional issues and for the most part was feeling pretty good about my life. Except for one thing...
In November of 2008, my family went on a cruise. I remember being up on the top deck one sunny afternoon early in the seven day trip. There weren't a lot of people around but there was a woman in a bikini, all stretched out on a deck chair for a good dose of sunbathing. Thank goodness for mirrored sunglasses. All I wanted to do was stare at her...her skin...her curves...every inch of her. For a moment or two or five, I did. I just stared. And then the shame started kicking in and I went to find my sister. But for the rest of the cruise, that experience haunted me. I couldn't get it out of my head and I couldn't understand why.
There were a lot of sleepless nights on that cruise. I tossed and turned, worried, wrestled with my thoughts, prayed for forgiveness and a miracle, "please God, don't let me be gay...but what if I'm gay?" Over and over and over. And every sunny day after that was absolute torment.
I tortured myself in agonizing silence for the next couple months. In February, after much reassurance and encouragement that whatever was eating at me couldn't possibly be as bad as it seemed in my head, I confessed to my therapist that I thought I was gay. She was the first person I told. Her reaction was and continues to be an absolute beacon of hope to me. She didn't hate me or think I was terrible or judge me at all. And she's been an amazing help to me in coming out and being myself and not hating myself for being gay.
I told my first friend that I was gay about a month later. Then I told another friend at work. Then I told one more person. Slowly, I let people in, and found acceptance and also a lack of surprise. It's still funny to me how other people can know before you even consciously know yourself. These three friends helped me through those terribly rocky first months of coming out, and I will be forever grateful to them for that. With the encouragement of my therapist, I looked online for resources and some sort of support and stumbled upon the Moho blogging world. I read blog after blog after blog, and wept with joy that I wasn't that only gay Mormon out there. I reached out to a few bloggers on Facebook and started my own blog and slowly became a part of the Moho blogger community. I found a few video blogs on YouTube. Clark Johnsen's in particular were very helpful and reassuring to me. I went to a few Matis Firesides and I attended a few of Scott and Sarah's Moho parties and I made some really amazing friends. It was such a breath of fresh air to be surrounded by people who knew of the struggle the reconcile personal feelings with deeply ingrained spiritual beliefs, and to be able to let my guard down and be myself with them.
I was living with one of my friends from high school while all of this was going on. Because of things she had expressed about gay people, I was very hesitant and reluctant to come out to her. When I finally did, it only created more tension between us. Of everyone that I have come out to, she is the only one who is no longer in my life. So I moved out of the apartment and back home with my parents.
During the process of moving, I sat down and had a heart to heart conversation with a girl at work. She had started only a few months before, but she was openly gay and my stress level was making it really difficult to believe that it was really okay to be openly gay. We had a nice talk and she invited me to come hang out with her and her older brother and his partner, as he was also gay, just so that I could be in that world and see that life goes on and you can enjoy it whether you're gay or straight. We exchanged numbers and made plans and were able to get together about a week or so later. The original plan was to be friends. Neither of us had the intention or the expectation to be anything more than that. But the first time we hung out, watching a movie at her brother's place, there was something between us that just clicked and there was a spark there that I had never felt before. We went to a baseball game the next day, and the rest is history. We've been dating since August 2009 and loving every second of it. Since we work together, we were intially very cautious about the details of our relationship, but once word got out it was a very easy way to come out without having to actually tell everyone that "guess what, Ames is gay." We don't have any problems at work because of it though, and for that we are both grateful.
Being with her is so easy. I want to be with her all the time. I love being close to her. I love kissing her. We laugh all the time and have so much fun together. It's just how being in love should be.
With my family, coming out has been significantly more difficult than it has been with the other people in my life. My extended family still does not know, it's only my immediate family who know (my parents, my two younger sisters and their husbands). It didn't quite go as I planned, and I had to come out earlier than anticipated, but at the same time I'm glad it's over and now we can just deal with it. My youngest sister and her husband have met my girlfriend and actually invited us into their home for dinner. My middle sister and her husband want nothing to do with that situation and it's all very awkward. They have two kids, whom I absolutely adore, and who have been used as leverage against me by my sister and brother-in-law. I worry about losing my niece and nephew all the time. My dad doesn't talk about it at all, but at least he speaks to me again. My mom has actually really impressed me lately. She's asked me questions that I have answered and when she doesn't want any more information she'll change the subject, but it's encouraging to me that she is still interested in my life, even if she doesn't approve of it, and for now I'm more than happy to take things at her pace.
As my girlfriend has told me on more than one occasion, coming out is one of the hardest things you can do. But once you do and you can be yourself and be comfortable enough with yourself to not give a damn about what other people think, it's the best thing you'll ever get through. It hasn't been easy and I'm sure that I still have difficult days ahead of me, but I'm glad that I've been able to embrace the reality of who I am and be honest with myself. I have a girlfriend who I could easily spend the rest of my life with. I'm happier than I've ever been and people tell me all the time that they are so glad to see me happier than they've ever seen me.
Coming out is one of the nicest things you can do for yourself. The pain and anguish of thinking there is something wrong with you can give way to the joy and freedom of being able to be yourself. As you come out to people and they accept you, it's easier to accept yourself. Then when you do have someone who judges and decides they can't be your friend anymore, it's easier to recognize that you're better off without them anyway, because they don't care about you enough to actually care about your happiness.
I'm so glad that I'm at a place where my happiness matters to me. I'm glad that I am who I am, because it's not too shabby to be me. Not too shabby at all.
That's my coming out story, thus far.