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[coming out stories]

Publishing Assistant, Hyattsville, MD
October 11, 1997

My coming out experience is interesting, although a bit typical in our community. I was 19 years old, the age of rebellion and independence. When I first enrolled into Gallaudet University as a freshman, I was "straight", good looking with plenty of men following me around. After dating this one guy for three months, I began to realize that I never had a serious relationship with a guy. As a matter of fact, those three months was the longest I ever stayed with one guy. This guy asked me why I never had orgasms... huh? I realized that I NEVER had one at all!!! Not even with ANY of the men I had been with.

So, I decided to talk with my friend, someone close to me, who is a lesbian. I asked her about her sexuality, how she came out, how she knew who she was... what the factors were that helped establish her identity as a lesbian. She began to explain to me that she came out at age 12, that she had her first lover at that age and came out to her father shortly thereafter. Well, needless to say, I was amazed at this information, but was also thinking, well, I came to the right place. She has enough experience in the community to help me with my own identity crisis.

When I was young, there were two things missing in my life. My pride as a Deaf individual due to the lack of exposure to the Deaf world, community or even Deaf people. I grew up "alone" in a hearing world. I got along fine, had friends, but I was always feeling like something was missing. At Gallaudet, I found that pride.

The other thing that was missing was my ability to fall in love. Who am I? Why is it so hard for me to find love with a man? Well, my question was answered that night with my friend. She began to bombard me with questions of her own. Was I ever attracted to a woman? to men? Did I ever fantasize about women, sexual or otherwise? Did I ever have sexual gratification with men? Did I find myself staring at a woman's breasts, ass? Men's? Oh, boy, lemme tell you.. THAT was an enlightening experience!

I then remembered that I did indeed fantasize about women, or girls when I was in high school and when I realized that I was doing that, I would force myself to put a man there in place of the girl... well, the fantasies would often fade away. I also remembered thinking that I was gay when I was 12 years old. I knew this guy whose parents found about his inclination to dress up as a girl and that he was gay. My friends were talking about it... so, I just blurted out that I wondered if I might also be gay. Dunno where that came from, to tell you the truth, but there it was. When my 12 year old friends reacted with less than flattering responses, I backed off and denied it. I then repressed those feelings for many years and tried my damnedest to be heterosexual.

So, I came out in January of 1987. I told one friend and then two days later, the whole friggin' campus knew about it! Wow, hardly had to do any work at all, except nod "yes, yes" when people asked me if I was a lesbian. I decided that I would wait til I graduated before telling my parents. Well, it didn't quite work out that way. Two months later, in March, my Mom came to pick me up for spring break. She knew about my lesbian friend and the fact that people had spread rumors about me in the fall (People have this nasty habit of outing other people before they're ready!! Or assuming straight women are gay because they happen to have gay friends!) Anyhow, Mom asked me if I was still hanging out with this friend. I nodded "yes" and she asked me if I was dating women. A hem.... "yes." Oh, man, she really lost it!!!! We argued during the whole drive from D.C. to N.J.

We argued during the whole week, too! I pretty much blew off the insults, as I understood that Mom was angry, but when she called me "abnormal", I lost it. I really blew my top! So, we kept yelling, arguing throughout the break. BUT, when my brother and father were around, we acted like we were the best of buddies. She did not want them to know, which was fine with me. Who needed two more people to complicate the arguments? Mom was PLENTY enough to handle!

Well, we kept arguing on and off for about six years. I told my father within a year of my coming out. He didn't necessarily take it that great... cried and cried that day, but he then kept quiet about it. My brother took it really well, and said that he had suspected. He grew concerned about the war between Mom and I, though, but I told him to keep out of it.

I even boycotted my own brother's wedding, because I was not permitted to bring my partner of two years to the wedding. I felt that I had the right to do so. I was also in a very political rage, stating that since lesbian marriages were not legally recognized or even supported by families, why the heck should I support heterosexual marriages? Dad was MAD at me with a rage I never saw before ..., wow. I now regret the incident. I now realize that I hurt my family a great deal by not going. I should have left politics out of it, and stubbornly taken my lover anyhow. My brother wouldn't have cared, anyhow. The wedding was for him, not me.

There was a time when I did not speak to my family for a year or more. Mom found me and called me up. We talked and tried to resolved, only to start arguing about it again. She tried to accept it, but couldn't really do it. So, we became silent again for a brief period. Then we tried again. By this time, I had broken off with my first lover, who Mom hated with a passion. Things started to improve and I started trying to educate, rather than fight with Mom.

Mom and I eventually made peace and began workin on our relationship. I moved to Oregon with my second partner, Suzanne, stayed for 2 1/2 years. Mom and I were able to use the space and the time to reconsider our war, our differences, and to finally establish respect for one another's beliefs. So, we were able to get past the differences and agree to disagree. In that process, we were able to learn more about each other and develop a respect for one another. Because of this, we opened our minds a little further and began the process of acceptance.

I moved back to the D.C. in 1995, with the intention of re-building a relationship with my family, to live with my parents, spend time with my brother and his family. I also wanted to find a permanent job pertaining to my degree. I was single at the time and nothing was going right, so the time seemed perfect for such a move. Well, it was the best decision I ever made.

Mom got sick shortly after I moved back. She found out that she had colon cancer, which had spread to the liver. She did not have long to live, so we got her treated at Georgetown University Hospital, with the hopes that she could prolong her life. It was going fine, until she developed a second type of colon cancer, requiring different treatment. This new cancer had spread to her bones, causing much pain. I held off looking for jobs and devoted my time to my mother. I took care of her, fed her, and yes, even cooked for my family. My grandmother also lived with us to help my father and I with Mom and I am grateful for that. The three of us got to know each other in ways that I never imagined! We were all very surprised to learn how much alike we really were. So, we became very, very close.

In January of 1996, I fell in love with Valerie. Mom came to be friends with Valerie and liked her very much. I was finally accepted for who I was, even if I wasn't fully understood. I was very happy about that, but sad that it took such a tragedy to allow us to completely resolve the gay issue.

Mom died on March 11, 1997 at 5:15 p.m., with me as her sole witness. It was incredible! She saved that moment just for me and I will never, ever forget it, nor her. I have inherited her strength, her stubbornness and her love. Those are the things that get me through the tough times. Thank you, Mom for all the lessons you have taught me. I love you.

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