When we talk about the way that gay people “come out” it almost seems as though each individual will gather all their friends and family together in a room, make the announcement that they are sexually attracted to people of the same sex and be done with it. There, they have “come out” as gay to everyone that they know. Job done.
Except, it really isn’t that simple at all.
Not only do you have to first “come out” to yourself, (something that I really struggled with), but then you have to find a way to casually drop it into conversation with close friends and family. After that, if you feel comfortable doing so, you then have the exact same conversation with the other people in your life, such as those friends you aren’t particularly close to and your colleagues, etc.
Guess what? At this point, you still aren’t done “coming out.” Pretty much every time you meet a new person you have to go through the process all over again. That’s right, another chance to be rejected by or receive a disgusted response from each new person that you will ever meet in your entire life. Yay.
I rarely bring up my sexual orientation when I first meet new people, not because I’m ashamed of being a lesbian but simply because I don’t really think it matters. However, even though I don’t introduce myself with, “Hi, I’m Natasha and I’m a raging lesbian,” I often find that the fact I’m in a relationship with a woman does crop up in conversation.
Every time I’m participating in small talk with a new person and they ask about my life there is a chance that the word “girlfriend” will leave my mouth. If they ask what I did at the weekend, the chances are that I went on some kind of date with my girlfriend. If they ask what I’m doing that evening, there is a chance that I’ll be seeing my girlfriend. If they ask about any upcoming holidays I have booked, the chances are that I’ll be going with my girlfriend. The list goes on.
I’m pleased to say that the majority of people I meet take this little snippet of information in their stride and don’t react. Others are taken aback by the news and clearly haven’t met enough gay people to realise that we look the same as everyone else. They will usually stare at me with an open mouth for a few seconds or laugh awkwardly once they discover that I’m in a relationship with a woman. This doesn’t bother me too much as I understand that some people do still have a stereotypical image of a lesbian in their head and I just don’t fit it.
What does bother me, however, are those few people who just can’t actually grasp the concept of me being with another woman. Occasionally there will be one person who is so fucking shocked by this fact that it is all they talk about for the next ten minutes.
So you’re a lesbian? Yes. Are you really? Yes. Are you joking? No. So, you’re like actually with a woman? Yes. Wow, I wouldn’t have thought that.
Seriously, why is it so difficult to understand? Although over the last few years society’s acceptance of the LGBT community has widened enormously, the reactions of some people when they find out that I’m gay demonstrate that certain stereotypes remain and that we still have some work to do.
I can’t wait for the day that I can drop the words “with my girlfriend” into a conversation with a new person and don’t feel the need to watch them to see if they flinch. I can’t wait until the need to “come out” no longer exists.
Image via Instagram.