OKAY, I know I have it but what is it and most importantly, how do I get rid of it?
Do any LGBTQ folks NOT have it, or if you did and got FREE of it how did you do that?
This is not a scholarly paper so please do not expect explicit definitions or education.
What is IT? It is an uncomfortable feeling in my gut that makes itself known when I am being “out” in any public way. Even when I am talking to my partner on the phone within earshot of family members, friends, or strangers. When I am about to part ways with her in a public place such as a restaurant, parking lot or an airport and would like to share a warm kiss and hug without that tightness in my stomach and the nervousness that makes me stop breathing and causes every little nerve in my body to be vigilant to the scolding or worse that is about to be directed our way.
Many years ago when I was in my first committed relationship, and very much in love, we were sitting in our own private car in a parking lot of a small shopping center. We were feeling romantic and shared a few lovely kisses before I turned to the wheel to drive away. As we parted I happened to glance out the passenger window past my lover and looked right into the face of a middle-aged woman who was staring at us from her vehicle, mouth agape, and shaking her head in a slow disbelieving, shaming way. Being who I am I gave her a huge grin and a little wave, while inside me, except for the mosh pit in my stomach, the rest of my body went tight and still and I could barely breathe.
The lesbians I know who are out, and that in particular includes Butches living openly Butch lives, I admire immensely. From listening to friends’ stories and reading Butches blogs online I’ve learned that getting to be open, out and true to yourself, is often a process. My partner tells me stories about trying to find herself, going through different phases such as her “femme” phase which didn’t fit, until she ended up as a Butch in all her handsomeness and being very comfortable there. I don’t know that she ever experienced internalized homophobia, though, because she has a strong attitude of “if you don’t like the way I look, don’t look”. Also she has known she was a lesbian since childhood. I didn’t know I even had the option, never mind the feelings, until I was near 30.
By that time I had a background of conservative, fundamentalist religious teachings, where it seemed almost everything was a sin. I’d known of stories of gays and lesbians who had been persecuted, bullied, and worse.
Perhaps I’m being unrealistic by wanting to be able to walk proudly on the street holding hands with my sweetheart, and feeling peaceful inside. Perhaps it is wisest to behave “with proper decorum” in order to keep myself safe. But that isn’t what I want. But after all, aren’t public displays of affection frowned upon in our culture, even if the couple is straight? Maybe, but they don’t have to worry about taunting, beatings, losing jobs or homes because of who they love, or because of who they were making out with on the secluded bench in the park.