Last week one of my former coworkers wrote on her Facebook page that she was going to the Pride festival over the weekend. I was about to reply to her comment and ask what day she was going, but I didn’t. I didn’t because even though everyone knows I’m gay (well, they do now), I’m not really open about it. Putting it on Facebook for everyone to see would mean … what? I don’t know what that would mean.
It is the reason my Facebook is not linked to my blog. Well, there’s really more than one reason for that (because of so many former coworkers on Facebook) – no, wait. That’s the same reason. See, I’m so used to “passing” that I forget which lie I’m putting forth at any given moment. This blog is one place where I can be open if I choose. I don’t talk about it a lot because that’s just not who I am – but I know that if I want to, I can do that here. I don’t have to turn Kendra into Ken.
Unfortunately, in the Midwest, sexual orientation still matters. I think that’s how the whole “I’m sort of out, but not open” thing got started. I can pass for straight (some women and some men definitely can’t), so I do it whenever possible. In certain situations, “looking gay” is a definite disadvantage. Like a job interview, for instance. People are judgmental; hell, I’m judgmental. Extremes of any kind turn me off. Flaming fags irritate me just as much as stone-butch diesel dykes.
This is something Ron and I argued about – in fact, we had a major argument a few months before he died. Ron was out because there was no point in being in the closet. He was a hair stylist who was a bit effeminate – who was he kidding? I annoyed him, I think, because at heart I’m a conformist. I go along to get along. That has more to do with my past than with sexuality – and he certainly wasn’t an activist. But in his view, I wasn’t being honest with myself or with anyone else. She said, “I just don’t want to look like a lesbian.” He said, “Yeah, like they don’t know anyway.” He wouldn’t let it go that day. He needled me the entire time he was cutting my hair – and he wasn’t really joking, although we both played it off that way later. The argument ended with me calling him a prick. The next (and last) time I saw him, we patched things up, but it’s been on my mind ever since. Maybe he was right. Maybe I’m only fooling myself.
It’s also interesting that I can (and have) taken stands on issues that I care about – and no amount of pressure will make me change my mind. I just grow roots wherever I’m standing and I will not move. Being that stubborn isn’t really a good thing, though, so I don’t do it often – and that could be why some people think they can walk on me. If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that some battles cannot be won – and some battles should be fought anyway.
Then my friend MS called me last Friday. She’s the one I’d been looking for off and on for the past 10 years and found a few months ago. She wanted to tell me that Pride was coming up and asked if I wanted to go. I had a project due, Ron had just died and I was kind of freaked out. (Okay, I was a LOT freaked out. He was my age and he died of cancer. Holy shit). But I decided I would go. Then MS called on Sunday and backed out. I thought about it for a long time. I could just go next year – it’s not really that big of a deal, right?
I started thinking about Ron … and about being honest with yourself … and about perpetuating a lie … and about ending up alone because I couldn’t trust anyone and because I couldn’t accept myself the way I am. And I decided to go to Pride by myself, without MS, without a safety net.
It sucked. It was very hot and I had to pay $5 for a cup of water. But I saw a wedding ceremony – and some karaoke – and some gay boy dancing in a thong. Mostly what I saw was people who are pretty much like me. Only braver.