A little bit gay
Updated: Jun 29, 2018
When I first came out to my mom, at 27, I said, shakily, stiffly, and a with a hint of a laugh, “I’m a little bit gay.”
With some hindsight, I would now revise that statement to: “I’m a little lesbian.”
Or…possibly even, “I’m a little bit straight.”
Either way, at the time, she was understandably confused. Supportive, but confused. She said, “How can you be a little bit gay? Isn’t that being like a little bit pregnant?”
I tried to explain to her as best I could, nervously, feeling guilty that I had put this off until the last possible moment as I was loading the car to head home from a trip to our family cabin. I explained that none of my relationships with men had been ‘fake,’ including the most recent relationship with a long-term boyfriend that I had lived with for a year and a half, who my family had known well. I said that, in fact, just prior to dating him, I had had a relationship with a woman. I’m not sure if I had my wits together enough to explain that I had always had feelings for women.
Most importantly for this story, and what I wish I had said more clearly was that I had always also had feelings for women. I had been Queer, Bisexual, Pansexual, or…’a little bit lesbian’ for about as long as I could remember. (If you want to delve into my early and abiding love for combat boots, acoustic guitar music, movies about intense female ‘friendships’—that Ruth and Idgie cheek kiss, anyone?—jeans and liberal bumper-stickers, you could probably say I’m a lotta bitta lesbian…but then we get into aesthetics and cultural distinctions, and I digress…)
The thing about being in any part of the QUILTBAG community is that you’re always coming out. When I was doing more teaching artist work, in 2009 and 2010, I always struggled with when and if to correct kids’ assumptions of my straightness. When a giggly 9 year old asked me, during warm-ups, if I had a boyfriend, would being telling her about my girlfriend be a teaching moment? Or a 20 minute detour when we needed to get focused and rehearse a scene? When straight is considered, in the brilliant Hannah Gadsby’s words, ‘human neutral,’ if I wanted people to know me, I, as a generally femme presenting cis woman, often had to take the plunge and come out. Constantly. And just like coming out is not a one time event, but an over and over again process, it’s also not linear.
Years later in New York, I brought my then-girlfriend to the holiday party at my new workplace. No one batted an eyelash—I was amongst the theatreatti, afterall—but I could feel something sliding into place in their minds, the faintest, muffled click, like a toggle switch sliding over to the slot marked: gay.
But I still knew that wasn’t my truth, and even though I often joked (and still do) about how big of a lesbian I was—I mean, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen the Indigo Girls perform, so I’m also somehow a lesbian circa 1988—I knew that if the relationship with my girlfriend ended, I might have to come out again.
I’ve avoided labeling myself as bisexual for a long time, ostensibly because I’ve dated trans and non-binary folks, but probably because I’m a coward. Internalized bi-phobia is real, folks. And I’m still working with it, in it, on it, and around it.
I didn’t want to be seen as crazy, flighty, greedy, unstable or any of the other bi-phobic epithets that so quickly flooded when I heard the word in my mind. I didn’t want to have to prove my ‘cred’ with the LGBT+ community, and I didn’t want to have to prove that my relationships with women weren't just a ‘phase,’ in the heteronormative ‘human neutral’ world.
And, as relationships of all stripes do, my relationship with my ex-girlfriend did end. And as it turned out, after 10 years of having exclusively dated women, trans and non-binary folks, I fell in love with a cis-man. And as it turned out, I worked with him. After carefully researching the (almost non-existently documented) HR policies at our workplace, I eventually told my supervisor, we went public-ish on social media, and little by little, I was coming out again as “a little bit straight.”
And as it turns out, this straight, white, cis man makes me happier than anyone I’ve ever known, and is the only person I’ve ever been able to truly imagine making a life with. And as it turns out, we decided to get married, and he proposed. And now I’m wearing a ring that used to belong to this wonderful, sensitive, goofy, intelligent-as-hell, sexy, geeky, straight cis white man’s grandmother. And although we have our problems, as any couple does, romantically, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. This is right for me.
I hate that it’s much less risky for me now to show affection to my partner in public.
I hate that he’s never, ever introduced, well-meaningly, by older people as “my friend.”
I hate that to explain the situation to my elder neighbor whose English is as limited as is my Spanish, I just had to point to my ring finger, point to my fiancé, and be met with immediate understanding, smiles and nods.
I hate that I have to ask myself, again, if I’m ever referring to a past relationship in the presence of a student, co-worker or someone else who doesn’t know me well—“Is this really the time to have this conversation?”
Most of all, I hate that I now seem to have more legitimacy and value than my friends in non straight-appearing relationships. Or my single or divorced friends, for that matter.
I love my fiancé. We make an amazing team. And.
And, this is the beginning of an entirely new plane of my coming out story.
So hi. I’m Nikki. Nice to meet you. Happy Pride. I’m in love with a cis man. And I’m a little bit gay.