We’ve got beers, we’re laughing, we’re talking about things we’ll never admit we said out loud.
Suddenly her laugh tapers off. Her expression straightens out. She takes a deep breath, holds it for a moment, and then blurts out “I think I’m gay”.
My hearts stops. My brain screams at my lungs to keep breathing normally, no faster or slower than the breath before. Don’t react, I tell myself. This is as shocking as someone telling you it’s going to rain tomorrow. Sure you’ve had your doubts for a long time but she was never ready to talk about it. Now she is. Don’t make her uncomfortable. Act natural. Don’t be happy. Don’t be surprised. But if you’re not surprised, will feeling that you suspected upset her? She’s talking to you about this! This is important. BE COOL.
All of these thoughts race through my mind in the space of less than a second. And in a steady voice I reply “Do you want to tell me more about that? ”
We talk for about an hour. Mostly she talks and I listen. She’s still figuring things out. She isn’t sure. She’s always found women attractive, felt desire towards them. But she’s also always thought it was wrong and never acted upon it. She’d been miserable for years, shutting people out of her personal life and pretending to be “normal”. And that wasn’t cutting it anymore. She wanted to be happy. So she was finally ready to ask herself questions and to explore. But she was scared. Scared of so many things. And her family kept coming up. They’d never understand. She didn’t want them to be ashamed of her. She didn’t want to lose them. She didn’t want to be out on the street.
She was also confused about terminology; labels. Was she a lesbian? Was she bi? Did it matter? Did she have to choose?
I listened. I tried to be encouraging but not pushy. On a loop in the back of my head was one sentence: Don’t give advice. But I did. I gave her one piece of advice. I told her not to listen to anyone about what is right or what is wrong. Not to let anyone push her into choosing a label or into coming out or into anything at all.
All of our experiences are different. Our backgrounds, our families, our priorities… each of our experiences is unique. So you need to figure it out for yourself. Figure out what you are comfortable with in your own skin, in your own world. But you definitely don’t need to do it alone.
I only hope that I was able to make her feel comfortable, at least in the space of that hour. I was scared too. Scared that I’d say the wrong thing. Scared that I’d screw it up. Scared that I wouldn’t live up to the trust that she put in me to share this with me. But I’m so proud of her strength and her bravery. So unbelievably proud.