I came out at the age of 38, my marriage was crumbling, I had 3 kids under the age of 10 and my family was super conservative Christian. So you can probably imagine the drama. And because I had lived all of my life as a straight person, there were many people that had lots of questions. I think some people had questions that were genuinely concerned and/or curious about my situation. Some of the questions might have been wrapped in manipulation. It was hard to discern. Let’s face it; I had questions about why all this was happening. Why wouldn’t they?
The hard part was, I don’t think I knew how to answer the questions they were asking. First, because I didn’t really know all the answers myself but also because my journey to come to terms was still evolving. Plus, there was no simple answers. Anything I could have said was a LONG story.
This is the list of the most common questions I received when I came out. I think every LGBT person has a list like this….but these are mine.
Are you sure you are gay? You don’t look gay.
Do you think this might be a phase? Lots of people experiment.
Have you always known you were gay? When did you know?
However, no matter what your story….if you are LGBT, then you know these questions are hard to answer. Most of the answers are complicated. And for many, the journey isn’t black and white. For some it might be but not often.
For example, I had a lesbian friend that when asked: When did you know you were gay?...she would say: “When I was 5 or so, playing in the sandbox with friends in my neighborhood”. She always knew and it was that easy.
But for me, it wasn’t that simple and to answer that question was the hardest thing I had ever done. There was a lot at stake in my answers. Some questions I got were condescending. It was hurtful. In fact, when I first wrote this blog, I found myself being very defensive and angry when I tried to recount the types of questions people had asked me. And I think if I recall back to the early days, I had guilt when I tried to answer questions. I wanted to be honest with people, but I knew it wouldn’t be the answer they wanted to hear. Honestly, fear of answering made me hostile to the questions. I didn’t want to be put into those situations because I was still questioning…and their questions only reinforced that I didn’t know all the answers.
Now that I am out, confident and comfortable with me, I welcome any question. Well not any. There are still people out there that will ask the most inappropriate questions because they are just not nice people. I saw a t-shirt one time that said: “Yes, I am a Lesbian. NO, you can’t watch” - you formulate the question.
But I don’t think most people are that insensitive. My coworker and friend said, “I was worried that I would ask you a dumb question and the last thing I would want is for you to be offended. I just don’t know a ton about LGBT and I want to understand.”
So here is my message. Sometimes people just don’t know how to ask. Sometimes I don’t know how to answer. Either way it doesn’t make the question dumb or insincere. I take the stance that most people are kind and compassionate and I try to give people the benefit of the doubt.
So if you are LGBT – be patient as people try and ask questions so they can understand. Be confident in yourself even if you don’t know all the answers.
If you are an ally, and you are not sure how to ask a question; ask if it’s okay to ask a question, and tell them you’re not sure how to ask it.
If we can do this for each other we should all be able to CARRY ON AND LIVE EQUAL!