Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Those leaps are terrifying

Waiting for a ship to come, praying for strength to leap,
those leaps are terrifying; the small steps make us free.
-- "Eveline," Cathie Ryan

To me, admitting that I wasn't straight to anyone felt like jumping off a cliff high above the clouds. Once I took that step, there'd be no going back to the safety of what I had known, and I couldn't see what was below.

In college and after, I secretly hoped that some girl would figure it out without me having to do anything. In college, I wanted to kiss one of my friends, Tanya, but I certainly didn't have the guts to initiate anything, and as far as I know, she's 100% straight.

Among friends and family and on dating sites, I kept the ruse going that I was straight. But as I reached my late 20's and became increasingly dissatisfied with the men I kept trying to date, I gave myself permission to at least look at girls. Suddenly I found attractive people everywhere! And some of them, it turned out, were looking back!

For the next year or two, I was still too scared to do anything more than look (and occasionally smile). I'm an introvert, so trying to pick up somebody was unthinkable. What if they were straight and got offended? What if they knew someone I knew?

During this time, I kept reading about sexuality on the internet -- scientific studies, coming out stories, available resources, religious viewpoints, news stories, whatever I could find. I'd spend months ignoring it, then spend a whole day reading about it.

Finally, I found a support forum for women who are exploring their sexuality. It took a week to get the courage to join. "No one will know who I am. If I don't like it, I can disappear at any time." So I joined, and found that there are many women like me.

Sometimes I had wondered if I had missed the boat; most people in my generation came out in college or even high school. Was I too old? I learned from the forum that it's never too late. By seeing women struggling in marriages to men, I realized that I couldn't just date men and marry one without exploring my sexuality first. It wouldn't be fair to him, and I was not ready for a marriage to anyone until I learned to accept all parts of myself.

Some of the women had been on the forum for years, and they were still complaining about not having any experience, of not having a single lesbian or bi friend in real life. Others were in relationships with women across the world, whom they'd never even met. I realized I could continue hanging out at the top of the cliff with them, or I could start to work my way down. At least at this point, I knew I had to get down, somehow.

I still couldn't just jump. But it turns out it's not a sheer cliff, after all. There are many trails leading down, and you can pick the one that climbs down at a comfortable pace for you. This blog chronicles my journey to the land on the other side of the clouds, where I now believe I'll find a rainbow.

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