The Cult of Melinda

The gAyTM is closed! No gay rights, no gay $$$!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Real Coming Out Story

Since I mentioned it, here it is...

I was in the drama club's production of The Little Shop of Horrors my junior year. One day during rehearsals, the guy playing the sadistic dentist decided to tell one of the guys in the chorus that I was a lesbian. So, as we ran through the choreography, we'd often end up back in the same spot, waiting for the next run. Dentist boy (who looked strangely like k.d. lang in his stage makeup) just would not let it die and chorus boy kept asking. If I said I wasn't gay, which I believed to be true at the time, he'd tell me he thought I was. If I said I was, sarcastically, because I thought I wasn't, he'd tell me he thought I was lying.

After hours of this crap, I lost my temper and screamed "I'm gay, okay?" in his face and everyone in the rehearsal hall looked. I walked out, upset. I tried to tell people that I'd said that because he wouldn't believe me when I told him the truth. (Remember: I thought I was straight.) Too late. No one believed me and the rumors spread. Dentist boy would start whispering lesbian at me in drama class and during rehearsals. People started moving away from me in the lunch line and in class and in the hallways, making a HUGE deal about how my lesbianism might be catching or I might want to sleep with them. I got things thrown at me, things written about me on the bathroom walls, and many things said to me that I won't repeat here.

For the first time, I actually thought about my sexual orientation and realized, after much soul-searching, a lot of crying and no small amount of amusement at the absurdity of it all, that I was gay. I then went around trying to figure out how to hide it. I faked a crush on dentist boy because he freaking deserved it. Dentist boy, who was bi, decided to stop being a d*ck and tried to help. It was no use. At school, I was the lesbo.

At home, I kept lying. After months of this, I decided to sneak off to gay pride. I wanted to see what other gay people were like. A part of me hoped I'd freak out and realize that I wasn't really a big ol' lesbian after all. No such luck. Instead, I felt at peace with my sexual orientation for the first time ever. Unfortunately, I was too at home to notice the TV cameras pointing at me.

When my mother came to pick me up near Jackson Square in the French Quarter, far from the scene of my gay adventures, she and my little brother said they wanted to go to this festival I'd talked about. Doh! I lied like hell and told her that I'd been shocked to find upon my arrival that the festival was for gay people. I'd just seen on TV that there was a festival in the FQ and wanted to go. I swear that I sounded like a valley girl for some reason. My voice just would not cooperate. (I've never been a good liar.)

It all would have ended there I guess, if it weren't for the TV cameras. Yep! I was on the 10 o'clock news buying a drink at Gay Pride! My family found this far too amusing. But I spun the earlier story and said that I'd bought a drink b/c it was hot then left. Saying it was hot as hell in New Orleans in June is like saying it's cold in space. So, I figured they bought it, but they weren't going to let me live it down anytime soon.

For the next week, they ribbed me mercilessly. Some of their jokes were funny. Some, like running away from me in the mall screaming "OH NO! A lesbian is following us!", were publicly humiliating. One incident was downright devastating. I'd come down from my room to check the TV Guide when my older, very big brother walked up right behind me and loomed over me. "What's worse than a dumb lesbian?" he asked. The answer? "A smart one." Then, it got worse. "What's the definition of a good lesbian?" The answer? "A dead one."

On July 3, I was driving with my sister-in-law in Biloxi, MS, where my oldest brother had brought us for vacation. (He'd often let me tag along on their family vacations.) She brought it up and asked if I could imagine the look on my mother's face if we told her it was true. (She assumed it wasn't.) I couldn't take it any more and I trusted her, so I said, "It is." She thought I was joking and started laughing so hard she almost wrecked the van. After she stopped laughing, we talked about it and she gave me her word that she'd keep my secret. (Though not before asking me if I'd actually go down on a woman. I told her that I was still a virgin but pretty sure that that was the whole point of lesbianism.)

Not long after, I decided to tell one other person I trusted, my best friend Jen. Jen turned out to be bi and had this gorgeous lesbian friend named Steph who didn't go to our school. My sisters began to suspect something was up, unfortunately, and started eavesdropping on my phone calls. This included my lengthy discussions with Jen about Steph's many attractive qualities.

They told my mom I was gay, which my mother denied. I overheard as I was coming down the stairs and decided to take a run for it. Unfortunately, the door was locked. Trapped! As I tried to get the door unlocked with trembling hands, my sister Belinda looked at me and said, "Bitch, tell mom you're gay." I said, "Mom, I'm gay." Then I ran for dear life and hid from my mother for like a week. A week later, trapped in the car with her, I told her again that I was gay and she told me she'd always known.

From being outed to coming out to the first stages of being out, I struggled through months of harassment, abuse and even violence at home, in my neighborhood and in school. I lost about 50 pounds from my previously athletic frame and developed a severe case of insomnia. I hid in my room most of the time. Sometimes, two of the friends I hadn't lost would hide me at their place for days at a time. I started drinking and smoking and developed a bit of a marijuana problem. And yes, I attempted suicide. In the end, I left home and school and moved in with friends. After 3 years of problems with depression, alcohol and pot abuse, and a bit of alcohol-fueled promiscuity and self-destruction, I began to rebuild my life. I'd like to think that I've done a pretty good job of it, but I often wonder what could have been.

*Yes, you got the dates right. This weekend marks 16 years since I went to Gay Pride and finally felt at home in my gayness. This Friday will mark the 16th anniversary of the first time I came out (knowing that I was gay). Happy Gay-niversary to me!

JUST TO BE SAFE: If any job-related people read this, I no longer drink or do drugs. I don't sleep around. I'm now perfectly normal, psychologically healthy and very boring.


Blogger Stacey said...

To any job-related people reading this: Melinda is far from normal. Ask her whether or not she's a tree. You'll see.

Rough story, babe. I never knew most of this.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

Hey! I AM a tree, darnit!

I figured this would come as a surprise to many of my friends. It's not something I talk about much. Bad memories, you know?

7:37 AM  

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