I’m at a ritual, swaying to the drums. I’m fourteen and pleased to be included in the adult conversation about sexual politics. Marcella asks, “It’s not like theirs some magical feather that you choose to pick up. Who would choose to be gay?” It’s rhetorical, but I still say, “I would.” It’s the first time I come out, though I don’t think of it that way for many years, almost a decade. I bless the courage of Marcella, for talking so openly about her sexuality and sexual orientation with a teenager whose family she didn’t know. We need more women like her.
I’m camping the summer before I turn sixteen. We’re sitting in those awful plastic camp chairs, my sister and I, near the fire my mom started before she left for the nearby store to get more supplies. “So, uh.” I swallow down my nerves. “There’s something kind of important I want to tell you. I’m bisexual.” There’s a beat or two of silence, neither of us looking at each other. “OK.” My sister looks at me then, utterly blasé. “Cool.” I think I stutter through something about feeling free to talk to me about it. Mostly, I’m relieved. I delayed coming out to my sister out of some stupid fear that she might fight with me over it. My sister, though, has never tried to hit a weak spot no matter how mad she got. More to the point, she never would have considered sexual orientation as something that could be used against someone at all. I bless both our courage, in seeing each other more clearly in that moment.
I’m seventeen and some jerk is yelling smears out my school’s second story window. My buzzed hair is an easy target for dyke insults, but I am not an easy target. I ignore it with a roll of my eyes. When it continues, I decide on a gutsy move. Luckily, the teacher who sponsors our diversity club rounds the corner just then. I grab her and explain what’s happening. She agrees to escort me. I head up to the classroom and open the door. Kids are quick to give up the boy who was yelling out the window and we step out into the hall. “Hi,” I say, “My name’s Melissa and as it happens, I am queer.” I talk about the emotional damage of bullying and the more vulnerable kids who would have taken his words to heart. I talk about being hurt and ask how he’d feel if he found out one of his friends or a younger sister were gay and heard him say what he’d said. He was flustered and uncomfortable and young, and I think even his forced apology must have taken as much courage as my words. So I bless his courage, too.