Photo: Ben Corda
Hey, y'all. Remember, a few weeks ago, when I wrote about being open and honest on this site? About how to live a life, and how often life is messy? Well, settle in, because this is a big one.
It feels like everything I've done and experienced recently has been leading up to this moment, but that is not really true. The truth is, this is something I have been struggling with for a long time, and I think that I am finally ready to talk about it with you, both because I feel like it needs to be said, so that I can be open and honest with you -- but more importantly, so that I can be honest with myself.
I've recently written about a few things that have been happening in my life, like Madeleine's graduation, and her leaving home and my feelings about those events. But I haven't said much about my personal life, and the main reason is because I have been afraid. I'm afraid of the reaction I will get from my friends, and my family, and even from perfect strangers on the internet. I have been worried about sharing this with you, my readers, and I still am. When you're sharing your life with the world, you want everyone to be happy with everything you do, which is basically impossible in this medium. And yet, here I am.
If you follow me on any of my various social media accounts, you may have noticed that there's been something…off. And that subtext is fairly obvious to anyone who's been paying attention, so maybe this post is just a clarification. If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, carry on reading. If you DO know what the hell I'm talking about, yay for you! You're a perceptive detective.
I'm just realizing as I write this that all of the hints I've been dropping on Twitter and Instagram were my way of taking the easy way out -- hoping that people would guess and make it easier on me. But how many times have I told you people to "Be Brave"? A lot. So here I am, being brave.
Wait. First. Are you sitting down? You should probably sit down. Just for a second. Here goes:
Y'all, I am real gay. For ladies.
I know. I KNOW. It was a surprise to me, too. In fact, it was a surprise to just about everyone. I've spent the past year-ish coming out: first to Vince and Madeleine, then to my closest friends, then to my family, then to my not-as-close friends, then to pretty much everyone else. It's true, what they say: the first time is the hardest, but it does get easier as you go. At some point, you even begin to enjoy it, because the relief in the telling becomes something exhilarating.
This news means, of course, that Vince Chao and I are no longer a married couple. And here is where everyone opens their eyes really wide and starts getting sad. I get it -- a lot of people are very fond of my family as a family, and it's hard to comprehend that this seemingly happy relationship wasn't what they thought it was. And it is sad, on its face. But the thing is, Vince and I were happy. We haven't been a romantic couple for a long time, if you know what I am saying, and I think you do -- but we were and still are a team to be reckoned with: two people who have been in the other's lives for over twenty years; who know each other better than anyone else; and who love one another more deeply than I can describe here. However, we all deserve a chance at living our best lives, and that is definitely not what we were doing. Thankfully, this story is not about us not loving each other or supporting each other or being a family anymore.
I've described coming to the realization that I'm gay as having a void in my life, not knowing what it was, and trying to fill it with everything I could find: writing, decorating, career paths, expensive jeans, all of the bourbon. And then, one sunny fall day, getting on a roller coaster, careening down to the stomach-dropping part of the ride, and finally, finally understanding, "Oh. THIS is what that was." It was difficult, because although my path wasn't exactly chronologically paved (having a baby in college, getting married afterwards, etc), it certainly played out the way I thought a good Southern girl's life should: get married, have a family, make a home, attend dinner parties, keep your head down, don't rock the boat. So that is what I did, for a long time. In what I see now as a thorough lack of self-reflection, I figured, well, everyone has marriages with intimacy problems. Everyone has daydreams about a different life. Everyone wants to kiss girls sometimes (this, I have learned, shockingly, is not something that everyone does.). And then I fell for someone, things suddenly became super-crazy-extremely real, and everything changed.
I've received varied reactions to my news. Most, I am happy to report, have been incredibly supportive. In the beginning, I reached out to a few people I knew in real life as well as online, and their support kept me going through some incredibly tough times. Some of my favorite moments have been the funny ones, like this one-liner from a friend, who simply responded to my revelation:
But I thought lesbians don't have good design taste? How is this possible?
Then he asked me something about a toaster. Just kidding.
On the other hand, some reactions have been confused, worried, angry. I've endured great sadness as friends have fallen away, or felt that they had to choose sides. I've been overjoyed as they have come back to me after taking a little time to get used to the idea. I've watched with profound anguish as members of my family cycled through the stages of grief, like there'd been a death. The specter of their disappointment hangs over everything I do, and sometimes the pain of that is breathtaking.
We'd all like to think things like this are going to be an After School Special and everyone's okay at the end of the hour, but...life isn't like that. Vince and I have had a lot of therapy about our relationship and separation and how to deal with the fact that we will always be tied together because of our love for each other, and our love for Madeleine. We have learned to be as honest and open with each other as we can, and that has helped tremendously. We are all adjusting. This is new to all of us. We have all had long talks about what this means for each one of us, and where life will take us from here. It's been difficult at times, obviously. But there is also great happiness in coming clean. Despite the difficulties, we are all very excited about our respective new life paths; we are all doing as well as we can and loving each other the best we can, and we are always going to be a family no matter what.
I am gay. It took me a long time to be able to say those words without shame, or embarrassment, or feeling like a fraud. It should be a happy thing, though, no? When I think about this journey, I'm reminded of my friend Sarah's favorite phrase: Learn it, live it, love it. That has been hard to do, but I am trying. And my little family is trying too: they somehow still love me, which in my mind is a miracle, because I was so afraid to lose them. Incredibly, it's brought us all closer, and in that sense, I couldn't have asked for a better outcome. I am so, so fortunate to be surrounded with their love and support.
Most of all, I am thankful that I can give the people I love the most the love and support they need in return. And I am so excited to finally be able to share who I actually am -- a real, whole person over here, living, making mistakes, finding love, figuring out what it means to be honest and present and happy. It has been incredibly hard at times -- but so incredibly good, too. I am grateful in equal parts for both. I am also thankful to be a part of a growing chorus of people who are stepping up, and out, to tell our stories. It makes me proud to be a member of this community.
I realize I'm throwing a lot of plot at you, dear readers. I am here, as ever, to answer your questions. As far as boundaries go, I have heard it all. Nothing anyone says really throws me these days, which is one of the ways I knew it was time to write this post. At the same time, I'd like to respect my family's privacy, so I won't be answering specific questions about their lives -- those are their stories to tell. I hope you understand, and thank you so much for listening.