Editor’s note: Although we’re now a little into July, and the rainbow flags of June pride parades are behind us, we wanted to wrap up the month with a celebration of pride from one of our favorite contributors. Kacy and her wife Cori are featured in Season 3 of The Real L Word, which premieres Thursday, July 12th on Showtime. Here,she proves she is not only inspiring to lesbians starting families across the country, she’s a damn good writer, too.
I never really came out the way that most people do. Or, I guess I should say, my story is slightly more complicated than most. So let me start at the beginning, which requires a travel back in time.
When I was 4, during my first year in kindergarten, I remember having a very visceral dream. It involved two girls in my class, let’s call them Jaclyn and Carnie. Jaclyn was blonde and typical – with narrow features, light eyes, and proper. Carnie was a brunette, and bore striking resemblance to Carrie Fisher from Star Wars. The dream was very sexual in nature, far beyond my four years of experience, but it stayed on my mind for years after because of the content of the dream, and the participants. Thankfully, we were not children in the dream – we were adults – and it was striking that many years later, we all grew up to resemble the people in that dream. High school reunions and Facebook really help jog the memories.
These girls were not my friends in school. In fact, I never really spoke to either of them. How they ended up in my dream was beyond me. It was only years later that I surmised it was because they were the two most popular girls in school, and they both represented – in their own unique way – what a girl is supposed to be. It was this dream that changed my perspective from that point on. I was confident that not only was I different for having dreams like this, but this difference was acted out in my daily life. People could spot my difference if I didn’t keep it under wraps.
My parents were very open with us about love. I’m Italian, so hugs, kisses, and affection ran rampant. Also, I am a product of a naked house, so bodies didn’t offend me in the slightest. We were allowed to watch R-rated films with sex, but never violence. In essence, I was raised like a European more than an American, and that has made all of the difference. I was more acutely aware of sexuality than most kids, and being a Scorpio, my natural inquisitiveness to examine myself led me on a journey of self-discovery that continues to this day. I always mark this moment as my first milestone – The moment I knew I was different, and that difference was a sexual one.
The next milestone would come 8 years later.
I was raised Catholic, in a very faith-based but negotiated Catholic family. My mother and father took us to church on most Sunday’s. We said prayers at night before sleep. And on non-sports practice nights, were subjected to Catechism. These classes were not my favorite. Not because I didn’t enjoy the rituals of prayer. In fact, it was quite the contrary. I loved the traditions – the candles, the repetition of prayers – the sheer poetry of each of them – but I hated the contradictions. I make connections; I have two degrees in theoretical connections – it leaves little room for inconsistency, or worse, someone telling me one thing, and doing the exact opposite without acknowledgement of the difference. Obviously, Christianity wasn’t for me.
During my 12th year on earth, two major events happened. The first very clearly led me to the second, but I didn’t realize it until much later.
When I was 12, I watched my parents’ marriage of 24 years end. This is the second most painful experience in my life to date.
My parents’ marriage was like Catechism. I saw a ritual play out over and over again – and numerous contradictions to the way things were supposed to be – without anyone acknowledging the issues. It was maddening, and heartbreaking. In church, I heard all about the rules to not covet thy neighbor’s wife, to never lie or cheat, to respect and honor your chosen partner. And all of these rules were broken in my home.
The Christmas before, I had watched a news report on a gay rights group who had interrupted services at the Church of England to protest homophobia and the ban on gay marriages (yes, this has been an argument for a long time). I remember watching this man speak vehemently and eloquently about his partner, who was dying of AIDS… And how he was denied visitation because they were gay. His tears confirmed my affirmation that his love was no different than the love that my parents had for each other… once. People in the church were booing him and screaming “burn in hell, faggot” and “god hates your sin”, all on Christmas day. I was appalled, confused, and so overwhelmingly sad all at once. To be gay was to be hated, and condemned to hell.
At the same time, I had a crush on a girl: my first real crush. It tormented me deeply because I was so conflicted. From all that I had learned in church, I knew that I was going to hell. It wasn’t a question at that point, just a fact that I had accepted as a part of life – like having brown eyes. But the way I felt about this girl, how I wanted her to feel that way about me, also meant that I was putting her soul in jeopardy. It was this feeling of guilt that kept me up at nights. I started to cut myself out of shame for praying for her to like me back, knowing it would damn her. I would beg God at night to forgive me. I would say prayer after prayer, promising to be the best person, the most honest and patient and loving partner, if he would just save me from hell and let me be who I was.
Remember when I said that there were two events that led to this next milestone? Here is where my parents’ divorce came in to play. I promised God that I would love a woman better than my father loved my mother. I would never cheat, never lie, and never leave. I vowed to prove to him that I would make myself better than any man could be for a woman, and he would see this accomplishment and forgive me, and love me, and let me in to Heaven. I decided that I would confess my sin – that I was gay – but make it my mission to prove God wrong.
Three months after my parents divorced, I was standing in line waiting for confession. My mother and sister were on the other side of the church. I stood there, almost in tears, ready to tell the priest. I started thinking about my life – about our empty house – about all of the fights – the tears – and about that man standing at the podium, suffering threats and hatred, speaking about his dying lover and asking for acceptance. I started to realize that what I was about to confess didn’t match up to what I had been taught all of my life. I was 12. I hadn’t done anything in my life but love my parents and my family, be good to my animals, pray for all of the hungry to get food, and occasionally eat too many cookies. How could that equal to killing someone, or betraying someone? How could my want to love someone so badly be worse than two people – who promised to love each other forever – choosing to leave that love behind and move on?
So I got out of line, and decided that being gay was not something I needed to confess – because it wasn’t a sin. In fact, it was a blessing. It gave me the strength to be the best version of myself possible not in spite of it, but because I am gay.
Also, I decided to stop being Catholic in that moment and didn’t go back to Church for many, many years.
My third moment of my coming out came when I decided to tell people. This was four years later… And it is the most complicated part of my coming out story.
When I was 16, I met a girl in class that eventually became my first girlfriend. I was a baby, but the emotions that I was feeling became so adult so quickly. This relationship had very little to do with her. She was simply a target for years of longing and yearning. I seized it full force, unapologetically.
This relationship taught me so much about myself. But it brought me incredible amounts of pain and suffering because I was unable to see myself separately from the hegemonic constraints of my environment. In short: she was straight and I was not a man. This conflict would become my defining plight through my early twenties. Could I be smart enough, cute enough, funny enough, sexy enough, and good enough for someone to give up the freedoms and acceptance of the work around us – just to love me? God, just to write that sentence makes me want to reach back in time and hug the 16 year old me and tell her that it’s going to be all right. Alas, time machines don’t work.
The results of this relationship created my true “coming out” story.
After three months of dating, my girlfriend and I were kissing in my bedroom when my mom walked in. I will never forget the look on her face. I was both terrified, and angry. This was my secret, my identity, and without knowing it, she had stripped me of the only real power I had over it.
The conversation that followed was not terrible. It was not great: as a Catholic girl who’s first was her husband she had a very difficult time relating. Also, because she is a perpetual worrier, she couldn’t help but fear that my life would be inferior because other people’s homophobia. I was doing my homework at the dining room table when she finally came back. She threw the groceries on the counter and looked at me. My eyes didn’t leave my chemistry book. “Do we need to talk about this?” she said. “What’s to talk about? I’m gay, get over it”. The sharpness of those words as they came out of my mouth became my savior. I didn’t waver, I had conviction – she couldn’t argue. “You know I love you”, she said. “I do, and I love you too.” And that was that.
She wasn’t wrong for worrying, as my girlfriend’s parents made sure that my life was going to be as difficult as possible until I lost interest in their daughter. They had met with my mom separately, and asked her to aid them in keeping us apart. My mother, knowing the woman she was raising, denied their request. She didn’t want me to run away, but preferred to let this play out as it would and not make young love more dramatic than it needed to be.
They didn’t share her restraint, but instead, they violated all of my privacy rights, and with the help of my high school administration, retrieved my father’s information from my file. They called my father at his office and told him that I was gay, and that I was corrupting their daughter. They requested the same things from my father that they did my mother. They wanted me to seek therapy for my wickedness and forget their daughter’s name.
I got called out of class that day, and my father was standing there waiting. He took me to the doctor’s office because I had lost weight and was chronically sick. I was diagnosed with an ulcer and put on a strict diet. Then, he took me to a park and told me what had happened. I was livid. Not only had I not had the opportunity to tell my mother; now, my father finds out in the worst possible way. He only asked me one question: “You’re only 16, how do you know this isn’t a phase?” I looked up at him and replied very calmly and simply: “When you were 16, did you want to make out with guys?” He smiled, “Well said, Daughter. Well said.”
I stop to wonder sometimes what it was like for my parents to find out the way that they did. I think it was much harder on them then it was for me. I had had a long journey with it, after all.
After many years of thinking about these events, I have come to the realization that someone’s coming out is a very powerful and personal journey to self-discovery. Being “outed” makes you incredibly vulnerable, but ultimately, it frees you from ever having to explain who you are to anyone. My parents had no choice but to accept who I was, because it was something they discovered – like a personality trait, not something I disclosed, like a secret.
So this is my coming out story. It took sixteen years to do, and thirty-two years to understand. This is the first time I have ever written it out sequentially, and looking back, I am reminded of every heartache. I do not look back with joy, but those dark roads paved the way to the person that stood before Cori on our wedding day.
She has made all of the difference. She was worth it. And knowing that it leads me to her, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Watch Kacy and Cori on The Real L Word, premiering Thursday, July 12th on Showtime at 10 p.m. EST. or follow Cori at her blog, www.accordingtocori.com.