The Travel Companion

We all have a story like this.

When I was 24, I worked at a research company downtown. It wasn’t the most fulfilling of jobs (still waiting for that!) but it paid the bills. Prior to taking this job, I had spent a year working at Scotia Place, a shiny, impressive-looking building that had its own LRT station. This little transit perk had made commuting a treat for my directionally-challenged self.

I had been at my new job for about a week, and as such, I didn’t yet have a feel for my coworkers. Since I wasn’t comfortable spending my lunch break with strangers, I had made a habit of going out. So far, I had spent the week’s noon hours wandering aimlessly around the city, keeping an eye on my watch.

On one particular day, I had made plans to meet my old work crew for lunch. Scotia Place was several blocks away from my new job, so I decided to take the LRT. The ride would be short (only a couple of stations) and direct. Minimal room for error.

I descended the concrete steps and made my way to the middle of the platform. There were lots of people around (though not quite as many as I’d seen during morning and afternoon rush hours). I determined which side of the platform my train would be on, and I turned to face that direction. The schedule indicated that I only had a few minutes to wait, so I didn’t bother sitting down.

A minute or two later, a man came up to me. He appeared to be in his thirties; not much taller than I was, nor much bigger. He was standing a bit too close for comfort; a fact I was just starting to register when he began speaking.

“Hello,” he said. Continue reading “The Travel Companion”

Advertisements

In / Out

(Originally posted on January 12, 2013 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

I am not out at work.

A handful of my co-workers are also friends with me on Facebook, and they’re bombarded with my truth on pretty much a daily basis. My super gay life is all I talk about on the Internet these days. But most of the people I work with don’t know I’m gay. Some of them may suspect, I suppose, but they haven’t received any sort of confirmation from me.

My non-work friends are surprised when I tell them this. Some of them can’t fathom the idea of a person knowing me and not knowing that I’m a big lez. To them, my gayness is a blinding rainbow beacon, unwavering and undeniable. “Have they not seen you walk?” they ask.

It’s a fair question.

Until recently, I wasn’t prone to oversharing. I took a passive approach to conversations, not volunteering any information I wasn’t directly asked for. This was a defense mechanism; a way to avoid being judged. And it carried over to small, stupid things, like not mentioning a TV show or band that I liked, for fear of being disagreed with or thought less of. One of the biggest driving forces in my life has always been my need to be liked. And a great way to do that is to sit back, observe, and mirror what people want to hear.

I’ve never liked being conspicuous. I’ve spent most of my life feeling completely different from everyone around me. And this feeling of alienation – of unbelonging – has often driven me to focus all of my energy on being unnoticed. On blending in.

I’m friends with a lesbian who, like me, isn’t out at work. I was surprised when she told me this, because she has a long-term girlfriend. But on reflection, I can believe it. She’s not someone who would have pinged my gaydar; at least not right away. She can certainly pass for straight. And since a lot of ordinary people consider “straight” to be the unquestioned default setting for everyone they meet, it’s possible that she doesn’t have to work very hard to keep this information to herself.

I’ve been out at other workplaces, but never right away, and certainly not with any big declarations. I’ve come out to co-workers gradually, one-on-one, and usually after having formed friendships first. I tell people I’m gay when they ask, and then I assure them that it’s not a secret.

It’s not, really. It’s just not something I lead with. I prefer for people to get to know me first. That way, “lesbian” is a label they’re applying to a person they already know. Once they know me, they like me. Once they like me, it’s less easy for them to dislike all lesbians on principle.

Right? Continue reading “In / Out”

Soft Skills and Baby Steps

(Originally posted on July 5, 2012 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

I am the youngest child of three in my family. And though I stand at least six inches taller than my mother, I am still frequently referred to as “the baby.” This is how my parents see me. I suspect my older siblings probably see me this way as well. I’m younger and less prepared for things. I’m someone to teach; someone to take care of. They might always see me this way. The real question is: will I ever stop seeing myself this way?

Not long ago, I watched a Ted Talk by Jeffrey Kluger about siblings and birth order and the impact both can have on the people we become. (The pertinent part of the discussion begins at the 12-minute mark.) What I heard stuck with me, because it felt like an eerily accurate picture of my own experience. Just like I am a textbook lesbian in a lot of ways, I am also (apparently) a textbook youngest child.

The portrait of the oldest sibling didn’t come as a big surprise to me. They tend to be extremely independent. They are doers, and problem-solvers, and they are usually more professionally successful than their younger siblings. They are intelligent, and confident, and self-assured. They know how to take care of themselves.

So, you might be wondering, where does this leave the youngest child?

I’m glad you asked!

The youngest child in the family tends to be funny; tends to be charming. She has strong communication skills and she knows how to read others. She is a natural people pleaser. The oldest sibling knows how to take care of herself, but the youngest sibling knows how to persuade others to take care of her.

Compared against my own personal experience, this description rings ridiculously true. And so, here I am at age 31, wondering how much more I might have accomplished if I had been the oldest child in my family. Wondering how I may have benefited from some mad independence skillz.

I have had a string of unsatisfying and poor-paying jobs. I have underachieved and disappointed myself. I should have been and done more but I was ill-equipped and distracted. Life had thrown me a curve ball; an obstacle my family couldn’t help me with. Life had made me gay. And that was a road trodden by neither sibling nor parent.

Being gay has pushed me in ways that nothing else has in life. It’s challenged my comfort level at every turn, and I think that’s actually been good for me. I have had an agonizingly slow go of it all, and even now I am only inching forward in baby steps. But it’s a lifelong journey, and at least I am moving in the right direction. As they say, it’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than halfway up one you don’t.

The thing that has held me back the most in life, and what still holds me back in little and big ways as we speak, is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of making mistakes. A lack of trust in myself. I’m afraid to take on a career that challenges me, because I’m afraid to fail. I’m afraid to drive a car in the city. I’m afraid to travel outside of the country by myself. I’m afraid to ask a woman out on a date. It took me until the age of 31 just to join a lesbian social group, and even when I finally struck up the nerve to go to one, I spent several minutes out in the parking lot, afraid to walk in the door.

That was almost three months ago. And now, with every new meeting or event I go to, I struggle to remember what the hell I was so afraid of. Was I afraid of lesbians? Have I been afraid of myself this whole time?

Now there are new things to be afraid of. If I’m too friendly with a girl, will it come across as flirting? On the flip side, if I’m actually attempting to flirt, will she be able to tell? I spent my twenties mastering the art of falling in love with heterosexual friends. I knew the boundaries then. I knew where I stood.

Liking someone who might actually like me back sounds completely terrifying. But I guess that’s how I know it’s worth doing. Part of being an adult is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

So line up, ladies! I’m prepared to be terrified, if you’re prepared to be charmed.


Author

small mo


Want to keep Butch Please (mostly) ad-free? Leave a tip for our hard-working writers.

A Bisexual’s Secret: I Am Intimidated By Women.

(Originally posted on March 27, 2013 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

I’m bisexual, and the prospect of dating a woman terrifies me. It’s probably the main reason I took ten years to finally accept myself and come out. I knew I wasn’t just straight-but-not-narrow when I was fourteen. But the few times I hesitantly reached out beyond the fear of rejection in high school, I was shut down – and painfully. It was easier to just focus my attention on boys and pretend I didn’t notice girls.

I also have the worst gaydar ever.

Honestly, I even have trouble sussing out whether straight men are hitting on me or not, so the idea of trying to read signals from a lady gives me serious anxiety. The awkward, hurtful experience of confessing a crush to a straight girl is something I don’t want to repeat at this point in my life.

Getting involved in LGBTQ events in Edmonton has been helpful, since I have met women I can say with certainty are attracted to other women, but not all crushes pop up at lesbian events. Sometimes they show up inconveniently at work, or at school, or at church. Men confuse me as it is. Continue reading “A Bisexual’s Secret: I Am Intimidated By Women.”

Out of Touch

(Originally posted on March 2, 2013 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

I’ve been a lesbian my entire life. I know this now. I’ve spoken to other lesbians who can pinpoint the exact moment they realized they were gay. I can’t. I’ve always figured that, as a youngster, I was just too sheltered to recognize what was right in front of me.  I’ve always assumed that I was simply a latecomer to the right vocabulary.

I did not know I was gay growing up. Or, at least, I don’t remember knowing it.

I’ve been looking at some old diaries of mine – we’re talking early nineties, teeny-bopper diaries. Within those pages I found an anxious girl; sensitive, insecure, and yeah, I’ll say it: frequently obnoxious. I had incredibly strong feelings for my friends; feelings that made me possessive and paranoid and easily hurt.

Amid these waves of naive and needy words, I came across some fairly compelling foreshadowing. In the middle of an entry about first periods and friendship hierarchies, I had paused to write a description of one of my best gal pals:

She’s really pretty. People say she lost weight. I said, “Yeah, but I didn’t know she’d had much to lose.” Anyway, she had a tank top over her bathing suit and shorts, and she has a figure! I guess she always did, I just never really noticed it. And her hair is really nice. When all of us grow up, I honestly think she will be the prettiest. (Do I sound gay? Because I’m pretty sure I’m straight. But, you never can tell. Sometimes it worries me.)

I was thirteen when I wrote those words. I knew the terminology. I knew that the idea of being gay was cause for alarm. And I also recognized it as a legitimate possibility, however non-committal I was with my word choice. Back then, my young mind was still open enough that I could momentarily entertain the thought. So I wrote those secret words down in a book that only I would ever read. I wrote them, and then I forgot them. Continue reading “Out of Touch”

Inhale and Exhale

Guest post by Devin.

About 40 million adults in the United States are affected by anxiety disorders. I’m one of them. I suffer from depression and anxiety, and personally, I feel my anxiety is more damaging. Anxiety can take many forms, but for me it flares up most when I am over-stimulated or doing something so far outside of my comfort zone that the potential benefits do not outweigh my fear. Usually, my anxiety is triggered the most when I have time to overthink.

If I can dive into something without thinking about it, I am fine. I have a pretty successful auto-pilot and a strong poker face, so I can handle most think-on-your-feet situations. But it drains me. I only have so much battery power. And social interactions and fear-conquering come at a high price for me.

In fact, I am still recharging from a recent battery-draining experience. As I write this, it has been 3 days since I started conquering a new fear. Continue reading “Inhale and Exhale”

#CPR – Where the Buffalo Roam

Guest post by Devin.

Tumble weeds, cowboys, and a two million year old supervolcano that is overdue for an eruption, oh my. This is where I was born; the heart of the cowboy state. Well, almost. I’m directly from Casper, which is just a little East of the middle of the state, but an A for effort right?

I would be lying if I said part of my heart doesn’t still long for Wyoming. Nothing can compare to that wide open sky. The sunsets are phenomenal. But the people, oh man. While the state has, sporadically, done liberal things, it is still considered conservative in most ways. The state’s governor, two senators and the (only) house delegation are all Republican.

I mean let’s get to the elephant in the room: Matthew Shepard. I was living in Wyoming when that happened. I was young and didn’t hear about it at the time; I’m sure due to the graphic nature of the crime. But I was less than 200 miles from him. I know that is still quite a ways away and I didn’t know him, but realizing this fact; realizing that this horrific, brutal crime was committed in the same state that I considered home, was enough to make me sick. Continue reading “#CPR – Where the Buffalo Roam”

Journey Over Whiskey Bay

This week, I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw that a friend is having a book published.

Congratulations!” I messaged her. “You’ve worked so hard. I can’t wait to read it!”

And I meant those words. I’m proud of her. She’s brilliant, and she deserves all the success she’s had. She worked hard to get a tenured position in a field that’s openly hostile to women. She built her success increments at a time, and she’s finally being rewarded with the spoils of all that hard work.

But my celebration of her success was tinged with a sense of shame in myself.

There was a time when I’d planned to publish too. There was a time when I’d chased a tenure track career and the respect of a difficult field. There was a time when I’d hoped to travel the world and give talks and organize lectures.

There was a time when I thought I could control the way my life turned out. Continue reading “Journey Over Whiskey Bay”