A coming out story.
Will She Still Love Me?
The first time--my very first time--I chose Lara. It's been over a decade since that moment in time, but if I close my eyes I am there again:
I am feeling so nervous sitting on the bed in the hotel room, terrified really. Every muscle in my body is tense. My own fear has me frozen. I try to curl up and seem as small as possible. I want to disappear into the tacky floral comforter and become a painted leaf or petal until it's over; until she is done. I try so hard not to cry, but my tears have no reins, and it's impossible to stop them from spilling over. I let the tears whisper down my cheeks without wiping them, praying she doesn't notice the glowing wetness that is now my face. She's quiet. I hear the sound of rustling paper every few minutes. Other than that, we are stuck in a deafening silence. Then I hear her folding my heart up as gently as she opened it. She is done. It's over now. All that is left is the one question that echoed in my mind on the eight hour drive down here: Will she still love me? There were no fireworks. There were no explosions. She didn't even move over to my side of the bed. She just opened her mouth and, with the gentlest tone, said, "Cindy, I love you."
The first time--my very first time--I chose Lara. I used my pen as an instrument to pour my heart out on paper before her. So she could see me, all of me. I chose Lara because she was my dearest friend, and if she couldn't still love me, no one else could. It was one of the hardest letters I had ever written, my "I'm gay." confession letter. I doubt she even realized how crucial her reaction to that letter would be. But I knew. I knew if the answer to my question was a "No.", then I would kill that gayness in me one way or another. I would rip it out with my bare hands if I had to. I would continue miserably pretending to be what was expected of me, and I would have my picket white fence, my front porch, and my rocking chairs with my husband by my side. If she couldn't embrace the person that I unveiled in that hotel room, then I didn't care if anyone else could. Would she still love me? Yes. Her answer was yes.
Another letter, this one to my sister. Would she still love me? I could not bear to be present while she read it, as I was with Lara. And so I waited. In agony, I waited. Minutes turned into hours. Hours turned into days. Days turned into a week. And my heart turned into a crumbled mess of flesh until I finally got an email from her. Would she still love me? Yes. She was my sister. She would still love me, but she would raise her newly infant son to know my "lifestyle" was wrong. "Lifestyle" - a simple word thrown around by people with a lack of understanding of who I am. A simple word used to neatly wrap me in the category of their choosing. A word that rolls off their tongues easily as it makes my ears bleed. A word that suggests I wanted to be this way, and didn't hate myself for it for years, and beg God over and over again to please "fix me" as I lay face down crying into the carpet.
Would she still love me? Yes. And that love she and I share has brought us a million miles away from that letter and email. I no longer hide who I am. My sister doesn't just accept my gayness; we sit and watch Ellen together through laughter and through tears...and so does her thirteen-year-old son and her two young daughters.
No letters allowed in the therapy session. I had to use my voice. I had to open up my mouth and say the words out loud to my parents. That was my doctor's requirement in order for me to be released back into the world of the sane people who don't swallow too many Tylenol PMs because they want to sleep and never wake back up.
So I opened my mouth, and with a heavy, broken heart I told my parents what they already knew--"I am gay." My Japanese mother looked at the psychiatrist as if I were not even there, and said what I already knew--"Well, I always knew she was not normal. And being gay is a disgrace in my culture."
Would she still love me? It didn't feel like it that day. It didn't feel like it the first half of my life. But no one should ever underestimate the power of a mother's love for her child, no matter how much older we get.
Would she still love me? Yes. We've never been to a PFLAG meeting or watched Ellen together. I don't consult with her on my Plenty of Fish prospects. But I know in my heart that when I do meet the right woman, the woman to finally bring home to mama, my mama will not shut the door. Mama will feed the lady of my choice as much homemade Japanese food as she can eat. And I feel confident that the lady of my choice will be wise enough to graciously eat whatever my mama puts on the table (unlike my sister's ex-husband--"ex" being the key word).
All of us have felt like an outcast for whatever reason and have asked that haunting question: "Will he/she still love me if he/she knows?" Tragically, the answer is not always yes. The key is to always love ourselves first. If we love and accept ourselves, then we are guarded with the fiercest weapon against rejection from anyone else. My family at Wesleyan College taught me to love and accept myself for who I am. They didn't love me despite my gayness, they loved me for it, just as they loved me for my sweet and shy voice that grew to speak volumes for others, as well as for myself They taught me to celebrate my uniqueness. If I had learned this lesson early on, I never would have needed therapy, anti-depressants, or to see the inside walls of that emergency room on that dark day eons ago. Loving yourself isn't vain. It is a necessity. It is the only way you can truly love others.
Will I still love me? Will you still love you? Yes...The answer should always be yes.