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[From Fag Hag to Mom, a ’90’s kid comes out]

Jul 2017

From Fag Hag to Mom, a ’90’s kid comes out

I thought I would marry a prince, always waiting for my white knight to show up and whisk me away. But when my boyfriends kissed me, it didn’t feel like that moment in the movies; the ones with the fireworks and romantic music when the guy finally kisses the girl at the end. Instead it felt off, like when you lie to a friend about their terrible hair cut or when a stranger is standing too close in your personal space. I thought that was because I hadn’t found the right one yet.

My friend Jon called me his “Fag Hag” one day sitting on his bed in his room. “Yeah, that’s right”, I said claiming that label as soon as it passed from his lips. Jon was 17 but had been out for all his life and he was my best friend ever since we were in Journalism class together. I told Jon we should go to the teen LGBT support group meetings, to help him to find a boyfriend. I had a car, after all, and he didn’t. I told myself I was doing him a favor and I liked gay people anyway.

At the first meeting, all the other teens were going around the table proudly announcing, “I’m gay”, “I’m a lesbian” etc and when they got to me, all I said was “I’m Jon’s fag hag!”. It felt welcoming to be there, even though I wasn’t truly one of them. Everyone was going around the table describing their coming out stories and how they had told their friends or family they were gay and this one guy said, “I feel ashamed”. Ashamed…. That word just felt too real. I turned it around in my head for weeks. Did I feel ashamed about myself? Did I like girls? I’d look at myself in the mirror, turned my head to the side like a puppy who doesn’t understand, and wonder who was looking back at me.

I realized there was only one way to find out; I had to kiss a girl and then I’d know for sure. Yes, this would settle everything. Then, I’d be able to go back to my normal life. Hmmm… But there was no Tinder back then. How would I find a girl to kiss me? I just kept going to the support group meetings with Jon every week. After one of the meetings we all decided to go to the gay coffee shop.

In walked a familiar face and sat down at the end of our table. She watched me, she watched the group. She had short blonde hair, masculine style clothes and I had no Idea how I knew her. Finally, she just called my name and I turn to get a good look at her. I squint my eyes as if it would help me remember and finally she said, ‘French class!” Like, duh, how could I forget? I smiled and a flood of imagines ran through my mind.

Three years before, I sat behind her in rows of desks. Neither of us had an ear for languages and she made jokes to make me feel better about my bad test scores. She joked, “Grey Poupon is the only French I can pronounce”. I remember staring at her long blonde hair from behind as it hung over the back of her chair during class. And I hadn’t seen her again since that semester.

That night at the coffee shop, we talked for hours. She walked me to my car and she was staring at the ground when she asked me out on a date. The instant I agreed, I wanted to cancel. Was this going to make me gay? Why was I even agreeing to this? The questions seared in my brain unanswered. I had never felt so scared and nervous. I couldn’t think about anything else in the days leading up to my first date with a girl. I desperately wanted to see her again but was ashamed that it made me a sick pervert to have had those feelings for another girl. I only told Jon who, of course, wanted to dress me up pretty for my date. So, we spent that day bleaching our hair and trying on different dresses together.

We decided to meet at our old Elementary school. She pulled up in her Ford Ranger and I climbed out of my 1982 Cougar. We walked around the campus, sitting on the swings and talking about Elementary school. She was a year ahead me but we were both on the volleyball team together and had classrooms on the same floor. We talked about all the times we should have met but didn’t and then she grabbed my hand. Sheer panic set into my body like someone dropped an ice cube down my spine. This felt kind of normal and it was terrifying. Her hands were soft and she interlaced her fingers with mine like they were designed to be together.
We went to dinner, where she explained that she had never been on a date before, never kissed anyone either and she was nervous. I thought it was kind of cute to be her first date ever. I admitted that I was maybe “a little bisexual” and she teased me for being so shy.

After dinner, she took me back to my car. As I got out, my heart was beating so fast I thought it was going to burst right out of my chest and run down the street naked. Oh, My God, THE KISS. The Kiss that would determine if I was truly gay or not was about to happen. I leaned against my car and told her I had a good time. She smiled and started to lean toward me. It suddenly felt like my whole life was leading up to this moment. Like fate was trying to bring us together our whole lives and finally, it was happening. It was like time stopped and she was coming closer and closer and then…. She hit my nose with her nose in a kind of head bump. Then the top of her lip hit my lip, I was off balance and had to take a step back to prevent falling. A few more nose bumps later, she leaned back with a silly grin on her face.

I smiled at her and told her I’d see her later and drove off in that ’82 cougar like I was ‘born to run’.

In the car, I kept thinking about that kiss. It was the worst, the absolute worst and best kiss of my life up till then. I said out loud to myself “well, I’m a lesbian”. The words feel real on my tongue and to my ears. My whole body just burned with relief and fear. I feared, I would never get married or have children or have a full filling relationship since I had no frame of reference of anyone who had done it. I knew no older gay people and technically, sodomy was still illegal.

My family is Italian and like the Mafia, they always seem to know more than they should. It was only a few months after Ellen came out on TV and ‘Coming out’ was all over the media and on the talk shows. I was living with my grandparents for the summer and they kept dropping hints they knew what was up, Grandma would comment, “Oh that Ellen, she did a brave thing” looking at me knowingly. The girl, Jennifer, was picking me up from the house lately, I wasn’t dating anyone else and I was watching marathon Xena Warrior Princess on TV. Thinking back, clearly, I was hiding it like a pro.

One night, my mom had called to grill me on what I was up to. She kept asking leading questions, “So are you dating anyone new?”, “Who are you hanging out with these days?”. I wanted to just get it over with and stop stressing about everyone’s reaction. The words felt like they were burning a hole in my throat and I was going to choke on them. So, I took a deep breath and let out three hardest, heaviest words I had to say “I am gay”. I tossed out the words like I was rolling the dice for a board game and I was just hoping to pass GO. My mom responded, “But you like to wear dresses”. I said, “I can still wear them.” She said, “But you want to have kids”. I said, “I still do”. “Well, then, I’m going to be the coolest mom about this!” As had been her style my whole life to be supportive, this didn’t change that. But, it took her a while to truly catch up to me. She had her own journey to acceptance that had entirely nothing to do with me.

18 years later and I am married, I am a mother and yes, I still wear dresses.


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