A coming out epiphany


My wife and I were married in Vancouver in 2005 on our 20th anniversary. Canada had just passed same-sex marriage and we thought this would be the perfect exclamation point. It was. Then came New York, 2011.

While we have no children of our own — we might be the only lesbians on the planet with no pets or kids — we are blessed with five nieces and nephews, who were extremely disappointed not to be a part of our Vancouver nuptials. So, here we go again.

Our NYC wedding is set for December 29. Romance not withstanding, we picked the date to accommodate all the kid’s schedules. Let the festivities begin. Thank you New York!

All of the above merely serves as a backdrop to what for me was an epiphany I thought worth sharing.

When I came out — back when dinosaurs roamed the earth — coming out was more than a bit challenging. It was downright scary. One could lose a job, family, friends and more. So introducing one’s “partner” was always tricky business. You had to check your audience and balance the risk.

Once you decided to go for it, you would use intro words like partner, significant other, life-partner, lover (always a bit too TMI for my taste) and so on, and yet, even with the most receptive audience, you would or could encounter that moment’s hesitation as the synapses were firing trying to figure out the relationship based on a heterosexual context.

Then, the light bulb would go off — “Oh, lesbian, got it!”

Not only am I blessed with wonderful nieces and nephews, my sisters and brothers-in-law are equally wonderful. Long before same-sex marriage was on the table, I was introduced as “my sister-in-law Barbara.”

Making that introduction now carries the weight of the real deal, validation, equality. So what’s the problem? It’s those slow synapses.

What I’ve been noticing with increasing regularity is the same disconnect and my own discomfort around waiting for the mental connection. And there you have it, my ah-ha moment. I realized then and now, I’m still confronting audience resistance in defining marital status in relationship to sexuality.

Clearly, it’s not that I don’t want to or don’t know how to, I’ve had lots of practice. I’m thrilled and proud to be out. It strikes me, here I am getting married, something I never expected to be able to do in my lifetime, and the same reactions, responses and gremlins are still there. Really? Still?

Barbara Russo is an executive and life coach who specializes in organizational growth and transitions. Learn more at RussoStrategics.com

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