My Nonno yelled at me when I told him I was moving.
I mean, yelled. It kind of went like this:
"Nonno, when do we plant tomatoes? I want some for my house!"
"Oh, you do this a year? Not Nonno?"
"No I mean for my own house, I'm moving!"
"MA WHERE A YOU GO?!?"
"I'm moving downtown, closer to work. Plus, I'm a grown up, I need to live separately from Mamma."
"I LIKE YOU MOVE WHEN YOU GET MARRY!!!"
What followed was a lot of head shaking, a little bit of ignoring, and some sad, disappointed puppy eyes. Italian guilt, it's a very real thing.
If this is how royally cheesed he was hearing about me moving, I can't imagine that he'd live if I ever told him that my "friend with the small mouse-dog" is actually my girlfriend. He'd probably die or disown me, and that blows.
My Nonna and I have always been very, very close. I am her first grandchild and as such, her favourite (sorry cousins, but you know it's true). Once, when I was a kid, I had a fascination with grocery store gravy that came in a can. (Ok my lead into this story was weak but bear with me). Anyway, we had always made our "gravy" hella homemade which I now appreciate SO very much, but I just wanted that poutine-grade sauce for once in my life!!! This one night during a sleepover, I found the gravy in her cantina and asked her if she would make me mashed potatoes so I could experience "normal" gravy. It was midnight and my selfless Nonna started boiling a pot of water for the potatoes. Around 1 am, she was peeling them with her bare hands because she's basically superhuman and mashed them for me. I don't know why this story is so monumental for me in the grand scheme of our relationship, but it showed how there is nothing she wouldn't do for me or my family. But when I told her about Steph, I broke her heart, and in turn, she broke mine.
She told me to "forget about it" and "find a nice boyfriend". She asked me if I was "all there in the head" or if I had stopped getting my period because that's what happened to "those kinds of people" on TV. Her words hit me as hard as mine hit her so I retreated to the couch and sat there, numb.
I've never felt the need to "come out". I don't identify as being straight or gay, I just feel and believe that sexuality is fluid and that love is love is love. I've dated men and women and have been in love with both, and though my experiences with women only began later in life, I always found them to be intriguing. I mean, hi, have you seen women?!
When I was about 6 or 7, I had just watched The Sound of Music for the first time and became obsessed with Julie Andrews, and I mean obsessed. I googled (do 7-year-olds google?) her biography, printed every version I could find, and 3-hole punched the pages into a blue binder. I then read these pages over and over again every night before bed....I wanted to know everything about her, but was most intrigued by her "personal life". When she experienced loss or difficulty in life, I empathized with her to the point that I physically felt her pain.
*Takes a moment to realize how extra she's been her entire life*
After that, it was the mom from Spanglish, Shohreh Aghdashloo's voice, Marina from "the L word" (HER voice), Piper Perabo...the list goes on. *swoons*
It wasn't until I met Steph that I really allowed myself to feel okay with finding women attractive. Growing up in a Catholic Italian family didn't leave room for anything other than what was familiar and deemed acceptable by the church, but Steph carried herself, well, normally and in doing so, took a great portion of the fear away for me. She normalized what I was feeling without doing anything but "being". And that's how it should be. Individuals should not feel ostracized for being who they are. When I came to terms with that, my whole world changed. I took back my power, my feelings, and ultimately, my life.
Much like Steph, who shares her story further down, I too did not feel the need to "come out" to friends and some family members. I've always been transparent and open and when I started developing feelings for the cool gal I now call mine, I wouldn't shut up about her. And it didn't matter that she was a woman. It was just a person that I, another person, was into.
When I ask my friends if they were surprised, some say yes, and others, like my friend Carina, said it was "just Kaela" and didn't surprise her one bit.
I was and am very lucky to have friends and some family members who are accepting and don't make me feel "othered" for being who I am. But I still struggle with how my Nonna looks at me and how little my mother defends me when certain things are said to me or insinuated. She once asked me what I needed from her, and I told her that all I wanted was for her to have my back, especially when it came to her parents and trying to educate them.
She point blank said: "I'm not in a position to have your back".
So there's that. And it's put a real damper on our relationship.
I'd like to write more on this subject, in part for myself, but also for others who may want to read about it. This post is already much too long, so before I close, I asked a few friends to share their coming out stories -- the good, the unnerving, and the heartbreaking.
"When I admitted to myself that I was bi, it didn’t make me question my identity. I sort of thought it would, that I would feel different. I didn’t realize how natural it was… if that makes sense. When it came to telling my friends I knew the few who would immediately be receptive to it and who I would be a bit nervous to tell. I then realized, I really don’t need to tell anyone if I don’t want to! Maybe when there’s a situation in which in needs to be said, I’ll tell them then. Realizing that it wasn’t MANDATORY to start knocking on everyone's door and DMing them like “Hey, did you know I’m bi?” was kind of a relief. It’s not that I wanted to keep my bi-ness a secret, I just realized that this was about me and it doesn’t matter what they think. The fun part of this is that I have a boyfriend. Naturally, he was the first person I told. Telling him was pretty casual. I knew this might rock his boat a little - and it did. Overall, I think he took it really well. He asked me lots of questions (to make sure I still liked him and his penis) and I did. His nervousness came more from making sure WE were good. Which we were, of course. The important thing to note here is that he still saw me for me and our relationship didn’t change in the slightest. Next, I told my two closest friends. The way they literally SHRUGGED off my big announcement was anti-climactic yet really comforting. Both said something like, “Ugh, I wish I could be,” and “I’m not really that surprised”. Nothing changed between us, except for the occasional private joke here and there. I still have friends I haven’t told, who I know will find out one way or another. I’m definitely nervous about their reaction because so far I’ve been faced with positive ones. I still haven’t told my parents, because really - why bother? Given my boyfriend status, there really isn’t any need to. My Mom, I will tell eventually and I don’t think she’ll mind. My Dad HECK NO. You would understand if you knew him. I don’t feel like I’m holding out on them - we’re still very close."
"Most of the time coming out is harder than it seems. People build it up so much in their heads, when in reality and in most cases - everyone already knows. For me, it wasn't much different. The first person I told was one of my best friends Olivia. I actually told her I was "bi," which obviously was not true. I think most gay people start off with saying they're bisexual to test the waters and see people's reaction, before really coming to terms with how they feel and who they are. Anyways, her reaction was pretty much the same as everyone else's, "I know" and then we'd carry on with whatever dumb shit we were doing at the time. Was it that obvious? haha. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing friends and a half decent family that I never experienced any pushback or homophobia. If I ever did, I'd always have more than enough people to stand up for me and shut that shit down instantly. And that's my coming out story."
"I had intended for the extent of my contribution to "loop" to just be its name, but I have been swayed by the chunks of cookie dough in Haagen Dazs cookie dough dynamo to say something else about the fact that I like girls. I don't think that fact is news worthy. I think it's boring, as boring as a girl liking a boy.
I can't remember who I first "came out" to, which makes me think that maybe I didn't come out at all, that I just was. When I had a crush on a girl I told people, when that crush developed further I told a few more. I never had that anxiety of wondering who to tell or who not to tell, except of course, my mother.
When it comes to my mother I came out not once, but twice. Because ten years after the first outing (which was forced) my mother seemingly forgot and suggested "it was just a phase wasn't it?". It wasn't.
At the age of 17 my mother raided my bedroom. She flipped my mattress and found my journals. She thumbed through the pages of them reading things I had written, things that were private, and then she confiscated them. I never got them back. I was forced to face her, to explain what I had written. She said to me that it was disgusting and I should be "ashamed to leave these things in the house with my little brother around".
In the months that followed she tried to control who I spoke to, was friends with, and ultimately ended up transferring me to a different high school for my final year, unphased by the fact that I would not be graduating with my friends. She spoke to me with harsh words, among them, that on her death bed she would never forgive me for taking away her ability to have grandchildren. She spoke of the many ways my news would impact her social circles, how my father was disgusted by me, how I was not fulfilling the vision she had for me. Her vision. What she wanted.
Thankfully, my mother was the only person I struggled with. I am lucky in that way. My friends were always supportive, and maybe part of that was because I never felt there was a moment where I had to "come out". There were no serious conversations, no moments of hesitation as I told them of my crushes. I just did what any "straight" person would do. I gushed, I swooned, I cried -- just like anyone else would.
If love really truly is love, I just cannot wrap my head around the need to "come out", to have to plan a conversation where we are saying to people "I am different", to prepare our loved ones to receive this news. This is not news. This is not different. It's not interesting or sad or worth the bravado that comes along with identifying as "gay". It just is. It's as plain and as irrelevant as the colour of my hair (grey) or the colour of your skin. When I walk down the street holding the hand of the person that I love, when we exchange looks of love, or show affection, it is clear that I like women. Or at least, this one woman. So what? Doesn't our love look the same as everyone else's? The answer is yes."