Happy National Coming Out Day

October 11, 2011

A curious thing happened when I came out a million years ago: The process repeated itself over and over, a gizillion times.

This is the thing about coming out as queer: Because most of society still defaults heterosexually, it usually means that, if we don’t say otherwise, we’re assumed straight. In other words, for those of us who are LGBTQ, the burden is on us to make clear who we are. It can really get old sometimes.

I have been out so long and so publicly that, for the most part, I ended up coming out mostly to cab drivers making small talk who asked me if I’m married or have kids. Before last year, I’d say no to both questions and become mesmerized by my smartphone and that was that.

But I got married -- totally legally -- in August 2010 and now my answer is yes, and that brings a series of assumptions that I then feel compelled to correct.

I know, I don’t really have to. But the fact is, saying I’m married has been a distinctly surprising pleasure. I like to tell it -- a sentiment I suspect is pretty universal. And so suddenly I’m coming out a lot more.

“Yes, I am married.” Wow.

And suddenly I’m talking about my wife -- my wife! It wasn’t a word I ever used before without irony in relation to my partners. And yet, to my amazement, it feels right. And here’s the best part: nobody blinks.

Sure, I live in Chicago, I hang out with arty and groovy folks, but I also teach at a Catholic university, have Muslim and Orthodox Jewish friends (I honest to God do) and, even if it’s out of amusement, everybody just rolls.

“My wife and I are having a son in November.”

And there’s a shower of congratulations, of kisses and best wishes. My students anxiously query about delivery dates, ask about my wife, about my family.

It’s 2011. I’m a 55 year old woman, married to a woman I adore, about to extend our queer little family.

This National Coming Out Day is the sweetest yet.