Which is harder? Coming out as a lesbian, or coming out as a feminist.
I’ve been thinking about coming out as a tradition, I read an article about coming out with your sexuality, how it really isn’t a necessary part of life. We will hopefully dispense with the need for a coming out moment in the future, where everyone is out and that is okay.
At the moment, I still get nervous about mentioning I have a girlfriend, depending on company. Also, just because I’m a lesbian doesn’t ipso facto make me a feminist, that is a really different aspect of my personality I would say. So the response of this girl the other day, I’d been chatting about a feminist play in London I wanted to see, and then I mentioned my girlfriend and the girl was like, oh, well that makes sense now.
Does it though? Does it really?
Coming out as a lesbian
I ticked the box on my recent job application that marked me as ‘lesbian’. And I’m sure this is going to be a very different environment from the ass slapping waitressing I’ve been doing so far. Apropos of nothing one of my workmates once said to me, have you ever had sex with a man? I think he was bored; it was in the middle of a really busy shift so it was a kind of inconvenient time to think about it. I’m still not sure why he asked me that to be honest. It was kind of like, what, do I have to come out as a genuine gold star lesbian*? Can we not just leave it alone? Do I have to answer a quiz on my sexual experience? Anyway, I’m not expecting that kind of reaction from my new workplace. Mostly the reaction is positive/intrusive I would summarise. I do sometimes still cop out, when people assume I have a boyfriend and I just can’t be bothered with their surprise plus potentially annoying comments. Most annoying comment ever, ‘what a shame, you would make such beautiful children.’ That isn’t a backhanded compliment, that is just annoying.
Coming out as a feminist
This makes me really, really nervous. I haven’t as much practice with it as the lesbian one so I am not as comfortable with it. I’m not sure what comments to expect but from when I have tried it it seems like there is more potential for people to automatically hate me when I say feminist as opposed to lesbian. Perhaps because lesbians can be fitted into the commodification of women’s sexuality, whereas feminism is a bit of a full stop on that. Small things like putting up the Vagina Monologue poster on facebook and one guy saying, woah, I didn’t realise when I added you that I would be seeing stuff like this. Because vagina is such an awful word? This comment, smaller than other comments, upset me more than them. It felt like confirmation of my fears that this world wants women to be quiet, we are not allowed to chose the words we use to describe our own bodies even. He was saying, that word makes me uncomfortable, put it down. The whole point of the V. M is to think about your attitude towards the word and de-sensitive yourself to the idea that women’s bodies and hence their minds are these sanitised controlled places.
I remember at one event Anny Percy asked people to put up their hand if they are a feminist, and I was still so uncomfortable with the word and it’s attendant backlash that I didn’t want to. Now I would put my hand up straight away. And I’ll try and keep telling people I’m a lesbian even when it’s awkward and I can’t be bothered explaining my sex life. Maybe I’ll figure out a humorous yet pertinent answer; that’ll be the day.
*Gold Star lesbian-never had sex with a man. As heard on The L Word.